It Comes At Night

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I’m sure it has been said before, but I’ll take the bait – ‘what comes at night’? The cynical part of me wants to say that the name was crafted carefully to cash in on a resurgent horror market, and certainly the backlash the film received by the horror community supports this theory. The realist in me acknowledges that this feeling is a symptom of a larger problem; the growing disparity between fan and critical consensus as exemplified by the juvenile antics on such adolescent sites such as Rotten Tomatoes. This insidious ownership of a product you have zero claim in, this growing distrust of critics by the public concerning things which don’t really matter, is like a disease swarming from city apartment blocks to backwoods retreats where the custodians of opinions board up their windows to prevent unwarranted discussion with the outside world and the comfort of a hazmat suited confirmation bias is the only thing blocking your own enlightenment.

I’ve written before about the subjects of fanboyism, the role of the critic, and the toxic entitlement as consumers feel to the point that we feel like we have to protect the movies or music or videogames or books we love. I get it; we’ve all had that pang of thinking what the hell does this guy know – he doesn’t like (insert favourite thing), what a moron. I know! I’ll go and review bomb everything he’s ever written – that’ll teach him! And it will teach him – that you’re the moron. We like different things – Critics just tend to be able to speak more knowledgeably and with greater experience about these things than most. Maybe they come to a film with a certain approach. Maybe they come with a certain bias. You’re lying if you say you don’t, or an even bigger moron than you already appear. With the explosion of the internet, every twat with an internet connection and an interest in movies can call himself a critic. I’ve written thousands of reviews and I in no way consider myself to be a critic. I just like watching, talking, and writing about movies.

While there are few certainties when it comes to opinion or something as intangible as movies and criticism, there are instances when a critic just simply gets it wrong. There are plenty of critics, or just plain fans and reviewers like myself who I more often than not disagree with, and there are plenty who I by and large agree with, or at least respect. Am I going to quiver and mewl like a newborn lamb with its throat caught in the jaws of a wolf, because someone gave a movie I rated a 91, a mere 76? No, because I’m not an asshole. At the time of writing, It Comes At Night has a Critical score of 87, and an Audience Score of 44 on RT. Look at any popular Horror release of the last few years, and in almost every case you’ll see something similar. The Witch, The Babadook, and the newly released The Joker all have a large gap between audience and critical feeling. Do I care? No – I barely find it interesting, but I acknowledge it’s a talking point. I know people get deep into the impact these scores have – advertisers using the higher score in trailers, audiences in turn being hyped up for something they later hate or getting up in arms because something they consider to be better gets buried because of the lack of critical interest. It’s all valid. But in this day and age, it’s all pointless. My advice? Take a step away from it all. Sites like RT exist only to get money. Critics are paid for their work. You simply sit and watch. Just ignore the reviews – the movie still exists, as do you, so let the two of you be the only relationship that matters.

It Comes At Night is a horror movie. It attempts to scare and disturb the viewer, and it attempts to make the viewer think by loosely placing us in the secluded house our protagonists eek out their final days in. As the film opens, we know the world has gone to hell due to the spread of some killer disease. It’s a premise we’ve seen since the dawn of time and a fear we all have, because it is a real, valid threat. Old gramps has somehow contracted the thing, so it’s out to the yard for a bit of marshmallow and OAP cooking. That leaves Mum, Dad, and pervy teenage son who live with no clear purpose beyond trying to not get sick. Oh, there’s a dog too – because there’s always a dog. One night they catch another survivor breaking into their house, tie him to a tree, and beat some good old fashioned truth out of him. Seeing he isn’t sick and cautiously believing he’s legit, they allow him and his wife and son to move in. As time progresses, they help each other out, yet the mutual distrust is still bubbling under the surface.

And that’s it really. Something happens near the end which propels us towards the bleak conclusion. The scenes of the pervy son seem shoe-horned in, his nightmares edited in such a way that they realized they wouldn’t be able to sell the movie without some actual generic horror. If they are supposed to be ambiguous or prophetic or suggestive, they’re not, and horror fans will be more than familiar with each stunt pulled. It’s still interesting – none of the performances are outstanding beyond some screaming in the final moments, but the coldness does add to the overall tone of hopelessness. As much as I hate to use the term ‘elevated horror’ because as far as I can tell that term simply means horror without humour, that’s what they’ve gone for here. The house is suitably shadowy and the director does manage to squeeze out some memorable shots and some low-level tension, but for me it neither scares nor does anything particularly new or well. The characters feel as empty as the first victim in a slasher movie and with no end game in mind the film simply drifts towards its inevitable conclusion. Credit for ending it the way they did, rather than leaving a glimmer of light. Did I like it? I didn’t hate it? It didn’t make me care enough to go and check out how anyone else felt about it. Put most simply – in my opinion, it’s neither 44% bad, nor 87% good.

But let me know how you felt about it in the comment – are you more on the critics’ side or the fans?

Trilogy Of Terror

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As a horror movie fan, I’m a member of various groups on Facebook. Those groups feature the same movies, actors, and arguments over and over again as you may expect. One type of post which comes along every so often is ‘what scared you as a kid’ and one image which is typically given in response is the image at the top of this post. Yes, that cute little fella apparently spawned millions of nightmares in the bedrooms of millions of kids all around the world – but it was from a movie I had never seen. Somehow I had made it into my thirties without ever seeing Trilogy Of Terror – one of the most famous horror anthologies. It’s time to right that wrong.

