Saturday, 31 December 2011

Another Earth


On the eve of the discovery of a duplicate planet, the lives of young, bright student Rhoda (Brit Marling) and successful composer John (William Mapother) tragically cross paths in a fatal car accident and are irrevocably intertwined. Four years from the accident and Rhoda leaves prison a felon; an outsider in society desperate to make amends to the bereaved man whose life she ruined four years prior.

When granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to start a new life on ‘Earth 2,’ Rhoda is finally met with a way out, a route to escapism that she has so longed for. But with the development of her strange relationship with John riddled with complications and guilt, and as the truth precariously unravels, it becomes a route she has difficulty in seizing.

 The running plot of a duplicate planet which all too suddenly appears visible to Earth is a flimsy one and a poor claim to label the film a sci-fi. The population’s apparent mass hysteria is revealed through a small cast and connections between the two planets are even less believable. But as a plaintive drama and a coming-of-age-tale of redemption and salvation wrapped around the cosmic relationship between two people disorientated in the world they inhabit, director Cahill (and co-writer & leading actress Brit Marling) has created a compelling debut story of parallel lives and second chances.

The pulsing soundtrack effectively engages with the charging emotion between the two leading characters as well as with Rhoda’s disengagement with the earth she knows paralleled with an over-hanging hope of a more promising one. With films of generic sci-fi elements often calling for huge CGI effects to spark explosive apocalyptic crashes, Another Earth’s use of digital-video relies on it’s fresh indie roots, mirroring what is still a rare placement of ideas over actions in films today.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Wuthering Heights


Not surprising is the release of yet another re-telling of a classic novel that has made its way into our cinemas.

Andrea Arnold’s brave adaptation of Bronte’s novel can certainly be credited for its originality and ambitiousness. In this version, Heathcliffe is a black runaway from the urban grit of Liverpool whose been picked up by the Earnshaws and raised on their country farm in Yorkshire. As youngsters, Healthcliffe (Lee Shaw) and Cathy (Shannon Beer) form a stiff but compassionate relationship, existing as a sort of innocent hybrid between siblings and lovers. As they spend their endless days playing together on the moors, they live harmoniously within their passionate childhood romance.

While the vision of oppression is still apparent, the casting of a black actor as Heathcliff as a spin on Brontë’s “dark-skinned gypsy” diverts the tale’s initial theme of social class as a barrier between the characters relationship and instead is replaced with racial obstacles. Healthcliffe spends his early years subject to Cathy’s racist and vindictive brother, victim to his malicious treatment and cruel humiliation (“He ain’t my brother, he’s a nigger.”) Although we see the isolating life of an Afro-Caribbean in mid 19th century England through his eyes, we know very little about his past and background.

The characters in their younger form effectively embrace a kindled and instinctual love and friendship, most memorably characterised in the touching scene whereby Cathy tenderly soaks and licks the blood off Heathcliffes slave-whipped back. However as adults (Kaya Scodelario & James Howson) the characters and actors become less convincing and more distant, both with one another and with the audience. As Heathcliffe returns to the farm wealthy, accomplished and still yearning for Cathy, his ongoing battle for her love is considerably diluted by their thin presences and seemingly disinterested and emotionally absent selves. The lack of a finite tragedy in the films conclusion is disappointing; with a lack of emotional build up from the aging transition and a missing dramatic edge, we are left just as disillusioned from the world as Healthcliffe becomes.

Typical of many modern-day adaptations of novels is the reliance of visual images and sounds over literary dialogue. With superb camera work and a plausible soundtrack that catches the ambience of the bleak moor, we rather wish dialogue had been cut altogether. With repeated use of the words ‘cunt’ and ‘nigger’ being spat around between the characters (with “fuck off, you cunt” being Heathcliffe’s initial greeting to the Linton’s over dinner) we severely doubt much use of Bronte’s literary reference. The dialogue appears effective in highlighting how the brutal world and harsh environment has sucked the residents into its lair; however we cannot help but feel shocked and uneasy as we are vastly stricken from our ordinary cosy period drama.

Arnolds focus on camera work sweeping the bleak and desolate moors and zooming in on nature’s wilderness is an effective depiction of the gritty moors and perhaps the highlight of the film. While this superbly homes in on the harsh environment in which the characters live, we are still discontent with the lack of attention, description, and even reference to, the building and grounds of Wuthering Heights which we are so intimately connected to in Bronte’s novel and in previous film adaptations.

