Nightman’s Least Favourite Movies Of 2009!

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Greetings, Glancers! We kicked things off with the controversial 2010 and we now start moving backwards into the mists of time to have a laugh at my other misguided choices of least favourite films from each year. What does 2009 have in store for us? Have a look below.

Watchmen

Zack Snyder had been on a roll for me – Dawn Of The Dead is one of the all time great remakes, 300 is a silly, stylish slice of violent fun based on one of my favourite stories. It made sense that he would tackle a comic book adaptation, and adapt one of the less mainstream series. As you’ll see me say frequently in these posts – it’s not that it’s a bad film, it’s just not very good. Or more appropriately, it just didn’t work for me. On the plus side it looks great – not quite on par with the visu-shock of Sin City, but it certainly fits the bill of standing apart from the ‘realism’ of Marvels visual output. But like everything else Snyder has released since Watchmen, it’s so overfed on plot, so packed with stuff, that in the end I don’t care about any of it. I can’t remember any of the character’s names – Blue Cock – was that one? Outfit Girl? Running Dude? Wrong Face? Fuck knows. It’s another example of a film which should have been something I thoroughly enjoyed, but instead it was overblown and forgettable.

Wolverine

The X-Men movie series got off to a bang – the first two movies remain two of the finest comic book movies ever. Then some nameless twat got a hold of the series and ruined it for part 3 – one of the worst movies ever made. Luckily the series returned (and then subsequently fucked up again) and we got a series of spin off based on everyone’s favourite beardo, Wolverine. Like Watchman, this should have been something I enjoyed, but it’s drivel. If I can’t remember what anyone was called in Watchmen, I can’t remember anything that happened in Wolverine. I think there was snow in one scene. Maybe I was drunk when I watched it? In any case it went in both eyes, and straight out the back of my skull with zero recollection of what happened.

The Hangover

If the 2010s saw the rise of Alpha male bullshit, then the Noughties have a lot to answer for. I’m not saying The Hangover is to blame for a lot of the sickening sexual entitlement we see today across the entertainment industry, and up and down through politics… I’m not saying it’s even to blame for a rise in the absolutely terrible junk which passes for comedy in Hollywood these days. What I am saying is that it’s a pretty shitty movie, vastly overrated, and at least influenced a number of people to see the protagonists as worthy role models. It’s the ultimate bro movie, and for that reason alone, it deserves to be called out as the piece of shit it is.

The Hurt Locker

I was the first person to applaud when Katheryn Bigelow won her Oscar. But that was more as a sign of respect for her work on Near Dark, Strange Days, Point Break. She’s a terrific director. The Hurt Locker… I still don’t get why it is so acclaimed. A character study of little insight, a drama without tension. You notice how the acclaim for Renner’s performance seem to focus on his physical appearance – the fact that he’s not some Tom Cruise lookalike or hunk? You may as well start handing out Oscars for actresses based on how impressive their tits are. At best it is a very well made, good looking drama which was released at exactly the right time. At worst it’s an unrealistic Hallmark movie that just happens to have a master director in charge.

Halloween II

Ho-lee-shit. Listen, I didn’t mind the first Rob Zombie Halloween. He wanted to do his own thing, so by all means give it a go. The second effort is possibly the worst film I’ve ever seen in a theatre. Where to begin? There’s no sense writing a badly articulated diatribe about this – it’s so laughably bad that Police Academy 7 is ashamed of it.

Fame

That’s right, you can pretty much bet that if a crappy musical came out in any given year, it’ll be on my list – if I’ve had the misfortune to have seen it. The original is pretty terrible outside of the fact that it has some ripping tunes. This is the same, but worse, and without the ripping tunes.

An Education

Cripes this was banal, with a small disinterested ‘b’. The film which sadly unleashed Carey Mulligan on the world, it tells the story of… well I can’t really remember. It doesn’t matter does it? I don’t think I’ve yawned through a movie more than this – to its credit I didn’t fall asleep (that’s reserved for made for TV court dramas with names like Breach Of Contract or Justice For Bob, or Mrs Smith Gets A Divorce And Then Has A Custody Battle Over Her Infant Son, Jonas). 

The Fourth Kind

I’m a big fan of Milla Johovich. Sure the quality of her movies rarely goes higher than mindless action, but she’s always committed. The Fourth Kind seemed right up my alley until I watched it and wondered where are the scares that hardened horror fans seemed to be freaked out by. Remember that Ant And Dec movie Alien Autopsy? It had more scares than this.

The Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson had long been one of my favourite directors, from his early shlock, through The Frighteners and Heavenly Creatures. The LOTR trilogy is peerless. King Kong was a good 2 hour movie, blown up to off-putting CG-worship proportions. Then came The Lovely Bones – a misguided and offensive mess which looks as if it was made by a team who had never worked with each other before and had no experience of working on film. I’ve never read the source material – it always seemed like one of those Jodi Picault books to give housewives something to cry about. The movie certainly gave me something to cry about – the fact that Peter Jackson could have ever made something so insipid.

