It Chapter 2

It-chapter-2-bannerSo I’ve struggled with how to write this review, having seen the film almost a week ago I still haven’t written about it.  Though I’ve been very active on Twitter and Facebook in my defence of it, a review requires a far more ordered sense of how I feel and it had been scattershot since I first saw this film. I’ve seen it twice now and had more of a chance to reflect on it and see it as a film rather than this monumental event that I had waited so long for. The first viewing was completely overwhelming, just as it was the first time I saw Chapter 1 and again I walked out unsure of my response because I’d been too busy ticking things off in my brain ie. “that was in the book, that wasn’t in the book” etc.

I am far more confident in my feelings about this film now.
To begin with, a caution –  if you expect to see your average horror film you will walk away disappointed; this is not your James Wan formulaic jump scare-packed thrill ride, this is not something that can be summed up in a few lines or an hour and a half, this is a movie that wants to talk about how traumas damage us, the ripples they create in your life and the friends who help you through it; and it doesn’t care if it takes almost three hours to tell that story.
This film is epic and big and nuts and funny and moving and involving and mind-opening and challenging, pretty much everything I want a good film to be. I don’t want to walk away from a movie feeling nothing, there are many films that give me that; I love divisive films because those real emotions are what I actually paid for.
It’s been 27 years since the seven 13-year-old members of The Losers Club defeated Pennywise, or so they thought. Mike (Isaiah Mustafa) stayed behind in Derry as a kind of watchman to ensure that what have been done stayed done. When it becomes clear that Pennywise is back (as indicated by his first big bloody kill of Adrian Mellon in a shockingly realistic homophobic hate crime that is as hard to watch as you’d imagine) its Mikes sad task to call the scattered losers and remind them of their promise to return should Pennywise ever rear his murderous head again.

They remember nothing on his initial phone call, but the return to Derry also means a return to their long-buried memories, and once they are back together in their hometown it all comes flooding back. To defeat this ancient evil Mike tells hem of a ritual that involves each loser finding a token of their lives when they first became bonded to each other. This leads to the walking tours fans will remember from the book in which some of the best set-pieces occur i.e. Mrs Kersch and also Eddies leper comes back for an encore performance, it all leads to another showdown with Pennywise.
Will he be bested or will he feast?

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Well it’s no secret that this is the film I’ve waited for two years for but is it as anticipated?
I’m happy to say yes it most definitely is.

Everything here is done thoughtfully, firstly the casting which is undeniably perfect. Every actor brings their A game and match their younger counterparts characters in ways both subtle and large.
Much has been made of Bill Haders performance as Richie and yes it is as good as everyone says, the pathos he brings is invaluable to the story, he will make you laugh and break your heart.  James Ransoone as Eddie could be young Jack Dylan Grazer as an adult they are so alike, he is sympathetic and a perfect match for Hader; their chemistry and banter feels effortless.

Jessica Chastain and James MacAvoy bring exactly as expected – perfection in their performance with a nice vulnerability that recalls the great work done by the younger cast. new cast members Andy Bean, Jay Ryan and the aforementioned Mustafa are all surprisingly good though I’ve never seen them in anything else, all three have a new fan in me.

The younger cast who feature in flashbacks that add new dimensions to the story we already know from Chapter one, all continue to do the stellar work we saw of them previously.
And what of Bill Skarsgaard as the titular Pennywise? The great performance in Chapter one is elevated here, he is nothing short of incredible and owns Pennywise. This is a performance for the ages and an iconic iteration of someone who will be remembered in the horror community for a very long time.
The direction by Andy Muschietti shows even more creativity this time around and barring a few questionable choices (Eddies puking leper’s song choice immediately springs to mind) it is assured, inspiring and the transitions between young and old cast members a delight.
Benjamin Wolfisch returns to add more nuance to his criminally underrated score from the first chapter and it’s used to great affect here as it was in Chapter one.
The CGI can be a little hit or miss particularly the de-ageing process that had to be employed in order to still have the younger cast members for the flashback scenes. If only the studios had trusted Chapter one to find an audience and had allowed the films to be shot back to back this wouldn’t have been an issue. It’s a shame because it does detract from some of the emotions felt and requires slightly more of a suspension of disbelief. The best moments of cgi include a homage to The Thing but a naked-faced Pennywise may be one of the creepiest moments of all.
But for me the thing that is most important in this film, the thing that makes it stand out from others, is its heart. I believed totally in every relationship explored in this film, I believe in their connection to each other, the easy care they feel foreach loser. The ultimate battle is not with Pennywise but with the baggage they have dragged about their whole lives from fears and traumas not faced, the things they tried to bury inside themselves.

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The deaths here are more brutal than in Chapter one, and when children are killed, the heart of this film means it hurts more, and I like my horror to hurt.

The people who love the book should love this, the people who love the first one should also be happy.

This is a cult film in the making, and though there are naysayers now, eventually I’m sure they will understand that this film is unapologetically nothing but what it wants to be.

Films that buck the expected always end up finding a loving home, I’m thinking of films like Barry Munchhausen, Evil Dead and The Fifth Element, films that don’t follow a rule book.

Finally, a word on the runtime, some people have said this is too long. It is not. You can say that about The Hobbit as it was thin source material stretched to oblivion, this is a massive undertaking and could only be told over this length of time. It is absolutely not too long; in fact, I would’ve enjoyed another hour.

There are people who will hate this film, it’s earnest and wears its heart on its sleeve, it’s easy to denigrate films like that; but I got everything I wanted and more from this film. Beautiful, surprisingly honest, uncompromising, brave and memorable, this is a love letter to the novel fans.
I adored it and I thank Andy giving me the perfect interpretations of my favourite book.
9/10

It Chapter 2 trailer

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Midsommar

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Last years Hereditary seemed to divide horror fans somewhere down the middle; there were people in the camp of  “it’s a little slow”, they didn’t dig the studied nature of the film nor the undercurrents of terror, preferring instead a more immediate pay off.  People in the second camp believe, as I do, that it was quite the masterpiece, and probably one of the first real horrors that we’ve had in a long time – a film that is actually designed to fuck you up. Ari Aster has declared that he misses the kind of film that haunts you for years and that was the kind of film he set out to make. I believe he succeeded.

 

Midsommar is his sophomore effort, the second film from such a creative and austere mind could only come with high expectations, and while I have read very good reviews it seems it is also managing to continue Aster’s polarizing aesthetic.

