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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

Weapon of Choice: Iconic Weapons in Movies

January 13, 2020
Leatherface - Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Whether you’re a hero or villain you need a great weapon to help you vanquish your foes. And cinema is full of amazing weaponry. So, today we’re going to look at seven iconic movie weapons, who wielded them and their real-world origins.

Lightsaber (Star Wars Franchise)

The weapon of the most powerful beings in the galaxy far far away, the Sith and the Jedi. Many famous Jedi and Sith have wielded the multi-coloured laser swords. Including Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, his son Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Maul, Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, and Rey. George Lucas decided to include a futuristic sword in the original Star Wars as a symbol of honour and chivalry. And with only a 4×5 camera flash attachment (the hilt), sticks wrapped in reflective material (the blade); the hum of a projector and the buzz captured from a TV set (the sound effects) Lucas and company birthed arguably the most famous movie weapon of all time.

Vader and Luke’s lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back [Source: Arbin Instruments]

Freddy Krueger’s glove (Nightmare on Elm Street Franchise)

Horror films have created several iconic weapons, some of which we will get into later. But horrors most inventively creepy killing implement is Freddy Krueger’s Razor Glove. Envisioned by director Wes Craven as a throwback to mankind’s primal fear of claws grafted onto modern equipment, not only is Freddy’s glove inventive but its very look is surreal and frightening. Perfectly fitting with the story’s nightmarish aesthetic.

Freddy Krueger's iconic glove
Freddy Krueger’s iconic glove [Source: NME.com]

Nunchaku (Bruce Lee Movies)

This traditional Okinawan martial arts training weapon has become a staple of martial arts movies specifically because of Bruce Lee. Bruce used Nunchaku in several of his movies (Enter the Dragon, Way of the Dragon & Game of Death). He wielded them with such speed, grace, and effectiveness that they were transformed in the public’s mind from mere training implements into incredible weapons in their own right.

Bruce Lee's nunchaku in Game of Death
Bruce Lee’s nunchaku in Game of Death [credit: Columbia Pictures / Sony Entertainment]

The Infinity Gauntlet (Marvel Cinematic Universe)

The MCU needed to give its ultimate villain Thanos a weapon that would make an impression on audiences after ten years of build-up. Made of Uru metal, forged by the dwarves of Nidavellir, with a design ripped straight from the original comic and armed with the infinity stones that collectively give the wearer the ability to do practically anything, including wiping out half of all life in the universe, the Infinity Gauntlet is, without doubt, the most destructive weapon on this list.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet.
Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet [credit: Disney / Marvel Entertainment]

Chainsaw (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Franchise)

Employing household tools as weapons is a common practice in slasher movies, and this is one of the movies to thank for that. Director Tobe Hooper originally thought of the idea to use a chainsaw as his movie’s weapon when he was wondering how to get out of the busy store and saw a chainsaw in the hardware section. One thing’s certain, audiences have never looked at chainsaws the same way since.

Leatherface's Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)
Leatherface’s Chainsaw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Syfy Wire]

The Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch (Monty Python & The Holy Grail)

In 1975, the Pythons gifted us with possibly the silver screens silliest weapon. When confronted with the dreaded Rabbit of Caerbannog, King Arthur and his knights use the Holy Hand Grenade, originally used by Saint Atilla, to destroy the beast. Shaped like the Sovereigns Orb of the United Kingdom there is no better weapon to destroy your beastly foes and satirize religion.

The Holy Hand Grenade - Monty Python & The Holy Grail
The Holy Hand Grenade [Source: Addicted to Quack]

Revolver (Western Genre)

Everyone loves westerns and the one weapon that typifies the western is the revolver. Patented by Samuel Colt (later developed by multiple companies in the 1800s) as a singlehanded firearm, that can be fired several times without reloading. The revolver has become a symbol of the old west gunslinger. A weapon of great destructive capabilities that requires a keen eye and steady hand to master. No Mexican standoff is complete without one.

Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers
Clint Eastwood with iconic western revolvers [Source: AMC]

So ends my list of seven iconic movie weapons. Be sure to fire your suggestions for great movie weapons I missed into the comments.

Also Read: The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

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Editorials

The Best Horror Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 31, 2019
Horror Movie Collection

There have been many fantastic horror movies released this past decade. So today I am celebrating the decade’s end by picking my 10 favourite horror movies from 2010 – 2019.

I’ll pick one movie from each year (using the IMDb release year as reference), briefly summarise each movie and explain why you should watch it. I’ll also include honourable mentions for you to also enjoy. Well, let’s get spooky.


2010: I Saw the Devil (Dir. Kim Jee-Woon)

This horror/thriller follows a detective (Byung-Hun Lee) who tracks down his wife’s murderer (Min-Sik Choi) and aims to drive him insane by continually capturing, brutalizing and releasing him. From there the mind games escalate until you’re not sure who you should be rooting for. With violence that’ll make even hardened gorehounds’ wince, I Saw The Devil is an experience you won’t soon forget.

HM: Tucker and Dale vs Evil

I Saw The Devil (Official Trailer)

2011: Kill List (dir. Ben Wheatley)

Beginning as a movie about a former assassin returning to work to make some money and gradually morphing into something more horrifying, Kill List benefits from knowing as little as possible going in. But thanks to its perfectly pitched naturalistic presentation, which makes the outlandish plot feel realistic, Kill List is now considered one of the most disturbing movies ever made.  

HM: You’re Next

Kill List (Official Trailer)

2012: The Woman in Black (dir. James Watkins)

Arthur (Daniel Radcliffe) a recently widowed solicitor is tasked with settling the affairs of Mrs Drablow at her estate, Eel Marsh House. However, something is stalking the Eel Marsh grounds. Could it be linked with the deaths of several children in the neighbouring village? Hammer Studios’ best modern film is a perfect old-fashioned ghost chiller. Dripping with atmosphere, backed by a solid cast, and genuinely effective jump scares.

HM: Maniac (2012)

The Woman in Black (Official Trailer)

2013: The Conjuring (dir. James Wan)

Using the Perron Hauntings case as its basis, The Conjuring is one of the decade’s most fun horror films. With likeable leads in Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life figures Ed and Lorraine Warren, some inventive camerawork and eery production design. The Conjuring is a thrilling modern haunted house ride that leaves you invigorated.

HM: Mama

The Conjuring (Official Trailer)

2014: It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

After having sex with her boyfriend, Jay (Maika Monroe) discovers she’s been cursed. Now a demon follows her wherever she goes. Her one advantage is that it can only follow her at walking speed. It Follows is a wonderful genre tribute with relatable characters, suspenseful direction, a beautiful score and a creepy monster that’ll have viewers checking over their shoulders next time they’re in a crowded place.

HM: The Babadook

It Follows (Official Trailer)

2015: The Witch (dir. Robert Eggers)

My personal vote for the scariest movie of the decade. A paranoid period piece, The Witch, like Kill List, is most impactful when seen with little knowledge of the plot. However, rest assured you’re in for a skin-crawling slow builder with great performances and brilliant direction that will constantly leave you doubting your own judgment.

HM: Green Room

The Witch (Official Trailer)

2016: Raw (dir. Julia Ducournau)

Justine (Garance Marillier) a devout vegetarian vet in training is forced to eat meat in a university hazing ritual causing her to develop a craving for human flesh. Hilarious, disturbing and touching, Raw speaks to many modern fears about identity, gender and sexuality; and keeps the audience thoroughly invested with fantastically drawn characters and perfect visual storytelling. Plus a woman eats her sisters’ finger, so there’s that.

