Olivia’s 20 Best Films of 2018

Is there anything worth saying for a feature of this nature that hasn’t been said already? You’ll get your critically acclaimed style lists, full of movies you haven’t heard of, and then you’ll get the ones fuelled solely by fun: so, why not have half and half as Olivia Armstrong (@starcadet96) takes you down the best films of the year?

20. Venom

Venom was one of the most enjoyable experiences I had both in the cinema and online in 2018. It’s also not a good movie. I made that clear in my review of it earlier in the year. The pacing is all over the place, it’s filled with early 2000’s comic book edginess and Tom Hardy spends the entire film looking like he slept in his car. But I genuinely can’t deny the immense amount of joy Venom brought me this year.

From the endless memes, thirst for the alien sludge tongue (and the immense amounts of porn that name of it), Tom Hardy’s entire performance of just doing weird shit for the sake of it, the way in which it could be easily read as a rom-com between a journalistic human disaster and a sentient pile of alien goo, Venom is the pure definition of just kicking back and having a good-natured riff. What helps is despite the endless story, character and tone problems, there’s very little cynicism to Venom. In being produced by a studio that obviously had no faith in it, there was a real sense of just going for broke and hoping it would survive.

And it worked – in spite of the reviews, Venom turned out to be a surprise hit and most people I’ve seen who like it do so for the same reasons as me. It’s stupid, campy, it has Tom Hardy being the absolute most and it’s strangely endearing in spite of itself. I can’t say it’s on the list as a genuinely good film but I’d be remiss not to give a mention to a film that genuinely brought me joy this year, even for unintended reasons. It may be some turd in the wind trash but it’s my turd in the wind trash.


19. Annihilation 

Believe it or not, I’m actually a huge sci-fi fan. Honestly, I’d put it up there as one of my favourite genres. However, when it comes to the sci-fi that grabs me, I usually find myself much more on the philosophical side of asking questions about the nature of our lives instead of detailed explorations of lore, character or world-building. So, I’m less of a Doctor Who or Star Trek fan and a bigger fan of sci-fi films that ask more questions than they do answer them.

Annihilation was that film this year. Taking a simple concept to explore multiple facets of ecology and human reflection, Annihilation is an intelligent, bold and frustratingly intriguing watch. The ending particularly leaves the viewer thinking long after the credits roll and I hugely respect its restraint in not talking down to its audience by explaining what and how you are supposed to feel at all times. One of the more underrated releases this year but definitely the pick for viewers hungry for some brain food.


18. Halloween (2018)

When it comes to Halloween sequels, Halloween (2018) really didn’t have a high standard to live up to. While some people have a soft spot for Halloween II and III, it’s generally agreed that none of the other films in the franchise touch the subtle magic of the original. Until this sequel, which gave us a genuinely great Halloween movie with Michael Myers and Laurie Strode back on top form. It makes enough call-backs to the original to not seem gimmicky and the visuals are striking with a great comeback performance by Jamie Lee Curtis. It’s the sequel fans were truly waiting for.


17. Deadpool 2 

While it has some writing issues and some things that could’ve been reworked, I thoroughly enjoyed Deadpool 2 more than the first. Since Deadpool’s origin story is now out of the way, the sequel gives the chance to do more with his interactions with other characters and it succeeds for the most part.

The jokes are funny, the queer-coding has been upped with many of the characters (our prayers of Negasonic Teenage Warhead getting a girlfriend came true. If only she got more screen-time), the new characters are all fun and memorable and the dramatic moments hit closer to home than the first one for me. Add in a great soundtrack and Deadpool 2 is a thoroughly satisfying trip to the movies.


16. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

As I progress in film studies, I learn more and more that trying to define film in technical terms and tropes is not only obnoxious but counterproductive to how we judge what films have merit and which don’t. For as much as film geeks (speaking as one) love to pretend they have refined tastes and their favourite films are a list of “important” Hitchcock and Tarantino films with a special mention to whichever indie director is being racist this month, film is a visual and personal medium and we have no way of knowing what will personally affect us. As Marie Kondo said; if something sparks joy, it has inherent value. Sometimes we don’t need a long, intellectual explanation of whether a film is “objectively” good or not and the reason for liking it can simply be “it makes me happy”.

This is a convoluted way of saying I had a blast with Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again!. I squealed when Cher showed up for no reason, I enjoyed the cheesy covers of lesser-known ABBA songs, I loved the beautiful Greek landscape, I loved Lily James and the sex-positive, female-centric aspect of the story (even if there’s more than enough continuity errors from the first film) and it’s surprisingly heartfelt ending. It’s dumb, cheesy, silly and fun and I was unabashed in my enjoyment of every minute.


15. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

I love films about films. Whether it’s a ‘based on a true story’ adaptation such as Saving Mr. Banks or The Disaster Artist, or documentaries about the life and work of actors/directors working on iconic or infamous films that even they didn’t know would hold such influence, I adore learning about the creative process. My love for film goes beyond what is just on the screen and finding out about the lives and trials of directors and actors throughout is every bit as fun for me as enjoying the art itself.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead explores the bibliography of Orson Welles, argued by many to be one of the greatest directors who ever lived. However, as the title indicates, he was only truly thought of as such following his death. While everyone around him argued Citizen Kane was the greatest film ever made (much to his amusement as he didn’t think much of it) Welles maneuvered the world of cinema with a wry humorous cynicism, willing to break the rules and conventions of film-making and producing work that was lambasted at the time and now regarded as some of the finest innovative cinema ever produced. This film is a wonderful look back on one of the true pioneers of the artistic merit of film.


14. Love, Simon

Love, Simon was ground-breaking for a number of reasons and as I revisit it, I find myself appreciating it more and more. While the plot and style of acting are intentionally over the top in accordance with 2010’s teen comedies, the anxiety and isolation felt by Simon as he struggles to come out to both himself and the people around him is treated seriously and sensitively. Some actors are little too over the top (the head teacher in particular tries to be hip with the kids and talks in a way no head teacher has ever spoken), a few scenes are fairly awkward and Logan Miller’s performance of an intentionally annoying character really makes you want to strangle him, which is probably the sign of a job well done but it doesn’t make the character any more pleasant.