It’s difficult to understate the loss the movie world suffered when Karen Black died a few years ago. From appearances in cult movies such as Easy Rider and Dogtown, to mainstream hits like Nashville and Five Easy Pieces, the horror world quickly claimed her as one of their own. With Burnt Offerings near the start of her career to House Of 1000 Corpses near the end, she was an icon of the genre. Trilogy Of Terror is a masterclass from Karen Black, appearing as no less than four wildly differing characters over the three stories we are told. Dan Curtis directs, himself no stranger to the horror genre having crafted cult series Dark Shadows, The Night Stalker, and many others. The three stories here are each solid, offering different ideas – some of which seem ahead of the curve, even if one is the obvious standout. Based on stories by Richard Matheson, it’s hardly surprising the tales have credibility and twists.

In Julie, Karen stars as a college professor who receives unwanted advances from one of her students – Chad. The story covers obsession, perversion, voyeurism, and date rape, with Chad pursuing Julie for sexually sadistic purposes. Julie meanwhile, has her own plans. In the second story Black plays two sisters – Millicent And Therese – one being dour and repressed, the other direct and adventurous. Even with voodoo and rivalry and psychoanalysis, it’s the weakest of the bunch – raised by Black’s performance. The finaly story is the one I hear mentioned regularly on the horror pages and forums – Amelia. Following on from the other stories, the title is the name of the main character. I feel this has been to the detriment of the story because no-one even remembers the name, only calling it ‘that one with the creepy African doll which comes to life’. That’s a pretty apt title.

Presumably a lot of people saw this in their youth and it stayed with them. Fair enough – it does a job of portraying the doll in a creepy light, it’s certainly a freaky looking wee bastard, and Black’s performance convincingly conveys the peril. One thing keeps coming back to me though – it’s a doll. Doll horror movies, or even movies with smaller creatures in the vein of Critters, Ghoulies etc, are one step past ridiculous for me. If people are genuinely afraid of these things when they’re young, it’s a fear that passed me by. I can’t take them seriously and I almost take them as a full blown comedy. I do’t know about you, but when I was young I viewed my toys – my He-Man, Transformers, MUSCLE men etc, as my protectors – coming alive to stand guard against nightly threats and terrors. If they happened to turn evil? Well then I’d kick them over and casually walk out of the room.

So even though the scares don’t work for me, I appreciate that they do for others and Curtis manages to create both creeping dread and efficient jump-scares. It’s the most straight tale of terror in the bunch, the most visceral even if it doesn’t rely on gore. Indeed, none of the stories are bloody and most are psychological in nature. It’s a brief watch, both fun and interesting, and if anything it’s a must due to the pedigree involved. The fact that none of the segments are weak will make it a seasonal favourite for horror fans – this horror fan just isn’t creeped out by dolls.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Trilogy Of Terror!

V/H/S

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A number of obvious positives came from the onslaught of found footage films – it opened the door for new voices in genre cinema who could make a legitimate movie on a shoestring and cash in on the trend (counterpoint being every fool with a camera thought they could do it); studios and directors could make movies with little budget and almost guarantee a considerable profit (counterpoint being that it encouraged a host of copycats with a reduction in quality); it offered both long-standing and original voices a new creative outlet along with near full creative control thanks to the money involved being so low and the inherent restrictions forcing filmmakers to think outside the box (this didn’t last long). VHS came in the middle of the Found Footage run of infamy and ticks each of the positives above in some way. Up and coming directors such as Adam Wingard, Ti West, David Bruckner, and Radio Silence had a podium to shout from, showing us what delights and horrors lurked under their kilts, and a near certainty that they would reach a larger audience than they had up to that point. Did they use that power for good?

VHS is an anthology film, and as such there is a mixed bag; different stories, different styles, some segments good, other segments not so good. The gristle tying it all together is the use of found footage, each story peppered with gore and shocks. The wraparound conceit follows a group of hoodlums who, Henry: Portrait Of A Serial KIller style film their adventures. Their latest mission is unusual – an unseen benefactor pays them to break into a house to steal a single VHS tape. The gang discovers a corpse in a room filled with screens, and videotapes by the box load scattered around the house. While they start collecting the tapes, one guy decides to pop one in and watch. Each tape reveals a new story, and at the end of each new story one of the gang members vanishes – maybe that corpse isn’t so dead?

As with most wraparound stories, there isn’t much substance or payoff, but given the short running time there’s still intrigue and scares. It’s far from the worst wraparound, and it actually tonally fits with the rest of the content. The first story – Amateur Night – follows a trio of scumbags who bring a couple of young women back to a motel room with the intention of secretly filming them having sex. They quickly find their chauvinist ways turned back upon them as one of the women has plans of her own. It’s a fun, masochistic twist on the ‘boys will be boys’ events of recent history, it’s a sleazy tale with a sting. Ti West, probably the most accomplished director of the bunch, gives us a simple near – one room story as a married couple head on a Second Honeymoon. In their motel room, a disoriented woman knocks and asks the husband if he can give her a ride the following day – he refuses. Later that night the woman breaks into the room, turns on the camera, and films herself on the sleeping couple’s bed with a knife, before stealing some money. The next night she has followed them to their next destination. Again, there’s not much to it, but Ti West makes anything watchable and as always there is a twist of sorts.

Tuesday The 17th may be my favourite of the bunch – a camping trip gone wrong like so many others in Horror history. A group of friends has been convinced to go on the trip by a new friend and on the trip the new friend begins to tell them of how all her friends were killed at the same place one year earlier. Before long, a near-invisible killer, cloaked almost like the Predator begins picking them off. The killer is called The Glitch, and it’s a great idea, a figure which literally glitches across the screen, appearing suddenly behind characters, wobbling in and out of vision in static waves. The plot is light, but the idea and execution of the creature is good fun. The Sick Thing That Happened To Emily When She Was Younger is a Joe Swanberg helmed Skype chat style short. It details the chats Emily has with her boyfriend James as she becomes increasingly unhinged – believing her room is haunted and that the lump in her arm is something sinister. I’d forgotten about this segment more than any other, but it has its moments.

