Beautifully shot horror films are almost a rarity these days, but when one comes along the cinematography unusually seems to go hand in hand with critical acclaim, from The Shining to A Tale Of Two Sisters to Let The Right One In there is something unnerving about merging the beautiful with the grim and it is a combination which often leads to a brilliant final product. The Isle follows this grand tradition – it has moments of stunning beauty contrasted with gut-churning (literally) scenes of ugly carnage. It doesn’t quite match the quality of those aforementioned examples, but for the curious horror fan its worth dipping your toe in to test the depth.
The Isle is essentially a thriller based around the various relationships of troubled people. Set in a beautifully shot lake where the mute Hee Jin runs some sort of fishing business, she spends her days looking after her patrons who spend days on the lake fishing, and living in man made islands and huts spread over the water. Her past is enigmatic, but there are hints at darkness as she brings in prostitutes to look after her customers, and deals with some shady characters. One such character Hyun-Shik enters the resort and Hee-jin takes an obsessive interest in him. Soon we have suicide attempts via the swallowing of fish hooks, murder, and sexual violence as the two characters become more embroiled in each other’s lives.
A warning for sensitive viewers may be required, as some of the notorious fish hook scenes are fairly tough – I wouldn’t call them gory, but there is a visceral power to the acting, and it all looks very real. Actually real is some violence to animals, including frogs and fish. Beyond the violence, there is a coldness which fans of Kim-Ki-duk’s films will be familiar with. The films I’ve seen by him all deal with fractured relationships which lead to horrific violence, and although there is a taut emotional grip, there is still a detached coldness which usually leaves the viewer numb. The Isle leaves much to the imagination, with a bare plot and sparse dialogue – personally I felt too distant from the action to either be affected or totally engaged by them, though it was nevertheless interesting. Rather than a participant, I felt like a fisherman on one of the distant floating islands, squinting through the mist at what was going on at the other side of the lake. It’s an unusual one to recommend – horror fans will likely be bored by the long phases between violence or action, while drama lovers will be put off by said violence. One for the more broader minded film fan who has an interest in Asian cinema or in the career of Kim-Ki-duk.
Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Isle and what you made of it!
My Nominations: Planet Of The Apes. Night Of The Living Dead. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
John Chambers won an honorary award for his work on Planet Of The Apes this year, adding fuel to the fire of those who believed a dedicated category and award was deserved. His apes have an all too human look, yet the makeup is flawless and on a huge scale. Not too many of the other movies released in 1968 raised the Make-Up bar or changed the game significantly, but both Chitty Chitty Bang Bang with the nightmarish Child Catcher, and Night Of The Living Dead with its assortment of zombies featuring pasty, yet ultra-effective looks.
My Winner: Planet Of The Apes
Which film of 1968 do you think has the Best Make Up? Let us know in the comments!
Generic Ratings: 1. Crap. 2: Ok. 3: Good. 4: Great
This B-Side to the much heavier From Despair To Where is the opposite from a musical perspective, but displays similar emotional force and content. One of my all time favourite acoustic songs, and one of my all time favorite songs about love, this one has some of the finest lyrics ever written on the subject, taking a bitter look at that need or expectation to settle down into some fixed idea of a relationship because it’s what everyone else does. It’s that London or metropolitan culture of serving yourself until you’re near middle age, realising that dying alone isn’t a pleasant thought, so attaching yourself to the first drone of the opposite sex who finds themselves in the same position as you. It’s love when there is none. It’s giving up. It’s all described with the most gorgeous guitars and melodies and a much softer sound than anything else the band had released till that point. It’s damning and brutal, ice cold, and that ending never fails to leave a chill in its mixture of emotion and emptiness. Fantastic, desperate solo to close too.
