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Editorials

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

Big Screen Blinders

March 3, 2019

With filming of the fifth series of the hit now show complete, will the Shelby Family be making their big screen debut?

I was a little late to the Peaky Blinders party, only getting around to watching the show in 2018. (I might have binge-watched the first three series on Netflix and then had to order series 4 on DVD because I couldn’t possibly wait!) From its sharp script to Tommy Shelby’s sharper cheekbones; I was hooked from the start.

Peaky Blinders boasts a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has also received several accolades including the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series and a National Television Award for Most Popular Drama. The show has amassed a cult following since its BBC2 debut in September 2013, with it now being the inspiration for tours, bars and themed live-action events. (Cardiff’s Depot is set to host its second ‘By Order of…’ event after last year’s roaring success.) It even has its own gin!

For those of you who haven’t watched Peaky Blinders, it follows the notorious Shelby family who have the run of post-WW1 Birmingham. They are engaged in countless criminal plots which provide a great deal of the action in the series. However, the show also looks at the impact the war had on industrial cities such as Birmingham and the men who were left to deal with the emotional and physical trauma it caused. Depravity, hedonism and morality become blurred amongst the rising political tensions of 1920s working-class Britain.

The rumour mill has been busy for a while, with whisperings of a film in the pipeline, but the show’s creator, Steven Knight, seems to have confirmed this to be the case.

“We’re getting approached to do all kinds of things- the ballet, the musical…and the movie would be great.”

Cillian Murphy, who plays Tommy Shelby, has also confirmed he would want to be involved if “the writing was as good as the show.”

Knight has said that he wants to make seven series in total and end “with the first air raid siren [of the Second World War] in Birmingham”, 25th June 1940. Potentially, a big screen version of the show would happen before the end of the series itself. So what would the film version need to live up to the small screen powerhouse that is Peaky Blinders?

Awe-inspiring Aesthetics

The cinematography in this show is absolutely breathtaking. Within the grim context of post-war Birmingham, where crime was rife and prostitution was often a necessity rather than a choice, particular shots can powerfully contrast this misery or emphasise it. It’s little wonder that the show, specifically George Steel, won the British Academy Television Craft Award for Photography and Lighting in 2014.

Opening Scene, series 1

Fire, smoke and shadows are utilised to perfection in this show, encapsulating the internal struggle of the characters it follows. It’s a Media Teacher’s dream!

Series 4

Multi-faceted Characters

The Shelby Boys are a notorious criminal gang who threaten, maim and kill anyone who stands in their way. Yet they are also vulnerable men, picking up the pieces after a brutal war, who look after those who matter to them. Tommy Shelby, the organiser of the biggest heists, is so damaged by post-traumatic stress that he is reliant on narcotics to even sleep at night. Arthur Shelby, the oldest of the brothers, also struggles with his own demons throughout the series. It is this vulnerability of outwardly strong characters which is a particular strength of the show; it humanises them. This might have something to do with Knight’s family links to criminal gangs which he was told about during his childhood. In an interview with Radio Times, he said; “These were people just like us, you know. They were no different to us, inside.

The female characters, too, are complicated which makes a refreshing change from often one-dimensional roles for women. The family is ruled by a strong matriarch, Aunt Polly Gray (fantastically played by Helen McCrory), who manages the affairs of the Peaky Blinders. Her strength is undeniable, both in heated discussions with Tommy and in harrowing situations brought about by a vehement love for her family. Polly’s inner demons are never far from the surface and often bubble over during times of particular desperation; just like anyone else.

That Soundtrack

Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ moody track Red Right Hand is now synonymous with Peaky Blinders. This show knows how to use music to its advantage, picking gritty songs which pair perfectly with the harsh depictions on screen. It just as easily juxtaposes a softer sound, such as Laura Marling, with painful scenes. The show’s soundtrack is able to ratchet up the emotion with a swift key change. The BBC have compiled an excellent Peaky Blinders playlist while NME have listed the ten best songs from the soundtrack, in their opinion. (Be warned, this list does feature some spoilers!) It might help that one of the composers is Antony Genn of the band Pulp. He and Cillian Murphy discuss what songs are Peaky in NME.