But the core of the story about Simon’s relationships and his terror at everything changing once he comes out makes it stand out from other films of the type. The plot of two teens writing to each other having no idea who the other is a concept that can and has been done with heterosexual couples and films targeted towards teens but the film addresses that these experiences of crushes and not knowing the identity of who you’re crushing on takes on a specific fear for LGBTA+ teenagers. Simon has good parents, nice friends (somewhat) and some people would question why he would feel so trapped about his sexuality. But this is a fear that many LGBTA+ people (myself included) face constantly in our relationships: you could have the most progressive, loving parents and friends possible and there will still always be that corner of raw doubt and fear in the back of your mind. There’s a wonderful scene between Simon and his mother once he is at his lowest point and the words she gives him are the exact words any good parent should give their child in the situation.

It may unfortunately not be the reality for many LGBTA+ people but it’s a perfect example of how things should be. It’s an appreciation for the risk Love, Simon truly was as the first teen gay romantic comedy backed by a major studio. For as much as many like to pretend that LGBTA+ people and teenagers are more accepted now than they have been in the past, the fact remains that many films focusing on LGBTA+ relationships are often independent projects, as many big-name studios are unwilling to risk a large investment in films focusing on LGBTA+ relationships due to the risk of financial loss from casual homophobes (who unfortunately are a large demographic). Additionally, when they are made, many will often receive a higher age rating than a film with the same content focusing on a heterosexual couple. For a film about a gay teenager who is struggling with coming out to explore the anxieties related to it, getting a happy ending with a fairy-tale kiss that isn’t censored or implied and being rated as appropriate for the teenagers it’s targeting is ground-breaking and should be seen as such.


13. The Shape of Water

One of the things I love about Guillermo del Toro’s work is how he tends to have one foot in cold, harsh reality and the other in pure fairy-tale fantasy when making his films. Pan’s Labyrinth was the clearest example of this, with the Alice in Wonderland inspired story taking place against the brutal backdrop of the Spanish Civil war.

However, while Del Toro showcases both the beautiful and the brutal sides of human nature in The Shape of Water, his unabashed romanticism and love of fairy-tale logic and story-telling combines with his compassion for those outcasted by society, especially in 1950s Cold War-era America. The relationship in the film is a metaphorical statement made literal, showing the love that many outcasts hold in their heart. It takes the harshness of its setting and shows it in all its ugliness, just to completely reject it. It is his most personal film to date and also one of his best.


12. Black Panther 

Two big Marvel movies this year seem to have audiences spilt down the middle; most people I meet seem to like both but seem to love one while thinking the other was just okay. For some, Black Panther is the best Marvel film of the year and Infinity War is just okay; for others, Infinity War was the film they’d always been waiting for and Black Panther was just another good entry into the Marvel hero canon.

I find myself in the former camp; while I do think Infinity War is a good film, I find more things about it that irritate me the more I think about it whereas Black Panther is just as good the next time as it is the first. The characters are well-drawn and some of the most complex and likable in the MCU so far. While dues are rightfully given to Michael B Jorden’s amazing performance as Killmonger, I also think Chadwick Boseman’s performance of T’Challa’s thematic and emotional arc throughout is more interesting than many fans give it credit for. And of course, Shuri is wonderful. Infinity War is undoubtedly the more ambitious film but I also feel it is more flawed by comparison, while Black Panther utilises its isolated conflict to create more a more satisfying and complete film overall.


11. Paddington 2 

Paddington 2 is so unabashed in how genuine and sweet it is, I could swear I felt my teeth falling out at the end. It doesn’t have one hint of cynicism and its simplicity in just making the title character the most likable bear ever seen on screen is enough to melt the stoniest of us. Every actor’s dedication to the quaint and sweet tone the film sets completely sells it. It’s just a lovely film.


10. The Happy Prince

I adore Oscar Wilde and I’ll admit, a lot of reason for this film being on the list is through emotional attachment rather than the logistics or technical aspects of the film. However, I can’t imagine anything that could be truer to his spirit than choosing with your heart rather than your head. Named after his famously sombre fairy tale, The Happy Prince tells the story of Oscar Wilde’s life after the scandal that destroyed his career and eventually his life.

Being his first film as well as playing the title role, this is clearly a personal passion project for Rupert Everett. There are many roles actors can take that can be seen as a blatant Oscar grab, especially if they are a long-respected veteran who haven’t won one yet (Gary Oldman as Churchill in Darkest Hour and Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady are the first to my mind). However, Everett combines the subtle pain with the natural flamboyancy that Wilde was known for as an unabashed and poetic romanticist with a wonderfully forward outlook on life and love, which the world around him cruelly rejected. He was also imperfect. He was selfish, frivolous and frequently took advantage of his friends. But the film consistently highlights that some of his more selfish actions may not have been necessary if he hadn’t lived in the time he did and even respected artists of the time were not immune to the prejudices of his society (if anything, they were heightened due to the public disgrace).

There’s a great line in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (featured above) in which one of the character’s remarks to the Asset “sometimes I think I was born too early or too late for my life”. This line sums up the sheer unfairness of how Oscar Wilde spent his final days and the film highlights the tragedy of Wilde being a prime example of a man born in the wrong time.


9. I Tonya

I’ve always felt Margot Robbie was underrated. Even when the projects she’s in tend to be utter garbage (hello, Suicide Squad), she is usually a bright spot in whatever she stars in and I was waiting for a film that would allow her to show off her range. I, Tonya is that film and I still say she absolutely deserved a best actress nomination for it. There were parts of this film that reminded me of Charlize Theron’s performance in Monster (2002), in which she loses herself so much in the character you forget you’re watching a performance. The rest of the actors are all great, with main players Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney also giving standout performances.