HM: Hush

Raw (Official Trailer)

2017: Tigers Are Not Afraid (dir. Issa López)

Sadly underappreciated by mainstream audiences, Tigers tells the heart-breaking tale of Estrella (Paola Lara) who attempts to use three “magic wishes” to help a group of children caught up in the Mexican drug war. Firmly grounded in harsh reality and never pulling its punches when it comes to the violence, Tigers is a tough but rewarding watch.

HM: It (2017), Get Out & The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Tigers Are Not Afraid (Official Trailer)

2018: Hereditary (dir. Ari Aster)

A family unravels after their grandmother’s death as a mysterious outside force invades their lives. Featuring one of the decade’s greatest performances from Toni Collette and incredible tension. Courtesy of a sympathetic cast of characters and magnificent direction that subtly (using of camerawork and visual cues) and overtly (the scares) keeps the audience on edge to the end.

HM: Climax & Incident in a Ghostland

Hereditary (Official Trailer)

2019: Midsommar (dir. Ari Aster)

Dani (Florence Pugh) attempts to get over a family tragedy by going to Sweden with her boyfriend (Jack Reynor) and his friends. Initially, the locals seem welcoming but as the Midsummer festival begins a sinister plot emerges. While slowly paced Midsommar hits hard because of Florence Pugh’s performance and subtle tension building through camerawork and the performances of the villagers. Culminating in one unnervingly weird finale.  

HM: Extra Ordinary & Us

Thus ends my list of the 2010s best horror movies. If I’ve missed some of your favourites, then list them in the comments. One thing’s certain, with so many new masters of horror, the 2020s will be very exciting to see.

Also Read: Horrors On Horror Sets

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Reviews

Review: Black Christmas (2019) [Spoilers]

December 20, 2019
Black Christmas 2019 (Source: We Live Entertainment)

The original 1974 Black Christmas about a group of sorority girls being stalked by a serial killer over the Christmas break was not only a forerunner of the slasher craze but also gained a lot of praise over the years for its well-characterised female leads and subtle pro-feminist message regarding issues like pro-choice and female agency. And with feminist issues still being prominent in modern culture, it’s only natural that a new generation would want to tell their interpretation of Black Christmas. However, this remake had a lot of difficulties to overcome.  

Not only is the original film highly influential and beloved by many horror fans; the first Black Christmas remake from 2006 was a critical and box office disappointment. Potentially inviting unfavourable comparisons and minimal box office appeal. The film also had a disastrous marketing campaign, with a trailer that seemed to reveal the movie’s twist. But with the acclaimed Sophia Takal directing and stars like Imogen Poots and Cary Elwes attached could Black Christmas (2019) prove itself and step out of the shadow of its beloved and derided brethren? Let’s see.

The Story

Everyone at Hawthorne College is heading home for the holidays but the women of the MKE sorority have other plans. Riley (Imogen Poots) is still recovering from a harrowing sexual assault incident. Aggravated by her uncharged attacker returning to campus. Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is continuing to fight for the removal of Professor Gelson (Cary Elwes). And all their other sorority sisters are helping out with a charitable dinner. But they soon realize something evil is lurking in the college grounds.

As some of the sisters go missing, others receive threatening messages and hooded figures stalk the grounds it becomes clear that someone wants these girls dead. As the women race to find out who their attackers are and what their motives are, the bonds between them grow stronger and they eventually resolve to take the fight to their abusers.

What Did I Like?

Firstly, I really like how the new movie updated the originals feminist undercurrent by incorporating issues relating to the modern female experience in the story – both overtly and subtly. Such as the threat of rape culture, toxic masculinity, and the empowerment of the #MeToo movement. Also, instead of copying the original’s plot, this film weaves these thematic threads and some of the iconography of the original (the faceless killer, some of the weapons and the setting) into something more akin to cult horror than a slasher film. Which yields some inventive and interesting results.

Imogen Poots’ also gives a great performance as Riley. Poots is an often-underappreciated actress, but her portrayal of the mental and emotional torture that Riley has gone through is sensitive, understated and incredibly touching. She’s very likeable in the role and despite problems regarding her lines, which we will discuss later, Poots remains untouchable. Easily putting this film above the 2006 version, as this movie has at least one likeable character.

Lastly, the film looks and sounds gorgeous. The lighting perfectly captures the feel of a Christmas horror film with festive reds and greens brightening the frame. Inventive long shots are also used to create suspense (pay attention Exorcist 3 fans). And the score by Will and Brooke Blair is very effective. Creating a nicely tense and eery atmosphere that compliments the gothic tones of the story and its setting. Unfortunately, the movie’s positives are cancelled out by several problems.

What Did I not like?

The biggest problem is the script. This movie’s dialogue is abysmal. Every line continually beats the movie’s message over your head. Obviously, themes are important, and many films use characters to articulate certain points of view (Jess filled this role in the original). But this must be balanced by subtle dialogue. To get the point across without becoming preachy. The original excelled at this. This film’s lines are so cartoonishly written it becomes laughable.

The film also suffers from weak plotting and characterisation. The original had proactive characters, with varied, likeable personalities, who always had something to do; because we cared about them and always knew where the killer was, there was a sense of danger propelling the narrative. The characters in Black Christmas (2019) lack agency and personality. Most are just mouthpieces who spend their time doing little of relevance; while a few scenes have a tense presentation, there’s no overarching tension on a character or plot level to keep the audience invested. Just a lot of cheap jump scares.

Then there’s the third act. Which introduces a supernatural element out of nowhere, undermining the grounded conflict and relevant social commentary and transforming into a silly action movie. With new plot elements being added that have no explanation (the other sorority houses) or serve no purpose (using objects to track down students despite the villains already knowing where the main characters live). Leaving the movie an unfocused mess.

Finally, every actor (besides Poots) delivers a terrible performance. All the evil male characters are over the top to the point of parody. The worst offender is Cary Elwes, whose turn is so pantomime villain it becomes insulting that our leads never figure out his intentions. But the film plays elements like the music and lighting completely straight. As though these people are meant to be scary. Which is incredibly jarring. The good men also fail to endear themselves because they’re just too dull. The women don’t fare any better with most being flat and forgettable. Except for Aleyse Shannon, whose performance is so smug and self-satisfied that she becomes instantly annoying.

Verdict

Despite a good central performance from Imogen Poots, some gorgeous, occasionally inventive cinematography, a creepy score; the inventive updating of the themes and story of the original Black Christmas, which easily puts it above the first remake in terms of quality, Black Christmas (2019) is a chore to sit through.

This is thanks to a completely inept script full of preachy dialogue that hammers the movie’s themes home with no subtlety. Coupled with a thin plot that gives no agency or arcs to its characters. Disastrous and annoying performances and a third act that destroys everything the prior movie was building towards.

At the end of the day, Black Christmas (2019) is a movie whose message takes priority over its filmmaking. But when a movie has little to offer besides that it quickly becomes boring. Even to people who agree with said message. It wants to be game-changing like the original but completely lacks any understanding of what made the original film work. After 45 years the original still remains unbeaten.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Black Christmas (Official Trailer)

Also Read: Alternative Christmas Movies

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Editorials

The Best Action Films of the Decade (2010 – 2019)

December 14, 2019
The Best Action Films of the Decade

With 2020 approaching many are currently reflecting on all the positive points of the past decade. Today I’m doing the same, as I list the best action movies of each year from 2010-2019.

