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Author: Josh Greally

Writer and filmmaker from Chesterfield. I recently completed my masters in directing film and television and have written film reviews for several smaller sites in the past. Films are my life, but I also enjoy writing, reading, listening to music and debating.
Editorials

A Halloween Buyer’s Guide for Film Lovers

October 5, 2019
key image for Halloween article

Halloween, the spookiest time of the year. When everyone likes to put on costumes, the cinema is jam-packed with new horror releases and everyone is stocking up on sweets for the trick or treaters. But if you’re a film lover why not treat yourself this year?

There’s plenty of things out there to satisfy the film lover this Halloween, so today we’re going to recommend five gift ideas to put a smile on your face.

Horror Festival Passes & Themed Screenings

What better way is there to celebrate this scary of year, than by watching as many horror movies as you can with a dedicated community of fans?

October and early November is a big time for horror festivals as well as themed film screenings. There are of course big names like Frightfest that have their own Halloween events but there are also smaller festivals like Celluloid Screams among many others that offer fantastic lineups and experiences for their audiences.

And you may also be able to find special themed events near you that allow you to experience a horror film in a genuinely spooky atmosphere. Such as in Churches, adding an extra layer to the horror experience.

These experiences drastically vary in price depending on how long you want your experience to be. But you’ll doubtlessly have a good time immersing yourself in the best of horror film culture.

Horror Movie Collectors Editions

As I have said before, every film fan loves collectors’ editions. And when it comes to horror films there’s no end of companies that pride themselves on releasing fantastic deluxe editions of great horror films.

You can choose from the likes of Arrow Video, 88 Films, Second Sight Films, Powerhouse Films, Studiocanal, Blue Underground, Eureka Entertainment and many more.

All of these companies pack their releases with special features, fantastic transfers and loving attention to detail that will give fans a great amount of insight and appreciation for their favourite films. And for the quality of these releases, they are well worth their asking price.

Horror Movie Costumes

Everyone likes to dress up for Halloween. So, it stands to reason that any film fan needs a great costume. Just find out what costume you want and then its time to get creative.

Remember the devil is in the details so be sure to think about the costume, the trimmings, the character props and any makeup that may be needed.

Costuming will, of course, vary in price depending on the quality you want and the level of detail you want to put into your outfit. But whether you’re buying from a costume store or buying induvial parts from the high street, you’re sure to bring out a lot of smiles on the big day.

Jason Voorhees fancy dress (Source: Montreal Comicon)

Horror Decorations

Another fun idea for movie lovers on All Hallows Eve is to decorate your house and get into the spirit of the season. And there are many creative ways to do this.

You can buy standees of famous horror movie characters to scare your guests. You can litter the place with props, replicas and fan-made decorations to give a spooky atmosphere. Or if you want to save some money you can make your own decorations?.

Why not make wanted posters to go in the window? Or carve a pumpkin in the likeness of a horror icon like Freddy, Jason or Pinhead?  The possibilities are endless.

Whatever you choose it will definitely help to bring your house to life this season.

Getting creative by carving horror icon Freddy Krueger in a pumpkin (Credit: VW Campin)

Horror Merchandise

And of course, every true film buff loves their movie memorabilia. And horror films have a number of great types of merchandise, in any price range, to gift to yourself, family and friends.

Whether it’s a replica of your favourite fictional killer’s weapon. A poster of your favourite spook film. Or something as simple as a themed mug.

Every film fan appreciates having something eye-catching to furnish their home and remind them of their favourite films.

Funko Pops are great gifts for every horror fan (credit: Josh Greally)

Conclusion

So there are a few ideas for how you can help add a little spice to a film lover’s Halloween. If you have any suggestions for cool things for film lovers to do this Halloween then tell us in the comments.

Also Read: A Christmas Buyer’s Guide for Film Lovers

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Reviews

Retro Review: Blade Runner 2049 (Spoilers)

September 18, 2019
Blade Runner 2049

The original Blade Runner has proved eerily predictive of many things for its 2019 setting. OK, there are no flying cars or high functioning androids. But the images of smog-choked streets, ruled by mega-corporations and a workforce that is treated as subhuman because of their origins feel very relevant today. And there was, of course, the unfortunate passing of actor Rutger Hauer. Who died in the same year that his character Roy Batty did.

With the first film making a monumental impact on popular culture, and it’s increasing relevance based on unfortunate happenstance I thought I would take the opportunity to look back at the long-awaited sequel to blade runner. Which picked up the story 30 years later and took 35 years to be released.

It’s always difficult making a sequel to critically acclaimed films, especially when they are released so long after the original. But during its release, Blade Runner 2049 was called one of the best sequels ever made. Perhaps even better than the original. But two years on does the sequel still stand as sturdily as its predecessor?

Synopsis

In 2049 old replicants (human-like androids used for manual labour) are being hunted down and killed by newer models. However, when K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant employed by the police to retire other replicants, discovers that a replicant was able to produce a child he begins to tug on the threads of the mystery. Eventually leading to him to the attention of Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and his nefarious forces. And into the path of former blade runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford).

What did I like?

Firstly, Blade Runner 2049 continues the originals trend for stunning visuals. Everything about this movie looks amazing. Whether it’s the set design that perfectly blends the futuristic, the modern and the mythical into a unique world that feels thematically appropriate for the characters and story or the beautiful Oscar-winning cinematography from Roger Deakins. Which makes every frame look like a piece of art. Or the special effects that never once look fake or out of place. Everything in this world feels authentic and organic, doing a lot to tell the story without dialogue.

The cast is also fantastic. Everyone does a great job inhabiting their roles. Making their characters feel like characters and not merely actors reciting lines to you. The standouts are Ryan Gosling, who does a great job inhabiting the stoic replicant K and Harrison Ford who reprises his iconic role as Rick Deckard; even with his comparatively limited screen time, Ford still manages to steal the show.

And like the first film, 2049 also concentrates on both weighty philosophical questions about identity, technology and corporate greed that feel truly relevant to today’s world. But it also incorporates spectacular action sequences. Which makes for a very entertaining and thought-provoking watch. There are some very interesting set pieces and concepts peppered throughout this film which will give you much to think about and remember long after the ending credits. Including, holographic AI and the question of their sentience. Underground replicant resistances and a tense fight scene taking place in a glitching hologram nightclub.

In fact, as its own standalone film, 2049 works quite well. Creating a fully functioning world with some good performance and great philosophical ambitions. While never forgetting to be an entertaining movie.

What did I not like?

However, as a sequel to Blade Runner (1982), 2049 really falls short. With the main problems being the story, pacing and characters.

