Wake Wood

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Wake Wood is somewhat of a downer. There have been quite a few horror films in recent years dealing with how parents cope after the death of a child, some dealing with the psychological trauma, others taking a more visceral approach following the lengths some parents will go to either to get on with their lives or bring their child back. It’s a tradition going back most famously to Pet Sematary, but naturally it’s a fear as old as time with numerous fairy tales, myths, and stories from antiquity using this unimaginable tragedy and the associated grief as a starting point. Wake Wood lies somewhere in between the visceral and the psychological, not truly succeeding at either, but not truly failing either.

Make no mistake – Wake Wood is a Serious Horror Film – Caps all the way. It wants to hurt, and it wants to remind you of folksy tales like The Wicker Man and drama like Don’t Look Now. It doesn’t have the money or the directing chops of either of those, but it also doesn’t want to scrimp on the gore. It’s difficult to see who the film is really for then because, while plenty of people will want to see a film like this if you heavily market it towards one crowd they’re likely going to be pissed of by the blood or by the artistry. As mentioned – the artistry is more akin to someone just learning the ropes by mimicking their forefathers, while the blood is limited by budget and, well, good taste.

We open with the fairly upsetting mauling of a child by a dog – the girl, Alice, does not survive. Her mother and father – Louise and Patrick – move to a rural village called Wakewood and try to get on with their lives. The people of Wakewood seem friendly enough, though like any of these off the grid towns, there’s something a little off about them. Turns out they have a history of resurrecting the dead via a ritual with a series of rules. This is where some of the more interesting parts of the film come in, hinting at a sprawling history. There are various ancient trinkets and tools and rules employed, but they’re not really discussed or explained. These sorts of things are always interesting to me and I’d like to have known more about their purpose or origin. The main guts of the rules are straightforward enough – to raise the dead, you need another corpse. The person you want to raise must have been dead for less than a year. The person can only return for three days, and the person cannot go beyond the borders of the town. Naturally, as Patrick and Louise makes their decision, each of these rules comes in to play.

Everything about the film is cold, sullen, the muddy brown of a forgotten English graveyard – the performances (featuring Aidan Gillen and Timothy Spall), the direction, the look of the thing right down to the costumes. It’s mournful and bleak, even in its happiest moments and anyone looking for a slice of quirky horror or a hint of joy should shuffle by. It’s not without it’s charms – watching it reminded me of many a gloomy painting or Doom Metal album cover. It’s played out with conviction and its sense of grit and foreboding feels real – if there is a town out there which can bring people back from the dead, this certainly feels like it – insular, brow-beaten, and with the look of a tweed clothed farmer nonchalantly pistoning a bolt through a bull’s skull.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Wake Wood!

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?

Nightman’s Least Favourite Films Of 2010

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Here we go. Now, you might be asking why I’m starting with 2010. I’ve mentioned this before, but if you’re new around these here parts, I rarely watch films as they are released. I have more important things to do (like beat the world record for most sit-ups in a minute). But I get to them eventually. At time of writing – 29th December 2019 – I looked at the films released in 2018 and saw that I haven’t seen one of the top ten grossing movies. Not Infinity War, not Black Panther, not Incredibles 2, Fallen Kingdom, Aquaman, Bohemian Rhapsody, Venom, Fallout, Deadpool 2, or Fantastic Beasts. What a naughty movie boy I am! I’ll get to them, but only one or two jump out at me as something I’d actually want to see beyond mere obligation.

So rather than start in media decennium, I rounded down to 2010. I’ll work my way back to 1950 and then cover 2011-2019. One more note – I generally now avoid movies I don’t think I’ll like and a lot of the ultra low budget, amateur, and obviously crap films. I almost never enjoy ‘so bad it’s good’ stuff, unless I’m completely off my tits. In other words, my lists aren’t going to contain Sharkopter Vs Megacock or Fifty Shades Shittier.

Now, you may want to go back and read my original post about why I’m doing these lists. Remember, in most cases I don’t hate these films – they may have disappointed me because I was so hyped, they may have been forced upon me while I sat there dreaming about murdering every single person on screen, or they may be some bloated blockbuster with a huge budget but zero ambition beyond making more money – money which could have saved hundreds of lives had it been put into a different endeavour. Some of your favourite movies may be included. If you get salty – man up – opinions can’t hurt you. By all means go ahead and love your movie – doesn’t mean I will, doesn’t mean it should change how you feel about it. I’m just some guy, just like you.

Lets get onto the movies in 2010 which didn’t do it for me – these are in no particular order.

Alice In Wonderland

Weeew, what a mess. I’m torn between saying this looks good, imaginative, bright, or just uncanny valley terrible. When you throw this much money at a film, you’d better be sure it looks amazing. It’s a great start having Tim Burton in the Director’s Chair, as he’s one of Hollywood’s visual pioneers. Plus you get a terrific cast – it should have been spellbinding. But it’s just an incoherent mess. Just like the original text. I’ve never been a fan of Carroll’s story, I’m not so precious as to not call it out as a fraud. There are other, better works of fantasy fiction in a similar vein, and its a book whose moments and characters and ideas are better than their execution. The film can’t really be faulted for absorbing those flaws.

What it can be faulted for is its descent into unforgivable camp, for making otherwise good actors deliver cringe after cringe, and for further making Tim Burton look like just another big budget stooge with no clue how to build character, garner emotion, tell a story, or elicit anything from the audience other than a confused yawn.

Daybreakers

For reasons far beyond me, this has popped up in a few year end and decade end lists of best, or most underrated horror movies lists. It’s neither of those things. It takes an… okay premise, and then turns the whole thing into Blade, if Blade was a Hallmark drama. They say the biggest sin a horror movie can commit is to not be scary. I’d go one further and say the greatest sin any movie can commit is to be boring. This is boring, it’s not scary, and it looks as drab as a Ken Loach film if he had a 1000 quid budget and a single cloakroom to film within. Years on, I struggle to recall anything which happened in the film beyond Sam Neill sitting behind a table.