These films were picked based on their creativity, the impact of the action and how well the story complimented the action. And because there were so man good action films this decade I will be including honourable mentions for you to also watch. Without further ado, let’s begin.


2010: Inception (dir. Christopher Nolan)

With an interesting story about implanting ideas into someone’s mind while having to battle through not only the subject’s mental defences but your own baggage as well as incredibly staged action sequences like the rotating hallway fight and using minimal CGI, Inception is a true sci-fi action masterpiece.

HM: Kick-Ass & 13 Assassins.

The Rotating Hallway fight (Inception)

2011: The Raid (dir. Gareth Evans)

After a swat team is ambushed in an apartment complex the survivors must reach and arrest the kingpin before his henchmen kill them. From this simple premise, The Raid quickly ratchets up the tension as we are never sure who will escape alive. And the action sequences use of flowing choreography, camerawork and editing turn the film into a remarkable ballet of violence.

HM: Captain America: The First Avenger & X-men: First Class.

The Hallway Fight (The Raid)

2012: Dredd (dir. Peter Travis)

Similar to The Raid, Dredd finds two judges (police officers who are judge, jury, and executioner) Dredd (Karl Urban) and Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), trapped in a skyscraper, having to fight their way to the kingpin to escape. However, Dredd keeps The Raid’s tension while also injecting a healthy dose of comic book action. With bloody violence, great world-building, beautiful slow-motion usage and endearing characters, Dredd, packs a punch despite its small stature.

HM: The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises & Skyfall.

Slow-motion break-in (Dredd)

2013: Snowpiercer (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

While the premise is far-fetched (the remnants of humanity are trapped on a perpetually running world-spanning train after a climate crisis), Snowpiercer’s story about humanity in microcosm and fight scenes are very affecting. The skirmishes are protracted and merciless, combined with the claustrophobic setting and masterful editing, Snowpiercer will keep you riveted till the end.  

HM: The Worlds End & Elysium.

The train massacre (Snowpiercer)

2014: The Raid 2 (dir. Gareth Evans)

After surviving the first film, Rama (Iko Uwais) must infiltrate the mob and bring them down from inside. From there this sequel improves on everything great about the original. With more impressive choreography, more brutal violence; even more memorable characters, all wrapped around a fantastic story of family and loyalty. The Raid 2 is my favourite action film of the decade.

HM: Captain America: The Winter Soldier & Guardians of the Galaxy.

Rama vs Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man (The Raid 2)

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road (dir. George Miller)

Mad Max: Fury Road puts all other 2015 action movies to shame, with an effectively slight story about Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) helping a band of women escape an oppressive patriarch; spectacular vehicle stunts. By the movie’s end, you’ll feel exhausted by the relentless action. Impressed by the practical stunts and special effects. And moved by characters like Furiosa (Charlize Theron) and Nux (Nicholas Hoult). High octane action at its finest.

HM: Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron & Sicario.

Driving back to the Citadel (Mad Max: Fury Road)

2016: Captain America: Civil War (dir. Joe Russo)

Civil War is the highlight of the MCU. The story grounds the conflict in each heroes’ hopes and fears, examining them and playing them against each other expertly. Every character is relatable, making the fights more impactful. And each action sequence is creative. From the opening robbery to the final 2 on 1. Marvel has made many good films, but none topped the impact of Civil War.

HM: Deadpool.

Part 1 of the Airport Fight (Captain America: Civil War)

2017: Dunkirk (dir. Christopher Nolan)

Depicting the titular WWII evacuation from three perspectives: the soldiers trapped at Dunkirk waiting for rescue, the civilians coming to evacuate the soldiers and the airmen covering them from above, Dunkirk’s tension becomes almost unbearable as we hope the soldiers escape in time. The use of practical effects, incredible sound editing, and Hans Zimmer’s tense score make the film effective and harrowing.

HM: Baby Driver.

Death from above (Dunkirk (2017))

2018: Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse (dir. Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti, Rodney Rothman)

The perfect balance of spectacle, personality, and high personal stakes. Into the Spiderverse is an expertly crafted love letter to comic books. With beautiful visuals that are used inventively in action sequences, all anchored by protagonist Miles Morales. Who allows us to feel his wonder, excitement, and fear better than any other spiderman.

HM: Avengers: Infinity War.

Fight at the Parker house (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse)

2019: John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (dir. Chad Stahelski)

Parabellum marks the culmination of everything great about John Wick. The story is full of unique, intriguing characters, John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is still thoroughly engaging and the grounded, varied, constant action easily beats the overblown spectacle of other films this year.

HM: Avengers: Endgame.

Motorbike Fight (John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum)

So ends my list of the 2010’s best action movies. Be sure to tell me your favourite action movie of the decade in the comments. There have been some great action films this decade, now let’s see what the 2020s have in store.

Also Read: How to Revive a Franchise After Many Years

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Editorials

Who Did It Better?: A Christmas Carol

December 7, 2019
Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carolv(Source: Disney Wiki)

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is the modern Christmas story. The tale of the old miser, Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghost of his dead partner and the embodiment of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, to learn the value of kindness to his fellow-men is iconic. The story has had many adaptations over the years. For stage, radio, television (a new version comes this year courtesy of Steven Knight) and, of course, film. So, today we’re going to see which Christmas Carol film adaptation is the best.

With films of Carol dating back to 1901, I’ll only be looking at five of the most well-known theatrically released movies; comparing them to see which ones did certain things better. Those movies being Scrooge (1951), Scrooge (1970), Scrooged, Muppets Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol (2009).

For this comparison I have chosen to look at, the portrayals of Scrooge, the portrayals of the ghosts, the supporting cast members, and how much they bring to their films, the production value of each film and which film best told the story overall. So, after all that set up let’s begin.

Who’s The Best Scrooge?

Ebeneezer Scrooge is one of fiction’s most iconic characters. His name has even become a part of the English language. With such a reputation you need equally brilliant performances to bring him to life. But who is the best, Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Bill Murray, Michael Caine or Jim Carrey? For my money, Alastair Sim’s iconic turn from Scrooge (1951) is the best.

Unfortunately, while Finney and Carrey are clearly trying their best, their vocal affectations make it hard to take them seriously. Also despite loving Caine’s Scrooge and Murray’s modern interpretation, Frank Cross, Caine’s cold-heartedness does thaw a little too quickly for his change of heart to carry a large amount of weight. And Murray fits the bitter sardonic side of Scrooge better than the renewed Christmas lover.

Sim, however, embodies every aspect of Scrooge perfectly. His miserable nature is believable and never feels over the top. But when he changes his ways it feels like a perfectly played evolution of the character. And Sim communicates the character in every aspect of his performance. From his tone of voice to his body language and the words he uses. For my half a crown he’s the best Scrooge out there.

Winner: Scrooge (1951)

Alastair Sim in Scrooge (1951) (Source: IMDb)
Alastair Sim in Scrooge (1951) (Source: IMDb)

Who Are The Best Ghosts?

Scrooge may be the narrative focus, but it’s the visiting spirits that ultimately change him. So, which ghosts gave us the best hauntings over the years?

Firstly, we must consider Jacob Marley’s ghost. Often shown as a sickly figure dragging a long chain behind him, he’s been portrayed by many fantastic actors. Including Michael Hordern, Alec Guinness, and Gary Oldman. Some of the more creative interpretations include Muppets Christmas Carol, who have critics Statler and Waldorf playing Jacob and Robert Marley. Who come to criticize Scrooge and provide advice for his improvement. While Scrooged presents Marley, as an old retired boss who, humorously, resembles a zombie more than a ghost.