2049’s story is unfortunately bogged down by lots of exposition. With several characters frequently explaining the plot to each other, something noticeably minimal in the original Blade Runner. And it never fails to draw the viewer out of the experience because of how obvious it is. The story is also rather lightweight because of the lack of significant consequences. For example, we are told that replicant reproduction will break the world. But aside from one scene with the replicant resistance, nothing in the film’s world indicates that our characters actions are having any impact. Lessening the tension of the film’s story.

There are also plot elements that feel extraneous e.g. K’s hologram girlfriend who can almost pass for being human. An interesting concept, but it serves no narrative purpose aside from illustrating that no one is special. Something which is already dealt with when K learns his true origins. This concept feels like padding. Which makes the narrative feel unfocused and causes the pacing to drag significantly.

Lastly, 2049 suffers from bland characterisation. K is a boring lead. He’s stoic and by-the-books, lacking the edge that made Deckard a compelling protagonist. The occasions when he emotionally conflicts with himself are too few and far between to make him engaging. And because he’s a virtually invulnerable replicant, the movie lacks any sort of tension on a character level. But the worst offender of flat characterisation are the villains. Niander Wallace is a typical capitalist with a god complex and Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) is your typical hard staring badass. Compared to Blade Runner’s replicants who had relatable goals, wanting more time to live their lives, these villains just come across as dull.

Verdict

Blade Runner 2049 is not a bad movie. The set design, cinematography and special effects are all fantastic. Nothing feels out of place in the world they’ve created, and it makes for very stimulating viewing. Everyone in the cast gives a good performance with Ryan Gosling really fitting the part of K and Harrison Ford doing particular justice to his iconic role from the original blade runner. And the blend of action and interesting concepts will definitely keep you entertained.

The problems come when you begin viewing the film as a sequel to blade runner. When faced with the memorable characters, cinematic storytelling and overall cohesiveness of the original, Blade Runner 2049 really feels like an unfocussed pale imitation.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Blade Runner 2049 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Harrison Ford: Nerf Herder or the Grave Robber?

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Editorials

Horror-ibly Funny Movie Titles

September 6, 2019
Humerous Scary Movie Scene

It’s difficult to find the right title for a movie. Movie titles have to give us some insight into a film, without giving too much away. Horror movies often use titles that conjure disturbing or frightening imagery. But because the genre focuses on thrills as well as chills sometimes filmmakers try something different. Employing enigmatic, weird, ironic and sometimes absurdly funny titles to intrigue audiences.

Today I’m going to look at 7 funny and absurdly titled horror movies, from a range of sub-genres and see if their plots are as weird as their titles. Well, let’s get to it.

When Nature Attacks: Snakes On A Plane (2006)

Synopsis: When a mob boss is due to be put on trial, he releases a mass of snakes on a plane to kill the chief witness and his FBI escort.

Trivia: With such an OTT title the film received a lot of attention online before its release. Production company, New Line Cinema, even allowed for reshoots to make the film more fan-pleasing. This resulted in the film going from a PG-13 to an R rating and the inclusion of Samuel L Jackson’s famous one-liner.

Samuel L Jackson has had enough of these monkey fighting snakes on this Monday to Friday plane

Monster: The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Synopsis: Upon moving into a new house, three college friends find that they’re being haunted by a mysterious entity called the Bye Bye Man. And the only way to get rid of him is not to say or think his name.

Trivia: The unthreateningly named villain is played by Doug Jones, Guillermo Del Toro’s frequent collaborator. Jones has acted in six of his films.

Doug Jones giving it his all as The Bye Bye Man

Zombie: Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972)

Synopsis: A group of thespians head to a deserted island. While there they dig up a corpse and use it to perform a mock ritual, which raises the dead. Will the actors survive? Or will they die? That is the question.

Trivia: This funny take on the zombie film marks both director Bob Clark and screenwriter Alan Ormsby’s debut in the horror genre. Clark would go on to helm Black Christmas (1974) and Ormsby went on to write cult favourites like Deathdream and contributed material to Disney’s Mulan.

The theatre troupe have a laugh and a joke with Orville the corpse

Possession: Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Synopsis: Once upon a time a demon fell in love with a woman and built a bed for her. But when she died the demon cried bloody tears onto the bed causing it to come to life and devour anyone unlucky enough to cross its path.

Trivia: With a title so on the nose you would think this movie would have done great business with b-movie enthusiasts back in the day. But despite the film having its print made in 1977 it didn’t have any official release until it’s 2003 home video debut, 26 years later.

Flesh-eating beds in Death Bed

Sci-Fi Horror: Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

Synopsis: When a meteor crash lands in a sleepy little town two teenagers investigate and discover that a group of monstrous alien clowns have come to earth. But no one believes them. Can they stop the killer klowns before everyone dies?

Trivia: The film was directed, produced and written by the Chiodo Brothers (Charles Stephen and Edward). Charles also contributed to the production and Klown design and the brothers have been teasing the release of a sequel since 2012.

The base of the Killer Klowns From Outer Space

Christmas: Santa’s Slay (2005)

Synopsis: 1000 years ago Santa Claus (son of Satan) lost a curling match with an angel and was cursed to be nice to children for 1000 years. But time is up. And Santa is about to start killing everyone, naughty or nice.

Trivia: Bill Goldberg, who plays Santa, met his wife, stunt performer Wanda Ferraton on the set of Santa’s Slay.

Santa delivers a millenias worth of anger to the naughty and nice

Cult: The Death Wheelers/Psychomania (1973)

Synopsis: “The living dead” motorbike gang have discovered a way to come back from the dead and become immortal, simply believing hard enough that they will come back. The gang later commit suicide and return from the dead, much more violent than before. Can anyone stop these emboldened, immortal delinquents?

Trivia: The film carries the unfortunate distinction of being legendary actor George Sanders final role before his death.

The Living Dead gang go for a joy ride

Have any of these silly titles piqued your interest? Or do you have your own favourite horror movies with funny titles? Let us know in the comments. Happy watching.

Also Read: 5 Horror Films and the Real Events Behind Them

Editorials

IT: A Recap and Exploration

August 24, 2019

With IT: Chapter 2 being released soon, today we are going to do a quick refresher on the events of the first movie and have a quick look at what the second film has in store for us. So join us as we recap and explore the IT saga.

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

IT (2017) Summary

Primarily set in 1989, IT told the story of seven children in the town of Derry. Following them as they came of age, found friendship, love and confronted their fears. Which included various Derry citizens and a child-snatching, shapeshifting creature that took the form of both the kids worst fears and a demonic clown called Pennywise.