The film itself deals with the character Dani (a mesmerising Florence Pugh) who has recently suffered a devastating family tragedy and her boyfriend Christian (‘everyman’ John Reynor) who, according to his friends, has been intending to break up with Dani for the last year and a half of their four-year relationship. She decides to tag along with Christian and his friends to the Swedish Midsummer festival taking place in the hometown of buddy Pelle (Vilhelm Blomgren). The festival itself only takes place every 90 years and so to attend appears to be quite the honour, and though obviously grief stricken and struggling to hide her sorrow Dani makes a valiant effort to get along with her boyfriends pals. Upon arrival they are greeted with magic mushrooms and realise that the sun doesn’t really go down in Sweden at that particular time of year and so for the duration of the film, give or take one or two moments, all of the horror happens in broad daylight.

The day to day goings-on of course are initially innocuous and almost quaint, but all the flowers and sunshine bely a more sinister festival and people; and once the horror starts (as it does after over an hour of anticipatory unease) it doesn’t let up until the final chilling moment.

 

The characterisations here are generous and humane; take Christian for example, while we see him through Dani’s eyes the ease with which he could have been demonised is a road not taken by Aster. Instead, Christian is shown to be disengaged and no longer invested in the relationship. Dani finds herself perhaps more needing of Christian then he wishes her to; but none of this is treated as individual faults, rather just a miss match of types.

All the characters are allowed to be shades of grey and I appreciated that each character had their own unique goals and ideas and none were set up to be stereotypical fodder.

Dani herself is a worthy character that you like spending time with, she is a wholly realised person and her viewpoint is often the audiences main guide into this world.

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It’s hard to review a film like this with so much in the detail and a plot that needs to be revealed at the pace it does. Having said that, I will say that it was clever, compulsively watchable, gut churning, extremely well acted and of course, the direction is unique, cold and graphic with lush visceral cinematography.

When it comes to second films by new horror wunderkinds, Ari Aster leaves Jordan Peele in the dust with his silly plot-holed ‘Us’.

 

Like Hereditary this would lend it self to repeat viewings, there are moments/images/hints throughout the film that bleed into the rest of the narrative and their acknowledgment would only assist in giving the film more texture and nuance.
Whilst it can be seen as the ultimate break-up movie it also has shocks a plenty and never shies away from showing us the consequences of every action; and though it fails to surprise in its intense resolution the journey is worth more than the destination.

Some moments pass by too fast to be fully registered, but when they come back to you later their full horror still impacts. It’s a film to burrow into, watch, cringe, absorb and then unpack at your leisure.
So, though it is not as relentlessly wrenching as Hereditary, very few films could or would be.

By Jove, Aster’s done it again; mission accomplished.

 

8/10

Midsommar Trailer

Pet Sematary

 

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If I were to pick a Stephen King film that needed to be remade, it would not be ‘Pet Sematary’; after all, the 1989 film is still effective, still scary, still sad, it still works. The films that I would pick would likely be the ones that were failed miniseries such as ‘The Langoliers’, ‘The Tommyknockers’ or ‘The Stand’. However the powers that be determined that ‘Pet Sematery’ was due for a remake and so a remake was made.

First the basic plot – Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) wife Rachael (Amy Seimetz) and their two children Ellie (Jeté Laurence – good) and Gage (Hugo/Lucas Lavoie) move to a small country town away from the hustle and bustle of the big city; the plan being that  Louis could spend more time with his family as a university based doctor. Their cat Church is along for the ride and is Ellie’s pride and joy when tragedy befalls the much-loved feline. The friendly next door neighbour Jud Crandall (John Lithgow in this iteration) decides to show Louis the ancient Mic-Mac burial-ground that’s situated just beyond the child-named Pet Sematery. Of course Church comes back from his burial there as that is the basis of this tale, but Church does not come back as the lovable cat Louis remembers and Ellie now no longer wants to spend time with him. When tragedy again befalls the Creed family Louis makes a decision that has terrible and far-reaching consequences for all of them.

Obviously if you seen the original film or read the amazingly dark and devastating book then you know what happens and what decisions are made, however thinking back it becomes clear that filmmakers Kevin Kölch and Dennis Widmyer of Starry Eyes decided to depart from the source material basically from the moment Church wanders into the road. It’s a different film, a different story and a whole different emotional ball game. What’s missing here from the book is that deep sense of dread, the feeling that things are going wrong and things will always go wrong, decisions compounded by even more bad decisions because Louis is so lost in his grief and embracing ideas that should never have been entertained in the first place. If you’ve seen the original film expertly directed by Mary Lambert there are certain moments that have stayed with you such as Zelda, such as Timmy Baterman, such as Jud’s dog, such as the heartbreaking inexorable ending; and their absence or lack of attention here damages the films chances of being anywhere near as memorable as the original.

The changes that directors Kölsch and Widmyer make here do not benefit the story at all, they cut the darkness, shortens the characterisations and creates a forgettable film. The most regrettable loss is the changed ending.

This story and it’s underlying theme that sometimes dead is better is completely undermined by the finale of this film; I don’t understand how the filmmakers could so completely misunderstand the point of the story and clearly the things that reverberated the deepest with the people who enjoyed the original and with the people who enjoyed the book made little impact on the decisions made about this film. Equally, lines that had resonance and meaning such as “A man’s heart is stonier” and yes “Sometimes dead is better” are almost thrown away and lost. Jud’s character lacks depth (and Lithgow who is usually so powerful seems lost and meek here, he doesn’t hold a candle to 1989’s Fred Gwynne); and his connection with Louis that was so clearly felt in the first film is lacking – they seem like disparate strangers in this one. Jud’s guilt is not explored satisfactorily here either. Church is less a frightening returned animal and more just a grumpy cat – scratches and hisses? He behaves just like a regular cat, nothing scary there (though the cat is gorgeous to look at). 

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The idea that a soulless body can come back and be a murderous empty vessel is not expressed in any kind of meaningful way here with the friend I saw this with (a novice when it comes to Pet Sematary) believing that they had come back possessed by a demon as that is the direction that the narrative seem to point you in. The children in masks holding a funeral procession for their deceased pets was a wonderfully filmic vision, but did not make sense within the narrative of the movie.

But perhaps the worse crime this film commits is in its treatment of grief; preferring instead to go for jump scares and creepy looks, the grief is not felt as fully as it is in the original and certainly nowhere near as deeply as it is felt in the book. It’s a great shame as therein lies its centre.

There is a sense of quiet power in the book and yes even in the first film that is severely lacking in this one; perhaps if I hadn’t had the previous film and book to compare this to I would have liked it more; after all it wasn’t a bad film, it just wasn’t a good one, and the ending made me mad.

This is not the way to make a memorable film; the changes did not benefit the story and in fact cost the film its point.

What was this film missing that the original had? Characterisation, iconography, purpose, actual scares, and above all, heart.

Move along folks, there’s nothing to see here.

 

5/10

Pet Seminary trailer

Us

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Jordan Peele used to be known as one half of the comedy duo ‘Key and Peele’; then ‘Get Out’ happened and everything changed. That knowing, creepy little movie about white privilege exploded onto the film scene in a shower of awards and accolades.