Arnold has without a doubt completely re-energised the story for a new generation in her austere, elemental version but the fact that it severely lacks reference to its original roots regarding characters, plot and literary dialogue and disregards the novel’s intensely emotional disposition, almost to the point that Bronte herself would perhaps not recognise it as her own work, struggles to place Arnolds work as a homage to its origin.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Perfect Senses


Ever wondered what it would be like to smell nothing? ...hear nothing? …taste nothing? …see nothing? How about if all this happened at once? Perfect Senses is an original and touching story which endeavours to show us just this.

Susan (Eva Green) is a epidemiologist monitoring a mystery case patient who has lost his sense of smell. We soon learn that this is happening to people all over the world and, as the epidemic vastly spreads, people are gradually being deprived not only of their smell but one by one their other senses too. Before parting with each sense a person is first stricken with an outburst of emotion upheaval (profound grief before losing their smell, frantic hunger before losing their taste and so on…)

The film is shot well. Although the film is predominantly shot on location in Glasgow, projecting an unsettling ‘close-to-home’ feeling, Mackenzie uses a concoction of montages of worldwide images, news reels and voiceovers to depict the widespread chaos and anarchy in this uncontrollable apocalyptic world.

Director David Mackenzie has undoubtedly created a beautifully unique picture different from other ‘end of the world’ depictions but, although it still neatly fits into the field of scientific fiction, the actual science behind the concept is weakly supported. There is no attempt made by Mackenzie to neither explain nor offer any theory into why or how this is happening and throughout the film the outbreak remains an unexplainable mystery; one which we see is hardly resisted but largely accepted by the population affected. It seems bizarre how we follow the life of a scientist (Susan) yet Mckenzie allows her character to show little interest or effort in trying to explore the illness or revive the population.

Similarly approached by Gareth Edwards’ in his 2010 Monsters, the focal direction of the plot instead lies in the passionate affair between the two central characters, Susan and talented chef, Michael. Meeting for the first time outside Michael’s restaurant just as the plague enters its first phase, the plot essentially follows the couple’s journey to survival as they slowly watch the world around them turn to disaster and disorder, as well as- at times- each other. Despite their ups and downs as we see the plague taking its toll, they learn how essentially all they need to survive are each other. Although this may seem like an all too familiar happy-ending romance story, Mckenzie effectively delivers a realistic depiction of humanity in desperation as it gradually dissolves into helplessness, crumbling into the hands of the merciless disease… and the conclusion isn’t quite as blissful and conclusive as one might expect.

If you go to the cinema with the expectations to see a well-informed apocalyptic sci-fi thriller like District 9 or The Day After Tomorrow you will be disappointed. However, if you let yourself engage with this beautifully executed spin on human relations in a time of turmoil, this really is a film worthy of a watch.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Red, White & Blue


Although the UK Premiere of Red White & Blue screened over a year ago at Film4 Frightfest 2010 it has been a long journey for British Director Simon Rumley’s psycho-sexual horror to receive an official UK release date. On the 30th September Red, White & Blue will finally reach cinemas across the country.

 Erica (Amanda Fuller) is a disaffected young woman who spends her time being generally unpleasant- swearing, smoking and having meaningless sexual encounters with the strange men in her home town of Austin, Texas. Emotionally withdrawn and tragically damaged, the nymphomaniac does whatever she can to distract her from, what is later revealed as, her haunting past of sexual abuse as a child; losing her virginity at the age of four…to her mother’s boyfriend. The opening montage of scenes which demonstrates her promiscuous revenge is cleverly manipulated by Rumley, neither condemning nor glorifying Erica’s actions. 

Enter Nate (Noah Tyler), an Iraqi war veteran who received an honourable discharge (the reason not made known), but more importantly a neighbour to Erica in a boarding house in Austin. He too appears secluded and withdrawn, even creepy at times, but despite this Rumley creates a likeable character who genuinely tries to help the unreachable Erica, whether she wants it or not. Although his efforts are instantly rejected by the fact that she doesn’t ‘, he insists on building a protective aura around her. When she gets fired from her job of mopping floors at a local restaurant, Nate finds her employment at his workplace in a DIY warehouse where we gradually see their relationship bloom into a fragile but tender friendship.

 Meanwhile, the story skips to young wannabe rock star, Frankie. Despite the band member’s aggressive and sulky attitude, we are conflicted in our opinions as we learn that Frankie is in fact a full-time carer for his beloved mother who has been diagnosed with cancer. 