Each child had their own goals. Bill Denborough (Jaeden Martell), wanted to know the fate of his younger brother Georgie. Beverly Marsh (Sophia Lillis) had to escape from her abusive father and come to terms with growing into womanhood. Eddie Kaspbrack (Jack Dylan Grazer) needed to break away from his overprotective mother and overcome his fear of germs. Ritchie Tozier (Finn Wolfhard) had to battle his self-centred nature and prove himself as a true friend. Ben Hanscome (Jeremy Ray Taylor) and Mike Hanlon (Chosen Jacobs) had to deal with horrific abuse regarding race and weight and prove themselves as people. Ben by confessing his love for Beverly and Mike by standing up to injustice. And Stan Uris (Wyatt Oleff) had to learn that not everything has a logical explanation.

The Losers Club from IT (2017)

By the end, all the kids achieved closure. Bill accepted Georgie’s death, Beverly and Eddie stood up to their parents, Mike stood up to school bully Henry Bowers, Ben confessed his feelings for Beverly. Ritchie fought for his friends in the face of certain death and Stan accepted the surreality of the threat they were facing. Allowing the kids to defeat Pennywise, though he disappeared soon after. The children then made a pact that if It ever resurfaced, they would come back and destroy it together. The film ended with everyone going their separate ways and Bill and Beverly confessing their love for each other.

IT Chapter 2: The Cast

As the new movie takes place 27 years later all our principal characters have new actors to play their older counterparts. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain will be taking over the roles of Bill and Beverly. Bill Hader is taking on the role of Ritchie. Eddie will be played by James Ransone. Jay Ryan will take over for Ben. Mike will be played by Isaiah Mustafa and Stan by Andy Bean. But Bill Skarsgard will be returning to continue his portrayal of Pennywise.

The leads of It Chapter 2. From left to right Jay Ryan, Andy Bean, James Ransone, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain & James McAvoy

McAvoy, Chastain, and Hader are the standouts in the new cast purely for both their marketability and how well their star images fit with their characters, the likeable relatable leader, the driven and charismatic leading lady, and the lovable buffoon. But the other actors have all done respectable work in film and television, which suggests these characters are in safe hands. And of course, everyone is looking forward to seeing Skarsgard return to his iconic turn as Pennywise.

Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise

IT Chapter 2: Other

Behind the scenes, director Andy Muschietti and writer Gary Dauberman are both returning. Although this time there is no writing input from Cary Fukunaga or Chase Palmer, who wrote the early script that the first film was based on. Hopefully, the new film will retain the same quality writing as the first without their involvement.

And with a reported 169-minute runtime, Chapter 2 looks set to explore a lot. Including potentially what happened to Henry Bowers, with actor Teach Grant playing the older Bowers. And the trailers have teased that we could get to see Pennywise’s backstory. Or at least the basis for him. Which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how mysterious you like your villains.

Conclusion

With a solid foundation, a good cast, the same director and one of the same writers as the first movie and some intriguing mysteries in the marketing, IT: Chapter 2 looks set to continue the first movies prestige as one of the best Stephen King adaptations in recent years. Will it stick the landing? We’ll just have to wait until September 6th to find out.

IT: Chapter 2 (Official Trailer)

Also Read: 5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them

Editorials

5 Horror Films And The Real Events Behind Them

August 17, 2019
Horror movies based on real events

“Based on a true story”. While those words should always be taken with a pinch of salt these claims of truthfulness do contribute to the audience’s experience. The idea that what you are watching isn’t far removed from reality makes the narrative feel more real and immediate, which horror films need to be effective. And these real-world horrors should be known alongside the movies they inspired.

So, today we are looking at the real-life stories behind five famous horror films. Warning, there is upsetting content ahead.

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) & Ed Gein

In 1973 Sally and Franklin Hardesty and their friends head to Texas to check that the Hardesty’s grandfathers’ grave hasn’t been the victim of a series of grave defacements and robberies. But while there, they run afoul of a group of vicious killers’ intent on killing them all.

Texas Chain Saw Massacre drew a lot of inspiration from the story of Ed Gein. Gein was a killer and graverobber who operated in Wisconsin in the late 40s and early 1950s.

Gein was apprehended in 1957 as a murder suspect. When the police searched his home they discovered many disturbing sights. These included lampshades and masks made of human skin and a heart in a plastic bag near the stove. This lead to rumours of cannibalism, though this was never definitively proven. These elements were subsequently filtered into TCM’s set design and the characters of Leatherface and his cannibalistic family.

Real life killer Ed Gein (left) was the inspiration for leatherface (right)
Real-life killer Ed Gein (left) was the inspiration for Leatherface (right) in the original TCM

The Town that Dreaded Sundown (1976) & The Phantom Killer

An early proto-slasher and pseudo-documentary, The Town that Dreaded Sundown tells the joint narrative of the Phantom Killer, as he stalks and kills several residents of the town of Texarkana, and the police working to track him down.

The film was loosely based on the 1946 Texarkana moonlight murders. Where, over 10 weeks the Phantom Killer attacked 8 people and killed 5, sending the town into a panic. The state police did investigate, but the killer was not caught.

After it’s release several lawsuits were filed against the film. The brother of one of the victims sued the production over the derogatory portrayal of one of his family members. And Texarkana officials themselves filed a complaint against the movie’s marketing, which apparently unnerved the townspeople (including the victims’ families) by saying that the killer “still lurks” around the town.

Poster for The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976)

The Amityville Horror (1979/2005) & The Lutz’s Story

Both the 1979 and 2005 Amityville Horror’s tell the story of the Lutz family, who moved into a new home where the previous residents were murdered. They soon begin experiencing many spooky goings-on. And it becomes apparent that they are in very real danger in this house.

Both films are based on the book of the same name, which claimed to be a true story. Several story aspects, including the DeFeo killings, where Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered 6 members of his family in their home, and the Lutz’s moving into the former DeFeo house for a short time are true.

After the 1979 film’s release, the judge presiding over a case involving the fraudulence of the book declared that he believed the book to largely be fictitious. Later, the real George Lutz sued the makers of the 2005 remake (which claimed to be based on a true story), for defamation. But he passed away soon after.

Photo of 112 Ocean Avenue. The setting of the DeFeo murders and The Amityville Horror

A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) & Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome

The 1984 horror masterpiece concerns a group of friends plagued by horrific nightmares. All involving the razor glove wielding, burn victim Freddy Krueger. But while their parents think they’re just nightmares the kids soon realise that if they die in their dreams, they die for real.

Wes Craven stated that the inspiration for the film came from a string of LA Times articles about south-east Asian refugees in the 1970s. Many of these people refused to go to sleep after suffering from disturbing nightmares and were later found to have died in their sleep. Craven then took this inspiration and imagined that a dream figure was responsible. Thus birthing one of the most iconic killers in all of cinema.