Us is his second movie, and maybe its unfair to approach it with the level of expectation that we have all seemingly fallen prey to, but with the amount of advertising and word-of-mouth it was almost impossible to avoid some excitement.

A hard film to sum up, relying as it does on a sense of mystery, the trailer showed us a film about doppelgangers arriving in red jumpsuits to terrorize an amiable family led by Lutpita Nyong’o and Winston Duke.

The rest of the story is based on their survival.

I will start by saying I did not enjoy this film, it was shot well and competently by Peele but it was tedious in many ways and took a long time to get to the action. The problem with slow builds is that you actually have to let them build, and when Peele constantly allows the tension to be broken by Dukes gurning jokester or by the overall uneven humorous tone, its hard to stay invested. This films tonal shifts really walk the line between ridiculous and creepy and so when you have fantastical things happening you run the risk of people laughing at what is meant to be scary. My pulse didn’t quicken above a pleasant resting rate throughout the entirety of this movie.

Though not everyone will agree with me, I also found Nyong’o’s acting so over the top with all the wide eyed shocked looks that she did throughout the film that I found it difficult to take her seriously. Having seen the film to its conclusion and understanding the final twist, her acting made a tiny bit more sense on reflection, however you have to watch the entire film to get to that point.

It reminded me of the acting of Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschamel in ‘The Happening’ where they were asked to behave as if they were children; it was a symbolic move on the part of director M. Night Shamalayan who wanted them to appear as childlike innocence in the face of natures wraith. It didn’t pay off in that film as people did not understand what the actors were doing and it just came across as bad acting.  For me it didn’t pay off in this film either, when you take these kinds of risk you have to accept that sometimes it won’t work and for me didn’t.

There are also some silly decisions made in the script that caused more unintentional laughs such as a scene near the beginning where Nyong’o is handcuffed to a glass table. Now for some reason she behaved as if that glass table was concreted to the floor and she was unable to get across the room to the fire poker she wanted to use as a weapon. People in my audience laughed their heads off as did I because, well that’s just ridiculous, particularly when you follow up with her snapping the table leg as if it’s a matchstick.

 

And that is the crux of the problem that I have with this film – it needs to make sense within its own universe and unfortunately the more you think about it and nitpick it and question things, the less it makes sense that way. I like the social commentary, I like the ideas behind it, I think there’s something inherently creepy about your own doppelgänger – a being unrecognisable in some sort of inherently alien and yet so familiar way; but it’s like Peele had all these great ideas and then just chucked them all in a bowl together and served them without making sure that they come together in a cohesive way, that they’re entertaining and that they make sense altogether.

 

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Take the rabbits for instance, now you cannot have that many rabbits in a huge room without food for the 24 hours after the revolution and have them still happily hopping about in that sterile hallway happy as peas in a pod.  Those rabbits would have been in horrible pain, suffering gut stasis and dying; I’m a vet nurse, I know these things. Rabbits can’t live that long without food without there being some sort of major health issue. Also animals defecate and I didn’t see any litter trays, I didn’t see any fresh food, I didn’t see any poop, so all those rabbits running around not pooping?? I call bullshit on that.

Another case in point, we are supposed to believe that the scientists who created these people just abandon ship for some reason. Now that doesn’t actually make any sort of logical sense. Why would the government invest money in something and then just leave it? What was the end game in the whole thing in the first place? and why would they not at least euthanise them before they left? there’s no way they would’ve left them running around underground (as if they’d all fit!) causing havoc and potentially being found by the enemy who could use them against their own government. They would have been euthanised. Now if Peele wanted to take care of this particular problem he could have shown ‘the tethered’ rising up and killing the scientists on the first step of their revolution. That would have taken care of that overlong and silly exposition scene, that I can accept and I could believe and it makes sense with the world we live in; but they just abandon them?

I call bullshit on that too.

Not to mention that making them dopplegangers of everyone makes no sense (Peele should have made it one family whose lives ‘the tethered’ just take over). And what was with the ‘Hands across America’ reference that no–one under 40 would understand? What were ‘the tethered’ rising up for? To hold hands in a lake? Really??

 

Did Jordan Peele suffer from second film malaise? Yes I believe he did.

I believe this film is nonsensical in many ways, there are plotlines that do not follow on from other plotlines, there are actions that come out of nowhere and then disappear again, it just didn’t work as a whole.

So I applaud the sentiment and I applaud the social commentary on the haves and have nots that was apparently the point of the film, but if you have to look it up to understand everything that he’s trying to say and even then you have to do a bit of mental gymnastics to make it all fit nicely, there is a problem with the film.

I’m still eagerly awaiting his next efforts but I will lower my expectations this time around.

 

4/10

Suspiria

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I wish I could have written this review directly after seeing the movie; but of course life gets in the way and time doesn’t allow it until days after the fact when all the feelings and thoughts have been gone through obsessively; all the words tumbling about in my mind struggling for the light, every response quietly catalogued and placed in their correct form. This will not be the meaty and meticulous reviews I wrote over and over in my fevered mind as I tried for sleep but instead was tormented by this deliciously dense film.

But I will do my best.

When a remake of Argento’s classic (and some say best) film Suspiria was announced, the horror world was up in arms of outrage.

Is nothing sacred? Why must ‘Hollywood’ digest these lightening-in-a-bottle films my community hold so dear only to spit out pale insipid versions of the stuff of so many nightmares and admirations?

“What’s wrong with just watching the original??” We all cry.

I, on the other hand, had seen Suspiria’s original incarnation quite late in my horror game and though aware of its pedigree and reverence (and general distrust of remakes) I was optimistic; after all this is not some James Wan hack job but a version by a truly gifted director in Call Me By Your Name’s Luca Guadagnino.

From the moment Susie Bannion (a powerful Dakota Johnson) arrives at The Markos School of Dance in Berlin things feel off kilter; an introduction featuring a barely recognizable Chloe Grace Moretz as the troubled Patricia and an even less recognizable Tilda Swinton as the tormented Dr. Josef Klemperer (in the first of the three roles she plays in this) tells us outright that we may be dealing with a witchy sort of academy; and through Patricia’s palpable terror and paranoia we learn that there is much to fear and perhaps no place is safe from their all-seeing gaze.

Susie is almost preternaturally skilled in dance, she aces her audition though the snobby madames judging her take great pains to point out her lack of references or training, and she is almost at once offered the lead by head dance teacher Madame Blanc (Swinton again, sublimely authoritive, sensual and vulnerable all at once). The previous lead, poor troubled Patricia has gone missing under mysterious circumstances that the women running the academy ascribe to her radical political leanings. You see the film is set in the 70s and Berlin is in turmoil with protests and historical hostage takings happening on the periphery of almost every scene, blasted from the small black and white TVs populating dorm rooms, whispered about by students. This tying of the real to the fantastical works well to ground the film in our world, to make immediate that which could feel fanciful.

