Blood Father

Mel Gibson, eh? He’s a bit of a lad. An action hero with genuine acting chops, a hit with the ladies, a writer, a director, and a man with any number of successes and awards to his name. Then it all went a bit wrong. Since then, Gibson’s career has been on an upwards trajectory again. Sure, the kids don’t really know him and he hasn’t donned a cape or CG suit to go arsing about with the rest of the Marvel cowboys but he has been at it from the 70s and not a decade has passed without him contributing to a masterpiece of some sort. Gibson returned to acting acclaim with the little seen Jodie Foster film The Beaver followed by a strong of commendable action flicks, all culminating in Hacksaw Ridge – a successful return to directing. Blood Father was released in the same year and is another violent and grim outing for the star and isn’t without a certain sly sense of humour and style.

The film opens by following a junkie girl buying a bunch of ammunition at a gun store – her boyfriend is part of a Latino gang and they are heading to wipe out a family they believe stole from them. Lydia is offered a gun and forced to stand watch, interacting with a couple of kids at the property until her boyfriend Jonah asks her to prove her loyalty and love by killing one of the tenants. Refusing, the accidentally shoots him and flees. Meanwhile, her ex con father John is living in a remote desert trailer park, keeping out of trouble and giving the locals tattoos. They have been estranged for a number of years, but when Lydia calls him he heads to pick her up, thus beginning a rekindling of their relationship as they flee across the country from cops, gangbangers, and bikers. Plot-wise there is nothing you haven’t seen before and on the surface it’s a straightforward action thriller. The quality is raised by having a terrific cast – Gibson as John lends a grizzled class and backstreet philosophy to the character, and William H Macy, Diego Luna, and Michael Parks lend credibility. Erin Moriarty gives another full-blooded performance as Lydia, a sly and messed up kid with an almost hopeless future and a worse past. Rounding out the group is Jean Francois Richet, a director known for handling action and tension well, but not someone who has directed regularly enough to become a household name.

Where Blood Father excels beyond expectations is in the little character moments – Gibson has a rapport with Moriarty and you get the sense that these characters exist in a tangible world with their frayed relationships and encounters. Gibson whips out his chopper (ahem) and travels the little known dusty trails of the US in search of ways to protect his daughter – turning both to ex convict pals still in prison and nazi-loving bikers. The characters are aware of the irony in turning to these groups for help, and the tongue in cheek delivery and tone downplays the hopelessness of it all, keeping things fun and fast moving. The action is never prolonged and follows a recent trend of rapid-fire set-pieces which get the point across with minimal fuss. From a trailer park shootout to a desert bike chase to the valley set climax, action is seen to be quick and bloody rather than stylized or glorified. Action fans may be disappointed that there isn’t enough of this, but the character pay-off makes up for any lack of action in my eyes.

Blood Father isn’t going to change anyone’s world or set a new precedent in the genre, but it is a reminder that Gibson is one of the industry’s greatest manic screen presences and can handle swathes of dialogue as well as a pistol or bike and it remains an entertaining romp with more style and class than most straight to DVD and a nice diversion from the billion dollar efforts which we can’t escape from on the big screen.

2017 – In Memoriam

We’re here, at the end of another year. 2016 was reportedly ‘one of the worst years ever’ – by December’s end, everyone was depressed by all the Trump, by all the Brexit, by all the everything. It was a year where people from many generations felt their childhoods slip away for ever, felt pieces of themselves die as successful heroes passed out of life and into whatever comes next. 2017 has been no joke either, with more Trump, more Brexit, and more everything seemingly tightening the noose. The Grim Reaper’s scythe has once again swung with abandon, claiming many of the lives who have had a wide spreadh impact on various aspects of culture. Make no mistake – War, Disease, Famine have all claimed the usual millions of souls as they are wont to do, and those are battles we should be working together to overcome, but that is not the purpose of this post.