The Wolfman

The Wolfman never really had a shot. As far as classic monsters go, the werewolf has never really had a great horror film. Not the Universal Classics, nothing from Hammer – the best of the bunch, by some distance, needed to resort to comedy to make what should be an interesting character, well, interesting. Credit for retaining some sort of Gothic approach and for attempting to elevate the thing by throwing legitimate actors at a script written by someone more interested in forced romance than genuine trauma. It feels like nobody gives a shit, outside of an enthused, gloomy Del Toro. The problem is it’s laughably predictable even without seeing any other version of the story. You know exactly how the film will play out, and how it will end. Within the opening ten minutes, if you haven’t worked out precisely how the final minutes will go, this must be your first movie – congratulations on finally entering the world of Cinema, you must be excited to discover all of these wonderful new fangled movie things the kids have been talking about. It doesn’t even look that interesting, and Anthony Hopkins looks as if he is not only channeling Brian Blessed, but has swallowed  him too. Go watch the 1941 version.

Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese and horror – finally. How could it go wrong? It barely goes right. Every twist is signposted, every performance is ridiculous, and if you’ve ever seen, literally any movie set in an asylum, you know how this one will go. The film insults the audience by treating us like naive children, and it again commits those cardinal sins – it’s boring, it’s not scary. In its defence it claims to be a psychological thriller – a term people use when their film lacks the balls to be Horror. Perhaps most infuriating it made a crapload of money when there were a bunch of more deserving movies which passed unseen or under-praised.

A Nightmare On Elm Street

Wes Craven’s 1984 classic is my favourite horror movie of all time, and it’s a Top 5 for me regardless of genre. So I come in to any remake or sequel to these films with a bit of bias. However, I wasn’t as rabid as some who were anti-the film before it even got made and especially when they heard there would be no Craven involvement and no Englund as Freddy. I can’t say I was happy about it being remade as I always expected it to be crap, but that idea of a demonic entity stalking kids in their sleep is still one I find intriguing – with the right script, director, cast, there’s nothing stopping it from being good.

As expected, it’s not good. Props to everyone for trying something sort of different, and props to Jackie Earle for giving it a go, but it just doesn’t work – not as a Nightmare film, and not as a horror film. It’s nowhere near as inventive as it should be and doesn’t offer anything in the way of creative kills or use of the dream ‘space’ imaginatively. The script isn’t horrid, it’s just bland and like any number of remakes it tries to delve more into the character of the killer unnecessarily. Listen – it doesn’t matter who or what Freddy is, or any other killer for that matter. It wants to kill you. It has killed already. What the fuck are you going to do about it – that’s your film, or at least it should be.

While watching the film at the time, I kept thinking that it wasn’t as bad as the reviews had suggested and I wasn’t going to stoop to the same level as those somehow suggesting it tarnished the original. That didn’t stop it from also committing those Cardinal Sins once more – any ‘fear’ I felt in this was likely more jittery excitement at the possibility of Freddy showing up to fuck shit up. It’s not quite boring, it just feels like yet another slasher whereas the original flipped the genre on its head. I can’t remember a single kill or piece of dialogue from this movie so it would otherwise go on the to be forgotten pile. Because it has the name it does, it instead makes it onto the disappointed pile, and onto this list.

Robin Hood

When I was typing up this list, all I could remember about the film was that Ridley Scott directed and Russel Crowe was in it. At some point since watching, this got confused in my head with King Arthur or whatever the hell that was called. It shouldn’t be difficult to be a Robin Hood movie – the story and characters and setting are all there, and it’s perfectly set up for adventure, romance, and an all round fun time. So why the hell, in the four or five versions we’ve had in the last twenty or so years has every single one got it so wrong? Prince Of Thieves is the definitive modern version, and while it’s far from perfect, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. This… this is something about beards? Men with beards? Someone dies and some other guy pretends to be him, and then it ends. Honestly, the day after seeing this I couldn’t have told you anything that had happened.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

I’m consistently bewildered by the love this film gets – popping up in many best of year and best of decade lists. I just don’t get it. It’s 100% hipster wank and feels like it was made by someone who has never played a videogame in their life. The Mario Bros movie is more authentic. It’s all so strange because I love everything else Edgar Wright has done. But it brings together a bunch of indie hipster performers and people I don’t generally rate to play 16 bit NPC-level humans cut in this generic music video style. There isn’t an ounce of originality in the script beyond the admittedly novel premise and I sat there watching it thinking ‘this is a seventy year old white guy’s idea of what a videogame looks like, after hearing about Pacman forty years earlier’. The fights, the stylized look, the colours, everything has been done better before and while it’s not the film’s fault, it pisses me off that people think this broke ground.

I don’t think I despised a movie more this decade to the point that even the clothes starting pissing me off. Honestly, I had a hard time finding a screenshot for the movie to include at the top of the post because looking at each one was making me more and more angry. But I wanted to feature that film as the featured image because I know how much everyone loves it – gotta get those clicks, bro!

Maybe it irked me so much because it’s so clearly aimed at someone like me, that it made me step back defensively and say ‘hold the fuck on – that’s what you think I am!? This is what the world sees me as!?’ It’s a film I should have loved, but it’s just an abhorrent shambles. Don’t get me started on the awful soundtrack either – if you have a film with performers as bland as Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, and Jason Schwartzman, you just know the soundtrack is going to feature Beck. Throw in more failed Indie nobodies with less to say than Milli Vanilli and you have a film to watch the volume off.

After the first fight, you’ve seen all you need to. What the film doesn’t have the balls to say is that each and every character deserves to be pounded headfirst into a ? block before dropped down a pit with Game Over left on their blank tombstone.

Burlesque

Every so often, some wise-ass gets the great idea to bring the Musical back instead of letting it die and rot in the 1940s where it belongs. It’s a genre which simply doesn’t belong on screen anymore, unless you’re going to do something novel with it. Musicals on stage work – musicals on film don’t, and I can count the film musicals I tolerate (never mind enjoy) on one hand. Burlesque saw the bewildering success of Chicago and said ‘well, it’s been a few years, lets roll out the same shit again and see who falls for it this time’. It’s painful.

Once again in a musical we have a collection of songs that nobody who cares about music can honestly enjoy, once more it devolves into camp, and once more it delivers the promise of a story we’ve seen before played out by characters whose entire lives could fit under a child’s fingernail. When the primary purpose of your film is to showcase how well the human body can move in rhythmic time to a piece of music, you’ve failed as a film-maker. When the secondary purpose of your film is to show how well the human body looks in certain clothes, you have failed as a film-maker. While it should be fairly obvious that the Musical is not a genre I give two shits about, I can at least recognise when one is well-made versus one which isn’t. This is about as poor as the musical can get, with dialogue straight out of a instructional pamphlet written in Chinese and badly translated into English, and performances including Christina Aguilera’s – a wonderful showcase for her ability to wear make-up.