Headline from a newspaper used in Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy

Silent Night (2012) & The Covina Massacre

Silent Night, the remake of 1984’s Silent Night Deadly Night, focuses on a police officer who must hunt down a killer who has come to her town for the holiday season. But being dressed as Santa, the killer will be difficult to find.

While most of the film is typical slasher movie fair, during a flashback we learn of a man believed to be the killer who took a homemade flamethrower to a Christmas party and used it to kill his ex-wife.

This part of the story is based on the 2008 Covina Massacre where Bruce Pardo killed 9 people at his ex-wife’s Christmas Party while dressed as Santa using a homemade flamethrower and several handguns.

Silent Night’s Santa killer is not far removed from the perpetrator of the Covina Massacre

And, so ends my look at the real-life stories behind 5 famous horror movies. Proof that sometimes reality is more terrifying than any movie.

Also Read: Horror On Horror Sets

Reviews

Review: The Great Hack

August 10, 2019
The Great Hack Poster

The idea of everyone being connected by the internet once had positive connotations. The films that showed the supposed dangers of the digital world like The Matrix seemed so preposterous. But in a post-Edward Snowden and Wikileaks world, the dangers of the internet are now all too real.

There have been several documentaries in recent years about the acquisition of private information online and today we are going to be looking at Netflix’s newest offering to this particular subject, The Great Hack.

Synopsis

Cambridge Analytica was at the centre of several world-altering campaigns in the last few years. Leave.EU in the UK Brexit debate and the Donald Trump Presidential campaign in the USA. But while they had a huge impact on these campaigns, their methods were far more nefarious. Analytica harvested personal information from thousands of Facebook users, without their consent, and then used this to create targeted marketing.

The film follows several people involved in the unravelling of the CA scandal. Including David Carroll, who sued CA to get back the data CA had on him. Former CA employees such as Brittany Kaiser who have decided to blow the whistle on the company. And journalist Carol Cadwalladr.

What did I like?

There are two things that The Great Hack does very well. The first is the way it uses graphics and montages. Throughout the film, graphics are used to impart/illustrate information quickly in a way that doesn’t intrude on the action. And along with graphics the film also uses montages of websites and news stories to give a sense of mood. The montage of various targeted Facebook adverts showing how CA was able to manipulate how people see the world and the use of small square particles to indicate the passage of online info, effectively illustrates how much of our personal daily life is part of and reliant on the internet. Making the points made about CA more threatening.

The second positive is the presentation of the emotional arc of one of the principal participants, Brittany Kaiser. Kaiser, once a key player inside Cambridge Analytica, later came forward with information about how CA conducted their operations. The presentation of her arc from an idealist working on the Obama campaign to being part of the unethical practices of CA is fascinating. Because her motivations are so human. She switched sides in political marketing because she needed money to support herself, which the Obama campaign apparently would not give her. She enjoyed working with who she worked with, so she didn’t see all the negative implications that we can see as outsiders. But she admits her flaws and in the end, stands up for everyone’s right to privacy. Honestly, the film owes much of its success to Kaiser’s inclusion.

However, this leads me into The Great Hack’s problems.

What did I not like?

The Great Hacks first major problem is its pacing. The films key arguments: The dangers of companies using personal information to target you with marketing on social media; Our overreliance on the internet & What CA was up to and how it impacted the world. Are all covered within the first hour. The film then spends another hour repeating the same points. And it begins to get frustrating. This wouldn’t be so bad if the film employed new ways to engage us. But the camerawork is standard, the music is unengaging and the visual flourishes are too infrequent.

Secondly, because the documentary focuses on peoples journeys with CA, it’s critical to get the audience on side with the participants. But Kaiser is the only participant who manages to engage with the audience because she acts like a normal person. Carol Cadwalladr isn’t given enough screentime for us to care about her involvement. And David Carroll, who blatantly tells the audience, that companies having access to private information without consent is bad as if we didn’t already know, projects a very condescending attitude. Which is nothing but off-putting. Not helped when he consistently takes jabs at Kaiser.

There is also a problem with some points being over and underexplained. It expects you to already subscribe to the belief that Trump and Brexit were a bad idea, without giving any contextual information. But they spend an inordinate amount of time talking how information is gathered online and the dangers it poses to privacy. Something that is common knowledge by this point.

Finally, The Great Hack appears to argue that the Trump and Brexit campaigns were wholly won by targeted social media. Ignoring the larger issues of social division and the growing disillusionment with so-called experts and politicians. Electing to solely focus on technology as the purveyor of misfortune. Which seems a little reductive of a complicated issue.

Verdict

Overall while The Great Hack does have some minor visual flair and one incredibly well-told arc, it’s not enough to carry the film. Perhaps as an hour-long TV special it would have faired better. The stripped-down, just the facts version of the story would have been at least novel as a piece of unfolding news.

But as a film, The Great Hack is severely sloppy as it drags its points out and operates from a condescending and in some ways reductive viewpoint, that ultimately will leave most viewers either cold or frustrated.

Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars (2 / 5)

Also Read: Five Documentaries To Watch On Netflix

Editorials

Top 10 UK Box Office Movies of 2019 (So Far)

August 4, 2019

It’s not been a bad year for the UK box office. With the total takings of 2019s top 10 highest grosser’s (at time of writing) being approximately £388,967,274 (according to Box Office Mojo and google money converter).

So today we are going to look at how the top 10 currently stands. Which movies have earned the most in the UK so far? And what have critics and audiences had to say about them?

10. The Secret Life of Pets 2 – £19,570,258

The latest offering from Illumination managed to rake in the box office, despite a rather lukewarm reception.

Audience Thoughts: 90% – Rotten tomatoes / 6.6 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “A sequel that feels less necessary than willed into being, but that doesn’t mean it’s not pleasantly entertaining.”

Illuminations latest offering kicks off the UK’s highest grossers

9. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World – £21,219,615

While the concluding How to Train Your Dragon movie wasn’t as successful as its predecessors at the box office, it continued to impress both audiences and critics in equal measure.

Audience Thoughts: 87% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.6 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “Who would have thought that DreamWorks’ “How To Train Your Dragon” would end up as one of the best film trilogies out there?

The How to Train Your Dragon series performs one last hoorah

8. Rocketman – £23,572,360

The Elton John biopic followed in the footsteps of last year’s Bohemian Rhapsody and became a smash hit across the UK.

Audience Thoughts: 88% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.6 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “Rocketman is an honest, heartfelt tribute to Elton John’s music and his public image.”

Rocketman managed to blast off at the UK box office

7. Dumbo (2019) – £26,964,177

The first of Disney’s live-action remakes this year, left an odd taste in the mouths of cinemagoers. As despite its high takings, no one really seemed overly enthused about it.