The film ingeniously uses transcript interviews from the real Tonya Harding and her associates, many of which contradict each other, leaving it up to the viewer who to believe and how much of each character you can believe. Instead of demonising or sympathising with Tonya, the film instead smartly asks you to draw your own conclusions, with a fair bit of dark humour thrown in.


8. Won’t You Be My Neighbour

I didn’t grow up with Mister Rogers as a kid. While I was a devotee of many an American children’s show such as Sesame Street and Arthur, being a UK kid largely meant most of my exposure to Mister Rogers came through the internet. I knew he was a kids show host from the 1960s and was intensely beloved by all who grew up with him. His catchphrase “Won’t you be my neighbour” is the title of this one-and-a-half-hour documentary regarding his legacy as the host of one of the longest running children’s shows on PBS Mister Rogers Neighbourhood.

Like other icons such as Bob Ross or Steve Irwin, it seems radical at the time and nowadays for a single person to be so unflinchingly kind yet stoutly progressive. The film covers an incredible moment in television history in which he not only saved funding for public children’s television in front of the US Senate Subcommittee, his words are so powerful the Committee head doubles the amount of funding being cut. His argument that the ethics of kindness and teaching children that their emotions are valid and important is ingrained into the philosophy of how he lived and taught in his life. It’s hard to believe he was every bit as kind when the cameras were turned off but every acquaintance and friend he made testifies as such.

His concern was that children were emotionally intelligent and observant and deserved to be treated as such and the impression he left on the people he grew up with is undeniable. As someone who didn’t grow up with Mister Rogers, I’m not ashamed to say I sniffed and cried almost all the way through.  


7. Blackkklansman

BlacKKKlansman ties with I, Tonya for being the most well-acted docu-drama of the year. John David Washington and Adam Driver have incredible chemistry in this hard-hitting story that’s so implausible, it’d be impossible to believe if it wasn’t true. Spike Lee has never been one for subtlety but in this day and age, that approach is necessary to convey the parallels of 1970s race relations to modern day, showing how much has changed and how much has not changed while also being engaging as a straight-up great buddy-cop film.

While the film may have comedic moments of just the sheer absurdity of the situation, the story of African-American police officer Ron Stallworth’s infiltration of the Ku Klux Klan hits hard in its depiction of true events and real mind-sets with an ending that left the cinema I was in so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.


6. Overlord

Few movies captured the mood of the year better than Overlord. In the year of rising political tensions and fascism back on the rise, the catharsis of this bombastic, insane gore-fest can’t be overstated. Overlord is the prime example of taking an insane B-movie concept of an American soldier squad going up against mutated Nazi superhuman zombies and running to the moon and back with it, resulting in what can only be described as Inglorious Basterds on acid. It’s gross, disturbing and ridiculously fun, with all the Nazi killing you could ever want. What else do you need in a film?


5. Widows

If there was a list for best cast in a film this year, Widows would be at the top. With performances from acting powerhouses at the top of their game such as Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Daniel Kaluuya and Elizabeth Debicki, Widows is a poetically shot and soberingly empowering film with some of the most well-developed and realised protagonists in any film this year.

Steve McQueen is one of the most uncompromising story-tellers working in directing today and his empathy in which he writes his characters elevates them from a simple heist movie. It’s slick, stylish and a testament to the strength of its cast.


4. Mandy

It’s been a surprisingly good year for Nicholas Cage. From his campy yet dramatic performance in the dark comedy Mom and Dad to the pitch-perfect casting of him as Spider Noir from Into the Spider-Verse, his reputation for saying yes to every script he’s offered finally seems to be turning out some good material and Mandy is arguably his best film in years.

Marrying intense emotion and horror with ridiculous bombast, Mandy gives Cage the perfect bonkers premise to really show off his range. Visually, it was one of the most appealing films of the year for me (I’m a sucker for that surreal neon grindhouse aesthetic) and topping it off with a dueling chainsaw is the perfect formula to have me grinning like an idiot the whole way through.


3. Hereditary 

Hereditary is one big gasp of ‘holy shit!’ all the way through. While an excellent film as a whole, the first half is undeniably stronger than the second. I feel the second half could have kept a few more answers in the dark instead feeling the need to explain nearly everything in a rush, as if afraid the audience would have been angry with a more ambiguous conclusion. But it’s still a good second half coming off of an incredible first half. While the latter half is horrific in a more conventional sense (though no less shocking), the first half of Hereditary is horror characterised as a howl of pure despair.

I’ve rarely been so uncomfortable and so upset simply watching a scene of a family eating dinner in silence, knowing the circumstances surrounding it. Hereditary forces you into a purely empathetic state with its characters, with many of their actions and words that would cast them as irredeemable in any other film coming with an understanding of the raw emotional pain every single character is going through under the circumstances. There’s no escaping the confrontation of what happens to them and the intensity of facing these ugly, horrific thoughts and emotions made for some of the best acting in Toni Collette’s career.

Save for my number one pick, it was probably the rawest and visceral experience I had in the cinema in 2018.


2. Into The Spider-Verse

Hands down the best-animated film of the year. What fascinates me about Into the Spider-Verse film is how little I can find wrong with it. One way to identify a successful film is looking at what it aims to achieve and how it accomplishes what it sets out to do. This doesn’t always mean the film is good or pleasant (the majority of early 2000s gross-out comedies aim to disgust and alienate the audience and they succeed. This doesn’t mean they are good films). But considering Into the Spider-Verse aims to adapt a large amount of characters and their universes through the use of multiple animation techniques to create a layered experience, it’s incredible how well they are adapted.

The film manages to tell the story of Miles Morales, keeping the focus on him and having him as the perfect vessel to explore the concept of multiple universes, each with their own spider superhero. Each spider incarnation is so likeable and charming and the animation corresponds with each of their characteristics perfectly. It’s so bright, creative, colourful and fun and easily the best Spiderman film, which is surprisingly a high bar now considering Tom Holland’s excellent reimagining of the character in Spiderman: Homecoming. But Into the Spider-Verse just gets everything right and accomplishes everything it sets out to do, which qualifies it for one of the best films of the year in my book.