Chatroom

Hideo Nakata made one of my favourite movies of all time in Ringu. He has made some interesting films since then, none of which come remotely close to measuring up to that classic. Chatroom is a monstrosity arriving ten years too late and which seems even more outdated with each passing week. It’s a miracle that some of the cast members actually came out of this without the stench of shit following them. It makes next to no sense, it doesn’t understand its own script, and the actors seem to be in at least four different movies. How does the guy who did Ringu and Dark Water come out with something like this – a horror movie with zero attempt to build atmosphere and no scares? That’s an even bigger mystery than anything which happens in the film.

Rubber

Rubber makes my list, not only because it’s a bad film, but because it thinks it’s more clever than it is, and because a bunch of people fell for it. It’s a movie about a killer tyre – that’s more than enough to get me handing over my ill-gotten cash, and that’s what I want to see. Instead we get ham-fisted meta and everything trick employed to pad out the running time to ensure it’s not a short. If you’re a horror fan and you’ve heard someone talking about this movie – don’t waste your time with it – it’s not as good, or bad, or interesting as it sounds.

There you have it – some controversial choices to be sure. Let me feel your wrath in the comments, and feel free to share your most hated/least favourite films of 2010 below!

Nightman’s Favourite Films Of 2010

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Okay, okay. You asked for it, you get it. Maybe no-one asked for it, but tough – you’re getting it anyway. I mentioned before that from 2010 onward I haven’t seen as many movies as previous years and there hasn’t been as much time for them to sink in to my being to say I truly love them. What that means is that these lists will likely omit a lot of great films purely because I haven’t seen them yet, and it may feel more like a simple collection of films I just happen to have seen and didn’t hate. In ten years time I imagine these lists will be different, while my lists of previous decades will likely be identical. If you’re curious as to why I’ve missed something – stick it in the comments and I’ll let you know! I’m only posting 2010 for now, then I’ll go back and redo all the previous years before I publish 2011 onward.

First, the almosts – Predators. Animal Kingdom. Tomorrow When The World Began. Predators was, for me at least, the long awaited sequel. I love the Predator franchise more than most and I even enjoyed both AVP movies – rubbish as they were. Predator is a Top Ten all timer for me and Predator 2 is decent. Predators has a great opening and some strong set-pieces, along with a strong cast featuring Adrian Brody and Alice Braga. The whole Topher Grace thing was predictable and the Lawrence Fisbourne angle ultimately goes nowhere, but it’s a neat twist on the whole ‘group of strangers working together to overcome a mutual enemy’ thing. Animal Kingdom is a film deserving a spot on any Best Of 2010 list – a supremely acted and directed crime thriller, with Jacki Weaver well deserving of that Academy nomination. Tomorrow When The War Began keeps things in Australia – it’s very YA and while I enjoyed it more at first watch than I have since, it’s still a better version of Red Dawn than the Red Dawn remake was. Plus, I’ll take any excuse to see Caitlin Stasey on the big screen – still waiting for her to go over big time.

11: Inception

It’s not the masterpiece people say it is. It’s unquestionably a great movie, inventive, well acted, brilliantly crafted. But man does it go overboard on the exposition, and it thinks it’s smarter and more groundbreaking than it actually is. Mostly it feels like a cloying teacher’s pet begging for validation from teaching staff. It’s okay – we already understand you’re good, just do your thing and we’ll still enjoy it, stop being a tryhard. Still, it sells certain constructs and philosophies to the masses who may have not been aware of such things or does it in a non-stale way. More than any other movie Nolan had directed to that point, Inception does that strange thing where scenes are edited together without the soundtrack changing, making minutes upon minutes feel like one extended scene or a montage, even though it isn’t. But lets focus on the many positives – it has a number of the best set-piece scenes you’ll ever see which are almost on par with the first time you saw The Matrix, improved by the fact that the technology used enhances the idea of what is happening on screen – the effects are integral to the plot, not just a bunch of fancy explosions. The soundtrack is great, the script is peppered with one-liners, and it all looks glorious. Like many of the best films of all time – it’s the fans who piss me off and tarnish the experience.

10: Kick-ass

The highest profile of a number of movies which came out around this time with a similar premise – what if a regular person just decided to suit up and fight crime like a superhero? Super is the other notable one – it’s great fun too – but Kick-ass has the budget and street cred and a number of memorable performances. You have Nic Cage on top form, Mark Strong in yet another villainous role, but the breakout stars are Aaron Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz as two (sort-of) normal people with a penchant for justice, however violent its pursuit may be. There is plenty of fun action and humour, with just a touch of the psychology behind the decisions each character makes, and the cocktail of style and violence is perfect – much better than that Scott Pilgrim mess.

9: The Expendables

Of course if you want violent action, you go back to the 80s Action heroes heyday. In 2010 a project which had been discussed for years, and which seemed an impossibility, finally came to fruition – a film which tried to squeeze all of the biggest action movie stars into a single story. That means we have Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Lundgren, Jet Li, Jason Statham all arsing about with guns larger than most people’s arms and blasting away bad guys inside a generic ‘stop the warlord’ plot. As you would expect, it’s a lot of fun. It’s silly, but the cast all have a great time and it’s a film made purely for the maniacs like me who grew up watching them. Of course it’s a pity some of the stars are reduced to cameos, but we get Terry Crewes and Randy Couture filling in admirably, Stone Cold as a henchman, Eric Roberts as Eric Roberts, and Mickey Rourke mumbling his way through an emotional macho speech. Plus Charisma Carpenter on the big screen. It would have been nice to have seen this ten years earlier – it would have been nice to have even more stars involved – it would have been nice to have a plot more in line with something like Predator than Raw Deal, but it still happened, they still made a franchise out of it, and it;s still a lot of fun.