Audience Thoughts: 51% – Rotten Tomatoes / 6.4 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “The problem with this latest entry in Disney’s ever-expanding range of recycled classics isn’t that it hews too close to the studio’s original animated masterpiece, but that its many departures only muddle the original’s nursery-rhyme simplicity

Dumbo (2019) flies into the number 7 place

6. Spider-Man: Far From Home – £31,524,501

The most recent film in the ever dominant MCU, like many of its predecessors, deftly managed to please both audiences and critics.

Audience thoughts: 95% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.9 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “It’s not quite the home-run of Homecoming, but Far From Home isn’t far from matching it, with heaps of humour, energetic action, and the answers Endgame left you craving.

Number 6 in the UK’s highest-grossing films of 2019? Spider-Man approves

5. Aladdin (2019) – £37,496,448

Back with Disney’s live-action remakes, unlike Dumbo, Aladdin did manage to please audiences, critics however were very mixed.

Audience Thoughts: 94% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.4 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “Another lavish and largely entertaining Disney re-do, with strong turns from Massoud and Scott. But…Smith’s genie performance feels disappointingly constrained — both by overdependence on the original and some ghastly CGI.”

Aladdin (2019) soared on it’s magic carpet to the number 5 spot in the UK’s top 10

4. The Lion King (2019) – £37,816,339

The latest Disney remake has, in only 2 weeks, already proven to be Disney’s most successful solo developed project in the UK. It also managed to capture the love of the general public. But critics have been less kind to this effort:

Audience Thoughts:  88% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.2 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “Unfolding like the world’s longest and least convincing deepfake, the new “Lion King” fatally misunderstands what once made Disney special.

The photo-realisitc Lion King (2019) is the UK’s 4th highest grossing film

3. Captain Marvel – £42,632,688

Despite its divided reception by both audiences and critics, Captain Marvel continued to prove the power of the MCU’s marquee value.

Audience Thoughts: 55% – Rotten Tomatoes / 7.0 – IMDb

Critics Thoughts: “Captain Marvel is … a solid enough movie, but it suffers from an overbearing need for its agenda to be pushed – had it been handled with a little more care, it could have been fantastic.

Captain Marvel storms into 3rd at the UK Box Office

2. Toy Story 4 – £53,611,537

9 years after Toy Story 3, Toy Story 4 finally made it to cinemas. It continued the high standards set by the original Toy Story films, opening to almost unanimous praise across the board.

Audience Thoughts:  94% on Rotten Tomatoes / 8.2 – IMDb (#170 on IMDb’s top 250 films)

Critics Thoughts: “This franchise has demonstrated an impressive ability to beat the odds and reinvent itself…It’s a toy store of ideas, with new wonders in every aisle.

The Toy Story gang still managed to bring in the numbers despite a 9-year absence

1. Avengers: Endgame – £94,559,351

Lastly, we come to the highest-grossing movie of the year (and of all time). After over a decade of build-up, the MCU finally culminated with a fond farewell that pleased almost everyone.

Audience Thoughts: 91% – Rotten Tomatoes / 8.7 – IMDb (#24 0n IMDb’s top 250 films).

Critics Thoughts: “Avengers: Endgame is all that you hope it’ll be and a bag of chips. The Russo brothers hit all the right notes from start to finish, and the ending in particular is thoroughly satisfying.”

Avengers: Endgame has beat down all the competition to become the highest-grossing film of the year (and of all time)

So ends the UK box office top 10 of the year so far. And with big releases like IT: Chapter 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker coming up, this year’s top 10 may even beat last year’s top 10 gross (approximately £523,006,040). We’ll just have to wait and see.

Also Read: What’s Next For Disney?

Editorials

Holy Fan Films, Batman

July 23, 2019

Batman. This single word has inspired so much over the years. Beginning as a simple vigilante hero in the pages of Detective Comics, Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s iconic creation has spawned some of the most well-loved movies, TV shows, video games and comic runs of the past century. Everyone knows who Batman is and his world has become a permanent fixture of popular culture. And like Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan, many fans have been inspired by the caped crusader to pick up a camera and make their own batman stories.

So, put on your capes and cowls and come with me as I countdown five Batman fan films that are worth your time.

The Dark Knight Returns – An Epic Fan Film

In 2016 director and star Wyatt Weed decided to translate the first part of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns comic into a short film. And it truly is a testament to his enthusiasm for the material.

The story is of a future where Batman retired after Jason Todd’s (The second Robin) death and crime has overrun Gotham’s streets. Now Bruce must put back on the cowl to save Gotham from destroying itself.

On a budget of $2500, Weed admirably captures the story’s wide scope. He makes Gotham City feel like its own character. With news reports and detailed interiors doing a lot to illustrate the kind of world Batman is returning to. Weed also gives an interesting performance as Bruce Wayne/ Batman. Showing him as aloof and disinterested with life, even having a potential death wish. He portrays Batman as a habit that Bruce can’t seem to shake, which gives the short some great dramatic weight.

Some aspects do let the film down. Many of the performances alternate between too theatrical or too restrained, never finding that magical sweet spot in between. And the presentation looks a bit bland. But nevertheless, an enjoyable watch for fans of the comic and a lesson in how to make a limited budget go far.

The Dark Knight Returns – An Epic Fan Film

The Dark Knight Legacy

Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy has had a major impact on how many people see Batman and his world. And Nolan’s influence can be seen in every frame of The Dark Knight Legacy.

Taking place after The Dark Knight Rises, the disappearance of Batman has allowed not only criminals but also copycats wanting to carry on the dark knight’s mission, to flourish. Though in the case of new vigilante Red Hood he has much more flexible ethics than Batman when it comes to killing.

Although it has a limited setting and somewhat flat visuals, this film does a great job at carrying forward the dark aesthetic of Nolan’s trilogy while also being unique unto itself. Introducing the Red Hood in a way that is sure to leave an impact, with some fantastic performances and a very impressive action centrepiece, Batman may not be in this short but it deals with his world and characters in a way that will leave you hungry for more.

The Dark Knight Legacy – Red Hood Fan Film

Project Cadmus

A refreshingly heartfelt take on the Batman mythos, this recent short sees DC universe stalwart Amanda Waller recruiting Batman to track down and kill a powerful psychic before Deathstroke can find her and sell her to the highest bidder.

While the story is a little obtuse and confusing, the short really shines when it comes to everything else. The cinematography is very moody and engaging, the choreography during the fight scene with Deathstroke is amazing and the acting is truly outstanding, with each player managing to inhabit their roles perfectly. Special mention goes to John Crawford III and Jaci Jones, who gave Batman and Ace a great sense of relatability and Kyle Klein plays a very menacing Deathstroke.