Christmas Past varies the most in appearance between adaptations. Scrooge (1951) and A Christmas Carol (2009)’s ghosts resemble the description in Dicken’s original story. However, both are still different. Scrooge (1951) has an angelic, androgynous figure, while A Christmas Carol has a floating candle carrying a cap. Both functions well as translations of the text but don’t show too much imagination. Scrooge (1970’s) Christmas Past is a middle-aged woman who feels like a mother figure to Scrooge. Going over his past mistakes like a mum bringing out the family photo album for guests. Scrooged’s Christmas Past is a loudmouth Taxi driver who ferry’s Frank around the past. While the Muppet version gives Christmas Past the visage of a child. Whose innocent appearance makes the overall message more poignant.

Of all the ghosts of Christmas Present, the Muppets and Scrooged are the most interesting. The Muppets’ Present, like Scrooge (1970), is more humorous in nature. Very much someone who lives for the moment. Though Muppets’ Present has more depth, as his initially lively nature contrasts greatly with his melancholy later as he begins to waste away. And Scrooged’s Christmas Present is the most original. A cute fairy that slaps people to get them to pay attention to the world around them. A nice change from the usual bearded, robed giant.

Christmas Future is the most consistent in appearance. Every version portrays Future as a hooded figure wearing a dark robe that never speaks. But, of all the adaptations the Muppet version is by far the most unsettling. Nothing about it looks human. It towers over the rest of the cast, with long arms and seemingly no face inside its hood. Making it equal parts fascinating and terrifying.

So, which film has the best ghosts? It has to be a tie between Scrooged and Muppets Christmas Carol. As both display a great amount of imagination in realizing Dicken’s old ideas. Without sacrificing what made them great.

Winner: Muppets Christmas Carol & Scrooged

The Ghosts of Christmas Present (Scrooged left, Muppets Christmas Carol right) (Source: The Viewers Commentary)
The Ghosts of Christmas Present (Scrooged left, Muppets Christmas Carol right) (Source: The Viewers Commentary)

Who Has The Best Supporting Cast?

Of course, Carol’s supporting cast is also important. The Cratchit Family, Scrooge’s nephew and every other character that populate Scrooge’s life add a little extra to the story. All these adaptations have incredible actors in the supporting cast. But Scrooge (1951) and Muppets Christmas Carol use their supporting actors best.

Not that there aren’t incredible actors in the other versions, but unfortunately Scrooge (1970)’s cast never really does much to elevate themselves, remaining functional but largely forgettable. A Christmas Carol (2009)’s motion capture continually distracts from the performances in favour of showing what was possible with motion capture. And many of Scrooged’s prominent supporting players aren’t given enough time to make an impact.

But, Scrooge (1951) and Muppets Christmas Carol’s supporting cast are incredibly memorable. Scrooge’s supporting cast includes greats like Mervyn Johns as Bob Cratchit (the best version in my opinion). Brian Worth as Fred and Carol Marsh as Fan are great. And memorable faces are dotted throughout like Jack Warner, Ernest Thesiger, and Hattie Jacques. Each character has a memorable moment and every actor gives an incredible performance that will leave the viewer riveted. And Muppets Christmas Carol has great fun filling out the supporting cast with regular Muppet characters. Such as having Kermit the frog and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Cratchit and Gonzo as Charles Dickens. Which adds a great amount of humour to the proceedings. And makes all the characters memorable because of the names behind them.

Meaning this segment again ends with a tie. One film showcases the power of incredible performances and great writing. The other demonstrates that sometimes all you need is the right name to make something memorable.

Winner: Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol

The supporting casts of Muppets Christmas Carol & Scrooge (1951) (Sources: Flickr & GQ)

Which Version Has The Best Production?

It’s been interesting to see how each Carol adaptation reflects different attitudes to cinematic production. Scrooge (1951) focuses more on creating an authentic-looking Victorian world for the characters to inhabit. While the blocking and camerawork make for a very classical production. Scrooge (1970) aims for spectacle with varied settings, beautifully muted colours and having the cinematography play a more active role. Using long takes and camera movement to accentuate key moments. Scrooged places emphasis on practical effects and capturing modern metropolitan life. The Muppets use their titular characters to help tell the story, while also incorporating musical numbers. And A Christmas Carol (2009) aims to showcase the capabilities of motion capture and create a thrilling blockbuster. For me, Muppets Christmas Carol is the best of them all.

Everything about the Muppets Christmas Carol is a joy to watch from a visual standpoint. The puppetry is amazing. Within minutes you forget that you’re watching puppets and become completely absorbed into the experience. The special effects also hold up better than many other versions of the story. And is further complemented by the beautiful set design and well-done cinematography. Which comes alive during the musical segments.

Winner: Muppets Christmas Carol

Gonzo and Rizzo in Muppets Christmas Carol (Source: Muppet Wiki)
Gonzo and Rizzo in Muppets Christmas Carol (Source: Muppet Wiki)

Which version tells the story best?

This segment is hard to judge objectively as each interpretation attempts to do something different with the text. But how well does each adaptation achieves its goals?

While A Christmas Carol (2009)’s goal to be entirely faithful to the source material is admirable its attempts to show off the capabilities of motion capture and including over the top action sequences ultimately cheapens the overall experience. Scrooge (1970) also stumbles as it doesn’t have the pomp and energy needed to make a musical work. And the inclusion of these elements doesn’t add anything to the story other than compounding what we already know. Lastly, while Scrooged is a smart modern update of the story, with a great sense of pitch-black humour, unfortunately, it runs out of steam towards the end. Falling back into what we all expect from A Christmas Carol.

Meanwhile, The Muppets is a marvel of juggling tones. It’s consistently funny thanks to the absurd humour found in placing these weird creatures against the human actors who play their roles 100% seriously. But it also knows how to effectively pull on the heartstrings when needed. The inclusion of musical numbers also works better than Scrooge (1970). Because of the effective editing and how the songs tell us more about the characters and the story. The one disadvantage is that the film is overstuffed with ideas. And it does make a few missteps along the way regarding pacing.

And Scrooge (1951) tells the best straightforward version of the story it can. Focusing on the actor’s performances, the writing and the realization of Dickens’ world. While also expanding on certain aspects of the story. Sections that are glossed over in other adaptations are given real depth and weight here. For example, we get to follow Scrooge’s evolution into a miser in great detail. Which gives us great insight into his character. And we finally get a reason for why Scrooge resents his nephew so much. Which adds a tragic layer to both characters.   

Ultimately, despite some lacklustre special effects and minor grievances, I cannot deny that Scrooge (1951) tells its story the best. By being to the point and focusing on/expanding what worked in the source material rather than delivering overblown spectacle.

Winner: Scrooge (1951)

Scrooge & Tiny Tim from Scrooge (1951) (Source: Histomil)
Scrooge & Tiny Tim from Scrooge (1951) (Source: Histomil)

Overall Winners: Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol

Scrooge (1951) & Muppets Christmas Carol Posters (Source: IMDb)

Final Thoughts

The story of A Christmas Carol has truly given us many quality adaptations over the years. There’s something interesting about the fact that the closest adaptation of the book (A Christmas Carol (2009)) is the least interesting. Each of the other adaptations brought something new to the table.