8: Kaboom

I’ve been a Greg Araki fan ever since I first saw The Doom Generation in my late teens. Its mix of sex, violence, humour, and post Pulp Fiction style was infused with a manic nihilism and tongue in cheek awareness that felt unlike anything else. Naturally, nobody else had heard of it and few even now know what it is. Since then he followed it up with further well-received, under-seen films with big name actors. Kaboom takes the manic qualities of The Doom Generation and ramps them up tenfold. It’s lighter in tone, more obviously a comedy, yet also a sex-filled jaunt into Science Fiction. It’s bizarre and it has a terrific ending. It’s a difficult one to summarize – it follows a University student who appears to be bisexual who has been having strange dreams which suggest he is ‘the chosen one’. We follow his sexual antics (and those of his friends) and he keeps noticing people he first saw in his dreams, in his everyday life. Plot-wise, that’s really all you need to know. But the movie moves like it’s on a combo of Ecstasy and Speed, Dekker is great in the lead role, and Juno Temple delivers the sort of performance which is deserving of an Oscar nod. It’s never going to happen for a film like this, but it put her on the map.

7: Tangled

It’s Disney’s Rapunzel. At this point it is still overshadowed by Frozen and the more ‘political’ Pixar movies, but it’s just as wonderful as those. Great songs, strong characters, lots of laughs, and a charming story – everything you want from Disney.

6: Ip Man 2

Most sequels tend to be an example of diminishing returns and the same is often more true in Martial Arts. With Ip Man 2 we get everything we loved in the original and more; more fights, more emotion, more Yen. Keeping the same cast and director as the first film it follows Ip Man as he moves to Hong Kong and sets up a new school. Sammo Hung shows up. It’s wonderful. It eschews the nonsensical fraud editing of Hollywood action and allows the camera to catch every movement of every fight, making it all the more breathtaking. It still looks glorious with a gorgeous vision of period Hong Kong and a dedicated attention to detail. For fans of Martial Arts movies, the Ip Man series is like the Holy Grail, and part 2 may be the best of the bunch.

5: The Last Exorcism

I believe I mentioned this in my review of the film many years ago, but it deserves to be said again; Ashley Bell deserved an Oscar nomination for her performance here, if not the win. She is extraordinary, easily on a par with some of the more critically popular horror performances – Kathy Bates, Toni Colette, Jodie Foster. Unfortunately the film is of a trashier, cheaper sort than others and The Academy believes it to be above such things. It’s a found footage horror movie about a charlatan exorcist who lost his faith and admits to making up most of what he previously called out as true exorcisms. He is invited to perform an exorcism on a naive teenage girl in the Bible Belt, and a film crew tag along. It is clear some sort of abuse has been taking place, but the group argues over whether it is from Nell’s father, friends, someone else inside the community,  or a genuine demon.

The film would not be as effective without Bell as Nell, but she is backed up by dedicated performances from Patrick Fabian, Caleb Landrey Jones, and Louis Herthum. Credit goes to Daniel Stamm, someone who remains little known even in horror circles, who elevates te least likely sub-genre.

4: Bedevilled

As I write up this list (29th December 2019), South Korea’s Parasite is gaining momentum as a possible Oscar Contender. In my introductions to Foreign Cinema series, I mention (in one unpublished post) that one of the great crimes and complete nonsenses is that South Korea has not even been nominated for a single Oscar before. That is quite frankly ludicrous, given the quality of output the country has been producing since 2000. If there is one thing which probably puts off the stuffy Hollywood Academy types, it’s the grim and macabre nature of the most highly regarded films, films which don’t shy away from showing violence, or sex, or the taboo. Bedevilled ticks all of these boxes and is one of the finest all round movies of the decade, yet is one which remains little known even among those who frequently dine out on Asian Cinema.

It’s a film that I would love to be widely seen almost purely to see the thoughts on any feminism and masochism which people will take from it. It’s a film concerning a woman who works in a competitive banking environment who decides to go on stress leave, taking up an offer from an old friend to visit the backwater island she grew up in. Once there, memories of her childhood and her friendships come back, and she recalls why she left the regressive, male-dominant, outsider-fearing community. Her friend has never left the island and wants a better life for her and her young daughter. To say any more would be spoiler territory.

There is a slow and steady assured direction to the film, a washed out palette, and some moments which will have you groaning in anger and shifting uncomfortably. It’s not as violent as other films of the ilk, but it’s just as shocking and pulverizing to your emotions. It probes your own morality and begs you to question how you would or could react and survive given your decisions. It’s a watch both difficult and effortless.

3: Stake Land

How many truly great vampire movies are there? There are hundreds of good ones, and many more which are entertaining and worth your time, but only a small number can be held up as great films. Stake Land should be added to that list, though it never will be, at least not until director Jim Mickle makes something which is both a widespread critical and commercial success. He has come close a few times and continues to make highly regarded films. Stake Land, while clearly appealing mostly to horror fans, remains criminally underseen even within that group. For those looking for a dark drama, there is more than enough here to seduce and provoke – for my money it’s better than The Road – a film it is often compared to.

It’s set in a post-apocalyptic USA where survivors must avoid rapists and religious cultists by day, and vampires by night. We follow Mister (Nick Damici), a vampire hunter of sorts as he takes a teenage orphan called Martin (Connor Paolo) towards a supposed last protected zone. Along the way they pick up a Nun (Kelly McGillis), a pregnant woman (Danielle Harris), and a marine (Sean Nelson) who was rescued by the cult who wanted to sacrifice him. The film moves from threat to threat with plenty of introspective chat and bleakly stunning views of a collapsed world. It’s not a pleasant, happy viewing experience – there are precious view jokes or moments of hope, but it’s never less than completely engrossing and you never feel like any character is safe. Like The Road, the film is interspersed with rapid bouts of violence – cultists dropping vampires into a survivor camp is of particular note. The sequel is worth your time too, but the original is best survived by watching the associated webisode prequel shorts.

2: Paranormal Activity 2

I said it at the time, and while I admit to it probably not being a true statement, I still kind of feel the same way – it’s the greatest horror sequel of all time. Of course, if you didn’t like the first film, you probably won’t like this one either. If you did enjoy the first, if the found footage shtick and use of shaky cam didn’t piss you off, and if the long moments of quiet followed by a thumping boom jump scare hadn’t yet been watered down to irrelevance for you, then PA2 does everything the first one does – but better. Better scares, a better story (one which expands the universe and mythology), and it is better directed. Most crucially, the characters are more likable, grounded, and not the nonsensical yuppies of the first. In fact, as the movies begin to cross over at different points, this one makes the lead characters in part one more likable – at the very least more interesting.