An entertaining and well-produced effort, with some fine performances and worth seeing, if only for the surreal sight of Batman, Superman and Wonder woman standing side by side with Spider-man and Captain America.

Batman Evolution

Now we leave behind the serious entries to celebrate the fun side of Batman. Many people nowadays are only familiar with Batman as the dark and brooding defender of Gotham. But there was a time when Bats was a dispenser of joy as well as justice. And Batman Evolution acts as a fitting tribute to that.

Set in the Adam West Batman universe, the relatively light-hearted fare that batman is used to is upended when Black Mask kidnaps Robin. Batman goes to find him, doling out “Biff’s”, “Bam’s” and “Kapow’s” on Black Mask’s henchmen. When he has an experimental compound dumped on him, transforming him into the Dark Knight trilogy Batman. Will Batman be able to rescue Robin and keep his humanity intact?

While essentially just an extended action scene, Evolution is able to deliver some great moments. The fight scenes are well-staged, the music is cool and the dialogue and acting are incredibly fun. Everyone plays their roles with just the right level of self-awareness so it never becomes irritating and the level of humour derided from both the camp and dark side of Batman makes this the perfect treat for any hardcore Bat-fan.

Batman: Dead End

We finish with the oldest short on our list and without a doubt the most fun.

Dead End begins as a straightforward story about the batman trying to catch the joker but quickly turns insane when a second and third antagonist enters the fight (No spoilers here. Watch it and experience it for yourself. It’s worth it).

Like Batman Evolution the film could be considered just one long fight scene, but this short does so much to set itself apart. The visuals are positively cinematic, with great use of atmospheric lighting and well-composed shots. The performances are fantastic with Clark Bartram and Andrew Koenig giving, for my money, one of the best live-action performances of the Batman/Joker dynamic. The action is very well-choreographed, with great editing to help everything flow naturally. And, it is worth a watch because this film exemplifies what is best about fan films.

There is a clear passion for the story being told and the art of filmmaking, but it also gives you something that you can’t get anywhere else. The filmmakers made the film they wanted to see and poured their heart and soul into making it as entertaining as possible.

Also Read: Superhero Stand-Off: Superheros Vs Art

Editorials

Horrors On Horror Sets

July 13, 2019
Real Skeletons on set of horror movie "Poltergeist"

Sometimes horror films can become all too real for the people on set. Over the years several horror movies sets have been the sites of unfortunate, weird and in some cases fatal accidents and incidents that make you question the luck and safety standards of the production. Today we will look at seven famous incidents where a film set turned into a real-life horror film.

Warning, there is upsetting content ahead.

The Bunny Game

A shock-horror film about a prostitute being kidnapped and tortured by a truck driver, the BBFC rejected The Bunny Game, fearing that its portrayal of violent and dangerous acts may harm audiences. This wasn’t helped by the presence of extreme unsimulated acts within the film.

While filming a nude scene in a junkyard, actress Rodleen Getsic received several injuries from shards of metal sticking into her body. And during one scene, she was actually branded.

Through trying to create an authentic atmosphere, the filmmakers created one of the most disturbing movies of the past decade, from a health and safety perspective.

Eery shot of branding in The Bunny Game

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Like the Bunny Game, 1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s production is a tale of a horrific working environment. Because of the films low budget, the effects were minimal, and often employed workarounds to accomplish them. But when coupled with hundred-degree weather, rank working conditions (dead animals were used as set dressing) and a stressed crew, something was bound to happen.

Notably, the scene where Sally’s finger is cut was supposed to show stage blood coming out of a tube. But when the mechanism didn’t work, Gunnar Hansen (Leatherface) cut actress Marilyn Burns’ finger with a razor. Also, during the scene where Leatherface kills the character Kirk, Hansen brought a real running chainsaw down three inches from actor William Vail’s face, making the film’s title very nearly prophetic.

The insanity of the dinner scene may have been reflective of life on set of The Tecxas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Exorcist

Often considered the scariest film of all time, the Exorcist has several on-set horror stories to go with it.

As well as most of the MacNeil house set burning down (eerily, aside from the scenes where the exorcism would take place) actress’ Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair both suffered back injuries during filming. Burstyn was pulled back strongly by a rig for a stunt, injuring her coccyx, which she has said still bothers her to this day. And Blair was hurt when the lacing of her back brace came loose when she was being thrown around on a bed. Ironically the takes where both actresses received these injuries were used in the final film.

The shot of Ellen Burstyn injuring her back (The Exorcist)

The Omen

The Omen’s filming was also plagued with problems.

When the filmmakers charted a plane to get some aerial shots of London, they allowed another party to use the plane first. Shortly after the plane took off it crashed killing 6 people. The filming also had several serious incidents with animals. A rottweiler injured a stunt double when it bit through his protective padding. In the zoo scene, the baboons used by production attacked the car that actors Lee Remick and Harvey Stephens were in. Remick reportedly feared for her life. And a zoo handler who had been working with the production was killed by a tiger after zoo shooting wrapped. And those are just the incidents that happened during production.

One of the dogs used as hellhounds in The Omen (1976)

Maximum Overdrive

When people think of Stephen King, they think of some of the most terrifying novels of the last century, but cinematographer Armando Nannuzzi probably thinks of King very differently.

During the making of King’s sole directorial effort, Maximum Overdrive, for a low shot involving a lawnmower all safety equipment was removed from the mower, exposing the blades. When the lawnmower met the wooden stand the camera was on, it sent a large number of splinters into Nannuzzi’s face which resulted in him eventually losing an eye. He later sued King and the crew for unsafe working conditions.

Even everyday objects can be dangerous when not used with care (Maximum Overdrive)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

During the making of the final movie in the long-running action-horror series stunt woman, Olivia Jackson was injured when her motorbike collided with a malfunctioning camera crane at high speed. She was put in a medically induced coma for two weeks and suffered several injuries. Including crushed facial bones, a degloved face and a paralyzed left arm that was eventually amputated.

Following this horrific accident crew member Ricardo Cornelius was unfortunately killed when a hummer fell off a rotating platform and crushed him.

Poster for Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Twilight Zone: The Movie

Finally, we come to the film that started modern Hollywood’s move for better safety regulations. Twilight Zone: The Movie was an anthology movie based on the classic tv series.

In John Landis’ segment, Time Out, we follow a racist man (Vic Morrow) forced to witness the consequences that such attitudes have had throughout history.

However, while filming the segment’s climax where the main character saves two Vietnamese children (Myca Dinh Le and Renee Shin-Yi Che) from a warzone the helicopter they were using flew too close to a pyrotechnic, causing it to crash on top of the three actors, killing them instantly.

The aftermath of the horrendous accident which claimed the lives of three (Twilight Zone: The Movie)

Thank you for reading and always remember, stay safe.