Of course there is a big performance to prepare for and some other coven-desired act they are preparing Susie for too, though she doesn’t know that yet. Dr. Josef cant leave well enough alone, and friend Sara (Mia Goth – exquisite) is not swallowing the ‘Patricia is off making bombs’ story. Things are heading inexorably to a showdown, and what a gore-splattered showdown it is.

This is a rather linear examination of a plot that is stubbornly clouded, eking out its story in glimpses and flashes, dreams and glances; its thick with undercurrents both bloody and erotic. Like a jigsaw puzzle that only reveals its full glory once all disparate pieces are put in the right place, this is a film that languidly tells just enough and trusts its audience to pay attention and recall moments when the time is right. I really had a lot to unpack from this film once it was over.

The direction has a dreamy quality to it in all the ways that that can be expressed – sometimes graphic and shocking, sometimes hazy and lovely, it strongly reminded me of Polanski’s work, with Rosemary’s Baby in particular coming to mind. The music by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke drapes itself about the film like a comfy cardigan that wants to ease you into what you’re seeing with assurances that all is ok, even when it isn’t – it sets quite the transcendent tone.

The acting across the board by an all female cast is nothing short of wonderful, all are believable, all give nakedly honest performances which throw off self-consciousness with abandon.

And this is the root of what I liked best – this felt an inherently female story. Not the delicate, feminine type of ‘female’ that we have grown accustomed to on film, but real ‘female-ness’; all the rawness of it, the terror of vulnerability, the forced familiarity with blood and flesh and our bodies’ complexities, the connections amongst us, the animal physicality, the horror, sensuality and unabashed fucking beauty of being a woman. I can’t say that’s something I’ve felt in a film before, and if I have, I can’t recall it.

I felt this film in my guts and sinew, in my sex and my power, in my nightmares and my smallness and my sweat.

It worked for me. It worked on many levels.

And I’m watching those witches weave their spells and change the world.

And all I can think is “I love this, I love this, I love this”.

 

9/10

 

 

 

Suspiria trailer

The Best Films of 2018

  1. American Animalsamerican-animals-poster Based on a true story, this tale of four high school kids out to commit the ultimate heist was brilliant from start to finish. From its unique screenplay that is a splice of actual world documentary with the people involved reflecting on their choices, and re-enactments as feature film with a cast at the top of their game (Evan Peters is always so good and here he’s even better). This is by turns dreamy, frenetic, funny, thrilling, anxiety inducing and painfully real. Not sure I’ve ever seen a film address the consequences of actions quite this thoroughly before, this one really stayed with me. American Animals trailer

 

2. BlacKkKlansman87074-m                                 I have to admit I’ve never been much of a Spike Lee fan, finding his films preachy and divisive in ways I found hard to connect to; his name attached to a film usually would give me pause rather than elation. But this film turned that trepidation completely on its head because this is one hell of a movie! Another film based on a true story, this tells of rookie cop Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) going undercover in the heart of the 70s to infiltrate the reprehensible Klu Klux Klan, it also details the rise of the Black Panthers and the racial struggles that gripped America then. With some hip music, clever script, vibrant direction and pitch perfect performances from a stellar cast, this film had me gripped from the get go. The sobering coda however reminds us that the war is far from over. BlacKkKlansman trailer

3. Hereditaryhereditary-poster-featured-image-750x400The scariest film I have seen in a long time, the script here focuses on a family at a crossroads, a family doomed to repeat and embrace the demons from its past. The screenplay and direction is astounding especially considering this was a debut; Toni Collette gives a tour de force performance and if she doesn’t at least get a nomination for what I think is the best performance since Meryl Streep in Sophie’s Choice, than the Oscars have well and truly gone to the dogs. Horror these past years seems as if it wants to give you a few good jump scares and send you home doing that nervous giggle to yourself, happy that “its just a movie”. Hereditary wants to do no such reassuring coddling, this is no thrill ride – this is a film that wants to fuck with you, give you nightmares, truly horrify. It’s powerful, depressing, and unforgettable. Hereditary trailer

4. Call me by your namemaxresdefault-6we all remember our first love… alternatively float-on-cloud wonderful and exquisitely painful. This film explores those feelings, the fact that the romance is between two men and set in gloriously sunbathed Italy just adds to the languorously seductive tale. Timothee Chalamet gives the performance that should have won best actor at the Oscars last year, even just for that perfectly realised final shot that holds his face so nakedly. The scene near the end between father and son makes me cry every time. Gorgeous. Call me by your name trailer

5. First Reformedweb reformedThis world is a pretty screwed up place, there are parts of the planet crying out for relief from the human scourge that spreads across it daily. How do you hold that knowledge at the same time as worshipping and trusting in a supposedly loving and benevolent god? How about if you are a priest slowly losing his faith and unsure what to do to make the world a better place? Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver) has crafted an unusual love story with a questioning and troubled heart. Sometimes shocking, sometimes studied, but always interesting, it’s refreshing to watch something that I have no idea where it will go. And Ethan Hawke is simply mesmerising in his struggle. Fearless. First Reformed trailer

6. A Quiet Placehero_A-Quiet-Place-2018A family survives in a post alien world where they are being hunted by creatures that use their sense of hearing to track prey. Emily Blunt is a revelation as the pregnant matriarch of the family unit. This was creepy, warm-hearted, and the most tense I’ve been at the moves all year – what a ride! A Quiet Place Trailer

7. Bohemian Rhapsodybohemian rhapsody-filmweb-panelRami Malek you beautiful man. Freddy Mercury comes to fabulous life in this funny, generous, knowing and musical celebration of a most remarkable band. The direction by Brian Singer is inspired and you can’t help but get sucked into grinning like an idiot when they belt out some of their greatest songs. Bohemian Rhapsody trailer

8. Summer of 84p_ho00006136Like Goonies meets Rear Window this ‘80s set ‘kids suspect a neighbour is a killer’ film seemingly came out of nowhere so I went in with little expectation. The film itself is a loving nod to the best decade without overegging the references, the kids aren’t all likable, the story doesn’t go the way you expect for his kind of film. And the ending truly shocked me. Summer of ’84 trailer

9. Spiderman into the Spiderversespider_verse_2.png.jpegI’m not really into superhero films and I really don’t like kids films or care for animation but this movie was so good I forgot all that and had an absolute blast. Laughed so hard my stomach hurt, the only misstep being the pig character, but everything else was so right I could forgive it. Spiderman into the Spiderverse trailer