The film is most similar to Evil Dead 2 in its approach; it’s basically a remake, but also acts as a sequel. Not to confuse things, but it’s also a prequel. The film takes place over a number of weeks and follows the Rey family, with mother Kristi the younger sister of the first film’s Katie. The family have a new security system installed in the opening minutes due to a perceived burglary – you know what that means – beeping doors and subtly placed cameras! The family has an infant son – Hunter – and we watch their daily, and nightly, business as creepy activity increases, seemingly centered on the child. At various points the film crosses over with the first as we catch up on Katie and Micah as they too begin to experience unusual capering in their house.

While I’m not a fan of jumpscares – mainly because they are used so cheaply – that’s not the case here. Sure you know they’re coming, but the fun is in trying to work out which room something is going to happen in, which camera is going to catch a subtle movement, how long drawn out is the tension going to be? I’ve mentioned this before too, but seeing this in a Cinema was one of my best Cinema experiences as the audience was All In – people were legit screaming their heads off, shouting at the characters, and you could feel the held intakes of breath as people waited for the next fright. That just doesn’t happen in Northern Ireland cinemas and is the closest experience to to any time I’ve been in the Cinema in the US. While I admit it enhanced my love and nostalgia for the film – I would have loved it had I been there by myself. Some of the scares are completely out of the blue and the ones which are a retread of those from the first are dialed up several notches – greater impact, more visceral, more effective.

1: I Saw The Devil

South Korea strikes again. While Japan started out the 2000s as the biggest and brightest light in Asian Cinema, South Korea picked things up in the second half of the decade and that has obviously continued into the 2010s. Two of Kim Ji Woon’s previous efforts – A Tale Of Two Sisters and A Bittersweet Life are essentially flawless, beautiful, grim, stylish, and provocative in equal measures. With I Saw The Devil he embraces the grim and dispenses with beauty. It’s a singular viewing experience, with few easy answers, but many moments which will sit with you for years afterwards.

The film is essentially a game of cat and mouse between a cop and a killer, with escalating tension and violence. The killer, played by Oldboy’s Choi Min-Sik is utterly, thoroughly unlikable. Yet he is the mouse and by proxy, traditionally, the person the audience is supposed to sympathize with. Throughout the film he is stalked by the cop, played by A Bittersweet Life’s Lee Byung-hun. The killer brutally murders the cop’s pregnant wife in the opening moments and the cop, with nothing left to lose, becomes the killer, hunting down Sik and repeatedly beating him to a pulp, only to leave him dangling as a cat would, then hunt him down again. It’s a film concerned equally with blurring lines as it is with showcasing the director’s penchant for nihilism and inflicting pain. Both lead performers are superb, surpassing most of their prior achievements, and what they go through is keenly felt by the viewer. While the violence and tone is grisly, it is offset by just how well it is all put together, and the genuine emotional trip we are put through. There’s a fight scene inside a taxi which beggars belief, and there are a variety of side-characters and sojourns into their depraved lives which extends the running time and complicates the narrative, but it all makes up for the most devastating experience since Martyrs. There’s simply no excuse for this not to have been on the Oscar list for 2010, even if it was a particularly strong year. More importantly, there’s absolutely no excuse for this not be on your list of must see films right now.

Let us know in the comments what you think of the movies above, and feel free to share your Top Ten!

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!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Films Of 2009!

Greetings, Glancers! As they say in Pointless, it’s time to come back down the line. Yes, it’s time to go back through my favourite movies by year lists and update them with additional thoughts and information to expand beyond simplified originals, starting with 2009 and working backwards towards 1950.

Lets begin briefly with those who almost made the cut. Although we’re now ten years plus removed from 2009, the year was always going to be remembered for one movie above all – the all conquering Avatar. While we continue to wait for the next blue tinted extravaganza from James Cameron, time has been kind enough to the film. It still looks glossy and the 3D technology involved is still a marvel. The story was never very interesting first time around and it quickly collapsed into Transformers Vs Jurassic Park, but it remains one of the most important spectacles in Cinema history. It’s not one I will see myself revisiting often as time goes on but you can’t go without experiencing it at least once.

Harry Brown is like Get Carter for pensioners – or Get Off My Lawn. Capitalizing on much of the fear of ‘hoodies’ and society’s post millennium breakdown and paranoia it tells the satisfying story of an ex marine, now elderly man living in a run down council estate. Having lived through many years of war and violence you’d expect him to be enjoying his twilight years in luxury, but instead he has to deal with gangs and hoodies and chavs who prevent him from seeing his wife in her dying moments. With the police unable to help and refusing to end his days in fear, he goes on the warpath. It’s all a little right wing in the vein of Michael Winner, but I’ve always had a soft spot for vigilante movies – who hasn’t wanted to flip out and beat the shit out of a gang of scumbags or bullies? The cast certainly helps elevate matters – Michael Caine hasn’t been this badass since the 70s and a host of GOT faces will be familiar. There is the usual assortment of go-to thugs who have made a career of these types of roles – Jack O’Connell, Sean Harris, Ben Drew, and Joseph Gilgun all give committed performances. There were quite a few films of this ilk at the time, from Eden Lake to Gran Torino and director Daniel Barber went on to helm the Hailee Steinfeld/Brit Marling ‘Western’ The Keeping Room which is always well worth a look.

Moon is a film I was interested in from Day One, but took a few years to actually see. It’s Sam Rockwell alone (mostly) on the Moon near the end of his three year term as the only living worker maintaining a mining facility. It would be entering spoiler territory to give away anymore of the plot, but if you’ve seen the obvious influencers – Silent Running, Solaris, 2001, then you won’t be too far off what unfolds if you were to hazard a guess. It’s an opportunity once more for some moral and philosophical wondering under the guidance of Duncan Jones and writer Nathan Parker who specializes in this sort of high concept hard genre stuff. Rockwell is terrific and it was a little misguided when he was overlooked at The Oscars.

District 13 Ultimatum is… well, if you liked the original (and you should), it’s more of the same. This series has some of the best physical action you’re likely to find, taking the visceral quality of the Bourne movies and throwing in copious amounts of parkour. Both films have me wanting to leap out the living room window and begin tearing my way through the neighbours gardens – over walls, through bushes, up drainpipes and bounding from rooftoop to rooftop. Bringing back both David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli from the original we see quickly that the French ghetto is still in bad shape, with rival gangs fighting over filling the gap left after the events of the original. Again there are plenty of obvious allusions to political situations but we cam here for the action and it doesn’t disappoint. If you’re bored of superheros and CG and building crashing to the ground this will revitalize your interest in action.