Script Writing Perfection

It has already been mentioned how important the quality of the writing is before a potential film can move forward and it’s easy to understand why. Each strand of a storyline is defined and developed. This coupled with fully rounded characters, the scripts have it all. It is difficult to fully explain just how well written the show is but it seems to have the perfect blend of witty lines and philosophical musings delivered in that wonderful Birmingham drawl.

We can look forward to series 5 being back on our screens this year with a move to BBC1. Hopefully, the big screen will follow soon after. It is an exciting prospect to see what tale will unfold in a feature-length telling of the Peaky Blinders, the possibilities are endless!

Peaky Blinders – Season 1 Trailer (BBC)
Editorials

Five Movies To Watch Right Now On BBC iPlayer

January 30, 2019
I, Daniel Blake

In the age of streaming, where two heavyweight services in the form of Netflix and Amazon Prime seem to dominate the platform, it’s easy to forget about the other services that can be used to watch and enjoy films on, such as BBC iPlayer. Though there is a limited time to watch these films, iPlayer provides a wide variety of films to suit all tastes, from documentaries, to biopics, to horror. Below is a taste of films iPlayer has to offer, at the time of writing.

Man on the Moon (1999) – Available for five months

Jim Carrey (Man on the Moon)

A biopic of Andy Kaufman, the Saturday Night Live star, possibly shouldn’t have a history as interesting as the film itself. Starring Jim Carrey, Man on the Moon depicts the life of the Taxi star, from his struggle to “make it” as it were, to his sitcom hating days, to his wrestling career, to the end of his remarkable but short life. In perhaps a bitter twist, after playing tricks on his audience throughout the film, Andy realises in a desperate attempt to save his life, that he too has had the wool pulled over his eyes; and in that moment, he just laughs. It’s a hauntingly tragic performance by Carrey, who threw his all into the role (which is explored in a documentary entitled “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond”) and it’s one that brings a tear to the eye.

The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018) – Available for thirteen days

Orson Welles (The Eyes of Orson Welles)

Often regarded as one of the most important, or even the best, director of all time, Orson Welles left behind a mysterious legacy and this documentary aims to give you further insight into how Welles’ mind worked. Mark Cousins takes the viewer on a visual journey, showcasing the sketches and artwork Welles’ drew during his time – sketches of the people and places he found vividly intriguing. It’s an entirely new way to view his films and Cousins seems to have nothing but admiration for him. Though it seems to add more to the secrecy of Welles, it also begs to question of where his inspiration came from and of how he viewed his own conscience. Cousins documentary reads like a love-letter to the director creating an awe-inspiring film, for any fan.

Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Available for over a year

Night of the living Dead
Zombies (Night of the Living Dead)

In what is often seen as a pivotal film for horror and zombie culture alike, George A. Romero’s classic film follows an unlikely group of allies as they attempt to survive the undead uprising together. It’s an iconic horror, one that has since gone on to inspire many other zombie films, including Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead. Though filmed in 1968, it has remained as gruesome as ever; one scene depicts a failed escape attempt by the group, resulting in two charred bodies being eaten by the undead. The ending of hope for one lucky survivor is also snatched away at the last minute, leaving the audience feeling as hopeless as those trying to survive. It’s a must watch for horror, zombie and classic film fans alike.

I, Daniel Blake (2016) – Available for five days.

I, Daniel Blake

A gritty tale of how politics can affect the ‘little guy’, I, Daniel Blake follows its protagonist as he tries to appeal the decision that he is fit for work, after being told by medical specialists he is not. He forms an unlikely friendship with a single mother, helping her to survive on the bare minimum, and attempts to save her from a certain path of desperation, even though she sees no other way to feed her children. The Ken Loach film looks deep into how certain decisions from those in charge, can change us and turn protestors into us all. In one particular scene, after being told he must look harder for work or risk being sanctioned, Blake spray paints “I, Daniel Blake, demand my appeal date before I starve”. It’s a poignant film and one of Loach’s best.