If you want a generally entertaining and good-looking version of the story then Scrooge (1970) is for you. For an effective modern update to the old story, then go with Scrooged. If you want the definitive version that has incredible performances, fantastic design and expands on the source material in a way that feels natural and, in many ways, improves the story then watch Scrooge (1951). And if you want the best modern adaptation, packed full of imagination, memorable characters and perfectly blends humour, music, and drama then check out Muppets Christmas Carol.

Also Read: Who Did It Better?: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

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Reviews

Retro Review: King Kong (1933)

November 26, 2019
King Kong

86 years ago King Kong, the most famous movie monster of all time, made his debut. Since then his first movie has become permanently ingrained in popular culture. Even people who’ve never seen it know the film’s story and several famous quotes. But as we have seen, the influential don’t always stand the test of time.

So join us for our retro review of King Kong as we see just how well it holds up all these years later.

Synopsis

Film director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is looking to make the ultimate movie to silence his critics and please audiences worldwide. To do this he takes his film crew and leading lady, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) to the uncharted Skull Island to find the mythical monster Kong.

Upon reaching their destination the island natives kidnap Ann and offer her to Kong, who carries her off into the jungle. Facing many prehistoric threats the crew eventually retrieve Ann, capture Kong and decide to take him back to civilization.

Once back in New York, Denham puts Kong on display as the eighth wonder of the world. But Kong breaks free, steals Ann and begins wreaking havoc upon the city. Before finally climbing the Empire State Building in one of the most iconic movie endings of all time.

What did I like?

The best part of King Kong is its sheer spectacle. Produced for $672,000 (only $13 million today), King Kong delivers a spectacle that still puts modern movies to shame. The production design and sets are fantastic, giving the film a grand scale. Skull Island’s design is incredibly detailed, feels very lived-in and full of rich history. And effectively contrasts the soulless concrete jungle of New York.

Then there are the iconic effects. The mixture of stop motion, miniatures, full-scale animatronics, and other processes invented for the film, created something film audiences had never seen before. A living breathing world, full of incredible creatures that appeared to actually interact with the cast. Some parts may look a bit ropey today, but the sheer effort it took to realize these sequences and the enthusiasm present make it impossible to not appreciate.

This movie also proved that special effects could be used to realize a story, not just stunning visuals. Kong is one of cinemas best characters. Without a word spoken, we know exactly what Kong is feeling because of his extensive expressive facial animations. Transforming a simple model into a three-dimensional character. And his arc from a mindless animal who sees Ann as a trophy to seeing her as something more is touching and tragic.

Denham also proves to be a compelling character. Though he sees everyone around him as a tool to achieve his ambitions his passion to make art that entertains everyone and his dry sense of humour makes him an enjoyable presence. Despite his actions.  

And Max Steiner’s sweeping orchestral score is incredible. Contributing to the grand scale of the production and adding an operatic edge which gives the dramatic moments great weight. But while Kong’s iconic status is unquestionable, a few blemishes have emerged over time.

What did I not like?

Now, of course, there are the blemishes inherent with films from this era that may impact some modern viewers’ enjoyment of the film. Namely the stereotypical depictions of women as solely damsels to be rescued or objects of affection for the men. And slightly racist depictions of other cultures.

But then there’s also the incredibly cheesy overwritten dialogue and performances, which make the film hard to take seriously. The macho posturing, overegged similes, and hammy New York accents make the film feel like a parody of itself. Resulting in the characters looking more like caricatures than human beings. This isn’t helped by most of the human characters being boring without much depth. Nowhere is this more evident than in the romance between Ann and John Driscoll (Bruce Cabot). It never feels natural. The actors have no chemistry, their dialogue is cringe-inducing and their romance only really serves to further the plot. Instead of being something that helps the characters grow and become compelling. Making the movie a slog until Kong shows up.

Finally, because King Kong’s themes, iconography, and other elements have been so thoroughly reused and deconstructed by other films over the years revisiting the original now can feel underwhelming. While the movie remains important historically, it has largely dwarfed by what it inspired. Ultimately rendering the movie itself as somewhat clichéd as a result. Though this is largely the fault of popular culture, not the film itself.

Verdict

King Kong is a movie that has inspired generations of film lovers and for good reason. With a rousing score, two engaging characters and incredible effects, that required so much time, effort and the invention of new techniques to accomplish, it is a wonderful example of what cinematic fantasy is capable of.

But some elements of the plot do feel forced for the sake of drama. The acting, dialogue, and depictions of certain genders and races are quite dated and may affect some modern audiences enjoyment of the film. And the film itself can be considered somewhat cliché at this point.

Ultimately as a piece of film history Kong is required viewing. It is a piece of entertaining genre filmmaking which though entrenched in the flaws of it’s time helped to pave the way for the blockbusters of today. And that is worth seeing. Warts and all.

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

King Kong (Official Trailer)

King Kong is available on the BBC IPlayer service until 30th November 2019.

Also Read: For Your Consideration: Sci-Fi, Comedy & Oscar Snubs

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Editorials

A Game of Fan Films

November 13, 2019
A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones

There’s no denying that despite its flaws Game of Thrones captured the zeitgeist in a way that few shows have. It sparked the imagination of everyone who saw it. And many used their imaginations to create something creator George R. R. Martin wouldn’t approve of, fan films.

So while we wait to see what’s next for the Song of Ice and Fire, here are five GoT fan films that deserve some recognition.

The Wild Wolf

Set before the events of the series, this short centres on Eddard Stark’s brother Brandon and his duel with Peytr Baelish for Catelyn Tully’s affections.

The Wild Wolf is undoubtedly impressive. The costumes and presentation look almost exactly like the show and the central duel has stellar choreography. But the film’s greatest strength is its main characters, Brandon (Shane Gibson) and Peytr (Curtis Worrell).

Unlike Eddard, Brandon is cocky and self-assured, but his reluctance to jump straight to violence and Gibson’s charm makes him likable and believable as a Stark. And despite knowing Peytr will eventually become a power-hungry schemer, Worrell makes him relatable as an idealist fighting for his true love. His dreams just vastly outweigh his capabilities, remaining true to one of Martin’s primary themes. Most people aren’t wholly good or evil, but somewhere in between.

The Wild Wolf (Short Film)

A Northern Story Episode 3: Blood and Milk

Wendrik Cassel is journeying home to Wolf Hall after the infamous red wedding. When he stops at a tavern and sees Bolton men taking a barmaid hostage, Wendrik must ask if he’s willing to forget what’s left of his honour for a quiet life?

Despite awkward fight choreography and a cheesy ending, Blood and Milk redeems itself by building a tense atmosphere through dialogue and the actor’s performances. The character of Wendrik Cassel is incredibly engaging as one of Westeros’ last good men, and the dialogue oozes with tension and wit.

A Northern Story (Short Film)

Game of Hyrule

The sole parody on the list, Game of Hyrule uses the conceit of a “previously on” segment to recap iconic moments from the Legend of Zelda games. But with a Game of Thrones-esque makeover. Meaning Hyrule has more sex, scheming, backstabbing and murder than ever before.

The hilarity of taking the iconography from the mostly child-friendly Legend of Zelda series and making it over to look like Game of Thrones is pure comedic genius. And it’s all done with loving attention to detail. Any gaming fan will definitely get a laugh from this one.

Game of Hyrule (Short Fim)

The Red Letter

Taking place before the red wedding, Dawn (A Frey servant) attempts to ferry an important letter to Leland (a Tully soldier). However, Walda Frey and her soldiers aren’t about to let that happen.