Lesbian Vampire Killers

I mean, it was going to be this or one of the shitty Ricky Gervais romps, wasn’t it? As much as I am mystified by people who enjoy Gervais, at least his films are generally competent. This isn’t, and has the added flaw of starring James Corden, whose one high moment was appearing in a Tango advert. It also stars Matthew Horne, whose one high moment is having a funny surname.

Let me know in the comments which of the films above you think I’ve got wrong. Are there some you love? Which movies released in 2009 would be at the bottom of your pile?

Radius

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I want to gorge on films with a fanciful, intriguing premise, something unique, rather than the next multi-million dollar blockbuster. That’s what draws me to little known and little seen films such as this, and why I give a blank stare if someone asks if I’ve seen The Avengers IV: Iron Ass. The premise here, which expands outwards like a ripple the more we learn, is that a man wakes up from a car crash with memory loss, but anyone who comes within a certain distance of him drops dead. So we have the tried and tested memory loss mystery unraveling – something seen in plenty of movies – confounded by a new and deadly ability which he needs to understand.

Radius scratches the low-fi Sci-fi itch I get after seeing too many generic action movies or Sci-fi films which cover their cracks and ideas void with millions of dollars and famous faces. It’s nice to reset, be challenged, and be introduced to new faces and ideas. It can be tricky because, while there are a lot of filmmakers out there striving to bring their passion projects to the screen, many of them simply aren’t very good or are either too obtuse or amateurish for most viewers. Radius deserves to be seen – it’s not the most outlandish, it is generally well acted, shot, directed, and has a solid score – but it plays maybe one or two twists too many and sometimes fails when both trying to explain matters and when leaving things open ended. I got the sense that, while I enjoyed it, many viewers would be frustrated by the lack of guidance, the lack of answers, or indeed by the lack of really pushing any boundaries.

Written and directed by Caroline Lebreche and Steeve Leonard, Radius stars Diego Klattenhoff and Charlotte Sullivan as the man who inadvertently kills anything he comes near, and the woman who finds him but seems immune to his power. Don’t worry subtitle-phobes, the names may sound French, but the movie is all in English. The film ticks plenty of boxes for me – unusual set up and mystery, small primary cast, it’s as much a road movie as it is a Sci-fi, and it’s little known so you can get a little dopamine rush when you tell your friends about it. Horror fans will get a kick out of this – it’s not exactly supposed to be scary, but just the notion of being able to kill people by being near them sounds like a horror movie setup. There are a bunch of kills, but they’re rarely bloody and more of the ‘dude walks forwards then falls down dead’ style, and one of the twists late in the film hints at more horrific beginnings.

I had plenty of fun with Radius although I didn’t always like the directions the story wanted to go. It always felt like one step away from falling into absurdity or needless complexity. There is enough restraint in the storytelling that we are afforded the respect to fill in the gaps ourselves, but a few leaps of faith are required too. I can’t say I was ever drawn in by the characters on any meaningful emotion level and the script doesn’t leave a lot of room for ruminating or romance or outbursts, yet I was happy to follow these characters until the end of their journey. It’s not going to be for everyone, but for anybody else who enjoys imaginative setups such as this, or who want to reset after one too many blockbusters, you might get a kick out of this.

Let us know what you thought of Radius in the comments!

Captain America – The First Avenger

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I have a habit of writing an introduction to my movie reviews long before writing anything else. For example, I’m writing this opening paragraph on 27th October 2017 – I probably won’t write the rest for a few months after and then post the thing months after that. As I write, I have really only started to embark on my Marvel Movie adventure, having never really been swept up in the whole universe. I’m pretty much the prime target audience, having grown up with these characters in their various guises. However, none of the movies I’d seen really reached out to me in the way that say, a Batman movie, or The Crow, or 1978’s Superman did. I’d seen The Avengers, the first Iron Man, some of the early Hulk movies where there was a new actor each time, but they all felt identikit and meh. Lots of ‘splosions and lots of meandering plot which really boiled down to big man saving world and/or girl from big bad man. I didn’t go in to The First Avenger with too many expectations, but I was nevertheless keen to see what the fuss (of the extended universe) was all about.

Our story begins in present day as a mysterious aircraft is discovered in The Arctic. We flip back to the 1940s and get a battle scene where Nazis are doing a bit of mystical treasure hunting – finding something called The Tesseract which can grant them massive power. Cut to the US and we meet the scrawny Steve Rogers, your typical old school white patriot who wants to sign up to the Army to help in the war but is turned down for being sickly and weak. Impressed by his resolve, he is snapped up by a US experimental intelligence team who give him some magic juice, turning him into a Super Solider – a much stronger and faster version of himself. He is now Captain America and while acting as a symbol for all that is good, holy, and American, he chases down the evil Nazi (who also took the magic juice but something went wrong with his experiment) and lots of fights and ‘splosions happen.