The final story is the effects and tricks bonanza. Radio Silence’s 10/31/98 follows four friends heading to a Halloween party, but ending up in the wrong place. Stumbling upon some sort of, what they believe to be, demonic ritual or exorcism the boys fight back against ghostly arms and unseen forces. It’s a lot of fun but again there’s some sort of ‘women cannot be trusted’ vibe going on –  running theme in a number of the shorts. The wraparound concludes and the film ends. As a whole, I didn’t find any of the segments notably weak – each has a charm and each is solid, with some being more inventive or interesting than others. I don’t know if the woman thing was intentional or sub-conscious or me reading too much into it, but it becomes noticeable. Now that I’ve mentioned it, you’ll probably see it or go looking for it. On the flip side, the men in several cases are portrayed as dicks or morons too, though each segment is brief enough that the strength of the idea overrides the dislike of any character. The Found Footage approach is used differently in each piece and it doesn’t becomes tiresome or nauseating, each director making sure there’s a stylistic and relevant reason for it. Anthology films are quick and easy watches and can make for a decent introduction to horror. Also, you shouldn’t get through Halloween without watching at least one or two. If you haven’t seen V/H/S, it’s one of the stronger recent efforts.

Let us know in the comments what you think of V/H/S!

Best Cast – 1976

My Nominations: Voyage Of The Damned. Taxi Driver. Rocky. The Omen. Network. Murder By Death. Marathon Man. The Last Tycoon. The Cassandra Crossing. All The President’s Men.

We close off the 1976 Academy Awards with the category I have most fun with. What’s interesting this year is that we don’t have a single War Ensemble (hello Slayer fans) movie nominated. There were some films of that ilk this year, but I don’t think they merit the nomination. That leaves us with the tail end of the Disaster movie boom, the big Oscar winners, and honestly not too many surprises.

All The President’s Men and Network are the heavy hitters – earning seven performance based Oscar nominations between them and four wins. If either of those is your choice, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone to argue against you. Taxi Driver and Rocky aren’t too far behind in terms of Awards, with De Niro cementing his name as one of the greats, and both Jodie Foster and Sylvester Stallone emerging as stars alongside such stalwarts as Burgess Meredith and Peter Boyle. The Omen continues the 70s trend of putting legitimate stars into horror movies, with Gregory Peck and Lee Remick appearing alongside the devilish Billie Whitelaw and Harvey Spencer Stephens.

Marathon Man is as horrific as anything you’ll see this year, that horror heightened by a great cast including Dustin Hoffman, Lawrence Olivier, and Roy Scheider while The Last Tycoon is another De Niro vehicle pitting him alongside no less than Tony Curtis, Jack Nicholson, Robert Mitchum, Donald Pleasance, Ray Milland, Theresa Russell, Angelica Huston, and Jeanne Moreau. Murder By Death also features an ensemble of respected thespian – Alec Guiness, Peter Falk, Maggie Smith, David Niven, and Peter Sellers all contribute. The Cassandra Crossing is one of several forgotten disaster movies of the era, worth a watch if you enjoy Alida Valli, Ava Gardner, Lee Strasberg, OJ Simpson, Martin Sheen, Sophia Loren, Burt Lancaster, and Richard Harris, while Voyage Of The Damned goes even more European merging Max Von Sydow, Oskar Werner, Jose Ferrer, Fernando Rey, and Maria Schell with James Mason, Fay Dunaway, Malcolm McDowell, Orson Welles, Katharine Ross, Jonathan Pryce and, ahem, Leonerd Rossiter. While the ensemble pieces are impressive purely looking at the names, they’re not as successful as the big hitters this year. I’m going with my gut again.

My Winner: Rocky

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Controversial? Let us know your winner in the comments!

Sanctum

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It seemed like a good idea. An adventure movie with input from James Cameron, set in the claustrophobic world of underground caves and which promised unique visuals, thrills, and realism. That world is not one we see nearly enough of, and you can count the number of good films with such a location on one finger – hint – it’s called The Descent. So what the hell went wrong with this then?

It’s pretty clear early on what the problems are and that they’re unlikely to be overcome. In the opening scenes we are treated to the terrible delivery of some pretty bad dialogue and it becomes increasingly apparent that we’re dealing with a shoddy screenplay and some less than desirable actors – either that or they’re horribly miscast. It’s not hyperbole for me to state that every line in the opening 20 minutes is stilted and delivered in a knowing, winking way, almost as if it’s a first read through. In fact, it felt like a porno or a Carry On movie, but without the sex. We meet a group of explorers who are investigating a labyrinthine subterranean cave system. There’s the fun-loving billionaire who…. likes caves? He brings along his girlfriend – an avid something or other, and a teenager called Josh who looks like he walked out of a gnarly amateur skateboard video – fish-eye lens and all. Josh’s dad is the world renowned, never heard of him, diving expert Frank McGuire – a man so dedicated to fingering caves that he has had no time for fingering (hugging) his son. He’s a complete asshole. There’s a bunch of other explorer types helping out. You can already tell how these relationships are going to go, and the beats they’re going to take along the way. There isn’t an ounce of originality in the script when it comes to character or drama. The stupid thing is – nobody in the real world speaks, acts, or behaves like any of these buffoons. Early on one character says to another ‘Promise me you won’t let me fall’ – I wonder if that’s going to come back and bite them.