10. You Were Never Really Hereyou_were_never_really_hereThis is a slow burn movie that you need to be ready to absorb and digest over time. Joaquin Phoenix who can sometimes be less than warm on screen is never more watchable than as a damaged veteran who now spends his life tracking down missing girls. Uber violent, dense, intriguing and beautifully lensed.    You Were Never Really Here trailer

11. Papillonpapillon-movie-trailer-2018Yes it’s a remake of a classic and perhaps its unfair of me to include a film of which I have not seen the original but taken on its own merit this film really stuck with me. Telling of the real life false imprisonment of Henri Charriere in the 1930’s to the French Guiana hell that was their gaol, the performances by Charlie Hunnam and Rami Malek are brilliant. The locations, set design and that wonderful cinematography are all beautifully realised. Gritty, compelling and ultimately very moving. Papillon trailer

  1. Ideal Home – thumbnailTwo gay guys (Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan – both hilarious) are lumbered with the grandson of Coogans character and try to make the best of it. While sounding like heart-warming kid stuff this is far from it, the adult relationship takes centre stage and is as difficult and painful and real as seen in any drama; its also very very funny. Ideal Home trailer

 

13. Love, Simonlove-simon.jpg Coming of age and coming out combine in this funny, sweet, and much needed gentle comedy. Its like John Hughes came back to life for all the teenagers who don’t identify as straight and made this filmic love letter just for them. Love, Simon trailer

14. Brawl in Cell Block 99 – a3905705667_10.jpgBrutal, extreme violence and a powerhouse central performance by a surprisingly great Vince Vaughn make this film a stand out in the crowd. Kinetic, mesmerising and downright nasty, this is genre film-making for fans of ‘70s exploitation cinema. Brawl in Cell Block 99 trailer

15. DownsizingDOWNSIZINGWith a quirky central idea and a precociousness that recalls Wes Anderson for me, this film had more to say than I expected it to. With a fine line on the destruction we humans create and a sad acceptance of our ‘shortcomings’ this went in tangents I never expected but truly enjoyed. Downsizing trailer

16. I, TonyaI-Tonya-poster-—-Image-courtesy-of-Neon.jpgWith a ferociously confident Margot Robbie tearing up the screen as the titular Tonya Harding (my pick for best actress at last years Oscars) this comedy/biography never fails to be both funny and heartbreaking all at once. Form your own opinion over her guilt but by the end of this movie, her harsh punishment, particularly after all you’ve seen of her life, seems unfathomably cruel. I, Tonya trailer

17. Vice220px-vice_(2018_film_poster)Much more accessible than Adam McKays previous work (The Big Short) but with the same methods of exposition coming together more harmoniously here, this biography of Dick Cheneys rise to power and his damaging choices with far-reaching consequences is both fascinating and anger-inducing. Amazing performances from the all-star cast make it impossible to look away. Vice trailer

18. Searching – film-searching-bikin-stres-BKQA8ExCON.jpg John Cho (always good) plays the father who’s daughter is missing, he breaks into her laptop to help find and discovers that maybe he didn’t know her as well as he thought. This thriller that’s also about connections and our failure to be present in another’s life happens entirely on screens. The beauty of the direction is that while you start the film acutely aware you are looking at a computer screen, by the time Margot goes missing you are so absorbed that central conceit melts away. Clever. Searching trailer

19. Only The Bravescreen-shot-2017-07-19-at-11-07-11-am.pngBased on the true story of elite fire-fighters in small town America, this could easily have been a hokey midday-movie sobfest. Instead it’s a carefully crafted ode to the actual people who risk their lives everyday. Real characters and real danger; this one packs one hell of an emotional punch. Only The Brave trailer

 

20. Shot Callerimages-6A newly released prisoner realises that every door is closed to him except the ones that may just lead him straight back to jail. A simple film with a hard message about how experiences change us and not always for the better, about how some paths are set in stone and cannot be veered from, about the destructive nature of regret and it calls for a major overhaul of the US prison system. Shot Caller trailer

21. Every dayImage-1-900x900.pngThis sci-fi romance was not something I ever thought I’d like. The story of a shy young lady who falls for someone who transforms into someone different everyday, it asks some very interesting questions about sexuality, personal responsibility, identity, and the ability of love to really overcome any obstacle (as many people believe). This was fascinating and illuminating, the speech about the future near the films finale made me cry at its honesty. Lovely and sad. Every Day trailer

 

 

Honourable Mentions

Sweet Virginia – Down home crime noir with a sympathetic central performance by Jon Bernthal

Breathe – The first film I can recall about a major disability that was light instead of heavy, a joyous celebration of life

Last Flag Flying – Male friendship especially in older men, is not something often portrayed honestly on film but this story of old buddies reuniting nails it

Open House – A film that really surprised me.. its scarily plausible and the nastiness at the end was well earned

Avengers Infinity Wars – The addition of the Thor from ‘Ragnarok’ and the Galaxy Guardians brought just the right amount of brevity to get through what can sometimes be insufferable seriousness.. I also really dug Josh Brolins ‘ends justify the means’ villain

Hostiles – Starting with a devastating tragedy this is the best western to come out last year.. great cast.. great characters

Thoroughbreds – Cold and calculating story about two teenage girls out to commit the perfect murder. Savage, intelligent and darkly comic.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom – One of the first in the JW canon to address our responsibilities to those we create and deem to ‘care’ for… I also think the twist was a stroke of genus.. but do NOT make me think of that brontosaurus!

 

Disappointments

The Shape of Water – Mean-spirited and ugly ‘fairy-tale’ full of plotholes

The Commuter – Stupid, obvious and embarrassing for Liam Neeson

The Post – Dull as dishwater, women’s liberation as a cure for insomnia

Venom – Just plain weird and wrong.

A Star is Born – An entitled mansplainer takes ingénue under his wing, gets upset when she is successful – how ‘romantic’!

Black Panther – Boring titular character tries to make sense of a film that contradicts itself at every turn, underwhelming.

Crazy Rich Asians – Apart from the diversity card (which is important) every other card this film holds we have seen done before, and better.

 

The worst film of this, or any other, year

The 15:17 to Paris

This film needed a category all its own.. I cannot believe this movie even got made; the worst dialogue I have ever heard in a big screen movie, and the worst ‘acting’. Its also very very boring. Not even so bad its good, this can only be sat through with the help of a friend to distract from the filmic abortion that you are witnessing.

 

 

Halloween

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Bear with me folks because I’m going to say something controversial; although I recognise the original Halloween is an influential horror treasure, upon re-watching it within the last few years I found it far from the masterpiece I had remembered. In fact, it seemed to be almost littered with plot holes and inconsistencies as well as poor characterisations.

Halloween original review video

Michael Myers himself is of course a horror movie icon, and the music still so effectively creepy all these decades later, but I cannot in all honesty say it’s a film that has stood the test of time.