While Rumley dedicates a considerable amount of plot to the character development of these central figures, this slow-burn thriller is quickly turned on its head when Frankie receives some terrible news. As the stories intertwine and the lives of the trio become tangled in a second-revelation that proves life-changing for all three, the movie quickly spirals into a heart-racing and disturbing tale…with one dominating theme: Revenge. All of a sudden, things get nasty. The calm and tranquil atmosphere carefully crafted by Rumley in the first two-thirds of the movie loses all inhibition as we are thrown into several unsettling torture scenes.

Rumley obviously didn’t hold back in this one. The artistic but brutal approach in these scenes are nothing less than harrowing, and are vivid reminders of the extreme violent techniques adopted by Gaspar Noe’s in his 2002 release Irreversible. As the mental instability from Nate’s war-time past resurfaces, we see less of his seemingly-gentle natured self and instead witness the actions of a cruel and calculated machine; actions that Rumley guarantees to be explicitly unnerving.

Not to be ignored is the use of the music score by Richard Chester (who also worked on the score for Rumley’s ‘The Living and the Dead.’) Although absent for most of the film, it plays for the first four minutes in the opening scenes, setting the tone superbly for what is to come. It proves pivotal in the latter scenes where it’s contrasting composition is used as the primary tool for heightening emotion and suspense- notably effective in one of the final scenes where Nate is able to finally feed his hunger for revenge….and boy was he hungggrryyyyyyy!

Monday, 3 October 2011

The Woman

 2. The Woman ****

Following his collaborative novel with horror novelist Jack Ketchum, Lucy McKee’s adaptation of The Woman easily bulldozes its way into the category of the most shocking films of this year. Pollyanna McIntosh stars as ‘The Woman’, a feral human who is captured by middle class man Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers.) Chris hides the woman away, chaining her up in their outside cellar, whilst telling his wife Belle (Angela Bettis) and children that they are to keep her there, to civilise the barbaric creature; to do ‘right’ by performing a public service. This, of course, is far from the truth.

While it is hard to place the film in terms of subgenre, this is not necessarily a bad thing. McKee effectively uses a clever mixture of a serial killer slasher, cannibal and feral human films, alongside a definite turn towards torture porn to create an original picture; a film rather different from his previous successes, namely his 2002 May.

The film looks heavily at domestic violence, the woman and wife both victims to the sadistic husband and to some extent, his misguided son. Although being labelled feministic and misogynistic in early reviews, McKee’s defence is that “ , and ultimately it is the woman who triumphs over the man in an explosive, revengeful attack where the film loses all inhibition in the last 15 minutes.

Although, because of the brutal nature of the captivation and violence, we are immediately sympathetic of the woman, McKee gives her very little to like as a character. She does not speak a recognisable language and rarely shows any distinguishable expression, other than to snarl and growl at her captives.

While the feral human is perhaps the most obvious candidate for the titular of the film, it is Belle who creates the turning point of the film as she unveils a long-awaited confrontation with her husband in objection to his mistreatment of the woman. From then onwards everything spirals out of control and the tone of the film changes from dark and unsettling to somewhat satisfying. In one sweet scene the layers of Cleek’s carefully built family rapidly unravel.

Wrongly, acting is too often discredited in horror films. However, perhaps what stands out most about McKee’s adaptation are the brilliant performances of the whole cast. Sean Bridger plays a madman-behind-the-scenes to perfection with a shimmering glow of normality to others outside his family and is very convincing as a psychopathic father. Opposite him, Angela Bettis takes the role of a physically beaten, emotionally depleted and weakened mother very seriously. Finally, McIntosh superbly adopts the role of a dirty beastly woman and, what could easily be seen as laughable about her character (such as her jibberish language,) instead reveals a menacing and harrowing figure. By playing half the film nude, being fed like a dog and powerhosed, she shows her bravery as an actress and full commitment to the role.

The Woman is certainly shocking and disturbing, compelling at times, but its overall brilliance and originality is a credit to Lucky McKee and although its outcome is suspected early on, the build from the first drop of blood shed to its bloody climax is immense.