It all feels more Congo than Jurassic Park. Those movies at least had a sense of fun – this is all very po-faced or making jokes in that self-aware manner. So, they’re down this cave, hole thing, and – wait a minute – all these guys are divers? So that’s where Jimmy Cameron comes in. In order to explore the cave system they have to dive, so we get all of this wonderful dialogue about diving equipment and safety and fuck it there’s a giant storm coming so rather than climbing out lets forget all about that and plow ahead. Oops, now somebody’s dead. Seriously? I’ve no idea why or how this woman dies – I know nothing about diving – but basically she is swimming along, something happens and she immediately freaks out. She tries to share air with Frank, but this is beyond her abilities and Frank takes the breather from her and watches her drown. This kind of makes sense, but it’s filmed so horribly that it’s not clear what happened. Everybody blames everybody else. Josh decides to climb out before the storm blocks them completely. Why anyone decides against this is a mystery. Why some of the group do leave, never to be heard from again is a mystery. Why Josh decides to turn back and join his father is a mystery. You’ve just accused each other of murder and hated each other your entire lives, but maybe sudden death will bring us both together.

You can guess how the rest goes – the cave picks off the group one by one in increasingly pointless ways and arguments continue to get heated. Someone gets the bends, not sure why, someone refuses to wear a wetsuit, someone cracks their skull, someone’s hair gets caught and everyone freaks out inexplicably because they try to free themselves, someone drowns, and as expected, someone falls on a stalagmite. It’s all very very silly. It is watchable, barely, thanks to some great visuals. Not amazing, not what they are hyped to be, but certainly not the sort of thing we’re exposed to frequently. The action is sparse and lacking in threat, the film moves slower than a bubble on a lake, and we’re given no reason to care about anything that happens. Some day, someone will make a good film set in this sort of location – with the claustrophobic tension and characters it deserves, while retaining realism. As it stands, this is mostly a shambles and one to skip.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Sanctum!

John Carpenter’s Batman – An Unpublished Screenplay

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JOHN CARPENTER’S BATMAN

Cast:

Bruce Wayne/The Batman: Kurt Russell

The Joker: Also Kurt Russell

Alfred/Robin: Donald Pleasance

Vicki Vale: Jamie Lee Curtis

Tina Twotitz – A Giggling Wench: Adrienne Barbeau

Commissioner Gordon: Carey Grant

OPEN ON:

A throbbing synth soundtrack fades in, lurching, setting a tone of foreboding. There is a sweeping shot of a city at night: Gotham City. The following words light up the night sky in a neon blue: John Carpenter’s Batman

EXT: GOTHAM CITY. A BUSY STREET – NIGHT

DADDY WAYNE

What a riveting performance of Snow White that was. That Widow Twanky was a real character. Ha ha ha! I love Christmas, I do.

MUMMY WAYNE

Look out – he’s behind you!

DADDY WAYNE

Oh no he isn’t! Yes, dear, get into the festive spirit!

MUMMY WAYNE

No, I really mean it, look out!

JACK NAPIER

Gimme all yer money, punk, or I’ll fill ya full of lead.

MUMMY WAYNE

You’d better do as he says, he has an ill-favoured look about him.

DADDY WAYNE

Uh… yes… here you go, sir. We are but poor folk, and have few wares.

NAPIER

Yes, hand it over, yes, that’s it. Now, time for a joke – you like jokes don’t you?

MUMMY WAYNE

Not really.

DADDY WAYNE

Why yes, I am partial to the odd jest.

NAPIER

Good, good. I like an appreciative audience. What did the couple say to the gunman?

THE WAYNES (together)

We don’t know, what did the couple say to the gunman?

NAPIER shoots them both in the face twelve times.

NAPIER

Nothing! Because they were dead! Heh, I should be a joke-guy.

NAPIER runs away before the sound of the GUNSHOTS alerts the AUTHORITIES, but in his escape, he is crushed by a MARAUDING ELEPHANT.

NAPIER

My…… face… my beautiful face…..

INT. WAYNE MANOR – DAY

ALFRED

Don’t fret, sonny. Your parents luvved ya, and ol’ Alfred is here to look after ya. You’re the richest boy in the world. Perhaps we could talk about a pay rise for ol’ Alfr-

BRUCE

You are correct, my loyal slave. Now, my first order – I command you to build a huge indoor playpark in the subterranean caves beneath my home, complete with slides, ballpits, but no clowns. I hate clowns!

ALFRED

Yes sir, but there are lots of bats down there. Rats too.

BRUCE

Bats, you say?

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE. 10 YEARS LATER – DAY

ARCHBISHOP

I now pronounce thee, King and Queen.

RABBLE

All hail the King!

KING FLUBBER

Thank you all for coming on this gracious day. And special thanks to our new friend, Bruce Wayne – Billionaire playboy, and mysterious bachelor!

BRUCE WAYNE

No worries. I must say, this palace is rather small for my tastes, but it’s the perfect venue for such a lovely wedding.

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Now, the Royal photos!

VICKI VALE

Say Cheese!

BRUCE WAYNE

Hey, baby.

VICKI VALE

You wish.

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Let us retire to the Ballroom!

INT. BUCKINGHAM PALACE BALLROOM -DAY

QUEEN SOMETHINGOROTHER

Now, the Royal entertainment!

A group of delightful clowns enter and begin capering about, throwing pies, and generally creating a nuisance. One Clown approaches the throne.

THE JOKER

Your Royal Highnesses, may I ask you a not so serious question? Have you ever danced with the devil on a Tuesday Morn?

ROYAL SCUM

Eh…. no. What does that even mean?

THE JOKER

It means, you’re all about to DIE!

The clowns are really baddies! They pull out all manner of comedy-related weapons – giant over-sized hammers, knives made out of guns, guns made out of knives, guns which shoot knives, and guns made out of knives which shoot knives made out of wives.

TINA TWOTITZ

OOOOOH…. KAAAYYYY, guys and gals, I want you all to hand over your loot, and I want all the celebrity football players to pull down their pants!

THE JOKER

WTF, that’s not part of the plan?

TINA TWOTIZ

Aww, come on boss, lemme have some fun.