Also Read: Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films in the UK

Editorials

Video Nasties: The History of Censored Films In The UK

July 2, 2019

The UK film industry has encountered countless censorship controversies over the years. Some date as far back as 1925 and they continue well into the 21st Century. Considering that the definition of censorship is to suppress speech that is obscene, politically unacceptable or a threat to security, this raises considerable questions for freedom of speech.

Well, today we are looking at the history of UK film censorship. We will look at the video nasties scandal and the role they played in British film and law history. And we will look at examples of British film censorship throughout the years and the reasons behind their censorship. But first, we will look at the body responsible for the regulation of British film, the BBFC.   

Who are the BBFC?

The BBFC was founded in 1912. Their acronym stands for British Board of Film Classification, originally the British Board of Film Censors. Its purpose is to certificate films shown in UK cinemas. These certificates are legal guidelines for who should be able to see a film The film classifications are U, PG, 12A/12, 15, 18 and R18. This is done to prevent potential harm to the public, especially children. Under the Licencing Act 2003, all cinemas must restrict admittance of anyone under 18 in accordance with the BBFC’s age ratings.

The BBFC’s logo

The BBFC can also advise film distributors on how to reduce their classification by listing potential cuts. Censoring any material that may be harmful to the British public. Later they became responsible for classifying video releases. A responsibility brought about thanks to…

The Video Nasties

In the late 70s/early 80s, the video market in the UK was unregulated. The BBFC originally ran a voluntary regulatory service. Meaning that the video distribution companies had to submit their film and pay for classification. Usually these videos were heavily cut to meet the BBFC’s guidelines. So many companies chose to avoid it.

Many conservative outlets, including the Daily Mail, campaigned against the slew of violent horror films being released. And how children could easily acquire them because of the lack of regulation. The Director of Public Prosecutions subsequently made a list of 72 titles that he thought would be liable for prosecution under The Obscene Publications Act, The Video Nasties. Meaning that he saw them as capable of depraving and corrupting the British public. The DPP also listed another 82 titles, called the section 3 titles. These films contained offensive material, but they were less likely to get a conviction.

The Video Nasties List

Several films listed by the DPP were successfully prosecuted, but several cases were unsuccessful. Meaning that there was a lot of conjecture as to what was classified as “obscene”.

This eventually led to the creation of the Video Recordings Act 1984. This required all videos to be classified by an industry body, resulting in the BBFC classification of home video releases. Many of the banned titles were later released. Although they were heavily cut. Though years later many of the films have since had all cuts waived.

Examples of Censorship

But of course, battles over films potentially harming viewers is nothing new in the UK. One of the first films the BBFC banned was 1925’s Battleship Potemkin, for political reasons. Because of the films function as communist propaganda, it was seen as having the potential to provoke violent revolts. Potemkin wasn’t released in the UK until 1954.

But even in the past decade, the BBFC have encountered problems with several controversial films. Most notably Human Centipede 2. Which the board initially rejected due to its portrayal of sexual violence and encouraging a dehumanizing view of others. The BBFC only allowed a release after they cut 2 minutes of footage. Which displeased the film’s fans, though it greatly pleased the film’s director.

The Human Centipede: Second Sequence (Six Entertainment)

But the board have also received flack for occasionally being too permissive. For example see Crash, which depicts the lives of a group of car accident fetishists. Upon release, several newspapers called for it to be banned. Westminster actually has a ban on the film, but the board passed it uncut. A rare example of local councils overturning the BBFC’s decision.

The Results

The BBFC has changed a lot over the years. It is now the overseer of Britain’s home entertainment industry and the legal arbiter of the cinemas. They have gone from consistently demanding cuts from films, to being more concerned with film classification. To see their changing attitudes look no further than the video nasties themselves. Once seen as potentially obscene many are now available uncut.

But like the nasties, there are newer movies that aim to push what is acceptable. Making things very difficult for the BBFC. “If they’re too heavy-handed the liberals don’t like them. If you’re too light-handed, then the conservatives don’t like them” – Christopher Frayling. And the internet makes it easier and easier for the public to circumvent the board’s decisions.

Ultimately, times change. What is obscene one year is next years punchline.  The board’s mission is, of course, important, to protect the vulnerable from potential harm. But does that give it the right to tamper with someone’s work? Please let us know your feelings in the comments below.

Also Read: Great Scenes with No Dialogue

Editorials

The Formula For A Successful Film

June 16, 2019
Successful at the box office

Films are a big part of modern life. We quote, discuss and review them daily. But with thousands of movies released each year, what makes certain movies into a phenomenon? What is it about select movies that capture the public’s attention and makes them successful? Is there a formula to it?

Today we are going to explore a recent study and see what conclusions they have come to about how to make a successful film. We will look at the purpose of the study, highlight their findings, their methodology and highlight examples of where their findings can be seen today and places where the study falters.

Purpose & Method

The paper we are looking at is called, The Data Science of Hollywood. This study was made to see how certain emotions can affect the types of media that people want to watch. And how production companies can customise their products to meet the preferences of audiences.

To accomplish this the authors compiled 6174 feature film scripts and charted the emotional journeys presented in each. They did this by analysing the sentences used within the script, declaring them as either emotionally negative, neutral or positive and then charting their use over the course of the script.

The movies were then grouped into one of six categories:

  • Rags to Riches – A film that continually builds positive emotion
The Shawshank Redemption is used as an example of rags to riches stories
  • Riches to Rags – The film is about a continual emotional decline
Toy Story 3 is a riches to rags story
  • Man in a hole – The film follows someone falling emotionally before rising out of it
The Departed is a man in a hole story
  • Icarus – The film charts an emotional rise followed by a fall
Mary Poppins shows the Icarus journey
  • Cinderella – This film begins building positive emotions, before declining and then rising again at the end
For a modern Cinderella story, look no further than Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Oedipus – This film begins with an emotional decline, followed by a rise and finishing with a decline
Little Mermaid is a great example of the Oedipus narrative

They then compared this data with various sources to see how successful these different journeys were with audiences. They looked at box office takings, IMDb audience and critic ratings, award nominations and wins and number of viewers. So, what did the researchers find?

Findings

Of the six narrative categories, the researchers found that the Man in a hole stories tended to have a higher average box office gross ($37.48 million). Cinderella was the second highest ($33.63 million on average) and Oedipus being third ($31.44 million on average).

Particularly successful examples of the man in a hole story from the past year include Black Panther and Halloween (2018). Both were among the top 25 highest grossing films of 2018 and began with the characters leading relatively normal lives before something turns their existence upside down. But they eventually fight to reclaim their happiness.