1. Suspiria 

There’s a saying that the mark of an impactful film is one that doesn’t leave your mind long after the credits roll. Notably ‘impactful’ doesn’t always translate to good (I couldn’t stop thinking about The Greatest Showman when I saw it but that was more thinking about every single thing wrong with it and how frustrating it was) but it leaves a deep mark on your brain, an impression in long sea of everything you watched in the year. I have not stopped thinking about Suspiria (2018) since I saw it and I’ll probably continue thinking about it for the rest of my life.

A reimagining of Dario Argento’s horror aesthetic 70’s classic, director Luca Guadagnino stated that he based this film more on the feelings he experienced while watching the original rather than a straight remake. The result is a psychedelic explosion of ideas and concepts that better utilise the premise and complexity than the original. The original is a beautiful film but also very straight-forward – it’s true innovation comes from its atmosphere and aesthetic rather than being a tour de force in story or character.

Tilda Swinton’s triple performance not only testifies to her incredible skill but informs of her role in the philosophy of the story once all three parts are considered, matched by Dakota Johnsons subtle but unnerving performance once all about her is revealed. Guadagnino takes the opportunities that the original presents and goes all the way with what it can do, resulting in a final act that had my jaw on the floor and the need for a post-coital cigarette. There is so much explored through the visual storytelling and revealed nature of the characters, resulting in a film both stunningly beautiful, intrinsically layered and cringingly grotesque.

Top it off with Thom Yorke’s amazing score, which may be one of my favourite film scores of all time, and Suspiria is an uncomfortable, uncompromising, challenging and beautiful watch. It is definitely not for everyone but it is almost certainly for me.

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Jake’s Favourite Horror Movie Soundtracks

Hello my troublesome troops, Jake Cordiner back again on this crazy train of horror fuelled journalism! In celebration of Thom Yorke’s (from the Radiohead’s dont’cha know) recently released soundtrack from the Suspiria remake, I thought I’d just have a wee chat about some of my favourite horror film soundtracks over the years. That cool with you? Well, I flipping hope so because YOU CAN’T STOP ME, DAD. I’ll make a dainty wee playlist for you lovely lot of my favourite tracks from the soundtracks I discuss, and maybe some extra ones! Let’s get going.

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First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Goblin’s utterly masterful soundtrack from the original Suspiria. Goblin are renowned for their soundtrack work, scoring such classics as Zombi, Contamination and… Patrick? What the fuck kind of title for a film is Patrick? I digress, those other soundtracks are exquisite pieces of synth-driven prog, but the Suspiria soundtrack is where the Italian weirdos shine. It covers such a wide range of soundscapes and genres: there’s a bit of jazz thrown in, some industrial rock, a wee hint of post-rock and some driving prog as well. Its scatterbrained nature lines up perfectly with the original Suspiria’s unashamed obtuseness. It’s really, very, very good.

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During the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I don’t think John Carpenter slept. His directorial work is almost untouchable (that almost being Ghosts of Mars (which is still a good bit of fun)). But when he wasn’t in the director’s chair, shouting at presumably Kurt Russell, he was in the studio, maaaaaan. Rocking out and crafting some of the best soundtrack work ever. Seriously, some of this stuff is insane, from the utterly iconic main theme from Halloween to the rockier material found in the Escape From New York and Escape From L.A scores, the man couldn’t be stopped.

However, my personal favourite work of his, both cinematically and musically, is In The Mouth of Madness. This wee slice of Lovecraft inspired gold is hideously underappreciated, and so is the soundtrack. The main theme, in particular, is an absolute banger, mixing the creeping synth work that Carpenter had made his signature style with some badass guitar from DAVE DAVIES FROM THE KINKS! How and why that came about I’ll never know, the solos on the song couldn’t be further from how the Kinks sounded in their day, but I do not care. It’s cool as fuck and deserves to be heard.

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Disasterpiece (better known as Richard Vreeland) is really cool. He’s scored some of the indie gaming scene’s biggest darlings, from Fez to Hyperlight Drifter to Cannon Brawl. But nothing he’s done has come even close to his work on the It Follows soundtrack. I’m quite sure everyone reading knows what It Follows is, but for the uninitiated, this 2015 horror is one of my modern pillars of the genre, alongside Hereditary, The VVitch, and The Babadook. It is about an STI that causes scary people who can’t be stopped to follow you. It’s magnificent, and so is the soundtrack.

Vreeland uses distortion, reverb and, perhaps most effectively, silence throughout the soundtrack and manages to add to the films lingering sense of dread and despair tenfold. Its a rare case of a film soundtrack being literally integral to the film, without Disasterpiece’s work on It Follows I’m not sure the film would be nearly as effective in its quest to scare. Get on it immediately.

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Under the Skin is tremendously fucked up. Based on Michael Faber’s 2000 book of the same name, Jonathan Glazer’s Glasgow based horror follows an alien (played brilliantly by Scarlett Johansson) going around Glasgow and harvesting men. That’s all you need to know. The soundtrack fits the films perpetually dark and dreary vibe impeccably. Scored by Mica Levi, the music smashes together a contemporary orchestral foundation with layers upon layers of distortion, haunting reverb and a deliberate opaqueness that showers everything else. In essence, a vast majority of the soundtrack makes the listener feel like they’re being sucked into an endlessly black void. It’s genuinely uncomfortable at points, but so is Glazer’s film. A perfect marriage, submerged in black.

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Lastly, I’m going to touch on Sinoia Cave’s soundtrack for Panos Cosmatos’ abstract masterpiece Beyond the Black Rainbow. To attempt to describe this film would do it a great disservice, but basically, a girl is off her tits and is trying to get out of a Bad Building. That’s the gist of it. The soundtrack was composed by Jeremy Schmidt of Canadian rockers Black Mountain, who claimed his main influences were the creeping horror of soundtracks like Halloween, The Shining and, hold on, Risky Business?! Leave my favourite wee Scientologist out of it you fiend!