Greeting, Glancers! I know, I know. I said I likely wouldn’t listen to this one due it being a soundtrack album in a genre I don’t like for a film I didn’t enjoy. But here we are, I am the Prince Of Lies. Madonna teamed up with Stephen Sondheim and Mandy Patinkin to work on the soundtrack album for Dick Tracey in which she also starred (alongside Warren Beatty and Al Pacino). Looking down the tracklist, there is only one song I know for sure, with one more I may remember but could be confusing with something else. No point in beating around the old bush, lets dive in!
‘He’s A Man‘ seems to begin with a sound clip of some sort. Madonna singing differently than she usually does over a slow, sultry beat. Decent lyrics, some backing vocals, not much going on melodically. This ironically would have been a much better Bond song than Die Another Day was. Nothing special though.
‘Sooner Or Later‘ starts with a softer jazz tone and swooning beat. This I imagine is all supposed to be sexy, in the same way that Monroe was supposed to be sexy, but both do nothing for me. Some unfortunate lyrics with ‘the more you resist, the more it excites me’ sounding criminal.Nothing memorable here either.
‘Hanky Panky‘ has some okay piano in the introduction which never goes where I want it to. Then all hell brakes loose and we collapse into some weird 1980s 1920s cheesy mashup. This is the one I thought I may have heard, but I wasn’t sure. I think I have, but I don’t remember much about it apart from the rhyming of Hanky Panky and Spanky. I think this was something we used to shout at each other in the schoolyard. It’s sort of catchy but incredibly silly.
‘I’m Going Bananas‘ makes a mockery of my ‘incredibly silly’ comment. Madonna adopts some bizarre accent and squeaks and squeals incomprehensibly while Cuban horns and beats buzz around. At least it’s short.
‘Cry Baby‘ sees another change in vocal style, going for that Betty Boop cutesy shite. I was dreading something like this. Annoying and twee and pointless.
‘Something To Remember‘ at least sounds like a song, and possibly a serious one. It’s another slow burner, the melodies ramble a bit without anything standing out. It does have violins doing what violins should do though, but it’s a couple of minutes longer than it needs to be.
‘Back In Business’ sounds the same as the other slow ones, but builds up a more melodic and sultry vocal in the verses. Again it collapses into hilarity for the chorus with silly dated drums and twiddly saxomotrumps shooting off. A song of two parts then, the first fine, the other disastrous. It’s also over five minutes long for unknown reasons, and it does get worse as it goes along with trumpy solos and Madonna burping out assorted vocal ticks.
‘More‘ opens with plinky plonkey piano so we know we’re in jaunty territory again. So we have two basic songs on this album – jaunty ones and slow ones. Take your pick, they’re both poor. Jeepers, this one is almost five minutes long too. No, please, no more.
‘What Can You Lose‘ starts nicely, with Saul giving a different spin to what we’ve heard so far. Finally, a song that isn’t a pain in the soul to listen to. It’s pretty short too, probably for the best because once the duet begins in earnest it starts to fall apart.
‘Now I’m Following You Part 1‘ returns to the jaunty stuff. Another duet with some tap dancing sounds and other crap wafting in the background. Nothing worth recommending this one.
‘Now I’m Following You Part 2‘ is basically the same as Part 1, but with added dated 80s noises. It does its hardest to turn you into a serial killer in the final minute.
‘Vogue‘ is completely unrelated to everything that has gone before, and has no right being associated with this album. I’ve never been a huge fan of this song, but it’s light years ahead of anything else on I’m Breathless in terms of quality. It has a melody, has its own sound, and while it does sound dated there is still something fresh about it. Plus is has a classic Madonna chorus. What a bizarre album.
Well, that was terrible. Only the most hardcore Madonna fans should listen to this, or those with a fetish for shit jazz. It hasn’t made me want to watch Dick Tracy again, probably a good thing as I remember it being crap. Thankfully Madonna returns to form (I think?) with Erotica which features at least one of my favourite Madonna songs, some I have probably heard but can’t remember, and some I won’t have heard. I’ll be looking forward to hearing that one next time, but for now I’m away to band my head with a beer bottle until I’ve wiped away every memory of I’m Breathless. Good times, LOLAMIRITEWTF!