I haven’t been paying much attention to my Shrine posts recently, so I decided to do a yearly wrap up instead of the deaths which affected me in some way, on a personal level. Naturally that means that we’ll mostly be covering famous people here. I don’t mean this to sound as if I’m putting the famous on a pedestal, as if their lives mean more than some random mother or son who may have died this year – I firmly believe that every life is as valuable as the next. Yet here I am. In the end it comes down to who I ‘know’ or recognise.

Don’t be annoyed or disheartened if some celebrity who meant a lot to you and who died this year isn’t on the list – as I said, these are the people who meant something to me. By all means, add those who meant something to you in the comments. In the end, this is merely a place for you to give a few words, thoughts, thanks, or memories for those who have fallen.

William Peter Blatty – 7th January 1928 – 13th January 2017

Thanks for giving me, and countless others, many nights of unsettled sleep with The Exorcist.

Miguel Ferrer – February 7, 1955 – January 19, 2017

Thank you for being a perminent fixture in some of my most watched and loved entertainment of all time. You may be the only actor who has starred in both one of my favourite movies ever (Robocop), one of my favourite mini-series ever (The Stand), and one of my favourite TV shows ever (Twin Peaks). 

John Hurt – 22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017

Thank you for your willingness to ignore and balk at traditional acting conventions by appearing in cult works, low budget films, and Television, along with the more accepted critical fodder – for Alien, for Spaceballs, for The Elephant Man, for Hellboy, and many more.

Richard Hatch – May 21, 1945 – February 7, 2017

Thanks for being the original Apollo in Battlestar Gallactica – I’m not as familiar with your other work, but for that I’ll always remember you.

Bill Paxton – May 17, 1955 – February 25, 2017

Thanks for being a true movie legend and for appearing in many of my personal favourite films – The Terminator, Aliens, Near Dark, Commando, Tombstone, True Lies, Frailty, and bringing a truly unique energy and life to them.

Chuck Berry – October 18, 1926 – March 18, 2017

One of the forefathers or modern blues, rock, and by extension, metal, thanks for bringing many decades of wonderful music to the world.

Clifton James – May 29, 1920 – April 15, 2017

Thanks for bringing me many laughs in my younger days, especially in the Bond movies, and also for sterling work in a few of my other favourites.

Jonathan Demme – February 22, 1944 – April 26, 2017

One of the few filmmakers to make a critically respected and award winning horror movie in The Silence Of The Lambs, thanks for breaking those boundaries.

Michael Parks – April 24, 1940 – May 9, 2017

Even though he had been acting regularly since the late 50s, Parks became better known in later decades thanks to his work with Kevin Smith and Quentin Tarantino – thanks for many terrific performances in many terrific films.

Powers Boothe – June 1, 1948 – May 14, 2017

A character actor with great action pedigree, thanks for appearing in some of my favourites such as Tombstone, Extreme Prejudice, Sin City.

Chris Cornell – July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017

Although Soundgarden were my fourth favourite out of Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, Cornell was nevertheless a driving force in rock and grunge with unmistakable vocals which have been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.

Nicky Hayden – July 30, 1981 – May 22, 2017

My dad rides motorbikes. My brother rides a motorbike. Many of my uncles and cousins are bikers. I have dabbled. I live on the same street as the family of my countries most famous motorcyclists and our kids are friends. We all watch motorcycling – none of that F1 shite. Any time any biker dies it’s a tragedy, and Nicky was a particularly heavy loss.

Sir Roger George Moore, KBE (14 October 1927 – 23 May 2017)

I was a Bond fan before I really understood what films were, and Moore was my era. It is typically the Moore films I return to most for their lighter approach and tendency towards action and humour. Moore will always be Bond for me, and while he didn’t have the most varied career outside of that role, he still popped up in many other films and shows and was renowned for being a decent human being.

Adam West (September 19, 1928 – June 9, 2017)

The original Batman… well I’ve heard varying reports on what he was like in real life, but I’m mainly here to focus on their work and what it meant to me – I was never a huge fan of the original campy series, but I still watched it every now and then when I was young. Thanks for being a mainstay on TV and for your great voice work on many shows.