Regardless, this soundtrack can only be described as epic. A sprawling and oftentimes jarring synth driven journey that complements Cosmatos’s vision effortlessly. I stand firmly in the camp that the soundtracks near 20-minute odyssey “1966 – Let The New Age of Enlightenment Begin” is in the upper echelon of music for any genre of film, fuck just horror. It is that good and weird and creepy and off-kilter.

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So, those are just a handful of my favourite pieces of horror soundtrack work to date. I’ll embed the wee Spotify playlist at the bottom with some more lovely pieces of sound to creep you the shitting fuck out. Tune in next time where I transcribe a decidedly one-sided interview I had with famed murderer Michael Myers! Ok bye, love you!

 

Jake’s 6 Underrated Horror Flicks

Hey y’all, Jake here.

For my next trick, I’ve decided to try and shine a wee light on some of the lesser known horror flicks that are floating around the filmosphere, because I feel bad for them and feel they deserve a bit of attention. Here we chuffing go, you lovely lot!

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First on the agenda is 2013’s Coherence, directed by James Ward Byrkit, this Canadian sci-fi/thriller is a hard one to describe without ruining anything. Basically, some old friends meet for a dinner party during a meteor shower and shit hits the fan in a wonderfully headfucky way. Great acting, a plot that is near impossible to pin down, and one of the best endings I can remember in recent sci-fi history, this is definitely one to add to your Halloween watch party.

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Next up, I thought I’d go contemporary with Stephen Congnetti’s 2015 found footage spooktacular Hell House LLC. It follows a team of… it’s hard to give a description of their job, they travel around the US refurbishing abandoned / spooky looking places and making them into haunted mansions or ghost train things. It’s a hard job but some poor motherfucker has to do it.

Anyway, this particular house that they decide to flip is positively crawling with ghosties and ghoulies, so much so that the majority of the crew don’t want to continue with the build, except for the project manager who for some reason cares more about the build than the safety of himself and the other crew members. If you look past that silliness it’s a remarkably effective and enjoyable found footage romp. I caught it on Shudder, and I believe it’s on Amazon Prime now as well.

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Now we’re onto Turkish gore-fest Baskin. Directed by Can Evrenol, this film is all sorts of fucked up. It follows a group of Turkish policeman as they investigate strange goings-on within an abandoned building. The true nature of these goings on, I shan’t tell you, for it would ruin the fun, but just know that this flick is not for the faint of heart. Half of the budget must have been spent on the gore effects alone, and I mean that very sincerely. This is a raw, visceral film that does not hold back one bit, and it is all the better for it.

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Penultimately, let’s talk about Creep 1 & 2, starring the incredible Mark Duplass. This tells the tale of a violently mentally ill man who may or may not have given his videographer (played brilliantly by Patrick Brice) the full low down on his “situation”. Creep 2 follows the story along almost straight after the events of the first have unfolded, so to spoil any of that would be silly of me, wouldn’t it? BAD JAKE! VERY BAD! STRAIGHT TO YOUR ROOM! WITH NO SUPPER!

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Eh, sorry. Haha. Anyway, one thing Creep 2 does masterfully is sort-of-but-not-really dissect YouTuber culture and the lengths some creators will go to just to gain more clicks. It’s really cool, superbly tense and Mark Duplass is fucking magnificent. They’re both on Netflix and they aren’t long at all so it’s really ideal for a double feature.

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Lastly, for this piece, I’d be positively overjoyed to talk about Monster House! Monster House, while not overtly “Scary” per-se, has a creepy atmosphere that lingers throughout. It’s also incredibly funny and sad and weird, AND it was written by Dan Harmon. It follows a team of three kids who are convinced that the man who lives across from them’s house is alive and is eating children, pets, toys, cars, you name it! (Sounds a bit like my mother in law! ZING! (Sorry Catherine please god don’t hurt me)). This is one you can fire on and watch with your younger siblings/ children/kids your babysitting / whatever you get up to I won’t tell the police, so it’s well worth firing up on Netflix if you’re after a wee bit of fun.

So that’s my list! Tune in next time where I put on a GoPro and jump into a piranha tank! Bye, I love you!

Why I Love Horror

words fae jake cordiner 

Hello you beautiful bunch, it’s been a hot minute since I’ve written any solo content for the site.

This is due to a number of reasons, chief among them being my brain was, for the best part of the last 4 months, comparable to a lukewarm bowl of oat so simple. I just didn’t have the motivation or mental capacity to write anything worthwhile for the past while, so sorry? Not that I imagine anyone has missed my bollocks, but on the minuscule chance that you have, I’m back! Hopefully for good, but I’m not sure.

It’s October (for those among you who hate calendars like me), which means it’s peak time for spooks aplenty. So I thought this would be a perfect time to get back on the saddle and do Jake’s Month* (*see: fortnight) of Horror 2: Electric Boogaloo. I’m going to try and mix things up this time, I’ve got a rather ambitious idea for the end of month entry this year but we’ll see how it goes (spoiler: I might be enlisting some help). With this first part of my series of writings on horror, I decided to go all personal and try and pinpoint exactly where and when I started loving horror as a genre, so expect some anecdotes and potentially a small paragraph at the end to try and tie things together in a nice wee bow. Let’s go!

It must have been about 2003, I was at my pal Steven’s house. His big brother had Resident Evil 2 on PS1, and Steven and I went on a covert operation the likes of which the minds of the masses couldn’t come close to comprehending… We waited until his brother left then went into his room and got the game. Genius, I know, and yes Theresa May is planning on enlisting me as a military advisor, how the devil did you know? We put the game in, and before the classic PS1 splash screen even came up we were positively fucking shitting ourselves. I mean besides ourselves with fear, I think it as because we had seen the cover and it looked a bit creepy?