Up is yet another near perfect movie from Pixar. I don’t love it as much as most people do and its best moments are in that opening, but it’s still a lovely tale about dreams and friendship that it’s hard to criticize. My only issue with the recent Pixar and Disney animations is the ‘chubby’ nature of the art – almost every film and character follows this style and even by the time Up was released it was long past time for a change – a change which neither Company has made since.

Bruno is exactly what you would expect if you’ve already seen Borat or the Ali G Show. It’s basically a carbon copy of Borat but with a different character – an excuse to ridicule the vain, the stupid, and the generally right wing. It’s offensive, it’s hilarious and the only reason I don’t enjoy it as much as Borat is that Borat is such an endearing character, in spite of being a terrible human. My wife’s parents loved Borat – they had to switch Bruno off within ten minutes. Ok boomer comes to mind.

District 9 got a lot of positive reaction this year, critics suddenly deciding that genre movies were worth discussing as long as they had a political subtext, however on the nose it may be. Never mind the fact that horror and sci-fi have always done political subtext better than almost any other genres. I came for the gore and the swearing and the ludicrous over the top performance by Sharlto Copley. I like the low budget creative approach and the fact that the aliens aren’t what we were used to seeing, and the descent to action in the final sections feels like a fun payoff. Again, I don’t think it’s as good as the praise it received at the time, but I’d take something like this over almost every other Best Picture nominee this year. Finally, The Road possibly should have been nominated in that category – a bleak and uncompromising take on McCarthy’s book with a great lead performance by Viggo Mortensen. John Hillcoat follows the approach he showcases in The Proposition and makes it a film well worth re-watching.

Just one final late entry, which probably should have made it into my original Top Ten, but I somehow overlooked that it came out in 2009 – The House Of The Devil. It’s a great slasher throwback, and everything simply works.

Now into the top ten.

10: Dead Snow (Norway) Tommy Wirkola

2009 was peak, or end of peak zombie renaissance territory, and even then most viewers were tired of the whole shtick. Enter Tommy Wirkola who smashes fun back into the genre which had become a little too serious. Dead Snow is one big episode of Wile E Coyote And Road Runner – a natural stepson of Braindead if not Evil Dead. The pitch is great – what if a gang of Nazi soldiers who had been frozen in the mountains woke up again in an undead search for gold? Actually, that’s not great, but it is hilarious. To set up the story we throw in your standard Cabin In The Woods tropes – friends staying in the wilderness for a weekend with all of their relationship crap and then unleash the zombie Nazis. The film neatly balances the shocks and humour and goes wildly overboard with the gore and kills to satisfy any gore-hound. While the cast and characters are almost irrelevant, Vegar Hoel impresses as a modern day Euro-Ash and expands upon that role to ridiculous levels in the sequel. It’s just silly, mindless fun with particularly chunky gore effects.

9: The Princess And The Frog (US) Disney

Call me old fashioned, but I still prefer hand drawn. It largely avoids the aforementioned chubby animation and just feels more tactile and committed. I’m not discounting the work CG animators perform, but when I see hand drawn it simply pulls me in more and gives me a greater sense of the the person behind the creation and the love and care which went into the work. The Princess And The Frog is yet another lovely, simple story from Disney – it’s them going a little meta, recognizing the tropes they helped perpetuate, and having fun turning them around. The voodoo setting and the first African American Princess are all positives, the voice work is particularly strong with the likes of Keith David, Anika Noni Rose, and Jim Cummings standing out. The songs may not be the huge hitters which translate well to the charts, but Almost There joins the ranks of classics which the Company has created over the decades and there are enough sentimental and scary moments to make it memorable. It’s not top tier Disney for me, but it’s in that large and wide B Grade territory where much of their material resides.

8: Micmacs (France) Jean Pierre Jeunet

I’m not sure why this film flew under the radar so much. It’s the director of Amelie making another utterly charming and quirky comedy drama, complete with all of the visual flair he is known for. It deserves a hell of a lot more recognition and while it’s no Amelie, that’s a bit like saying Heat is no The Godfather. It has that exaggerated colour scheme not quite comic book look which you’ll be familiar with from Amelie and A Very Long Engagement, and several of his usual cast members pop up, from Dominique Pinot to Urbain Cancellier.

The film follows a man who seems to be incredibly unlucky when it comes to weaponry – first his dad is killed by a landmine, then he is shot in the head by a stray bullet at work one day. Becoming something of a freak due to the bullet remaining in his head, he joins a group of similar outcasts who happen to live in a junkyard – a contortionist, a maths genius, a human cannonball etc – he has a history in mime. Essentially they become their own circus and they plot to get revenge on the weapons manufacturers who are causing so much grief in the city and around the globe using their unique talents not unlike The A Team. It’s all very charming, fast-paced yet gentle, and is one of the more unique comedies you’re likely to catch – old fashioned yet with a dark satirical streak. Something like this is always more interesting to me than generic rom coms or alpha male comedies.

7: Jennifer’s Body (US) Karyn Kusama

Karyn Kusama doesn’t make many movies, but each one is worth watching – maybe with the exception of Aeon Flux. I kept away from Jennifer’s Body – assuming it was another generic teen horror with a cast picked for their looks rather than their talents. If you’re in the same misguided mindset as I was, consider that it was written by Diablo Cody – Juno, Tully, Young Adult – and very much follows the dialogue and smarts of those movies. The film made me a supporter of Megan Fox – she’s great in this – and also features Adam Brody, Amanda Seyfried, and JK Simmons. It’s a film which has seen some deserved re-evaluation since the mauling it received at the time – when I watched it a couple of years after release I couldn’t believe that so many critics, and myself, had been so wrong.

Seyfried is your typical awkward teenager, ironically (?) called Needy whose best friend is her polar opposite – Jennifer, the popular cheerleader. Best friends since they were young children, the film truly captures the urgency and closeness and ‘us against the world’ feeling you have with such intense friendships when you’re young. Unfortunately, Jennifer seems to pick up some sort of disease which turns her into a killing (eating) machine impervious to harm. Naturally the friendship becomes strained.