VICKI VALE

Does that lady have…. two tits?

BRUCE WAYNE

Uh, excuse me for a moment, I have to go behind this curtain.

WAYNE goes behind a curtain, and after some fumbling, Batman emerges!

BATMAN

Hands up, baddies, The Batman is here!

EVERYONE

Hurrah!

THE JOKER

Curses! Why must this caped crusader always interrupt my doings?

BATMAN starts beating everyone up, including the KING and QUEEN, but THE JOKER, TINA, and some assorted FIENDS escape by painting a black tunnel on the wall, through which only they can traverse.

BATMAN

I have a feeling that’s the last we’ll be seeing of those scoundrels.

ROBIN

I am here! Baddies beware! Ouch, my pelvis!

BATMAN

Alfred, please take off that ridiculous outfit.

INT. THE OFFICES OF THE DAILY SHITE – DAY.

VICKI VALE

I’m telling you, sir. If you’ll just look at my shots of The Joker, you can tell that he’s really Jack Napier – all he’s done is smear lipstick on his chin and slick his hair back.

DONALD TRUMP

Fake news! I am the chief editor of this newspaper and I’m telling you that The Joker is NOT my good friend and lover Jack Napier, ugh, I mean, The Joker is NOT really that criminal who mysteriously vanished and is in no way being financed by a rich tycoon to further his own tyrannical plans. Now, it is my yum yums time, fetch my baboon!

JIMMY OLSEN enters, leading a baboon on a leash. Its mammary glands are engorged and dripping.

TRUMP

Ahhh, yum yums!

TRUMP begins to suckle from one teat, while fondling the other.

INT(EXT?) THE BATCAVE – NIGHT

ALFRED

Sir, I wish you wouldn’t sit down here brooding so much. It’s unhealthy. At least put some boxer shorts on.

BRUCE WAYNE

I can’t, Alfred. I just can’t.

ALFRED

Fine. What is bothering you this time?

BRUCE WAYNE

I just can’t help shake the feeling that THE JOKER is going to strike again. And something that Vicki women said to me – that THE JOKER killed my parents – makes me think he was somehow connected to the unsolved murder of my parents. DAMN IT! I just can’t work it out!

ALFRED

Perhaps a drive in the BATMOBILE will help clear your mind, sir?

INT. THE BATMOBILE – NIGHT

BATMAN

Cruising along in my Batmobile, looking for fun, or some baddies to kill.

(For the purposes of humourous rhyming, he pronounces ‘kill’ as ‘keel’). Screams and laughter are heard OS.

BATMAN

Hmm, sounds like there is trouble afoot. Leave that woman alone and come quietly, or there will be… trouble.

BADDIES

No way man, no way man! The Joker runs this city, and he says we can do whatever we want!

BATMAN

Take me to him. Now.

BADDIES

No way, man!

BATMAN punches one baddy so hard that his head explodes.

OTHER BADDIE

Dude, gross!

BATMAN

Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.

BADDIE

Okay, man, okay. He lives at 621 Cowan Avenue.

BATMAN

BATMOBILE – set co-ordinates for 621 Cowan Avenue.

BATMOBILE

Yes, Michael.

INT. THE JOKER’S HIDEOUT – AN ABANDONED FUNHOUSE – NIGHT

THE JOKER

He is coming. I can…. sense it.

BOB

I am here sir, I have news.

THE JOKER

My power is growing. I knew you were coming. What is your news? Wait, let me guess….. he is coming. I can… sense it.

BOB

How did you do that? The Batman has just arrived in his dreaded Batcar. What should we do?

THE JOKER

Sniff this.

BOB sniffs a flower on The Joker’s shirt, but it squirts acid all over his face. BOB’S face melts in a grisly eight minute scene until only a skull is left.

THE JOKER

Now, tell the others to get ready!

TINA TWOTITZ

I think he’s dead.

BATMAN

And now you are dead too! Both of you!

THE JOKER

Curses!

BATMAN and THE JOKER have a ridiculous fight all over The Funhouse, through rooms with funny mirrors, and revolving doors and such. For some reason, VICKI VALE is also there.

TINA TWOTITZ

Ah ha! You’re that reporter! I loved your story about the economic struggles faced by students in the North of England due to the recent recession.

VICKI VALE

Not as much as you’ll like this!

VICKI kicks her down some stairs and TWOTITZ lands on her breasts so hard that she bounces out of a window and onto a spiked fence.

TINA TWOTITZ

Gee, that was some sharp wit.

SHE DIES.

EXT. THE FUNHOUSE ROOF – NIGHT

THE JOKER

Heh heee heee! Look, TRUMP has contacted the National Guard and his army of impotent incels to eliminate us both for fear that one or both of us will reveal his involvement in bank-rolling my murderous antics. Either we work together to get out of this, or we both perish.

BATMAN

Fine. You take the left, I’ll cover the right, but mark my words, when this is over, you and me will – GET – IT – ON!

THE JOKER

Don’t threaten me with a good time!

A large firefight ensues, with Hero and Villain teaming up to defeat a greater evil. Eventually, they fight off the hordes of GUN NUTS.

JOKER

Phew, that was close.

BATMAN

Indeed. And now I must place you under arrest, or something.

JOKER

Nah, not today.

The Joker leaps off the building, using the combined power of his massive clown trousers and the steam rising from the corpses of all the dead GUN NUTS to float away through the city.

BATMAN

We will meet again, my arch nemesis. We will meet again.

INT: THE OFFICE OF THE DAILY SHITE – DAY

TRUMP

Mmmm, yum yums. So delicious. So nice.

COMMISSIONER GORDON

Put down that Baboon, you’re under arrest for the murder of many people, and also for whatever it is you are doing to that poor forsaken beast.