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Regardless, the “RESIDENT. EVIL. TWOOOO” bit occurred and the two of us ran out of the room screaming, it’s not even particularly scary in retrospect but as an 8-year-old it was a different level of frightening. So we made Steven’s mum go in and turn the game off and went back to playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, the only frightening thing about that game is how bloody good it is! I think this specific incident was the catalyst that sparked my half-lifelong obsession with all things horror, however, there was another thing that happened only a few months later that may have played a large part as well…

It was 04/05, and my dad had rented the first Saw film on DVD from a video shop in my town called Global (it’s closed now, but I owe a lot to it, namely my love of gaming. Might be an idea for another article at some point, but I digress). Father Cordiner (not a priest) was under strict instructions by my mum not to let me watch Saw, under any circumstances, and fair play to old James, he did his best. I tried to come in and was swiftly told to get out, so I obliged.

BUT LITTLE DID HE KNOW, DEAR READER, THAT I SAT ON THE STAIRS AND WATCHED A GOOD TWENTY MINUTES OF THE FILM, COMPLETELY UNDETECTED! (*Insert Skyrim “Sneak 100” meme here*). It wasn’t even a particularly gory segment of the film (it was the flashback bit where Kramer gives his alibi and then a bit onwards), but I was infatuated. The way it was shot, the grimness and grossness that pulsated through every scene, it was cool as fucking fuck, basically. And for that reason, I hold the original Saw in very high regard. For the curious among you, I closed the living room door behind me but left it slightly ajar, and our living room door is mainly glass so I saw the action PERFECTLY!

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The last example of my early love for horror would come in 2007, I had a computer in my room so that was basically how I spent all my time (WHO CAN RELATE LMAO?). I had recently gone to the cinema to see Michael Bay’s Transformers (a solid 6/10), but there was a trailer before it for a title-less film, “1-18-08”, soon to be known as Cloverfield. Now, anyone who knows me even in passing knows how much love I have in my tummy for the Cloverfield franchise, and the main reason is that of the viral marketing that surrounded it. 11 year old me was positively balls deep in that sweet, sweet ARG. I trawled numerous sites, forums and youtube videos in a near-manic attempt to devour any and all information about the film. As the release date drew near, and the pieces starting falling into place in regards to what the film actually was, my excitement reached fever pitch.

I didn’t see Cloverfield until it came out on DVD. I wasn’t old enough to see it at the cinema, so I had to wait. It was a painful 6 months, seeing the reaction to the film online, the excitement, the reviews… It was tough. On my 11th birthday, I must have watched the film maybe 6 times in a row, digesting every scene like a mother puma digesting her prey. Even though I’d kept up with the film after it’s release, I hadn’t had it spoiled for me (fucking somehow), so it still remained fresh to me, and it was, and probably still is, the single best experience I’ve ever had watching a film. It was bloody brilliant, and though I’ve seen films since that I perhaps admired or enjoyed more in some aspects, Cloverfield will always remain my favourite film.

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Now while Cloverfield may not TECHNICALLY be a horror film (I’d argue it comes under the genre’s umbrella as both found footage and a monster film), it’s just as responsible for my love of horror as the other two anecdotes. And maybe that’s the main reason I love horror so much, the primality of it all. It’s ability to make you feel so frightened so quickly. Good horror holds your every sense and sensibility hostage and makes you lose sleep for maybe one night, but great horror, horror like Saw, Cloverfield, or more recently (and less anecdotey) Hereditary, The VVitch and films of that ilk, get under your skin like a master surgeon. It consumes your thoughts for days, weeks even, it makes you want to tell EVERYONE about how it made you feel, hell, it might even make you disobey your parents and watch it from the stairs.

Cheers for reading troops, I dunno what grand point I was really trying to make with this article. I just thought it might be a nice way to ease my way back into the swing of writing more long-form stuff. I hope you liked it, I hope I haven’t wasted your time, and I hope to see you again very, very soon. See ye!

The Golden Run Is Over: Solo Is Disney’s First Star Wars Dud

words fae olivia armstrong (@starcadet96)

Solo: A Star Wars Story is yet another side story in the Star Wars franchise after the success of Rouge One. However, this time it tells the story of fan favourite and fanboy self-insert of the franchise: Han Solo. Despite obviously making the money that Disney needed it to, there seemed to be a distinct lack of hype and epic scale of the release of this film, which is strange considering who it’s about. Even the marketing seems downplayed by Disney standards and it seems to be banking on its connection to the franchise to pull through. So the question is posed: is there any good here? Does it need to exist? How does it rank against the franchises other installments?

For as much as the complaints regarding the lack of need for a Han Solo movie, there is a fair amount of good choices to be found. For example, Donald Glover is a fantastic choice for Lando Calrissian and he deserves at least double the screen time that he has. His charisma oozes through the frame in every scene he’s in and it’s only once he appears that the story begins to pick up. The whole first act of the film really begins to drag but once he shows up, the new team finally begins to do what they set out to after failing the first time. He also has a droid co-pilot (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) who is also a fun character, being a snarky, rebellious activist for equal rights for droids and most of her comedy comes from her snark with the other characters instead of being a joke herself like most of the other droids. Woody Harrelson is also a fun as Han Solo’s mentor/partner, although I always wonder if seeing him in these movies comes from a determination for him to be in every single sci-fi franchise war film ever.

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There is a fair amount of good wholesome fun, particularly in the last third with betrayals, backstabbing, double-crossing and character motivations changing and revealing new things. For example, Han’s relationship with his girlfriend throughout the film is rife with back-and-forth of what will come of it (as we all know from the future films that the relationship is doomed). There’s a surprise cameo from an unexpected iconic villain and the ending is one of the few parts to actually have some weight. However, most of this film is extremely light on story and character and while it is showing the past of Ham Solo, it does so in a way that doesn’t tell us a lot more about him and unfortunately a lot of that comes from the central performance. There are also points where the story drags and almost loses focus and it becomes a chore to sit through, even in parts that should be exciting. Even as a smaller story, the plot is so thin that what should be exciting, fun action becomes frustrating when they can’t just get from point A to point B already.