One thing absent from many GoT fan films is the show’s trademark unpredictability. But The Red Letter captures that perfectly. From the start, we’re thrown into a dire situation as Leland is ambushed by Frey soldiers and an unarmed Dawn tries to escape Walda Frey. Instantly we’re hooked and we’re never sure what the outcome will be. The fight choreography is incredible (despite some wobbly props). And there’s a great amount of personality injected in the limited dialogue. A thrilling watch that packs a punch.

The Red Letter (Short Film)

A Tale of Benjen Stark

Did you ever wonder what happened to Benjen Stark, during his journey beyond the wall? This short answers that question.

While returning from ranging Benjen discovers two survivors from a bloody attack on a wildling camp. As he tries to discover what happened the dead start to rise, attacking him and the survivors.

A Tale of Benjen Stark is a great amalgamation of the previous entries’ best elements. Combining The Red Letter’s great writing and fight choreography, Blood and Milk’s tense atmosphere, the Wild Wolf’s incredible acting, casting, and production design, Game of Hyrule’s attention to detail and each films affection for the source material with inventive camerawork, great music, and effective special effects. Creating a tale which for me deserves to be considered canon to the show.

A Tale of Benjen Stark (Short Film)

So for everyone still craving more Game of Thrones give these films a watch and make sure to mention any great GoT fan films we missed. For the night is dark and full of fan films.

Also Read: Batman Fan Films

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Editorials

7 Reasons Characters Die in Horror Films

November 5, 2019
There are rules for surviving a horror movie

Horror films thrive on spooking their audience in a variety of ways. For example, the recent tech horror Countdown tapped into our anxiety about our mortality with an app that predicts the time you’ll die, down to the second. The central conceit being, how do you avoid death?

Well, today we’re counting down seven reasons characters die in horror films. Avoid these things to ensure your safety.

1. Taking drugs/having sex

Let’s get the obvious reason out first. Now many tend to overstate the significance of not taking drugs and having sex in horror movies. There are many iconic horror movie survivors who didn’t die after taking drugs (Laurie smokes marijuana and survived Halloween (1978)) and having sex (Ginny in Friday the 13 part 2, Sidney in Scream and Jay in It Follows).

But generally, it’s best to play it safe. For every iconic horror survivor who disproves this claim, there are slews of iconic horror victims that prove it. Just see Tina in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) who had sex moments before her tortuous slicing by Freddy Krueger.

Tina’s death is definitely an endorsement for abstinence in A Nightmare on Elm Street [Source: Youtube]

And Palmer in The Thing (1982) definitely shouldn’t have gotten high with a shapeshifting alien creature running around.

Palmer the resident pothead morphs into a killing machine upon being discovered as the thing [Source: Youtube]

2. Mocking conventions

Something less widely recognised is the fact that knowing genre clichés can also be a death sentence. How many times in horror movies have you heard someone mock their compatriots, by saying, “haven’t you seen a scary movie before?” only for them to die soon after. Unless you’re part of the Scream series self-aware characters rarely live to the end credits.

If you don't want to die in horror movies, don't talk about genres tropes.
Lizbeth demonstrating self-awareness in Friday the 13th Part 6 [Source: Tumblr]

For a great example of how self-awareness kills, look at the character of Lizbeth from Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives.

Lizbeth proves that self-awareness can’t stop Jason [Source: Youtube]

3. Heading into the unknown

A word of advice, if you’re heading somewhere and find that it’s abandoned, rundown, has measures in place to keep people out, contains weird items or you don’t know much about it, just leave. You don’t know what may be lurking around.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) typifies this. Two of our leads wander onto a property with a drained swimming pool, blacked-out windows, and teeth are found on the porch. When they don’t leave there are very unfortunate consequences.

Kirk enters into the disturbing Sawyer house in Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) [Source: Youtube]

4. Going anywhere alone

Following on from the last entry, while it’s a bad idea heading into the unknown it’s even worse to go anywhere without bringing someone with you. It’s a good rule of thumb, when you go off alone you’re easier to stalk, terrorize and kill because no one’s there to keep you grounded and out of harm’s way.

No series exemplifies this trope better than the Friday the 13th series. The first movie, in particular, features several effective reasons for why you should never go anywhere alone.

Marcie shouldn’t have gone out on her own in the storm, Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Youtube]

5. Being generally unpleasant

As in life, don’t be unpleasant to people. Don’t insult, belittle, harm or be rude, it just makes everyone hate you. And when everyone hates you in a horror film you can rest assured that you are going to die.

Look no further than this scene from Silent Night for proof of that.

Santa brings death to Christmas in Silent Night [Source: Youtube]

6. Ignoring warnings & premonitions

I get that sometimes it’s hard to accept warnings from strangers, close friends, relatives or even your subconscious (in the case of dreams). It may feel patronising or like you aren’t personally in control. But these warnings are for your safety. It’s so baffling that horror film characters continually ignore them, as it usually leads to someone biting the big one.

Again Friday the 13th shows that warnings should be heeded. If the kids listened to Crazy Ralph, they’d still be alive.

Always listen to doomsayers in Friday the 13th (1980) [Source: Giphy]

7. Cheating death

The final irony of horror movies is that you’re seldom truly safe. There was a time when good people survived and lead happy lives after the credits rolled. But besides the odd exception, that’s not the case nowadays.

If you’re in a self-contained movie maybe, one or two survivors will live to tell the tale. But if you’re a returning character from another film (and you aren’t Sidney Prescott, Ash Williams, Tommy Jarvis or Alice Johnson), you’ll more than likely die. So, if you survive, avoid sequels.

The master of dying in sequels is Laurie Strode. Originally dying in an off-screen car crash between Halloween 2 and 4, she was brought back in H20 (which continued from Halloween 2), only to die again in Halloween: Resurrection. She also died in the director’s cut of Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2 (the second film in the reboot timeline) before being brought back in Halloween (2018). It seems the universe has a fascination with reviving and killing Laurie.

Laurie Strode’s 2nd death in the Halloween Series (Halloween: Resurrection) [Source: Youtube]

So there’s our list of seven reasons why characters die in horror movies. Just avoid doing these things and you’re sure to live to see another day.

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

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Editorials

Return of the Screams: Celluloid Screams 2019

October 30, 2019
Celluloid Screams 2019 Poster

This past weekend to celebrate Halloween I decided to return to the Celluloid Screams horror festival for the second time. And, I wanted to take the opportunity to let you guys know what I thought of the festival this year.

As ever Celluloid Screams was a fantastic experience for genre fans. The staff, organizers and fellow festival-goers were all incredibly friendly and helped contribute to the best festival atmosphere I have been to yet. Everyone was willing to engage in conversation about films, help out with any problems and were incredibly well behaved when it came to watching the films, as well as enforcing good cinema-going etiquette. Something that is always appreciated by me.

Though we didn’t have any director Q&A’s like last year it was more than made up for by the extras we got. Firstly, we had stalls from the likes of Fab Press and Arrow Video. As well as exclusive previews for the second season of Wellington Paranormal and a local production called Seepers: A Love Story coming next year from Gory Hole Films. Both bode well for the upcoming projects. And the festival also did their bit to contribute to a good cause by encouraging people to sign up and give blood with the NHS.