Now if that declaration has your horror toes curling in outrage perhaps it’s best to duck out of this review now, as it’s only gunna offend you more from this point onwards.
I approached the new Halloween with some trepidation; after all, as previously stated I no longer hold Halloween as a masterpiece and the many, many sequels were just diminishing returns on the fondly remembered original. But I must admit that Michael Myers has always held a certain degree of gravitas that Freddy Kruger and even Jason Voorhees can only dream of, having descended into almost comic iterations of themselves. 

This latest version of Halloween chooses to ignore the sequels that followed the first John Carpenter release in 1978 and continue the story from where the original left off. It means there’s no ‘Laurie Strode is Michaels sister’ intrigue, just a random evil-doer stalking teens (and one in particular for no discernible reason) one fateful Halloween night. This does present a problem for me and was one of the many issues I had with the original which was never designed to be an ongoing series but a stand-alone film – why did Michael so single-mindedly and determinedly target Laurie? It seemed so deeply personal that I found it hard to accept it was random.

 

halloween-movie-trailer-2018

However, I have gone off track. In this, the next chapter we are forty years past the harrowing events of That Night. Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis) is now a recluse, sharpening her skills for a confrontation her PTSD tormented mind is certain to come; though Michael has been institutionalized since his killing spree. Laurie is estranged from her daughter, Karen (Judy Greer) who, much like John Connor in T2, harbors resentment towards her mother for the ‘survivalist’ way she was raised; but Laurie enjoys a close relationship with her granddaughter, Allyson (Andi Matichak) who has nothing but sympathy for her troubled grandmother.

The fraught but always believable relationship between the three generations of women is definitely the films strength, without our investment here the events that befall them would hold no weight and it’s a testament to those involved that the fine strands of familial loyalty and combativeness are so well drawn.

Into Michaels sphere step hapless journalists Aaron (Jefferson Hall) and Dana (Rhian Rees) who wish to document a close encounter with the killer, and perhaps delve into the after-effects of that ill-fated night.

Of course, they know not what risks they take and what they help to unleash inside the long-dormant killer until its too late.

There is an escape and Halloween is once again a terrifying night for the innocent citizens of Haddonfield.

 

The inclusion of the documentarians is a great idea but I wish director David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche) had done more with them, and also not given Aaron the ham-fisted melodramatic dialogue that recalled some of the more silly theatrics of Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance); indeed, any institution that uses terms such as ‘evil’ and ‘monster’ should probably excuse itself from psychiatric medicine altogether.

Aside from this faux pas, there is much to enjoy here, when the familiar strains of the theme music start, the nods to the old whilst adding density to the present, that white mask of malevolence that sends a shiver down your spine.

Some set pieces are very effective – the gas station bathroom scene is much creepier and nastier than expected, Michaels reign of violence so much more brutal than the PG horrors that have hit the multiplexes of late have led us to expect.

Once again, as per the original, the physicality of Michael Myers adds to his intimidating presence; he casts a long and violent shadow over Laurie’s life; and when you see him stride through homes and backyards reducing people to pulp in his wake, you can see why he has had such a hold over her – he is the Boogeyman indeed.

Halloween-2

Reminding me of why my feminist heart loves horrors so much, this film (like Insidious: The Last Key with  75 year old Lyn Shaye front and center) features a 60 year old woman in the lead, and in fact has three lead women, passing the Bechdel test with flying colors.

Jamie herself gives a world-weary, edgy, thousand-yard stare performance that only someone as wonderfully skilled could deliver. She is the scarred heart of this film, by turns broken and battle-ready; it’s quite the commanding turn.

For me this film corrected all the issues I had with the original, and I personally would rather watch this again; as apart from the retro coolness and birth of an icon, what I see in the first Halloween more than anything is its failings.

Genuinely chilling with a satisfying ending, I liked this; just please no sequel!

 

8/10

Halloween trailer

Hereditary

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I hate The Conjuring Universe – insipid tired jump scares disguising themselves as real horror, homogenizing what I love and doing a massive disservice to the genre by flooding the market with these bland-fests that mold and shape the public perception of horror until even these cold serves of mediocrity seem good to them.  In this list I include the Annabelle series, the Saw movies, The Nun, The Crooked Man, Lights Out and of course, The Conjuring movies themselves – well acted and well made but wet squibs all the same.

After last years epic horror resurgence with Get Out, It, The Black Coats Daughter, Happy Death Day and mother! we finally were seeing a full range of different and intriguing horrors; luckily 2018 is shaping up to be just as good, starting with the excellent A Quiet Place and now Hereditary.

Annie, (Toni Collette) has just lost her mother after a long battle with illness during which time they mostly mended the huge rift between them, though with some understandable trepidation on Annie’s part.  We meet her family – meek and accommodating dad Steve (Gabriel Byrne, pulling a sharp turn on barely contained worry), teenage son Peter (Alex Wolff) and the possibly ‘on the spectrum’ though never discussed disquieting younger daughter Charlie (a remarkable Milly Shapiro).

The scenes of family life are deliberately slow and studied, with themes of grief, guilt, and family history exposed in the minutiae.

Annie is an artist who recreates scenes and moments from her life in miniature tableaus to be displayed in a distant gallery, far removed from their seemingly idyllic life in the countryside. Details are eked out over phone calls from the gallery gently and then increasingly more insistent about when they will receive their next installation from her, from the scenes Annie chooses to depict in her artwork, the half conversations between husband and wife, the obvious unease son Peter feels around his mother – a symptom of his feeling unwanted and resented by her, the care and concessions the family makes for Charlie’s obvious challenges.

Suddenly a further tragedy occurs and it is one of the most shocking things I’ve seen in cinema. It is a catalyst for the second part of the film where things get a lot more unpleasant, terrifying and anxiety-inducing, until it culminates in a truly heart-stopping finale that leaves you reeling in your seat as the credits roll.

There are some horrific scenes here; acts and incidences that you want to recoil from because they are so damn raw and gut wrenching, but that’s the point, and I celebrate the achievement. The script explores the damaging effects of a lack of communication, family secrets and things passed down you cannot escape from, mental health and its implications on those who surround the sufferer, and grief and how destructive it can be.

The performances are all perfect, from the always-excellent Ann Dowd as friend Joan, to the main cast. Alex Wolff is quietly devastating as poor Peter – his face conveys so much and this is a truly committed and outstanding performance I did not see coming from the Jumanji 2017 star. Toni Collette manages to surpass even my high expectations, she is always amazing but her work here is superlative; almost too real, watching her feels like voyeurism, she’s that good.

The cinematography is clever, the sets exquisitely detailed, the direction so much more assured than you would ever hope to see in a debut.

Writer/Director Ari Aster said he wanted to make a film that would “upset people on a very deep level, to traumatize them”, the way horror used to give us actual nightmares not just a few polite jumps before sending us back to our lives, and that is what horror has been needing.