John G Avildson – (December 21, 1935 – June 16, 2017)

Thanks for making some of my favourite films in the Rocky and Karate Kid series as well as a few other notable movies.

Martin Landau – (June 20, 1928 – July 15, 2017)

Thanks for appearing in some of my favourite movies and shows ever, from North By Northwest and The Twilight Zone to Ed Wood and The X Files, and of course for bringing your daughter Juliet into the world.

George A Romero – February 4, 1940 – July 16, 2017

There have been fewer bigger influences on my love of horror, and on the wider horror world than George A Romero, the man who essentially invented the modern zombie genre – thanks for that, thanks for your movies, and thanks for never compromising for The Man.

Sean Hughes – 10 November 1965 – 16 October 2017

Sean, aside from Coronation Street I don’t think I ever saw any of your non- Buzzcocks work. I’m not a huge stand-up comedy fan, but you always made me laugh on Buzzcocks. 

Feel free to leave your thoughts and memories of any people we lost in 2017 in the comments below.

We Are What We Are

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At time of writing I have not yet seen the original, which is strange for me because I have been aware of it since before the remake was made, and because I tend to always watch the original first. Due to reasons, the remake landing on my plate first so I decided to give it a go, especially when I saw that Jim Mickle was at the helm. For those who don’t know, Mickle directed Stake Land – my vote for the best vampire movie of the decade so far. It’s best if you go into this not knowing much about the story (as with all my reviews there are possible spoilers below) but if you are expecting some shocking gore fest, you should probably look away now.

Mickle uses another grimy pallet similar to the bland colours he has used previously, draining the world of all life aside from some starched, cardboard mockery. The world is always grey, always sodden, and there are few rays of light or smiles or moments which will make you feel any sort of hope for anyone involved. Naturally this all creates a bleary tone and an out of time sense as you feel like you are witnessing something that happened on a frontier a hundred years earlier than it is. Our central family dresses in a drab, timeless fashion for the most part, living on the outskirts of what could be an old Western mining facility rather than the small town that it actually is. Members of some apparent quaint religion, the two teenage sisters, young son, and grizzled father are struck by tragedy in the opening moments when the matriarch appears to have some sort of aneurysm and collapses, drowning in a puddle. As the film progresses we watch as the family struggles with this loss, try to come to terms with fulfilling the unspoken religious and cultural rites they have performed for generations, all while the townsfolk try to survive the seemingly apocalyptic storm which has been drenching them for weeks. We meet a local doctor, sheriff, deputy, and a neighbour, and slowly we learn about the town’s penchant for losing its inhabitants or people who try to pass through. It soon becomes clear that the family is involved in this somehow, and that the townspeople are closing in on the truth.

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It’s difficult to talk about things like performances, plot, music, for a film which is so ruled by its bleak and grim visuals and tone. However, the actors are all uniformly strong, feeling like real people torn by their pasts and presents. Michael Parks is as good as ever in the role of the suspicious, mourning doctor, and Bill Sage is suitably domineering as the father. It’s the two daughters who stand out, Julia Garner and Ambyr Childers as the reluctant girls forced into following their traditions, not fully understanding why they must do the things they do, but knowing enough to see how terrible it is. Kelly McGillis returns from Stake Land and continues her interesting resurgence. It is a cold tale from Mickle, and another that shows he is a force to be reckoned with, being possibly the most lyrical director in horror today. Those expecting a tale of blood and guts will be disappointed – this is a slow burning drama based on atmosphere, based on the looks between characters rather than decapitations and the like, and while there are a few scenes of blood and guts these only work thanks to the chilling tone which has been set up. One to watch on a cold dark night after a good meal.

Have you seen this and/or the original? How do they compare? Do you prefer your horror to burn slowly or shock frequently? Let us know in the comments!