The film ticks all of the boxes for horror fans – it’s bloody, some kills are inventive, and its funny. But at its core it’s a character piece – we care about the two leads, the writing is so sharp and the performances endearing that it’s difficult not to see yourself in them. The film is largely told in flashback too, but I’m not sure if that was a conscious decision to allow the audience to reminisce – it seems more likely that teens are the core audience, but ten years later the script still works. It also works as a take down of macho tropes and of some of the seedier aspects of masculinity.

6: Antichrist (Denmark/France/Germany/Italy/Poland/Sweden) Lars Von Trier

Lars man… who never know what you’re going to get with a Lars Von Trier movie, but on the flip side you always know exactly what you’re going to get. Controversy, and a whole lot of messed up shit. And recently – lots and lots of talking. Antichrist starts off in a tame enough way – a couple are shagging while their infant child takes a stroll out of their upstairs window and topples to his death. Naturally, this is all filmed in glorious, beautiful slow mo in a disconcertingly tender way. This intro kicks off the remainder of the plot – the grieving parents cope (or don’t) in their own ways, with the husband (Willem Defoe) a therapist electing to take his wife (Charlotte Gainsbourg) to a good old cabin in the woods where he can treat her personally. Things… don’t go to plan.

This being Lars, the film doesn’t simply descend into the torture and mutilation the tabloids would have you believe. No, we have our usual lengthy insights into the human psyche, merging philosophical jargon, music, literature, history, and manic foxes. Reality gradually becomes skewed, dark believes and fears carve their way out from beneath the skin, and scissors come into play. If you’re familiar with the turn the last act of The House That Jack Built takes, that’s quite similar territory to the final stages of Antichrist. You probably won’t want to re-watch this one, but every movie fan owes it to themselves to see it once. You can say the same for any Von Trier film – every one is worth seeing.

5: Trick R Treat (US/Canada) Michael Dougherty

Horror fans and Halloween go hand in hand, with movie marathons on the day or in October being a staple of each passing year. The same films come up each October – Halloween being the most obvious choice, but Trick R Treat deserves to be second on that list. It’s such a fun, creepy anthology – the stories just the right length and with the right festive tone and variety. Hell, there’s even a new mascot in Sam. Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, and Dylan Baker all feature, but it’s director Michael Dougherty who ties it all together. With only the Godzilla sequel and Krampus to his name in terms of directing, this is his best work. Even if you don’t enjoy horror, there is something here for everything – even the most ardent anti-horror watcher still succumbs at Halloween, and this is perfect for everyone.

4: Triangle (UK/OZ) Christopher Smith

Another terrific little mind-bending, overlooked horror movie with a great premise. Firstly, Christopher Smith has been hit or miss for me – mostly hit. Creep was a disappointment, not making use of a great location, Severance was sort of fun but inconsequential, and Black Death was very good. Triangle is his most ambitious and enjoyable movie.

Having Melissa George in any movie is a plus – a modern scream queen who generally picks better material than most. She stars as Jess, a single mum who is heading out for a boat trip with friends. They hit a storm and lose their boat but stumble upon a deserted liner. Although the liner is seemingly unmanned, there is fresh blood and various signs of people having been there very recently. As the friends search, they suspect they are not alone and we fall into a slasher style one by one pick off march. Except nothing is quite what it seems and without getting too much into spoiler territory, some time-looping stuff happens.

I usually enjoy these sort of high concept horror movies – there have been quite a few which take or twist a similar premise recently – TimeCrimes and Coherence being another couple I would recommend. If the snapshot above doesn’t interest you, possibly the fact that Liam Hemsworth is in a supporting roles might? It is a twisting affair which should be of more interest to non-horror fans and it raises a lot of questions which The Babadook would later be heralded for. It’s one of the best horror movies of 2009 and one of the more challenging and unique of the decade.

3: Inglourious Basterds (US/Germany) Quentin Tarantino

After Kill Bill, Quentin began slowing things down for himself – he’s pretty much a one film every 4-5 years kind of guy now. For years he had been dropping hints about making a WWII movie, his own Dirty Dozen and in 2009 it dropped – instantly becoming everything we would have wanted. It’s vintage Tarantino in style – vignettes, time-jumps, quotable one-liners, speeches, and set-pieces. He rips up the history book and makes his own alternate version of WWII and populates it with plenty of sinister character types – yes, none of the people here feel real, they’re more like heightened stereotypes. Brad Pitt is more fun than he’s ever been and Christoph Waltz is a revelation. After this Tarantino went on a bit of a down turn for me – Django was fine, The Hateful Eight was less than that. But this remains great – not Pulp Fiction great, but almost, and just as watchable.

2: Drag Me To Hell (US) Sam Raimi

Sometimes when you’ve been out of the game for so long, you just lose it. While Sam Raimi had hit a commercial peak with his Spiderman movies, something was calling out to him from beyond, a niggling rat gnawing at his creative cortex and saying ‘blood, cats in mouths, hoofed demons, vomit geysers’. Thankfully for us he embraced that voice and gave us one of the most fun film experiences of the year – a return to his slapstick horror roots with a film which both judders, disgusts, and tears belly laughs deep from within.

The films stars Alison Lohman (who is wonderful here) as a sympathetic loan worker who, against her own morals, refuses to pay out to a gypsy woman begging for her help. She wants that promotion you see, and her selfishness and annoyance at being seen as the whipping boy forces her to be harder than she normally would. After work, the gypsy attacks and curses Lohman’s character. Over the next few days she is tormented by attacks, nightmares, and visions and realizes the curse is true – finding out that if she does not find a way to reverse the curse she will be, literally, dragged to hell within three days. Cue mouth cats and vomit.

Raimi is having a whale of a time here – sure he employs plenty of cheap shocks but they mostly work – his mojo has not been lost and the film’s shocks are an antidote to the morose and stale torture porn of the time. Lohman is backed by the ever reliable Justin Long, with Dileep Rao providing some of the lighter moments. Horror doesn’t get much more fun than this.

1: Orphan (US/Canada/Germany/France) Jaume Collet Serra

My number one is the only film from this year which made it into my favourite films of the decade list – click the link to read my more detailed thoughts on it. It’s just a dirty little horror film raised by an exceptional performance from Isabelle Fuhrman who I feel should have got an Oscar nod. Of course that would never happen, but it is easily one of the best performances of the year. The film is more than just that performance, its creepy, has a neat twist, and also features Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard. Highly recommended, as everything else here is.