Horror should not be about being liked, it should be about making something that will last. I see horrors because they are one of the only genres that effect you long after the movie is over, and I have despaired of this quality for many years now, watching complacent horror after complacent horror in which only a handful really want to make an impact on your life and the genre as a whole.

I’m trilled to say that Hereditary succeeds in its goal to present something not just scary, but truly horrifying.

See it but be warned – you may not be the same afterwards.

 

 

8.5/10

Hereditary Trailer

A Quiet Place

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After months of teaser trailers that had piqued my interest to an ‘I must see this movie’ level of anticipation, I rushed out to see the first advance screening at my local cinema; enticing my friend Shellie who is the same as me when it comes to a fun night out – always up for it!

I knew that the essential plot of this film concerned itself with a country bumpkin family terrorized by something or someone who is drawn by sound, hence the title of the film. The only way to survive is with silence. I wondered how this would play out in a cinema full of popcorn eating teenagers, the cynical youth of today who have grown surrounded by explicit, instantly gratifying horror films; fed a steady diet of jump scares. The best horror relies heavily on atmosphere but the fact that this film would be so dependent on silence/sound/ambience made it something easy to ruin. I took my seat with trepidation.

But, I am happy to say, my fears were unfounded.

Beginning with a shocking tragedy that took my breath away, this film announces in its opening minutes that it will pull no punches.

Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe are the Abbotts, surviving and thriving after a cataclysmic alien event that (as gleaned from the many abandoned newspapers and scrapbooks laying about the town and their home) released blind creatures on the earth that hunt with sound; and its this family who we spend our time with.

Each character has their own cross to bear, their own weakness or situation to overcome, and each character is explored and understood. This fleshing out of personalities is essential in good horror and why so many fail to raise the pulse – if I don’t care about them or cant relate to them then I don’t really care if they die.

With half the cast rounded out by children the stakes are all that much higher and you can’t help but worry about them every time they are not under the watchful eye of their vigilant parents.

The attention to detail in this film is impeccable, from the carefully laid sand trail leading to town for quiet steps, to the fire lit up at night reflected back at them from points across the mountain as other families light up to let them know they are not alone; from the warning lights strung throughout the field to alert incoming family to danger at home, to the woolen monopoly pieces and soft fabric plates with no cutlery.

The acting is all well above average with Blunt and Simmonds particularly effecting. The direction by Krasinski himself is spare and resourceful – every shot is important and there is no fat to trim on either the script or the film itself, he makes every shot count.

There is emotion here too; with more than one scene causing me to well up which is a rare thing in horror.

The creatures are barely glimpsed at first and as the movie progresses we are indulged with more and more of a look-see until they are finally unveiled in all their glory. They are unlike anything seen before, alien without feeling too science fiction, horror without feeling like something that couldn’t actually exist – well done.

But oh god the tension! This film was almost unbearably tense at times, I nearly wanted to cheat and get my phone out to see who survives, but I’m mighty glad I didn’t as watching it unfold was a heart-pounding, seat-gripping pleasure.

This is frightening, intelligent, moving, fascinating and chock full of anxiety inducing dread.

The years best horror so far by a landslide.

 

9/10

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a quiet place trailer 

 

My Top Ten Feminist Horror Films

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A lot of people find it hard to see how a person can be both a feminist and a horror fan, pointing to the countless nudity and violence against women that exists in horror. For me, violence against women is a fact of the world we live in, women are more likely to be victims of violence than men and to expect horror to shy away from that fact and show a different truth seems unfair and naive. Unbalanced female nudity is something that unfortunately plagues all film genres and absolutely makes me livid – see the recently released Blade Runner 2049 for one of the most recent and heinous examples of this practice. It is something that is certainly not unique to the horror genre.

What is unique is the high number of films featuring women in leading roles, women being heroes, women being resourceful and fighting and surviving. Women defeating a seemingly unbeatable foe and doing it using their own wiles and ingenuity.

Here’s to celebrating women in horror!

 

  1. Ginger Snaps, 2000

 

Coming of age is hard and fraught with a whole slew of adolescent angsty issues that make all those raging hormones go into hyperdrive and cause even the smallest moment of humiliation or self-doubt become an all-consuming tragedy. This is the macrocosm that is high school; and here, with two goth sisters struggling to embrace their outcast status, it is even harder when one of them is bitten by a werewolf and begins to transform into something much scarier than an adult. The analogies are pretty thick here – puberty changes you into a hairy aggressive beast just like the werewolf, she is bitten and begins transforming on the day she starts her period, which happens to be on a full moon. This is a rite-of-passage film told from a female perspective which is something not seen as frequently, it also explores the relationship between sisters and having to make decisions and choices as a woman rather than a girl.

Modest, interesting and fresh.

 Ginger Snaps Trailer

 

9. The Slumber Party Massacre, 1982

 

Those slasher movies of the ‘80s were full of buxom beauties lining up to be slayed, usually after finally succumbing to sex (as we all know that’s the root of all evil!) Slumber Party Massacre, despite its lurid title, made up for some of this by creating a world where the young ladies have to work together with their combined ingenuity leading to the eventual, inevitable, killing of the killer. Interesting that the murderer uses a very phallic drill to kill his victims, interesting that the girls discuss sport and friendship and school, not just boys as most films believe is the sole pre-occupation of women. The nudity is to be taken as satire, the film a comment on the ‘male gaze’ of Hollywood.

However you choose to interpret this film it is a neat little slasher written and directed by women (Amy Jones and Rita Mae Brown).

 

The Slumber Party Massacre Trailer 

 

  1. Carrie, 1976

 

Another film that equates puberty and menstruation with female empowerment; Carrie starts right off the bat with THAT shower scene and never lets up with the torment and bullying of Carrie White, whose only crime it appears is having an evangelistic fanatical mother and those strange telekinetic powers that awaken with her first period. Its not all about uterus’s and cycles in the female world but lets face it, they take up a lot of our time and their concern is a part of our lives for up to 50 years so they have a role in feminist horror.

What’s great here is not just the gradual taking back of her own identity but also the courage to stand up to her terrifying mother and actually allow someone (Tommy) into her circle that up until now has only been a hiding place for one, the quiet growth in Sissy Spacek’s performance is quite remarkable. It’s also notable that Tommy is allowed to be a more human character than expected – he doesn’t want to take her out but he is a decent man and wants to help right a wrong, in the end his kindness wins through and he connects with her in a lovely way. The final reel and its many heart-wrenching and violent scenes are all the more powerful for having hoped so much for Carrie. Stephen King says this story is ultimately telling what men fear about women’s sexuality, but in the film the men are mostly impotent and it’s a few of her fellow women who want to destroy her. Not every woman is a feminist.