Manchester by the Sea (2016) – Available for twelve days

Manchester by the sea
Manchester by the Sea

Casey Affleck gives his best performance to date in Manchester by the Sea, as he plays a troubled handyman by the name of Lee who, after losing his brother, has to try to navigate his way through his grief and the subsequent responsibility of looking after his nephew, Patrick.  The film is often fraught with despair; no matter the choices Lee makes, it never seems to be the right one, and though he wants to be there for his nephew, he also seems to realise that the best thing he can possibly do for Patrick is to not be in his life at all. However, despite all this, the film manages to maintain an air of possibilities – the possibility that Lee and Patrick can keep their new found relationship positive, the possibility that Lee can face his demons and, more importantly, the possibility that Lee can defeat his demons. A tragically beautiful film that will stay with you.

Watch all these films & more on BBC iPlayer.

News

Documentary | Searching For Kanye West

December 18, 2018

During his travels across the US, Ben Zand has intimate conversations with Kanye’s childhood friends in Chicago, his political allies in Washington, his soul-singing cousin in Texas, and his legendary manager in the Hollywood Hills. Ben’s search for Kanye is a fresh and revealing portrait of one of the most controversial and influential artists of the 21st century, at a pivotal point in the life of ‘Ye’.

Watch the full documentary below.

Interviews

Matthew Holness: Possum, The New Silent Horror

October 24, 2018
Matthew Holness

POSSUM is the debut feature film from writer/director Matthew Holness, co-creator and writer/star of the
cult TV series Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace.

The story follows disgraced children’s puppeteer Philip (Sean Harris), returning to his childhood home of
Fallmarsh, Norfolk, intent on destroying Possum, a hideous puppet he keeps hidden inside a brown leather
bag. When his attempts fail, Philip is forced to confront his sinister stepfather Maurice (Alun Armstrong) in
an effort to escape the dark horrors of his past.

We had a chance to chat with writer / director, Matthew Holness, to talk about his debut feature film, his inspiration behind the film, it’s unique soundtrack and much more…

Big Picture Film Club: What were your influences in developing the film?

Matthew: Possum was originally a short story, it was never really the intention to develop it as a film, but I was really interested in a lot of the old silent horror films from the 1920’s – German horror films like Nosferatu, M & various others. I fell in love with those films because they seem to be able to deal with characters with extreme psychological states. A lot of those films are about the First World War, there are so many things going on in those films, but at a level below the surface.

I just thought how could you make a silent horror film for a modern audience. What kind of film would it be? And would it be possible to do that? I knew I had this story I had written called Possum, which was about a character that had gone through something so traumatic that he really couldn’t talk about it. He just constructed a puppet to deal with that trauma and that felt to me like a classic scenario for a silent horror film.

Big Picture Film Club: How was it like working with the [BBC] Radiophonic Workshop? And how did their involvement shape the mood and tone of the film?

Matthew: They are part of the old BBC Radiophonic workshop, they’re not BBC now. They’re their own entity. They came on board during the editing process because my editor, Tommy Balding, and I had been putting temporary music tracks on the footage and the tracks that really worked well were old tracks by the Radiophonic Workshop (when they were the BBC Radiophonic Workshop). There were some old Delia Derbyshire tracks that we were putting over some sequences and they just really captured a mood and strange, other-worldly atmosphere that fits perfectly with Philip’s world. The geography of his mind just seems to come alive with this music.

I tried to license the tracks so we could use them in the film, but during that process, my musical supervisor, Phil Canning, said that that he knew the radio radiophonic workshop was looking to score a feature film, so he set up a meeting. They watched the film and saw what music that we were using as temporary tracks. Luckily, they found it was appealing enough to want to score it. I couldn’t believe it when I found that out, it was an incredible bit of news, but it kind of fit so perfectly. They were just the perfect fit for the film and the character of Philip – and his headspace.

Sean Harris as Philip in Possum

Sean Harris as Philip in Possum

Big Picture Film Club: This is your debut feature as a writer / director, did you find it daunting stepping from in front of the camera to behind the camera? And from a production standpoint how did that transition feel to you?