An introduction to the Seepers trailer at Celluloid Screams [Source: Joshua Greally]

Lastly, of course, I got to see loads of films. Unlike last year, I saw all 17 feature films shown at this years festival. But like last year I thought I would give you guys my short takes on the movies I saw. All kept under 50 words, ranked from worst to best:

Corporate Animals: A movie that thinks merely referencing popular culture in a snippy, self-aware fashion (including the Weinstein case) is the same thing as humor. None of the jokes have any sense of timing or build-up. They’re just thrown out by a cast clearly killing time until their paycheques clear. 0.5 out of 5 stars (0.5 / 5)

Outback: Some beautiful cinematography and decently tense moments in the third act don’t make up for the unbearably whiny characters, cringy dialogue and one of the most obnoxious soundtracks I’ve heard all year. 1 out of 5 stars (1 / 5)

Outback at Celluloid Screams
An intro to Outback [Source: Joshua Greally]

Tone-deaf: Despite a standout performance from the ever-great Robert Patrick and a good round of ironic laughs to be had, the films unsubtle nature in regards to delivering jokes, postmodern sub-Scream dialogue and thin characterization make the movie hard to really engage with as anything aside from a funny diversion. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Making Monsters: Using a YouTube prank show as the story basis is quite cringe-inducing. And for the first half only serves as an elaborate crutch to hold up the story. However, once the reasoning behind its use is revealed Making Monsters becomes very entertaining. Even if certain things still don’t make sense. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

After Midnight: A movie that suffers from an identity issue. Part formulaic romance part unengaging monster movie, After Midnight’s first 2 thirds will leave many viewers cold. The finale however, while not entirely justifying the first portion, will leave viewers satisfied. In addition, it features the best jump scare of the festival. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Colour Out Of Space: Nic Cage does cosmic horror. The second Nicolas Cage neon-soaked horror film in as many years (the first being Mandy), does have a lot of dodgy CGI, very wonky performances and an uneven tone. But it more than makes up for it with its sheer entertainment value. 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)

Girl On The Third Floor: While the film would’ve benefited from a different lead actor than CM Punk and it does feel like a first feature, if you want an enjoyable horror movie that focuses on tension over jump scares and thoughtfully addresses issues of sexism present throughout many genre movies then check this out. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss: A mixture of Climax and The Addiction, Bliss is a visually stunning foray into psychedelic horror with a glorious 70s grindhouse aesthetic, some great performances and an infectious soundtrack. Hampered by a severely unlikeable main character, obnoxious dialogue and a very repetitive structure. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Bliss at Celluloid Screams
The last film on the 3rd day, the absolutely bonkers Bliss [Source: Joshua Greally]

Daniel Isn’t Real: Adam Egypt Mortimer’s second feature is a powerful watch. With a strong dower tone, visuals and mostly great performances from its cast. However, it crumbles under its own weight in the third act. Trading in subtlety in favour of overexaggerating everything to the point of unintentional parody. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

The Golden Glove: Chillingly straightforward in its execution of an incredibly bleak story. Featuring an incredibly slimy turn from Jonas Dassler and haunting use of licensed music. The Golden Glove is not a movie you watch to enjoy. But as a well-made true-crime horror movie, you definitely won’t forget it. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Little Monsters: A charming cute zombie romp, that is formulaic, often cheesy and relies a little too much on man-child angst in the beginning. But through Lupita Nyong’o’s heartfelt central performance the film soon finds its footing as a funny love letter to teachers and childhood optimism. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Come to daddy: This black horror-comedy starring Elijah Wood about family reconnection isn’t for everyone. It’s slow, deliberately uncomfortable pace means you never know whether you’re supposed to be laughing or not. Though not all the jokes land and some threads feel like padding, it’s worth seeing purely for its odd presentation. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Why Don’t You Just Die!: No country does social metaphor pictures like Russia. Set mostly in an apartment and taking aim at many aspects of Russian society the film goes in so many different directions and juggles so many different tones so well that you won’t want it to end. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Synchronic: My introduction to Benson and Moorhead (The Endless) couldn’t have made a better first impression. With an incredible premise, fantastic acting (I’d love to see Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan together in another movie), beautiful visuals and a lean pace, this is something any cosmic horror fan needs to see. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum: If you get the chance to see this movie in the cinema, do it. Because so much of this movie’s effectiveness comes from seeing it with a crowd. A brilliant example of transmedia storytelling, thick with atmosphere and imagination. A must watch for fans of 70’s euro cult horror. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

Antrum at Celluloid Screams
A legal notice put outside the screening of Antrum [Source: Joshua Greally]

Extra Ordinary: The film that won the hearts of everyone at the festival, winning first place in the audience vote. A charming homegrown comedy filled with personality, pitch-perfect timing, quirky and engaging characters and the best editing gag I’ve seen this year. All horror-comedy lovers need to see this. 3.5 out of 5 stars (3.5 / 5)

The Nightingale: My favourite film of the festival. Jennifer Kent’s sophomore feature focuses on the horrors of colonialism and oppression with awe-inspiring results. The pacing is a little slow, but everything really comes together to create one of the most hauntingly beautiful, brutal and nuanced films to discuss oppression in years. 4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

An introduction to my favourite film of the festival [Source: Joshua Greally]

So ends my second experience at Celluloid Screams 2019. It was yet again a fantastic experience that makes me proud to be a horror fan. I hope you all found this little retrospective informative and that I’ve encouraged you to check out some of these movies or perhaps even attend the festival in the future. I know I will definitely be trying to return next year. Either way, happy viewing and Happy Halloween.

Also Read: 5 Classic British Horror Films

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Editorials

Was It Really That Bad? Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

October 25, 2019
Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars, the franchise that conquered the world. The troubles making the first film are now legendary. But George Lucas and his team created something truly special with Star Wars and its direct sequels Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Popularly considered three of the greatest sci-fi films ever.

After Return of the Jedi satisfyingly closed the trilogy in 1983, the franchise lay dormant, until 1999 when Episode 1: The Phantom Menace was released. This was the first part of the prequel trilogy which told the story about the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the empire from the original trilogy (retroactively renamed episodes 4, 5 and 6). But it wasn’t the glorious homecoming fans hoped for.

Episode 1 currently sits at a 6.5 on IMDb and a 53% on rotten tomatoes. Quite a dip in quality compared to the first three movies (Star Wars- 8.6 IMDb, 93% RT, Empire Strikes Back- 8.7 IMDb, 95% RT and Return of the Jedi- 8.3 IMDb, 81% RT). But 20 years later, is the Phantom Menace really that bad?

The most hated character in the whole Star Wars Saga, Jar Jar Binks (Source: Mickeyblog.com)

“Be gone with him”

After years of anticipation, initial reviews for The Phantom Menace were resoundingly negative.

Nothing has the right to bore and disappoint us this much.”

-The Guardian

Everything about the movie has been criticized over the years. Whether it’s uninteresting characters, flat performances, the dialogue, the boring story, a lack of understanding of is audience or the use of CG effects. Everyone has a bone to pick with the Phantom Menace.

So, I find myself in a difficult position when I say, Phantom Menace doesn’t deserve the hate it gets.

The looks you get when trying to defend the Phantom Menace (Source: Den of Geek)

“I have a bad feeling about this”

That’s not to say Phantom Menace isn’t flawed. The film suffers from a lack of compelling characterisation. Many characters are mythic archetypes who aren’t relatable on a human level. Though they are still entertaining.

The script is full of ham-fisted dialogue that explains things rather than adding personality to the universe. Some of the performances are lacklustre (Jake Lloyd’s Anakin) or grating (Ahmed Best’s Jar Jar Binks).