 

Carrie Trailer 

 

  1. The Descent, 2005

 

There are two different versions of this film – the original UK version and the slicker Hollywood version – please watch the UK version, the ending changes the whole movie in a way that gives the film much more value and context then assumed. This is the story of a group of long term female friends who go away for a cave jumping bonding weekend and discover that all is not safe once you get beneath the surface, in more ways than one.

The women here are able to interact with dialogue that feels real and intimate, they have an ease that tells of their many years of friendship, and you believe their connections from the get go. This is a story told from a female perspective and the quality of their support of each other through trauma, how they each deal with what happens without resorting to excessive stereotyping is commendable.

The horror is also exceptional – visceral and nasty and undeserved , its shocking and very well done.

That ending though…

 The Descent Trailer

 

  1. Rosemary’s Baby, 1968

 

Rosemary (played by Mia Farrow) and her husband move into a New York apartment with a very dark history, and it seems the devil has her earmarked for a ‘special’ task. Made in the ‘60s by Roman Polanski, the art direction and set design, the acting, and the dialogue reeking of traditional gender roles are very much a product of its time. On the surface a meek housewife seems an odd choice for a feminist horror but in her struggle for autonomy over her own body and destiny we see the bigger picture of how women have struggled for the same things universally. To see the awakening of confidence and surety in her is one of many pleasures to be gained from this masterpiece of cinema. Its also one of the best films to represent how friends rally when one of their own is unwell or in danger – the party scene displaying how Rosemary does not exist in a vacuum but has those who care about her outside the small cast of principles, something many horrors neglect to show. Rosemary is feminine, questioning, tenacious and ultimately, brave. She will do what she has to do to help her child, and motherhood with its many strengths is not something usually explored within horror – Rosemary’s Baby is one of a kind.

 Rosemary’s Baby Trailer

 

  1. Spring, 2014

 

This is a film that’s hard to explain. In the explaining it sounds ridiculous and a very different film then the one we are eventually gifted. This looks like one of those ‘arty’ atmospheric horrors except its not, not really – it is beautiful to observe but at its heart is about a blue collar guy who travels abroad and falls for a girl who may actually be an ancient beast that requires devouring humans to survive.

Just your average rom-com with a horror twist!

She is a compelling personality. This is a woman who is not looking to ‘settle down’, is comfortable with how she lives and doesn’t need a man to ‘fix;’ or ‘rescue’ her. When she finds herself falling for him she questions whether this is something she actually wants, whether this person is worth giving up the life she has enjoyed thus far. To see a female character treated in this way is a breath of fresh air, the equality making this film and their romance all the better for it. The horror is just an added bonus.

 Spring Trailer

 

  1. The Lords of Salem, 2012

 

Rob Zombie’s ode to witches is the tale of a female radio DJ who is slowly possessed after listening to a rock album mysteriously delivered to her in the mail. She chooses to play it over the airways and sets in motion the rise of the devil in Salem and re-awakens an ancient coven of witches. What sounds absurd is in actuality effective and creepy, the supernatural woven into the reality in such a way that finds the audience accepting more. This film is shot almost completely from the perspective of the main character (Heidi, played by Sheri Moon Zombie) which allows the audience to fully accept the possession storyline. The feminism comes from seeing a film completely from a female perspective and not needing to validate or undermine her experiences by diluting them with a male viewpoint – interesting and cool. The witches are not silly, over the top creations but seemingly realistic portrayals of those women demonized by the historic Salem Witch Trails. To even touch on how women were pilloried and murdered for perceived religious offenses in those times holds great responsibility for the film-maker, and Rob Zombie does a very respectable job here. Please also note the huge amount of threatening phallic symbolism – I do not believe in feminism as a dividing force amongst the genders but a unifying one, however the amount of ‘penis’ on display is interesting.

 The Lords Of Salem Trailer

 

  1. Black Christmas, 1974

 

The first slasher film, this Canadian classic about a group of sorority girls tormented by a killer in their attic is a brilliant horror film and one of my favorites, it is inventive, funny and creepy as hell.

It is also strongly feminist.

The main characters are obviously all female, what’s intriguing, especially for a slasher, is that all the characters are clearly delineated, nuanced and complex. These are real women with people who care for them, with lives that stretch before the film began; they are the closest to real people I’ve seen in a slasher horror, particularly as women are often reduced to eye candy in these types of films while the male characters are allowed to be ‘courageous’ or ‘smart’.

The final girl trope was not as relevant here as it has been in other horrors, because all the women get to be as well rounded as only she usually is.

No-one here is all bad or all good, just very very human.

It was also supremely brave of the film-makers to give the main protagonist an abortion storyline for which she is not vilified, particularly in light of abortion having only been legal for one year when this film came out.

Black Christmas Trailer 

 

  1. You’re Next, 2011

A horror comedy about home invasion that features a kick ass performance by Sharni Vinson takes my number one spot by a whisker. The family that are victims of said invasion are dysfunctional and vaguely unpleasant, the deaths savage and wince-inducing; and though I had some reservations about the tone of this film, I had no such issues with this character. She is a splendid creation and elevates the entire movie to the next level.

Sharni Vinsom (Home and Away) plays Erin, the tag along girl friend of one of the family members, her quiet beginnings belying her ultimate survival skills.

She is always believable, she is always cool, and she gets to keep her Australian accent.

You’re Next Trailer

 

  1. Hush, 2016

 

Mike Flanagan’s ‘Hush’ stars Kate Siegel as deaf-mute author Maddie who must defend her home against a knife-wielding stranger known only as ‘the man’ (John Gallagher Jr).

Starting with the fact that we have a resilient independent female living alone and supporting herself; she also displays strong friend and family bonds, her own needs/goals/future and is a complete person outside of the bonds of any relationship with a male character. She defends herself not only using the weapons she can fashion from household items but mainly with her own intelligence and forethought. Her projections as much a product of her work as an author as they are a product of her quick thinking. She is a fully realized female character who is allowed to be both feminine and also to exist outside of her femininity – something that is rarely seen in film.

It passes the Bechdel test with flying colours and is also, in my humble opinion, an awesome thrill ride of a movie – go watch it now!

 Hush Trailer

 

There are a lot of things I enjoy about horrors – the roller coaster ride, the reflection of current fears and events, the good vs evil basis of them all, but my favorite thing is the way a strong female protagonist (or two) has become the norm. Sure there are usually a bevy of barely dressed nymphomaniacs as well, but they are nearly always matched by an equally morally-bankrupt male counterpart (unlike a lot of other genres) and they usually both meet the same fate. Horrors allow women to be strong, fully realised characters who do not exist purely to fawn over the male lead or move the plot along, these characters have lives that extend beyond the film and horror does not demand that they lose their feminism in order to be a tough kick ass character.

‘These films reminded me of this unique quality in horror and for that I am grateful.