First the positives – good effects, good attention to detail in all aspects, especially in creating a believable 1940s world. Not being a fan of Chris Evans beforehand, he is good in the role and abandons all of the annoying ticks and quirks from his earlier movies making him a well-rounded, if a little bland, action hero. The rest of the cast do their jobs as expected, Hugo Weaving having fun as the villain and Hayley Atwell adding some spunk as Peggy Carter. That’s pretty much it – it works as a world building movie and all the expected cameos and geeky nods are there. As an origin story it ticks all of the boxes. The main negative, as I alluded to in the intro all those months ago (now writing on 20th July 2018) is that it’s all so plain. Maybe I’m not the target audience anymore – I’m not wowed by anything, the geeky nods don’t do a lot for me, and there’s an air of ‘seen it before’ about it all. The conflict never seems real, we know how the film is going to end, and try as they might to form some sort of tortured love story, it never comes off. There’s not enough here for me to sink my teeth into. In another world this would be just a very average action movie – it is a very average action movie – but in our world that’s seemingly enough to warrant making almost half a billion dollars at the box office. I can’t come off as too critical – clearly a lot of work goes into a film on such a grand scale and clearly a lot of people love it – it’s fine, I just need something more these days.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of The First Avenger!

Best Director – 1977

Official Nominations: Woody Allen. Steven Spielberg. Fred Zinnemann. Herbert Ross. George Lucas.

This is a bit of a no contest for me. Really it’s a three horse race, but as time goes on that Allen win looks more and more concerning. Annie Hall is likely his crowning achievement but when viewed alongside Close Encounters Of A Third Kind and Star Wars it pales by some distance. Allen very much has a style which doesn’t change from movie to movie and his films are more concerned with script than direction. The amount of effort which went into both of those sci-fi classics from all corners, the influence…. it all dwarfs the other nominees combined. This is the perfect example of the Turning Point (pun intended) in Hollywood, with the Academy as always lagging behind the populace. We have poor old Fred Zinnemann and Herbert Ross – both no strangers to Oscars – getting what amounts to little more than traditional votes. That’s not truly fair given that both their films notched up additional nominations this year and both aren’t 100% old fashioned Oscar bait, but when viewed against the modern stylings of the other three films and directors it’s clear there is a generational gap. Generational gaps are one thing, but when making my choices here it’s all about quality. The Turning Point and Julia are no doubt well directed, but they are hardly innovative, both directors have made superior movies, and there are some other notable films from the year which probably should have made the cut over those two.

We know Woody Allen is out, and that leaves Spielberg and Lucas. Spielberg already had Jaws in his pocket by this point while Lucas had American Graffiti. Any other year Spielberg would be the choice here, but Lucas unleashed a little something called Star Wars upon the world With each new year a whole slew of blockbusters and special effects bonanzas swarm through the cinema but they are so lacking in energy and originality and are so cookie cutter that it’s difficult to differentiate between one and the other. With each viewing of those, it becomes increasingly clear just what an achievement A New Hope was – from the impossible odds of getting it done on time, the often horrid conditions making it, a cast of mostly unknowns with a couple of old-school leading actors, from creating visual and sound effects and techniques never seen before, right down to the handling of story, characters, and universe – it has to be Lucas for the win.

My Winner: George Lucas

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My Nominations: George Lucas. Steven Spielberg. Robert Altman. Sam Peckinpah. Ridley Scott. David Lynch. William Freidkin. Dario Argento. Luis Bunuel.

There was a number of war epics this year and depending on your preference for scale or action or story or character, you could name any of the directors here. My vote goes for Peckinpah and his violent anti-glory Cross Of Iron which acts as a precursor to many of the more downbeat and political war films of the subsequent ten years. Regardless of which area you decide to focus on, Ridley Scott’s The Duellists is probably the most consistent war film of the year and hits all of the aforementioned boxes, showing that Scott had a handle on each and could combine them within a historical setting and a large scope. Say what you will about Lynch or Eraserhead but you won’t see a more unique and nightmarish vision in 1977 than his tale of isolation, fear, and weirdness. In a time when everyone was pre-occupied with grand battles and huge budgets, Lynch goes grainy black and white to show an industrial wasteland, a bewildered man, and a screeching mutant. William Friedkin updates The Grapes Of Wrath with his toe-curling exercise in tension Sorceror while Dario Argento perfects his colourful giallo vision and penchant for stylish violence and madness with Suspiria. Luis Bunuel’s films are more often than not experimental, and while less overt in its art That Obscure Object Of Desire pushes traditional storytelling to certain limits and beyond. Finally, Robert Altman treads more fully into experimental territory with 3 Women – a film based on a dream and given a dreamlike quality in its depiction of relationships in a town on the edge of nowhere.

I know I’m not impartial, but I think time has proven that any one of my additional nominees are more worthy than the three official ones I left off. As much as I’d be happy with any of my other picks getting the win, I think we have to still go with Beardy Magee.

My Winner: George Lucas.

Let us know your winner in the comments!

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