Sadly, Alden Ehrenreich in the titular role feels just miscast here. Despite clearly trying his best, he just doesn’t capture the attitude of Harrison Ford’s iconic portrayal of Han as being both the cool guy and a complete disaster who doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing. The understanding is that this portrayal of Han is as a more wide-eyed, excitable young thief before he became so jaded in A New Hope but even that feels distinctly off in this performance.

It’s not entirely his fault; some of the dialogue comes from writers desperately trying to capture what they think Harrison Ford would have said but Ehrenreich’s performance doesn’t enhance any of the material. Whatever interpretation of the character they’re going for, it just feels unconvincing and almost constantly reminds you that you’re watching an actor and not a character.

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Despite the moments mentioned earlier, the biggest downfall of Solo: A Star Wars Story is how completely inconsequential it is as a film and not just as a Star Wars film. While the “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away” title card is shown, we get no iconic Star Wars text scrawl explaining the setting and building the hype. Instead, we get a few screenshots of exposition and then the film just starts. It almost feels like an admission from the creators that they know you don’t really need to watch this. And that’s the biggest tragedy of the film; for all it’s fun and occasional tense moments, there’s absolutely no grand scale to the presentation. Rogue One, for all its faults, took its smaller story and gave some weight to the build-up of what was to come in in the later films and did have some incredibly memorable moments (especially the scene with Darth Vadar). Star Wars, even when it’s bad or divisive, is almost always memorable and the biggest tragedy of Solo is how much it doesn’t square up to that.

The bland moments don’t come close to the enjoyably bad cringe-fest of Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones while the fun moments still can’t compete with the fun and excitement of defeating the empire in Return of the Jedi. On top of that, there’s absolutely no risk factor in the decision making and it’s as safe as film-making can possibly get. Say what you want about The Last Jedi (that request is rhetorical; I’ve heard far too damn much about what people have to say about The Last Jedi) but it and The Empire Strikes back took some of the most daring risks in the franchise and succeeded in fuelling fan discussions for years. There’s so little of the spirit and mythology of Star Wars in Solo that it feels like any sci-fi space universe (the Force isn’t even mentioned a single time).

So, where does that leave Solo: A Star Wars Story?

I’d say only see if you’re a die-hard Stars Wars fan or if you or your kids just want a cute space adventure that doesn’t require too much thinking. Aside from that though, I sadly can’t say this instalment of the franchise will leave its mark on the galaxy.

The Reel Filthy Movie News Roundup (13th April – 26th April)

words fae harry sambrook (@DriedCthulu)

Another week, another steaming handful of pop culture detritus. This week I’ll attempt to run through all the important stuff and why it will have a lasting impact in all of our lives forever. Remember to recite my opinions as your own so you can attempt to fill that empty void left by your meaningless relationships and lack of a personality (talking to you, Bobby).

Venom Trailer

Just as I had finished crafting this masterpiece of a report, Sony pictures decided to drop the Venom movie trailer, making me have to scrap my ramblings about the Deadpool trailer. Anyyyyyyyyway this trailer seems to show a lot more of the story elements of this film as well as a much awaited look at what Venom will look like. It’s still unclear about how much it will tie to the existing Marvel Cinematic Universe (my guess is, not at all) but it seems to be doing something interesting with itself despite Sony’s repeated attempts to beat this dead horse full of flies and used needles that is the expanded Spiderman universe.

One thing I have to say is that I cannot and will not believe that Tom Hardy is a news reporter. He looks like the doorman at my local dodgy nightclub, where they check you at the door for contraband. I mean, there’s a scene where he’s cornered in his flat by three or four generic looking disposable villains, and he looks like he could take them all out without the help of super powered space-liquorice. The terrifying presence of Tom Hardy aside, he is a good get and has a strange habit of making the most average of films actually good (e.g. Legend, 2015) and the venom voice and suit looking great and quite horrifying. This has actually made me excited for the film, despite the involvement of Sony.

James Cameron vs. Avengers

James Cameron recently had an interview with Indiewire in which he talked at length about his of the Avengers films and superhero films as well as his own upcoming Avatar sequels. His main point is that the avengers movies are just testosterone fuelled nonsense and that “there are other stories to tell”. Despite the fact that this is the man behind the Terminator films, which in my opinion are also testosterone fuelled nonsense, I can’t help but agree with him. Disney, our all-powerful overlords that govern our every film experience tend to take over the box office for periods of months and prevent other films from gaining any traction. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy these films as much as the next skrub but the current slate for the next few months includes Avengers: Infinity War, Solo: A Who Gives A Crap Story, The Incredibles 2, and Ant-Man & The Wasp. In my local cinema, independent films have only small chance of making any headlines when Avengers is showing 43 times a day for 2 months. Cameron then continues to talk about how his Avatar Sequels will follow a similar trend as the Godfather. Now a lot of people have taken that to mean he thinks they will be as good as the Godfather or it’s sequels but I think he just meant he wanted to emulate the generational aspect of these films in his sequels more than actually comparing them to some of the most highly regarded films of all time.

Fast and the Furious Netflix series

So this is unexpected. From the people that brought you Vin Diesel and his weird egg-shaped head and scowl combination that we know so well is teaming up with the studio that brought us such famed animated hits as Boss Baby: Back in Business and All Hail King Julian, comes a new Fast and the Furious animated TV show. And it’s coming to Netflix. This will be a short one as I care very little for the Fast and the Furious. In fact, I watched the 7th one on a plane in 2015 and had no idea what was happening I turned it off and watched Gone Girl instead. I can only imagine it’s the same as the last XXX film and that was balls and nonsense. Anyway, I’m sure this’ll be exciting for anyone who inexplicably likes this series.

