Sunday, 6 March 2011

Review: A Reckoning (AD Barker, 2009)

This review can also be found on Brutal as Hell.

A Reckoning is a small film, but thoroughly grand. It’s horror and melodrama and poetry for the same reason: it’s a meditation on the human condition. Despite its desolate, gorgeous landscapes and lonely protagonist, this is no simple last man on Earth tale. It’s difficult to synopsise A Reckoning. It tells the tale of a Man who appears to be utterly alone in the world, and as a result has created people made from straw with whom to interact – be they the children he teaches in a dilapidated school, or  the revellers and barmen in a run-down club. For me, the film is far more about one man's isolation than it is any apocalyptic future, and as such the film is an effective metaphor of a struggle for mental health as much as it is a thrilling, but ambiguous, drama.

Naturally, the film relies heavily on the central performance of the Man, and it’s safe to say that Leslie Simpson fully embodies the role. As a disturbed, lonely creature, the Man’s desperate interactions with the straw people who co-inhabit his desolate world are as touching as they are tragic; his attempts to leave his confines more so. Simpson’s performance never falters from being utterly compelling, carrying the hefty weight of the film with ease.

The desolate landscape of the film is stunningly brought to life. DoP Adam Krajczynski brings out the beautful and the beastly from the various natural landscapes on offer, from snow to seaside, while endowing the cracked man-made structures with a crumbling beauty all of their own. Director Barker must be commended for his truly affective direction, some of the Man's most frightening and touching moments framed in a such a way as to maximise emotional impact through something of an intimate distance. We feel for the Man throughout, but even in absolute close-up, we're never particularly close to him.

A Reckoning is, perhaps, not for everyone. The pace is slow, precise; and it certainly doesn't offer any easy narrative answers. For a film made independently and on a low budget, it successfully avoids that trap that many fall into: it never once looks cheap. Make-up effects are sparse but effective, and most importantly of all, character is at the film's core.

For me, A Reckoning is a unique film that should be seen by many, and I sincerely hope that others will soon have the chance to do so.

For more information on the film, see http://areckoningfilm.com or follow @areckoningfilm on Twitter.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Pethau arswydus bychain.

Heddiw yw diwrnod pethau bychain, sy'n annog i bobl gwneud rhywbeth arlein yn y Gymraeg - felly be gwell na chofnod blog am ffilmiau arswyd?!

Yn bennaf, bydd well i mi son am wyl Abertoir, yr unig wyl arswyd yng Nghymru. Pob blwyddyn ym mis Tachwedd yn Aberystwyth bydd pum diwrnod o ffilmiau, cerddoriaeth, theatr a gwesteion arbennig. Blwyddyn yma bydd yr wyl yn digwydd o'r 10fed i'r 14eg o Dachwedd, a, er bod y rhaglen llawn ddim ar gael eto, mae'n edrych fel bydd yr wyl yn un o'r gorau hyd yn hyn, gyda'r gwesteion yn cynnwys Ingrid Pitt a Robin Hardy, a cerddoriaeth gan gwrp pync The Damned (gyda chefnogaeth gan fferfynnau Zombina and the Skeletones).

Gobeithio bydd un neu ddau o ffilmiau Cymraeg yn cael eu cynnwys yn yr wyl. Mae'r wyl yn wastad yn chwilio am ffilmiau arswyd Cymraeg i'w cefnogi, felly os oes ffilm arswyd gennych chi - unai ffilm hir neu un fer - cofiwch bod Abertoir yn wyl flynyddol a fedrwch ymgeisio'ch ffilm ar gyfer gwyl 2011!

Am fwy o wybodaeth am Abertoir, ewch i www.abertoir.co.uk, ac am fwy o wybodaeth am Pethau Bychain, chwilich blogiau a Twitter am y tag #pethaubychain - a chyfranwch rhywbeth bach eich hunain!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

BIFFF 2010

I was lucky enough to attend this year's Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, and I thought I'd post a bunch of one-line reviews for all the films I saw. Some of these will be getting the full review treatment soon too!

A Serbian Film (Serbia, 2009, dir. Srdjan Spasojevic): FANTASTIC! Music, direction, acting, structure, metaphor, extremity – superb. Won’t ever see the light of day in the UK in its current form!

The Human Centipede: First Sequence
(USA, 2009 dir. Tom Six): great fun, something a little bit different, not that sick!