And the film has a very confused tone, mixing adult political drama with kid friendly wish fulfilment and blazing action. Which just don’t gel together.

“Weren’t you supposed to be defending Phantom Menace?” (Source: Geektyrant)

“Defiance I sense in you”

But personally, I appreciate Phantom Menace trying to grow with its audience. After 16 years the kids who grew up on Star Wars were becoming adults, so Lucas tried to take an adult look at how the problems of the original trilogy came about.

Granted it wasn’t successful, and it needed the guiding hands of others to help iron things out, rather than George doing everything himself, seemingly unchallenged. But I will always take something different but flawed over safe and boring.

“Agree with you the council does”

And there are many positives to appreciate about Phantom Menace. There are some fine performances from Ewan McGregor as the charming, younger Obi-Wan Kenobi, Liam Neeson as calm, rebellious Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn and Ian McDiarmid is endearing and menacing as both sides of Chancellor Palpatine.

While the film drags in some parts, there are plenty of incredibly enjoyable action beats to make up for that. Like the Naboo escape scene, the pod race on Tatooine and even the overstuffed but enjoyable four-pronged finale.

The movie also has a great design and look. It’s colourful, inventive with a large variety of creature designs, sets, and costumes and it mixes early CG and practical effects in great ways to make its worlds feel bigger than the original trilogy.

And this film features some of composer John Williams’ best work. Will anyone argue that Duel of the fates isn’t one of the best songs of the entire saga?

The best part of the Phantom Menace, underscored by some of the best music of John Williams’ career (Source: Moddb.com)

Was It Really That Bad? …. No

The Phantom Menace is flawed, certainly. It would’ve benefited from having others around to iron out Lucas’ vision rather than giving him complete control.

But at its worst Episode 1 is an entertaining popcorn sci-fi film. Packed with a lot of creative ideas and it features some genuinely good work behind and in front of the camera that deserves appreciation rather than simple hate. Because as Yoda said, “hate leads to suffering.”

Also Read: Was It Really That Bad? Robin Hood (2018)

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5 Classic British Horror Films

October 17, 2019
British Horror

The British are famed for their stiff upper lips, kitchen sink dramas, and movies that flaunt our Shakespearian heritage. But we’re also no strangers to scaring the world silly with horror films. 

So, today we’re celebrating our roots by recommending 5 classic British horror movies you should watch this October.

Anthology – Dead of Night (1945)

An Architect (Mervyn Johns) is heading to an old country house looking for work. But once he gets there, he has the uncomfortable feeling that he has been there before, in his dreams. He recognizes all the houseguests and fears his dream will come true if he stays. His talk of powers at work beyond his control causes the guests to begin recounting their own tales of experiences that are hard to explain logically.

Ealing Studios’ only horror film, Dead of Night is a fantastic showcase for the power of atmosphere. Each of the short stories and the wrap-around segments are fantastic at building an atmosphere in different ways. The use or lack of music, the set design, the bizarre lighting, the camerawork, and the acting all create a feeling that something is not quite right in the idyllic settings they present. Though some of the tales are more comedic than others the movie remains gripping all the way to the end.

Michael Redgrave as the disturbing ventriloquist in Dead of Night (Source: Deadentertainment)

Ghost Stories – The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents tells the story of a governess (Deborah Kerr) who moves into a country estate to look after 2 orphaned children. However, she soon begins to discover dark secrets about the seemingly angelic children and former employees of the estate. She also starts seeing apparitions wandering around the grounds and begins to believe that the children are possessed. But is this real or just in her head?

The Innocents is the classic British gothic chiller. Every element of the film is perfectly constructed to make you feel uneasy. From the use of haunting atmospheric sound to the pitch-perfect performances that make it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy. Then there’s the soundtrack that uses creepy instrumentals and singing children to create a very uncanny atmosphere. Lastly, there’s the cinematography, whose beautifully haunting images will remain with you for a long time, and the direction, that delivers effective scares that will leave your hair standing on end, without needing cheap music stings. Without a doubt, one of the finest ghost stories the UK has ever produced.

Peter Wyngarde “haunting” Deborah Kerr in The Innocents (Source: RedShark News)

Slasher – Peeping Tom (1961)

Peeping Tom concerns Mark (Carl Boehm), a shy, introverted man, obsessed with the power of films and fear. When his neighbour (Anna Massey) takes an interest in him, Mark must try to hide the darkest part of his obsession: his collection of films, recording people’s reactions to their own deaths.

A film that sparked much controversy upon release, effectively ending director Michael Powell’s career, Peeping Tom is now regarded as one of the best horror films ever made.

There are many reasons why Peeping Tom is so effective. Firstly, there’s the writing which constructs an interesting tale about the nature of voyeurism and the disturbing implications of the cinematic art form. Then there’s the inventive camerawork that’s used to implicate us in Mark’s crimes. And there are the fine performances from Anna Massey and Carl Boehm. Boehm is exceptional for turning what could have been a simple psychopathic villain, into a compelling tragic figure. Massey also brings a great tenderness to her performance that makes her instantly likeable, and their chemistry is so awkwardly charming that you route for the pair to overcome everything, despite the horrible things that happen.

Carl Boehm, alone, apart from his camera in Peeping Tom (Source: Mubi)

Hoodie Horror – Eden Lake (2008)

In the 2000s a bizarre British horror sub-genre emerged, hoodie horror. A genre that took the nation’s paranoia around teenage gang culture and turned their worst fears up to 11. Undoubtedly the best of these films was Eden Lake.

Middle-class couple Jenny (Kelly Reilly) and Steve (Michael Fassbender) are heading to Eden Lake for a romantic weekend. Once there they run afoul of a teenage gang who proceed to torment the couple. When Steve goes a little too far, the kids begin a deadly game of cat and mouse as they hunt the couple through the woods.

Eden Lake isn’t exactly subtle regarding eliciting shocks, but it works because of its stripped-down rawness. Its ties to real-world subjects and the natural performances of the cast make everything feel authentic. The violence is especially hard to watch because it’s played seriously and doesn’t shy away from its grim effects on the characters. When Eden Lake’s credits roll you will feel shaken and its ending will stick with you long after you’ve turned off the TV.

Kelly Reilly hiding from monstrous teens in Eden Lake (Source: Motion Picture Blog)

Nuclear Horror – Threads (1984)

This 1984 BBC TV movie focuses on a young couple living in Sheffield at the height of Cold War tensions. Initially, the threat is just another news story, drowned out by the couple’s domestic issues. But things slowly escalate until all-out nuclear war is declared. And once the missiles stop, the survivors must continue on in a world devastated by radiation. 

Being raised near Sheffield I grew up on tales of my parents seeing Threads for the first time and how it left them terrified. It isn’t hard to see why.

Threads’ horror comes from the characters being normal people. They aren’t special, just regular, flawed humans you could meet anywhere. So, you easily sympathize and relate to the characters’ situation. And when the missiles start flying, we’re treated to some of the most harrowing sequences ever broadcast on British television. But the worst part is how matter of fact Threads is. While horrible things are happening, plain white text and narration informs us coldly about the consequences of nuclear war and the damages that will be wrought upon not just the survivors but those who come after. If that isn’t true horror, what is?

The army try to keep order in a world without it. Threads (Source: BBC)

So there are 5 great British horror films to watch this October. Of course, this article has barely scratched the surface of what British horror has to offer. So please share any of your recommendations in the comment section.

Also Read: Horrors On Horror Sets

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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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