The Glass Man

  1. The Glass Man. *****
Directed by Cristian Solimeno, The Glass Man follows the story a desperate family man whose life is put into his own hands in one fateful night as he crosses barriers no man would ever hope to have to face. Martin Pyrite has lost his job and finds himself in huge financial difficulties. Instead of being honest with his wife, Martin hides his monetary problems, becoming trapped in a world of guilt and pride. But when Martin is on the brink of desperation, he is visited late one night by a debt collector with an offer; an offer he decides he can’t refuse. If Martin helps him carry out a task that night his financial debts will be wiped clean and his angst diminished. However, what this task entails catapults Martin into his own private and uncontrollable hell where he is forced to confront his fears in a mesmerising vortex of soul-destroying madness. Solimeno successfully captures the mindset of a broken man during a desperate struggle in an all too-familiar society of repression. We find ourselves unwillingly immersed into Martin’s pain and fear as he plummets deeper and deeper into his tragic destiny in this psychological thriller. Andy Nyman delivers an empowering on-screen presence throughout this chilling story, effectively playing a man on the brink whom the audience are immediately emotionally connected to. Nyman very ably carries the movie almost single-handedly, although is helped by the scary and striking character of Pecco, played superbly by James Cosmo, who provides him with plenty of opposition and difficulties to work with. Nyman’s spellbinding presence is undoubtedly a life-time performance which will be remembered for a long time to come.
After viewing Solimeno’s film, you find yourself picking out what appeared to be irrelevant detail in the earlier scenes and realising how it actually becomes exquisite to the plot as its twists and turns unravel.
I feel lucky to have been able to witness the World Premiere of this film and it noticeably left a mark on the rest of the audience. This really is a film not to be missed.


Frightfest, sponsored by FILM4, is a 5-day Horror and Fantasy festival screening UK, European and Worldwide premieres by directors from all over the world. Holding its first major event in 2000, Frightfest has since developed into a successful and highly anticipated, not-to-be-missed annual event for fans of the genre. With directors, producers, casts and fans from all over the world, this festival holds a buzzing atmosphere from start to finish, revealing a unique mixture of talent from all enthusiasts across the industry.

Having just attended my second consecutive Frightfest I was pleased to finally be back amongst the real buffs of the genre and immersed in gore galore! The festival followed its standard routine of screening 5-6 films a day back-to-back and throwing in some trivial, fan-involved competitions/quizzes etc. Being exposed to so many disturbing films in one day really is like going on a thrill-ride and forgetting to get off. From the opening credits of the first film on the morning of day 1, the audience are instantly catapulted into a whirlwind of genius plots from masterminds of the genre. The sheer amount of thrills and scares a person is subjected to can only be likened to being on-board a mental rollercoaster…for the best of 5 days. One minute you can be laughing along to the comedic atrocities of Tucker and Dale in Tucker and Dale vs Evil, and the next wincing away from the screen waiting for the Grim Reaper to carry out his sinister agenda in Final Destination 5. But I guess what ultimately tests whether you’re a true horror film fanatic or not is whether you can sit in a cinema for 11 hours a day- I have to say, that in itself can be rather distressing!

Whereas last year’s Frightfest was largely dominated by the works of European and Asian directors (actually my forte!) this years festival took a slightly different direction and pushed to uncover the talents of the UK and USA Horror Film industry. The somewhat originator of the franchise in the early 20th century, but arguably showing a recent decline in quality, it was interesting to see so much produce of horror from the western world included in the five days. Although I did find this limited the variety and the originality I had seen the previous year across the array of films, it was a pleasant surprise to witness some raw talent from the much-missed quality of American directors. Despite a considerable percentage of the films shown being continuations in a blockbuster franchise or ones that followed the comedic path (which, in my opinion, are being made in too higher frequency since the 2005 release of Shaun of the Dead- and to add, not to the same quality,) there were some real nail-biting and chilling premieres that really grasped my attention…

An Introduction to a 'Film Review' Blog...

Ok…so I am a third year student studying Journalism, Film & Media and am starting this blog to finally put an end to my apparently “annoying” habit of coming out of the cinema and boring whoever I’m with, with endless tosh on my opinions on what we’ve just witnessed. As a regular cinema-goer and avid film viewer, my entries will generally discuss and review the movies that I watch (mostly new releases, but will no doubt chuck some older films in too.) My interest largely lies in the Horror genre so I guess naturally a lot of posts will discuss Horror films- but, if not a fan, please don’t be alarmed if you see entry titles on the subject of, for e.g, spitting on graves, werewolves in London or hunting trolls!

Considering I was at Film4’s Frightfest (an annual Horror Film festival in London) when I finally decided to put some of my thoughts to paper (or screen should I say!), I figure that would be a good place to begin…