TRUMP

Wha? Fake news, fake news!

COMMISSIONER GORDON

You’re not going to lie your way out of it this time. You have that thing’s breast in your mouth, and you are covered in blood, and you’re wearing a T-shirt which reads ‘I DID IT’, and you’re watching a video of yourself throwing grenades into a Mexican village. How much more proof do we need?

TRUMP

Fake news! Benghazi! Killery! Ugh…. fake news!

EXT: THE TOP OF THE POLICE HEADQUARTERS – NIGHT

COMMISSIONER GORDON

Thanks to you, we were able to lock away Trump for eight thousand years.

BATMAN

All in a day’s work.

VICKI VALE

And now I have a promotion and a snazzy new office, and free access to yum yums whenever I desire.

BATMAN

And yet, the city is not safe. Somewhere out there, a painted loon is plotting his next evil move. Oh, wait, there he is!

BATMAN spots THE JOKER walking on the ground below, and drops a brick on his head, killing him instantly.

BATMAN

I guess you could say ‘The Joke’s on him’.

GORDON

I don’t get it.

THE END

The Innkeepers

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Ti West has been making ripples in the horror world for almost twenty years, with a number of low budget indie entries being well received in the horror community – with The House Of The Devil the praise went farther afield. With The Innkeepers, Ti West tells an updated version of the classic haunted house story, moving the action to a hotel in the midst of closing down, and featuring much of his trademark humour, character focus, and building of tension.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy are the two leads and take up most of the running time together. They have a certain chemistry which will be familiar to anyone forced to work in a confined space day in day out with the same person or group of people. As characters, they hit if off and clash like an affable old married couple, and as actors we believe that they have been through some boring shit together. They are twenty-somethings working purely to pay the bills and for something to do, with marginally grander schemes and hopes, biding their time in an old Hotel in its final weekend before closure. Aside from their shared flitting aimlessness, both are amateur ghost enthusiasts and have been hoping to record some paranormal activity in their last night on the job – the hotel having a history of spooky encounters and a sordid past. Stumbling upon their relative seclusion and ghost-hunting is a faded Hollywood starlet played by Kelly McGillis (in another interesting horror role for the actress). She just wants a room for the night and doesn’t want to be disturbed, especially by Paxton’s Claire who is a bit of a fangirl. Luke (Healy) and Claire use their ghost-hunting equipment and soon begin to pick up creepy voices and music before the apparitions reveal themselves.

While not West’s breakthrough movie, this is the one which garnered him the most critical attention and became his biggest hit. The film has an old-fashioned horror feel, a subtle, creeping approach to scares, and using atmosphere over jumps and gore. The script and direction are light and playful both honouring the history of haunted house movies while giving them a modern gloss and respect. Once the second half reveals come and the mythology of the house is made known, the scares come faster after the largely comedic, slacker style first half. The three main performances are solid and likable, Paxton and Healy are easy to relate to, and even though there’s nothing new here it feels fresh, especially in an era of loud bang scares and CG blood spatter. It isn’t going to change anyone’s life, but it’s a fun movie for those who don’t mind a bit of backstory and set up before the pay-off.

Let us know in the comments what you think of The Innkeepers!

 

1976 Academy Awards – An Introduction

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The Awards risked debauchery this year by allowing Richard Pryor on the mic, backed up by Jane Fonda, Ellen Burstyn, and Warren Beatty. We had our first ever posthumous acting win (Peter Finch), and the first woman (Lina Wertmuller) to be nominated in the Directing category. As usual, there were some standouts with respect to multiple nominations – both Network and Rocky received ten, and All The President’s Men grabbed eight. Which, if any, of these movies will feature heavily in my picks?

Presenting awards this year were Muhammad Ali and Sly Stallone, Louise Fletcher, Jack Nicholson and many more, while performances came from the likes of Bill Conti, Tom Jones, and Ann-Margret. The sole Honorary Award went to Pandro S Berman – one of early Hollywood’s biggest Producers.

Join us over the next few weeks as I deliver my verdict on each category, and feel free to share your picks too!

 

Nightman’s Introduction To Foreign Cinema

Greetings, Glancers! A question I am often asked is ‘What the hell is wrong with your hair?’, quickly followed by ‘and what’s up with your face?’. Another more pertinent question, though asked with an equal amount of disdain and mewling voice is ‘why do you watch all those weird foreign films? Aren’t they all full of kinky sex, boring talking, and subtitles? Why can’t you just watch Fifty Shades Of Gray like the rest of us? And while I’m at it, seriously, what is up with your face? Cut your hair and get a job, you weirdo’.

You see, all of you big city fat cats who live in a more multicultural society probably have had greater access to more diverse areas of culture – cinema, music, art, and generally meet more interesting people. I, on the other hand, live here:

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It’s your typical 90% white, 90% Christian, 90% every other majority you can think of. Diversity – cultural or otherwise – isn’t exactly its strong suit. I’m being a little unfair though, as my town is one of the most absurdly friendly places you could dream of. Everyone says hello to me – for someone who could happily go for weeks without speaking to another soul, it’s quite a surreal ‘burb. Getting closer to some sort of point – for most of my life I have always been interested in stuff outside of the mainstream. I’m not saying that in some hipster way, and the movies and music I prefer are not really that far from centre because almost all of them have popular followings – it’s just that the stuff I like isn’t spoken of in my immediate social circles.

It all started, as most things do, with Bruce Lee. I’ve mentioned it before, but I have always loved martial arts movies, and when I grew up in the 80s the best movies of the genre did not come from Hollywood. I was therefore exposed to Asian cinema – Hong Kong, China, Japan, Thailand and more – at an early age. As time went on I branched out with different countries and genres. I’ve always loved Hollywood movies, but crucially I haven’t been afraid of looking beyond. And there is so much more. 