The Other Side

However, there are less successful films in this category, such as Mortal Engines. Which charted the journey of a privileged citizen as he is exiled from his city and eventually destroys its corrupt government with the help of the rebellion. It was one of the biggest box office bombs of 2018. And garnered an IMDb audience rating of 6.1 and a critical rating of 44/100. Halloween (2018) also did not perform greatly with IMDb users and critics, only garnering a 6.6 from users and 67 from critics.

On average the study found that Man in a hole films received the lowest average ratings from IMDb users and critics. IMDb Users usually rated Rags to riches stories highest. Successful examples include Avengers: Endgame, which charts the emotional rise from the low point of Infinity War, and is both the most successful film of the year and currently ranked as the 19th best film of all time on IMDb. This shows that films associated with positive emotions tend to work well with general audiences.

Meanwhile, movies with higher critical ratings tended to be Riches to rags stories. Showing that critics favour tougher emotional journeys. Examples include Jordan Peele’s Us. Which charted the continual emotional decline of its characters and has an 81/100 rating from IMDb critics compared to a 7.1 from regular users. But still managed to gross $175,005,930.

The Studies Failings

There are however several areas where this study opens itself for criticism. Firstly, relying on IMDb ratings to gauge public opinion can cause problems as people only tend to leave feedback/reviews if they’ve had a negative experience which can slightly skew the results. And IMDb scores are usually given by a different audience than those who see the movie in theatres. Meaning that an IMDb score doesn’t necessarily measure the satisfaction of people who saw the film in cinemas and contributed to its box office.

And the oversimplification of the emotional arc categories is very confusing. For example, The Shawshank Redemption is given as an example of the rags to riches story which supposedly continually builds positive emotions, but the film still has several emotional low points throughout. Meaning that the categorisation of these films is somewhat flawed.

Successful?

From this research we can conclude that the words of William Goldman hold true, “Not one person in the motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work”. A film’s success at the box office does not guarantee audience or critical satisfaction. The use of IMDb as a method for gauging public opinion is also flawed. And the categorization is oversimplified and there are continual examples that prove the study wrong on an individual basis.

But this study did raise interesting points with its research. Showing that the most successful films may not be aimed specifically at critics or general audiences. Instead, they are the ones that generate the most discussion. And the mixture of positive and negative emotional arcs ensures the box office success of the man in a hole films because they appeal to the preferences of critics and audiences.

Also Read: Spoiler Etiquette: To Spoil Or Not To Spoil…

Reviews

Retro Review: It Follows

June 8, 2019
It Follows poster

Over the past several years horror fans and critics have tended to pick an independent horror film and lavish huge amounts of praise and attention on them. Often declaring them as instant classics of the genre. But these films often prove very divisive. With other audiences claiming the films are overrated, not true horror films or simply not good. Examples include Hereditary (2018), The Witch (2015), The Babadook (2014) and the subject of today’s review, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows (2014). Does it deserve its divisive reputation? Let’s find out.

Synopsis

Jay (Maika Monroe) is a teenager enjoying all the foibles of growing into adulthood. One-night Jay decides to sleep with her new boyfriend for the first time. Afterwards, she is knocked out and taken to an abandoned building. There her boyfriend reveals he has passed a curse on to her. A shapeshifting creature which can take the form of anyone has begun following her and it wants her dead.

Her boyfriend then disappears leaving Jay to deal with the threat on her own. The one positive is that the creature only follows her at a walking pace, so Jay decides to use this to her advantage.

Along with her friends, she tracks down her boyfriend to get an explanation out of him and they learn that the only way the creature can be stopped is to transfer the curse to someone else. But can Jay bring herself to put another person in harm’s way or will she try something different?

What did I like?

The hyperbolic claims that It Follows is simply not a good film is baffling. Purely from a technical point of view, the film is great. As a horror film, It Follows has a firm grasp of how to create tension through its presentation. Using long takes, interesting camera movement and good actor direction to build anxiety about where the monster is and when it will strike. The score also builds a tense atmosphere through creating both a confrontational and quietly eerie soundscape.

The acting is also superb. With the story centred around teenagers, the film could easily become laughable if the cast weren’t believable. But all the main actors feel like real teenagers. Maika Monroe particularly stands out as an incredibly likeable, sympathetic and genuine lead. Her monologue about remembering her youth near the film’s beginning carries great weight because of her delivery. And the way all the friends talk about their childhoods and the antics they get up to gives a feeling of true friendship, allowing us to easily invest in their situation.

The film also pays tribute to older horror films in effective ways. With a synthesizer-heavy score, a stalking camera and an unknowable slow moving, shapeshifting monster, evoking the feeling of John Carpenters older horror films. But the film also has a very modern outlook.

Instead of simply killing characters for having sex or exploiting them for pointless nudity, It Follows is more a tale about teenagers coming to terms with the vulnerability of their bodies. Many scenes have Jay looking over her body and showing how she feels different now because of the danger brought on by the monster. But she never shies away from sex. Her challenge is choosing what to do with the burden she’s been given. As an extension, the women are not solely victims, like in many other horror movies. They take an active role in dealing with the threat, and they call the shots when it comes to sex. While most of the men are cowardly or self-centred. A far cry from the puritanical traditions of many older horror films.

This amalgam of traditions makes the film almost timeless. Ensuring most generations will be able to get something from watching it.

What did I not like?

But there are a few things that let the film down. There are a few weird editing choices throughout the film where the focus will instantly shift to another point of focus instead of giving a payoff to what came before. This is particularly noticeable in the finale which, although it gets a point across, does feel somewhat out of place.

Another problem is that despite the film using its narrative in an interesting way, the beats of the plot are still very familiar to anyone who has seen a passing-on-the-curse movie. And there are very few surprises to freshen up the formula. Which may put off some audiences.

Finally, while the film provides positive female representation with its characters, the film does occasionally feel very leery. With long shots of the female characters in their underwear, swimwear and revealing clothes. While both a staple of the genre and somewhat justified by the theme of body image, it is telling that we never get similar shots for the male characters. And this can leave a bad taste in the audience’s mouth, especially with everything the film does to paint its women positively.

Verdict

Despite a few hiccups in editing, a familiar story and tending to slightly leer at its female characters, It Follows remains a great example of how to do modern horror right.

It gives us time to get to know the leads, who are all relatable and down to earth. While focusing on building tension rather than using jump scares, which the film does through interesting uses of music, camera movement and actor direction; It Follows celebrates the horrors of the past while updating some tropes to tell a modern story.

It Follows follows in the tradition of Carpenter and gives us a modern retro gem, that I can see audiences enjoying for years to come. Check it out and judge for yourselves.

Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

It Follows is available for free on BBC Iplayer for the next 2 months

It Follows (Trailer)

Also Read: How The Blair Witch Project Changed Horror.