The Killer Inside Me
(USA, 2010, dir. Michael Winterbottom): great! Twisted, enjoyable, brutal, wonderful central performance

Valhalla Rising
(Denmark/UK, 2009, dir. Nicolas Winding Refn): awesome, but needs a second viewing; very metaphorical and arty

Heartless
(UK, 2009, dir. Phillip Ridley): really enjoyable and well-made, although again incoherent in parts

Ondine
(Ireland/USA, 2010, dir. Neil Jordan): lovely fairytale, cheesy, yes, but very pretty and sweet

Vampires
(Belgium, 2009, dir. Vincent Lannoo): Hysterically funny and witty, a very likeable film

Detour
(Norway, 2009, dir. Severin Eskeland): utterly clichéd but massively entertaining slasher throwback

Zombies of Mass Destruction
(USA, 2009, dir. Kevin Hamedani): surprisingly good fun, despite crap acting and hit-and-miss jokes, great make up effects

Slice
(Thailand, 2010, dir. Kongkiat Khomsiri): an interesting, twisty thriller, but the humour/drama does not meld as well as it could

Possessed
(South Korea, 2009, dir. Lee Yong Joo-I): decent creeper, but too long and too similar to Dark Water

5150 Rue des Ormes
(Canada, 2009, dir. Eric Tessier): solid thriller/horror, a little incoherent but enjoyable and a bit different

The Life and Death of a Porno Gang
(Serbia, 2009, dir. Mladen Djordjevic): explicit comedy/drama, which completely loses its way after the first 40 minutes or so, with the political rhetoric being less effective when all the humour is lost

Glenn 3948
(Belgium, 2010, dir. Marc Goldstein): cute but bizarre concept terribly executed; awful music, direction, acting, script

Duress
(USA, 2009, dir. Jordan Barker): a solid thriller let down by an uncharismatic lead and a twist that’s too twisty

Evil in the Time of Heroes
(Greece, 2009, dir. Yorgos Noussias): utter shit!

Hidden
(Norway, 2009, dir. Pal Oie): boring, looked nice though

Ingrid
(Spain, 2009, dir. Eduard Cortes): enjoyable, if pretentious, film about arty young people

Reykjavik Whale-Watching Massacre
(Iceland, 2009, dir. Julius Kemp): boring, nothing special

Giallo
(Italy, 2009, dir. Dario Argento): a cheap Argento knock off…directed by Argento himself...no sign of a career resurgance here!

Survival of the Dead
(USA, 2009, dir. George A. Romero): just…what?!

Friday, 26 February 2010

The Repossession of Repo! The Genetic Opera

Repo Men, directed by Miguel Sapochnik and starring Jude Law, Liev Schreiber and Forest Whitaker, is soon to be released in the States. As with most high-budget films, it’s getting plenty of attention in the press, and some of that attention is wondering if the book on which it’s based – Repossession Mambo – was also the inspirations for the Darren Lynn Bousman-helmed Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Well, no. No, it wasn’t. Because Repo!’s been around since 1999, when Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich created the stage show. Repossession Mambo was written in 2009…while the film was shooting 2007-2008, roughly the same time that Repo! was shooting.

The myriad similarities between both texts have been better outlined elsewhere, by Spooky Dan, and this goes far beyond the set-up of ‘futuristic organs can be repossessed’. Director Darren Lynn Bousman has also exhaustively demonstrated the history of Repo!, lest any more ill-informed journalists fail to do even the most basic research into a film’s production history. Terrance Zdunich has also artfully explained why there’s nothing at all he, or anyone else involved with Repo! can do about the blatant plagiarism of their film. He also graciously describes what it’s like to have his creative baby attributed to someone else – pretty shitty, as one would imagine.

Everyone involved with Repo! has encouraged its understandably pissed-off fans to counter Repo Men by simply telling people about their fabulous little film. So, let me tell you something about Repo! The Genetic Opera – it’s a brilliant little film. It might not be wholly original itself – what the hell ever is, anymore? – but it sure is singular. It’s a gory, emotional, melodramatic, funny, futuristic rock opera. It stars actors, socialites and musicians. Fans of the film perform Shadowcasts, which involves putting on a stage version of the film, as it plays. Repo! has its cult status on its side, but that doesn’t excuse any claims that Repo! has anything at all to do with Repo Men.

In honour of Terrance Zdunich, Darren Smith, Darren Lynn Bousman and everyone else who worked on Repo!, I sure as hell won’t be going to see Repo Men*. I encourage anyone who does go see it, to check out Repo! The Genetic Opera, too. You might remember that film a lot longer than you will Repo Men.

*I should add, this is really quite annoying, as I would quite happily watch Jude Law in an action movie in any other circumstance!

Monday, 1 February 2010

Women in Horror Recognition Month, day one

SlashFilm today asked, following on from The Guardian, ‘Why are there so few female filmmakers?’