It’s frustrating to me that I follow multiple blogs by otherwise knowledgeable film fans who outright ignore movies outside of the US. Sure, every so often a big film will get a widespread US release and then everyone jumps on it. But then they move on to the next slice of Superhero skyscraper destructo-porn. I get that we all have limited time to watch movies and you want to spend that time either on movies you think you’ll already like or, if you’re one of these bloggers in it for the Likes and Followers, then you only watch whatever crap is in the charts – in which case I pity you. But every so often you have a blogger, or a Youtuber, or someone in a Facebook group who clearly and dearly loves Cinema and knows their John Ford from their John Hughes, yet when the subject of Foreign Film comes up they dismiss it entirely. Subtitles? Pah, if I wanted to read I’d go buy a book. You may as well say ‘if I wanted to learn I’d glue myself to the windows of the local Convent’.

I’m not saying Foreign movies are better and I don’t mean to sound condescending or superior, believe me I’m just as crap a person as you, I’m simply making a genuine plea for those people (bloggers or otherwise) who claim to love movies to widen their horizons. Don’t put yourself in a box, never limit your own experiences, and experiment as much as you possibly can to enrich your own life. Some of the most beautiful, heartbreaking, funniest, terrifying, evocative, influential, skillful, breathtaking movies ever made come from outside the US. If you love movies, why would you deprive yourself of those?

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Yes, it’s supposed to say WTF but I’m not changing it now

Basically, to get into foreign cinema you need to find your own personal niche – one movie, one performer, one genre that you can get into which acts as a gateway drug to a large and crazy cache of fantasy and wonder. Like West Coast Cooler leads to a pint of Absinthe, like a puff of pot leads to naked desert meth production, like masturbating leads to grand larceny or something, you can’t dive into the hard stuff without first wetting your beak with a treat you already enjoy, albeit with a slight twist. So for anyone asking those questions at the top of the post, or for anyone curious about foreign films, feel free to have a gander at my posts. Today I’ll give you some basic pointers, and later I’ll expand with some examples.

Lesson 1: Don’t Start With The Award Winners

An easy place to get stuck and disheartened is by Googling for Best Foreign movies and working through the list. Almost every such list will be filled with great movies, but they will likely be on the more dramatic or critically acclaimed side – not necessarily the sort of things someone new to Foreign Film will want. Better lists will give a blurb on each movie and if it sounds like you’ll like it, by all means give it a go. Another mistake people make is by checking the Best Foreign Film winners at the Oscars. Again, if you’re the sort of person who hasn’t watched Foreign Films before then there’s a chance you’re not the sort of person who even watches the Best Picture winners at the Oscars. That’s fine – I’d much rather watch a bunch of zombies get shot up than watch Emma Stone sing and dance. Oh yeah, that didn’t win. Looking at the Best Foreign Language winners of the last twenty years, there aren’t many which jump out as something which would suck in the average mainstream movie goer (and you’d be better served by looking at my Oscar Post nominations for Best Foreign Film anyway – ha).

Lesson 2: Don’t Listen To Assumptions

Boring. Slow. Cheap. Weird. Subtitles. Bad acting. A bunch of nobodies. Confusing. Artistic. Porn. These are all things I’ve heard people say, both to my face and in my years of reviewing, blogging, posting, and reading. The simple answer is both yes, no, and so what? Any movie from any country can be boring, slow, ‘weird’, and have bad acting. The assumption that this is somehow widespread throughout foreign movies is nonsense. Movies are subjective, so find what you like – see Lesson 1 and Lesson 4. Personally, I like ‘weird’ movies. If something doesn’t sound like it will be to your tastes, don’t watch it but don’t make the assumption that every other movie will be the same. Foreign films, depending on the Country, have just as many big name actors and directors as Hollywood – you just don’t know them yet. Subtitles are the best way for me to watch a non-English language movie, but if you really are that dim that you can’t read at a faster rate than 1 word every few seconds, then you probably don’t have mental capacity to watch any movie. I don’t like dubbing because I find it a more jarring experience than subtitles – taking away from the performance of the cast. Sometimes dubbing makes the movie better, though this is typically from the viewpoint of unintentional hilarity.

You will find films from a Country other than your own, on average, more confusing than films from your own Country – there’s no escaping that fact. This doesn’t mean you will be utterly dumbfounded or lost. There are just as many ‘easy’ films and mainstream films as in Hollywood – just different. Sure there will be films that you just won’t get, but again you could say the same for Hollywood. You think foreign films are more artistic – I would say that’s not a bad thing. It’s another misconception too. Foreign films make less money – less people see them, and perhaps that means there is less of a sense of Business surrounding them meaning that ‘anything goes’. Everything considered, it sounds like only toffs, hipsters, smart-asses, and weirdos watch foreign junk. You don’t have to be smart, or weird, or sophisticated, or false, or anything to enjoy a foreign movie – you just have to find the one that’s right for you. Foreign movies have sex. Non-foreign movies have sex. If you think sex is evil, don’t watch.

Lesson 3: Understand What ‘Foreign Film’ Means

For the purposes of my posts, I am calling out Foreign movies as anything not made in Britain or the US. I could even limit it to anything outside of US, but that would be weird given that I’m not American. There are a tonne of other movie markets around the world, some English speaking, some not. For any Americans looking to branch out but keeping to English Language – try UK Cinema, try Australian cinema. Foreign cinema as a whole deals with the same issues and genres as American mainstream and indie cinema. You want car chases, slasher movies, slapstick comedies, tragedies, romance, war epics, these are all things which exist around the world. You don’t need to know much, or anything, about the country of origin, but any knowledge might help your appreciation or increase enjoyment. Each country does have their quirks and very loose, very high level style based on decades of movie making and centuries of culture, and the more you watch the more you will catch these. If such things exist, a ‘generic’ French drama has inherent differences from a ‘generic’ Spanish drama, a Japanese action movie will have different trademarks than a Hong Kong one. I’ll focus more on these in my next posts.