Matthew: I’ve done three short films beforehand, so I wasn’t daunted by the prospect of directing. However, directing is always a nerve-wracking experience. I certainly get pre-production nerves, as I think anyone does, but actually, far fewer nerves than acting because I just inherently feel directing is more my thing than acting. So I felt far more comfortable directing and writing than I do acting. It was nerve-wracking, but it wasn’t daunting in that sense in that I had previous experience. Having said that the scale of a feature compared to a short, you don’t really get a sense of how different it is until you’re actually filming.

I would say in terms of pre-production it’s still the same level of intensity, in that you have to do all the same sorts of things, and in fact the amount of work you have to put in on a short film is not far off the same amount of work you have to put on to a feature. So pre-production [for a feature film] is not necessarily any more difficult than it is for a short film. Certainly when you’re actually filming then you really do encounter just the depth and length of the entire process; a 4-week shoot is far more than a 3-4 day shoot. You learn to pace yourself, you have to find physical and mental stamina that isn’t necessarily an issue on a short film. You kind of get into the swing of it after a few days, then it’s business as usual and all the nerves go away when you’re making the film.

Big Picture Film Club: A lot of elements of the film are quite spare, like the lack of dialogue or the environments chosen. This places a lot more emphasis Philip [Sean Harris] & Maurice’s [Alun Armstrong] relationship. How was it like building that dynamic between them and showing that sense of shared history together?

Matthew: First & foremost the film is about loneliness, as well as other things, but it was important to locate Philip in a space and in a world where he has no communication with anyone. Therefore he’s shot in very lonely places, those are the places he actively seeks out. The only real communication he with anyone is with Maurice and it’s a very unhealthy and tense relationship. What they say to each other isn’t necessarily what they’re thinking or feeling. It is a relationship that in its current state is out of sheer habit; it’s a very antagonistic, passive-aggressive, relationship.

When it came to actually put the two characters together on screen, the tension really comes from the fact the Sean and Alun didn’t communicate off-screen. Sean’s a method actor and part of the process for him was that he didn’t want to engage with the outside world at all. He was in character, he didn’t want to engage with Alun, so you’re really seeing them only get together as those characters. On-screen you’re really just seeing these two characters engaging in this fictional world, so that contributes to that intensity. It’s a very powerful method when it works like that, it’s interesting to watch, and very tense to watch and edit together. I think a lot of that comes from Alun and seans approach to the material.

Big Picture Film Club: Lastly, from its festival screenings, how have you found the reaction to the film? Were there particular reactions that you weren’t expecting that surprised you?

Matthew: Not really, you never know what an audience will make of something until you put it in front of them, so I was sort of apprehensive. I wanted two things to work: one, that they felt for Phillip despite him being an initially unlikeable character, I was very keen that they did feel for Philip. And two, I wanted it to be scary and there was no guarantee of those two things going in. Luckily, it feels that the audiences do empathise with Philip and they are interested in him. And I think they do stay with him and stick with him, there’s a kind of endurance test with Philip, and those who do stick with him and feel for his predicament I think really root for him and really like the film.

It’s about a very difficult subject and I think unless audience members feel for someone who’s gone through something like that it’s potentially not something that they can inherently connect to. I’m glad that audiences have come out and really rooted for him, to varying degrees, but it’s certainly a reaction I’ve felt from them. I’m pleased that it frightens people, it seems to get under peoples skin and that was always the intention. It’s a grimy, gritty sort of film, it’s not supposed to be nice, it’s not supposed to have a happy ending, because there isn’t closure for victims that have gone through an experience like that. It was important not to make it a cinematic happy ending because that wouldn’t be truthful to the subject. It’s an unpleasant film, it’s probably a film people won’t watch twice, but that’s the intention behind it. It is supposed to take you to a place where that’s covered up and brushed aside, that’s really lifting the lid off something unpleasant and that’s the point of it.

Big Picture Film Club will be holding a special screening of Possum on Thursday 1st November at Genesis Cinema, London. Tickets & Info: http://bit.ly/PossumFilm

Possum (Official Trailer)

Watch the official trailer for Possum. We are partnering with Bulldog Film Distribution to bring you a special screening of Possum, our pick for the best British horror film this year, on Thursday 1st November at Genesis Cinema. Info: Possum – Halloween Special

Gepostet von Big Picture Film Club am Sonntag, 14. Oktober 2018