Let us know your picks in the comments!

The Lifeguard

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It’s fine, I’ll admit it. I only watched this because the poster was of Kristen Bell in a swimsuit. Now, before you go thinking I’m some perverted pervert – I like Kristen Bell as an actor – I’ve always liked her performances, even if she has had a knack for appearing in less than good movies. The synopsis sounded interesting enough – a twenty something woman has something of a mid-life crisis and returns to her home town to become a lifeguard in her local town – something simple for a late night watch and maybe a showcase for Bell.

The film isn’t a mess – the performances are solid and it feels like a coming of age film about someone who already came of age. But there are problems – if you’ve seen any Indie, Sundance style dramas in your time then you’ll know what you’re in for – pretentious direction without achieving anything to deserve directing in such a way and the aimless soul-searching of characters you wouldn’t want to meet down a bright alley. We never get to grips with why Bell’s Leigh makes the decision (s) she does – something about a relationship breaking down and not being taken seriously as a journalist, which all leads her to moving back in with her parents, taking a dead-end job, meeting up with her old school friends, and most controversially, beginning a sexual relationship with a minor. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me if the kid was 18, or 17, or 21 or whatever, but apparently he is underage. So, we have a love story based around statutory rape, which is rarely a good starting point for a movie which wants us to sympathize with the rapist.

But putting that aside, it feels like a Gen X slacker movie – a sub genre I have a lot of fondness for, but without any of the authenticity, emotion or humour I would expect. It drifts along from A to B, ending as it starts with resolutions made but little learned. The director has the gall to film numerous scenes like a music video, complete with the most bland indie rock drivel you could imagine, and it all serves little purpose. There are a couple of decent moments which should have been focal points – one side character kills themselves and while this acts as a catalyst for later events, the actual death feels glossed over and a necessary device to get the film over its major hurdle and over the finish line. It’s a shame because Bell is always and engaging presence and the rest of the cast is peppered with familiar faces doing the best they can. It’s a shame it all amounts to nothing.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen The Lifeguard!

Nightman’s Updated Favourite Movies By Year List!

I promised I wouldn’t do it, but if you didn’t know by now I’m something of a liar. A couple of years ago I posted a series of Top Ten movies lists by year, and they were just that – a list of my ten favourite movies of the year with no gloss, no explanation, no guff. For those who like to get into the nitty gritty, I then wrote my favourite movies of the decade posts in which I did go into detail about why I loved what I loved. The purpose of the list posts was just to give a simple snapshot of what I enjoy without verbose embellishment; a quick snack before bed.

Now I’m going to go back to those Top Ten Lists and do the embellishment. I’m not going to change the ordering or add or drop my choices – I’m simply going to add a few lines about why I love the movies and maybe encourage anyone who hasn’t seen them to give them a shot. And because I like talking about what I like. Rather than starting with 1950, I’m going to go backwards from 2009. In addition, I might complete the original series by adding simple lists from 2010 – 2019. I still don’t feel I’ve seen enough movies in these last nine years to create lists which I can standby, but at least they’ll act as a current snapshot.

So, for anyone who likes to ready my ramblings or who has been waiting for me to cover in greater detail some of my picks – the time has come. Also, remember this post? It was my argument over ‘Essential’ being a subjective term when it comes to movies, because as viewers we have our own needs and desires and backgrounds – so to decide what is Essential you must first define the viewer? Yes, it’s as crap as it sounds. I’m going to begin posting some of my lists based upon that notion – essentially (sorry) looking at some of the most beloved movies of each year, starting in 1960, and arguing if they are truly essential (spoiler alert – they’re not).

That’s that then. If you like what I do, tell your friends. Recommend my humble blog to the guy who keeps coughing on your commute to work. Tell your da that you have some new toilet reading material for him. I’m not earning money from any of this, but knowing I have billions of followers is bound to be an ego boost and might even make me put a bit more effort in to what I write.

Lies.

The Sand

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I know I’ve been posting reviews of shark movies quite a bit recently so just to change things up a little I thought I’d take twenty paces backwards onto the beach and talk about The Sand – a strange little movie which merges the slasher tropes inherent in many shark movies with the tongue in cheek laughs of Tremors. It’s another low budget film which relies on its premise to suck you in (pun not intended, actually) and thanks to some not terrible performances and effects, it’s quite fun.

For horror fans that is. People not interested in horror or shlock will steer clear; anyone who doesn’t find the idea of a bunch of pretty young things stranded on a man-eating beach hilarious won’t ever find their way to the film. That’s right folks, in The Sand our antagonist is the title character, sand with the strength to suck you down like a Sarlacc, sand with an unquenchable thirst for blood. Sand which surrounds a group of college students as they wake up from a drunken beach party and begins to pick them off like a post-college job picks off your dreams. You’d think this was produced by Roger Corman.

I didn’t recognise any of the cast beyond a late cameo by a familiar face, but by and large they do the job of ‘person about to be eaten’ or hero quite well. Naturally we have to have a pile of dramatic conflict thrown in – there are boyfriends and girlfriends, there is jealousy, unrequited love, all the stuff you would expect. There’s also a dude trapped in a barrel. The characters wake up scattered about the beach – one in a barrel, one on a picnic table, some in cars, some in a lifeguard house. It’s not long before one of them has touched the sand and is sucked in, in pleasingly gory fashion. It’s hundreds of metres to the nearest road and (you have to suspend your disbelief for this one) all of their phones are either dead or packed away beyond reach. It’s hard making horror movies these days, as so much could be resolved with a simple phone call.

As the film saunters along, the gang explore various ways to escape and survive which lead to some tense enough moments, particularly a couple of scenes involving the hood of a car. You’re not going to chew your nails, but it’s much better than what you would expect from the type of film. The effects are by and large very good, at least until we get to the finale – the make-up and gore providing the sorts of moments us horror fiends love to see. It’s cheesy, but the fact that it is self-aware without being ridiculous increases its charm. It doesn’t patronize the viewer while admitting it’s nonsense. While the ending feels a little lazy and set up for a sequel which never came (yet) the story runs its course by the time we pass the 80 minute mark. With obvious parallels to Blood Beach, The Sand is a fun B-Movie which revels in blood and boobs without tipping over the top into lunacy, and would make a good party movie.

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

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