Lesson 4: Think About What You Already Like

As alluded to above, Foreign Cinema is essentially the same as Hollywood Cinema – it just comes from a different place and culture. If you’re strictly a horror fan, then the world is your oyster. If you only like bloody and gruesome horror movies, then head straight for France, Italy, or Spain. If you like action movies, get over to Hong Kong. If you like musicals, Bollywood is waiting. You may already like a film by an actor or director who is primarily or partially known for Foreign movies – if you like their Hollywood work, chances are you’ll like their other stuff too. By far the best way to get into Foreign Cinema is by branching out from your existing preferences. All it takes is one movie, or even one moment, to make it all click. You don’t have to worry about being a connoisseur, you don’t have to worry about sounding smart or cool in a crowd, although you can do those things. Watching movies should be primarily a selfish experience – ask yourself what you want from a film and what you’ll get from it. As a secondary item, you will want to share your experience with like-minded people, and eventually even try to convert others, but that all starts with you and that first step of finding something you like.

Lesson 5: Behold Now Is The Accepted Time

It has never been easier to get into foreign movies, or movies in general. Since the mid nineties, foreign cinema saw a boom in the UK and US with a number of high profile films from around the world making a tonne of money outside of their own markets. A tonne of DVD companies popped up specifically to bring you the best in World Cinema, anime became a global monster; nerds and things nerds like became cool, encouraging others to come out of the woodwork. Streaming happened -all you have to do is stick in Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or some of the less legal alternatives, and find the foreign section. Everything is available at the touch of a button, a far cry from asking your local video store owner if he’s getting in any more Dario Argento movies and waiting 6 weeks for an answer. Scroll through a few Streaming Services after reading my posts, and you should find something to try. Just don’t come moaning to me that you lost 90 minutes of your life – what else were you going to do with that time – larceny? Masturbate? Yeah, I know all your dirty secrets.

In my next series of posts I’m going to cover some of my favourite movie making countries and why I love them, and I’m going to give some examples of gateway movies for specific genres. Maybe it will take the format of ‘If you like Hollywood’s then you’ll like Russia’s Y’. I’ll talk a little bit about the biggest stars and directors past and present from a variety of countries, and hopefully a few of you will take the plunge or use these examples and on-the-spur advice to win your own friends and detractors over. It’s a big world out there, people, and it’s all there to be enjoyed!

Let us know in the comments your struggles with watching foreign films or converting others to watching them, and point out some of your favourites!

Seul Contre Tous

*Originally written in 2003

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The follow-up to Noe’s 1991 brutal short Carne begins with a quick recount of what has happened – lead character ‘The Butcher’ has grown up hating the world after becoming an orphan because of the war. He owns a butcher shop and has a daughter, but everything else is sickening to him. He hates everyone and wishes they would all die, as we all die alone in the end. It is him against the stinking world he despises, everything is pointless, nobody cares. These ideas have been done countless times before, but never has effective, cold, or hard-hitting as here although the mood of Taxi Driver comes close. The Butcher kills a man he believed attacked his daughter, but it was the wrong guy, and goes to prison. Eventually he is let out.

Now The Butcher has found a new girlfriend, with her only because she gives him a room, sex, and promises to buy him a new shop. His daughter has been taken away from him and placed into foster care, and he only sees her for short spaces of time. She is the only one who can hold back his anger, and stop him from killing everyone on sight. However, his girlfriend repulses him, her mother is even worse in his eyes, and his grim surroundings only add to his growing hatred and rage. Like Carne, we hear his inner thoughts, how he sees everything as hopeless. Soon his inner monologue mixed with despair and fury causes an unreality and he, along with the viewer become uncertain of what is real, if the actions he takes are just his imagination or not. Soon he explodes with pure rage, beating his pregnant girlfriend on the floor and takes a gun with 3 bullets, intending to get his daughter and destroy everything. As he walks the streets his thoughts continue, and we wonder whether the people we walk with on our streets may be like this.

He is alone. Only the gun keeps him company. Several further shocking and brutal scenes are shown and they are made all the more unbearable because of the relentless pounding of words such as HATE being fired into our heads. That BOOM effect is useful in making the viewer uncomfortable, guns going off as the scenes cut. Our senses are assaulted by Noe’s direction, and Nahon’s performance is extremely impressive, easily worthy of any award. The scene where he repeatedly punches his girlfriend seems to go on forever, with all too real acting from her (Frankye Pain) adding to the horror. One scene with his daughter involving the gun is horrifying, but filmed so oddly beautifully and tenderly that we cannot look away, no matter how much we know we should be. If The Butcher escapes one harrowing act, he quickly replaces it with another. Characters like this are typically only seen in the realms of over the top horror, but Seul Contre Tous is entirely grounded in the real world.

Blandie’s performance as The Daughter is excellent, her vacancy ironic, he passivity revealing. With so much going for it, the film should rightly be seen by all self respecting movie fans, but beware that it won’t be easy. The film would be almost unwatchable if not for the beautiful cinematography, as well as some humour. However, the humour is so tongue-in-cheek that many people simply may not see it. It may leave you depressed with the world, or act as some skewed catharsis and give you hope because of your ‘better’ position. An extremely impressive film that deserves much more notice than it has received, but then again it is not the type of film you would take your partner, parents, or kids to see. Watch it on your own and let the pure emotion, and complete lack of love seep into you. One of a select breed of utterly harrowing films which will stay with you forever.

Let us know what you think of Seul Contre Tous in the comments!