Let us know what you thought of this album – was it a misstep for Madonna or another interesting experiment?
‘Hurting and yearning/And yet so carefree/Walking and dreaming/The world at my feet’
Just A Kid
*Originally written in 2011
In horror, there is a sub genre for all occasions. The Nazi-zombie sub-genre can be seen as a split off from both the zombie horror film, and from the Nazi horror film. While this little sewer of filth has seen its more than fair share of unmentionable crap, every so often a gem emerges, and Dead Snow is such a gem. Taking its cues from the best of 80’s splatter, it is a lighthearted, ultra-violent romp through the pistes of Norway and is packed with the sort of invention which Horror fans crave and all too often do not receive, especially in US releases.
Dead Snow effectively picks up where Evil Dead 3 left off – even though there have been a flurry of ultra-violent horror comedies since the genre’s 80s peak, few have come close to hitting the fun, the spectacle, the inventiveness, or the quality of those we know and love. Dead Snow takes the best of those, carves its own brutal path, and updates for a 21st Century audience aiming to please both seasoned gore-hounds and those just setting out on their bloody descent. Apparently loosely based on Scandinavian myth, the film’s plot follows the tried and true trope of students trapped in a cabin far from any safe haven, and under siege from the undead. The undead here though are not simply mindless killers, but Nazi soldiers buried in the snow for decades and woken to presumably take back the treasure they believe to be their’s. There’s some mention of a curse, some references to vague histories, but the backstory of the bad guys is simply a tool to let the blood flow. Trying to survive the onslaught are a bunch of students, not the typical mix of jock, whore, nerd, virgin etc, but a less caricatured, less defined group of similar individuals. Once again, we don’t spend a lot of time getting to know them as they are simply there to run, hide, fight, kill, and die. Typically for these types of films that would be a notch in the negative column, but here we are barely afforded a moment to concern ourselves as the carnage doesn’t take long to begin. Each person is likable enough that they are not irritating, but neither are they well enough developed to truly care about, but their charm and humour at least make us root for them.
In homage to the greats, we have a bunch of cliches on display but they are presented with love and in most cases flipped in such a way to make them seem fresh or to not allow us to be concerned that they are cliches; An old hermit gives us plenty of exposition; a chainsaw is never too far away; sex leads to death; dreams are portents and clues. Once the zombies begin their attack, the smile will rarely leave your face as both undead are living are dispatched in hilarious, original, and bloody fashion. The effects team does an excellent job and the director knows what the audience wants to see, keeping the action free-flowing and fast-moving. The acting is fine, though as the characters are fairly indistinguishable there isn’t a lot of room for any of them to emerge as an Ash or a Lionel.
Dead Snow is a film which is destined to continue to do well with international horror audiences jaded by the middle of the road bores or over the top, lacking in ideas or heart movies of Hollywood. If you have an interest in horror movies then this should be on your watch list, though I can’t recommend it for anyone who doesn’t have a strong stomach.
Let us know in the comments what you made of Dead Snow and how you feel it compares with others of its ilk!
Remember remember, the something November. What was it again? Who knows, who cares! All you care about it wishing you had such awesome freebies as these!
Hurrah! You too can imagine pushing James Martin’s (or any of your other favourite celebrity food warlocks) face into this snazzy blender and watching it swirl to pulp. Remove his stump, try a different blade, and throw in his foot for bonus points!
Finally! Teach your children how to be the next dead gangsta rapper by locking them in the basement with this book and not letting them out until they have composed a sick rhyme. ‘Why mummy/Why Daddy/Why won’t you let me out? Bitches be callin’/Parents be stallin/I think my nuts have gout’.
Rejoice! You too can imagine what it’s like to be a cyclops or a God(zilla) by erecting this miniature town puzzle and stamping your merry way from the Butcher’s to the School. Just don’t let the Missus see you – she might swoon!