There’s a clue in your article, SlashFilm. You write that Sofia Coppola was the first woman to be nominated for the Best Director Oscar, even though the article from The Guardian that you’re discussing clearly states that three women have been nominated for Best Director, the last of which was Coppola (the others being Lina Wertmüller in 1976 and Jane Campion in 1993; Coppola was nominated in 2003). Small fact to get wrong, isn’t it?

The far more insightful article in The Guardian describes at great length the sorts of chauvinism faced by women who enter the film industry – particularly the Hollywood film industry. I can’t say my knowledge is vast here, and I’m not going to try to answer the question of why there are so few female filmmakers, either. In thinking about the question, though, I realised something: I can name more continental European female directors than I can American or British ones – off the top of my head, that is. Maya Deren, Agnes Varda, Liliana Cavani, Catherine Breillat, Claire Denis. Having just looked up an arbitrary list of ‘female directors’, I then realised that, of the names on that list, I recognised far more American and British ones, yet I wasn’t able to recall the names myself. Why?

So I wonder: is it because I’ve never seen the European directors listed above treated as oddities (not in the case of the more modern Breillat and Denis, anyway)? Perhaps I’m just not looking closely enough, granted, and please do point me in the direction of any articles to that effect. Regardless, you’re probably wondering why I’m nattering on about this on a horror blog, and in relation to Women in Horror Recognition Month.

Breillat and Denis have both made horrific films. Denis made the languid Trouble Every Day, about a compulsive, sexual, cannibalism. Breillat made the brutal examination of teenage sexuality, À Ma Soeur!, as well as the graphic Romance. While Denis’ film is more strictly a horror film, Breillat’s films inject the horrific into the mundane, with a refreshing frankness. Her films deal with femininity, with no holds barred. Nancy Meyers, she ain’t.

Anyway – this got me thinking about European horror films, which, in my opinion, are the best modern horror films. They are, I believe, exclusively (so far) directed by men. These films, however, feature incredibly strong or interesting female characters, in my opinion, far more interesting than those seen the majority of recent American horror. Think of The Orphanage’s Laura, Martyrs’ Anna and Lucie, or Let the Right One In’s Eli. Perhaps in the same way that Kathryn Bigelow successfully directs male-orientated action movies, so these male directors have, somehow, managed to portray women in horror successfully.

I’m not really concluding anything here, nor arguing a particular case: this is me, thinking out loud. Is there really that much of a difference in attitudes toward gender in the Hollywood and European film industries? To what degree might the attitudes toward gender in Hollywood and the independent American film industry differ? I can’t help but think that attitude – of men and women – does play a large role in there being so few female filmmakers, but you know, I think the question needs rewording. Why are there so few prominent female filmmakers might be a more relevant question to ask.

For more information on Women in Horror Recognition Month, visit the website here: www.womeninhorrormonth.com, or the Facebook fanpage HERE.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Bleed for Women in Horror!

The wonderful Soska Sisters, the ladies behind tWIStED tWINS PRODUCtiONS, are doing something very special for Women in Horror Recognition Month. They're encouraging us all to bleed. In the same way that every month should be used to recognise women in horror, something that needs to be done more often is blood donation. Pints and pints of blood are needed every day, and only the slightest percentage of the population donates.

Now, I'm not getting on my high horse here. I've never donated blood in my life. I've barely even considered it, because I'm utterly terrified of needles. I love horror films, and can watch all sorts of sickness on screen, but I have to look away whenever someone is given an injection. Think how bad I felt during the needle-pit scene in Saw II...and I still can't bring myself to even try to watch Audition.

My point (haha!) is: I'm considering it! I'm the girl who almost had a panic attack watching the virtual tour of giving blood, so this is no mean feat, I promise. I know there are a ton of people out there though who don't give blood and don't have the (feeble, granted) excuse of having a phobia of needles.

There are, of course, a ton of restrictions, too, on who can or can't give blood, and those restrictions are something that you need to check before donating. But if you're able to, then please, this February - whether it's your first time or you're a regular donator - bleed for women in horror!

Check out this fantastic PSA by the Soska Sisters.

Blood Drive PSA - Women In Horror Month from Twisted Twins Productions on Vimeo.


For more information on how to give blood in the UK, visit www.blood.co.uk.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Gosh! *blush*

The rather fabulous B-Sol has bestowed a great honour upon this humble blog, by declaring it 'Fantastically Frightening'! For those of you unaware, B-Sol is the brain behind the fantastic Vault of Horror, one of the best horror blogs around. I'm truly touched, and maybe I should use this as impetus to be a bit more active in keeping this little blog active! What would you, dear reader, like to see here? More lists? Reviews? Vlogs?! Let me know!

Thank you, B-Sol!