Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)

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Pictured: One of the worst conceivable ways of breaking the ice.

If horror movies are to be believed, nowhere is truly safe. Cities are lousy with sadistically creative serial killers and sewer monsters. Suburbia is riddled with masked murderers and ironically sinister denizens lurking around the white picket fences. But perhaps worst is the great outdoors; if the vicious cryptofauna doesn’t get you, the psychotic satanic cults and clans of cannibalistic country folk will. This is, naturally, slanderous propaganda. Despite the curious voting habits of rural types, they are just people like anyone else, roughly as likely to kill and eat you as any espresso-swilling metropolitan. Tucker and Dale vs Evil seeks to redress this continued misrepresentation, perpetrated by out-of touch coastal elites, by showing the terrible consequences of this potentially fatal consequences of this baseless prejudice.  Continue reading “Tucker and Dale vs Evil (2010)”

Colossal (2016)

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Where’s the Kaboom? There was supposed to be an Earth-shattering Kaboom!

Some genre mash-ups seem effortless. Space is an environment perfectly unsuitable to human life and probably full of things that want to eat, brainwash or melt us, hence the ease of sci-fi/horror. A world steeped in testosterone, where every problem can be solved by the conscientious application of automatic weapons is inherently ridiculous, making action/comedy a no-brainer. A dramedy about a person dealing with addiction and failure is, surprisingly, not an apparently natural complement to an effects-heavy, destruction laden kaiju flick. Colossal is one of the most original films to come along in a while, at least partially because it has some of the trappings of a science fiction movie without really being sci-fi. The giant monster stuff is symbolic and mostly background to the real drama, though still contains roughly as much kaiju action as 2014’s Godzilla. Continue reading “Colossal (2016)”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

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The greatest friendships are built on a foundation of laughing at others’ misfortune.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been likened more to a mega-budget serialised TV show than a bona fide film series. Each installment juggles the task of telling a story of its own, while both relying upon and providing story elements from the movies before and after. This has the advantage of being able to tell longer stories with characters already familiar to dedicated audiences, in a fairly consistent world sprinkled with references and in-jokes. However, there is a significant weakness in this narrative lattice insofar as it can make the films inaccessible to casual viewers. This is an issue largely avoided by the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, easily the most remote films in the MCU. Because of their extraterrestrial setting, the original and the newly-minted Vol. 2 have the space to tell their own outlandish tales, and feel complete and self-contained. Under the direction of a filmmaker like James Gunn, they have a distinctive and irreverent style, and stand-out as satisfyingly original with a cinematic universe that can sometimes feel increasingly homogenous. Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)”

Dundead 2017 Day Three

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Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

If Salem’s Lot suffered from a glaring lack of Stephen King’s influence, Firestarter contains a veritable smorgasbord. King is fond of writing supernaturally-gifted children, particularly when they wreak terrible vengeance upon those foolish enough to anger someone with magical powers. 9-year-old Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) follows in the fine tradition of Carrie White as a girl who can cause incredible destruction with a mere thought, though she is considerably more innocent and less bitter in spite of her tragic past. After the murder of her mother, she and her father Andy (David Keith) are pursued and eventually captured by a shady government organisation controlled by Martin Sheen’s Captain Hollister, who hopes to turn the little girl into a living weapon. Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Three”

Dundead 2017 Day Two

Dundead 2017

Written with the insightful input of fellow Dundead 2017 survivor, Claire Grey.

Egomaniac, of all of the new films screening at Dundead 2017, was the one that I was anticipating most eagerly. Horror and comedy make very comfortable bedfellows, perhaps because both rely upon some kind of transgression to elicit an emotional response from their audience, whether terrified screams or gales of laughter. Both genres catch us in a visceral way and, in the case of horror, sometimes sufficient brutality can be so absurd as to be paradoxically hilarious. A quote, from Mel Brooks’ The 2,000 Year Old Man, illustrates this perfectly: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” Egomaniac takes a recognisable situation for many creative types and ratchets it up to a ridiculous extreme. When horror filmmaker Catherine (Nic Lamont) attempts to get her pet project, a romantic comedy set during a zombie apocalypse, off the ground, the incredible condescension and asinine meddling she encounters drive her to full-blown psychosis. She murders every one of her collaborators and films her sanguine breakdown as her latest masterpiece.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Two”

Best of Dundead 2015 – Let Us Prey (2014)

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Thus far, Let Us Prey is the only feature film from director Brian O’Malley, and what he lacks in fecundity he makes up for in crafting one really great horror. Taking more than a few cues from John Carpenter (in the pulsing, rhythmic music and in setting almost the entire movie in a police station under attack), Let Us Prey is mad and contemplative, combining visceral violence, wry wit and religious rumination into a highly entertaining package. When it was showing at 2015’s Dundead festival it was not originally a part of my viewing slate, and my last minute decision to see it was spurred almost entirely by the presence of Liam Cunningham. As happenstance goes, this was very fortunate, as Let Us Prey turned out to be the best new movie I saw at that year’s horror-fest. The lesson here is that even the most superficial reasoning can sometimes yield rich rewards. Continue reading “Best of Dundead 2015 – Let Us Prey (2014)”

Sequence Day One – Heavy Metal (1981)

Over the weekend of 7-9 April, 2017, in collaboration with the Comic Studies department at the University of Dundee, overseen by the world’s only Professor of Comics Dr. Chris Murray, and the city’s very own festival of geekdom Dee Con, Dundee Contemporary Arts is running Sequence, a series of films inspired by comic books and animation. 

The first film of the mini-festival was Heavy Metal, the cult 1981 adaptation based upon the magazine of the same name, which was itself based on a French-language publication called Métal hurlant. The movie is an anthology of various versions of stories which appeared in the comic book, written by various science fiction and fantasy authors, most notably Dan O’Bannon, screenwriter of AlienDark StarLifeforce and Total Recall. It covers a broad and ecletic mix of tones, styles and settings, blending grimy sci-fi, Howard-esque fantasy, and gratuitous sex and violence. All of this is set to a fantastic soundtrack of (unsurprisingly) heavy metal tracks and a dramatic orchestral score.

Continue reading “Sequence Day One – Heavy Metal (1981)”

Prevenge (2016)

Despite sounding like the subtitle of a gritty sequel to Minority ReportPrevenge is an old-fashioned tale of serial killing, with a twist; the killer is seven months pregnant, and spurred on by the ethereal voice of her unborn infant. Written by, starring and directed by the actually-considerably-pregnant Alice Lowe, the film plays with the classic homicidal revenge story by casting an ordinarily sympathetic kind of character as the killer, and by refraining from a standard of that kind of narrative: there is no clear inciting incident placed at the film’s beginning in order to get the audience onside for all of the rampant blood-letting. Rather the background information is filled in gradually, and then not made completely apparent, by means of ambiguous flashbacks and several narrators of questionable reliability. These choices of structure and characterisation combine to create a horror movie with a difference, one that challenges the viewers’ assumptions as much as it makes them laugh.

Continue reading “Prevenge (2016)”