Hot Summer Nights Trailer

Lastly we have a new trailer for the film Hot Summer Nights, starring Timothée Chalamet and Maika Monroe, release from A24. A24 is a smaller studio who has released an incredibly wide range of films, to varying degrees of success. Films I love such as Locke, Ex Machina, Room, Green Room, It Comes at Night, and The Lobster, as well as other films that I don’t like, such as Tusk and The Florida Project. Either way it can be said that they take risks and I am looking forward to seeing this latest release. Written and Directed by Elijah Bynum, it follows a coming of age story of a boy on holiday in Cape Cod. Although it seems like this is Bynum’s first film, I for one am looking forward to seeing what they’ll make out of this seemingly average story. I am definitely hoping for the weirdest shit possible. However, knowing the cinemas where I live, it’ll probably be a pushed out for a Star Wars anthology movie about the backstory of Princess Leia’s buns.

Well that’s it for this week for the news everyone. It was a joyous ride of ups and downs. Of stupid things being said and attempts at being funny. Thanks for reading. It should be said that these are the views of Sam from the Reel Filthy Podcast. The opinions don’t reflect Mac or anyone at Transistor. SO come at me Disney. Aye, that’ll do.

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The Reel Filthy Movie News Roundup (29th March-12th April 2018)

It came! It finally came! It’s Reel Filthy but finally transcribed for the intellectual in written form. A moment of literary importance that rivals Nietzsche’s ‘Beyond Good and Evil’. Anyhow, here are some things from the past week or so that peaked my interest and will make your pop culture obsessed pals think you’re cool by reciting.

HAN SOLO TRAILER 2

       I almost forgot this film was happening, what with the lack of marketing until the last month or so, with the film releasing as soon as the end of May. Strange for something as massive as a Star Wars film. Was this down to the apparently sizeable behind the scenes drama that happened over its production with directors being fired? Who knows, but it’s safe to assume that’s had a part in it. The first trailer arrived and had me skeptical with the lack of Solo himself, almost as if the studio weren’t confident in Aldenreich taking on the coveted role. I wasn’t massively impressed, but left intrigued. This time around however, hell with it, count me in.

This new trailer didn’t make the hairs on my arms stand or blow me away by any means, but I am left very curious about this Star Wars spinoff. Yes there’s the whole generic, “I’m putting together a crew” thing going on, but I just want to see the origins of things like Han’s trousers and chin scar. I don’t really care anymore, they’re going to pump at least one of these out every year for the foreseeable future so may as well see what expensive romp they have in store for us. See the new trailer for yourself below.

Leia in 'The Last Jedi'WAIT. *, SURPRISE RANDOM STORY SWOOPS IN* More Star Wars you say? The Last Jedi VFX Supervisor, Ben Morris has revealed that Lucasfilm are keeping ‘digital clones’ of every actor appearing in their films. This is in the same vein as Tarkin’s appearance in Rogue One, when a dead Peter Cushing was dragged back from the grave to feed Disney’s wallets to the tears of his family. I’ll admit though, whilst it was noticeable that Tarkin wasn’t real, the CG used was still admittedly impressive and will only get better. So there you go, hopefully, this doesn’t mean CG Leia in Episode XI next December, but only time will tell. Scary stuff.

TERMINATOR REBOOT PUSHED TO NOV 2019
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         Another year, another reboot. This time we have Terminator which already kinda rebooted but was a sequel in 2015 with Terminator Genysis. After being not as successful as was expected, it seems they’ve opted to re-reboot, this time with James Cameron involved in a Producing role. Tim Miller, director of Deadpool is set to direct, with an again returning Schwarzenegger alongside Linda Hamilton, reprising her role as Sarah Connor. Originally set for a July ’19 release, the film is now expected to stroll in on a zimmer frame in Nov ’19. Hopefully, with Cameron involved, this can turn out more like the original two, with the film to apparently ignore Terminator 3, as well as also start a trilogy, but the latter hasn’t been green lit as of yet. Good call perhaps? Learning their lessons? Maybe no post-credits this time with Dr Who?

LORD OF THE RINGS TV SERIES SET TO COST $1BILLION

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       Also in things you love but didn’t necessarily think you wanted more of, the rights to Lord of the Rings were recently purchased by Amazon for an estimated $250 million dollars after a bidding war with Netflix. This was back at the end of 2017, but now some more spicy tidbits are starting to come out, including that they plan to make five seasons of a Lord of the Rings TV series, a series that is being ballparked as costing around $1billion. As of yet, Peter Jackson who directed the spectacular Lord of the Rings trilogy and the spectacularly forgettable Hobbit trilogy is said to not be involved at this moment in time. Whether this changes or not is yet to be seen. My hope is they simply use the universe available to them make a new story, rather than retread and remake the already great films. Also what if the first series comes out and it’s rank? That’s a damn expensive risk. Essentially this could either be amazing or a sad, disappointing waste of time, but time will tell.

ALFONSO CUARON’S ROMA GETS PICKED UP BY NETFLIX

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UH OHHHH, sack your capeshit and Disney nonsense for a second folks, it’s time for Indie… stuff. I haven’t thought of a name for this segment. Ah well. Director of Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron’s new film ‘Roma’, which follows a middle class family in Mexico City in the 70’s centering around the Corpus Christi massacre in which students were killed by Mexican soldiers, has been picked up by Netflix. As a result, however, it’s appearance at the highly coveted Cannes Film Festival next week is now uncertain.

This is due to the recent disputes ongoing in the industry, which puts into question whether streaming content should be considered for awards due to not being screened in cinemas. Personally, whilst I appreciate the experience of watching a film on a big screen, as every Marvel film says, “the world, is changing”. Perhaps these festivals should move with the times too, as the filmmaking process is still intact end of the day, it’s simply where people sit and watch them. As sad as it is to say, even I can acknowledge the kinoplexes like Cineworld are going to disappear eventually. As long as all that’s left are arthouse cinemas for kinophiles like myself to have the option, I’ll be happy.


So ehhh yeh, that’ll do for this one. From here on out, every fortnight we’ll be bringing news in between our own bi-weekly show ‘News and Reviewsss’, right here to BlinkClyro.com. Except minus the reviews, cause who has time for actually watching films am I right? Long as you can rhyme off the trivia, and that’s just what we’re here for. Catch you next time ya filthy animals!

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