Dundead 2017 Day Four

Dundead 2017

Given the dramatically divergent reactions elicited by The Shining, that film will be discussed at a later date in two posts, a case for the defence, and a likely scathing case for the prosecution. 

It’s strange to imagine that arguably the very best movies based on Stephen King’s work do not strictly fit into the horror genre at all, especially given his reputation as an author. The Shawshank Redemption is still the highest user-rated film on IMDb’s Top 100, and while it certainly isn’t the best film ever made, it’s not an immediately absurd choice for the accolade. (Incidentally, The Green Mile is ranked at no. 36, far above the first King-horror The Shining at no. 60, which debatably has more to do with Stanley Kubrick than King himself.) A little further down the list at a respectable no. 192 is Stand By Me, based on King’s 1982 novella The Body. Set in 1959, four friends make a pilgrimage to see a real dead body, and discover some important things about themselves and each other. While not at all a horror movie – being a major outlier at Dundead by featuring only one corpse – there are heavy and frightening aspects to the story beyond its mouldering cadaver. There fears here are of a more mundane sort, whether they are personal, existential or physical.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day Four”

Dundead 2017 Day Three

Dundead 2017

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”

Dundead 2017 Day One

Dundead 2017

After a creditable slightly-above-average placing in the annual Dundead Film Quiz (team name: The Dank Tower), the festival began in earnest with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy, a tale of family strife, satanic possession, and sick guitar riffs. Strange things begin to happen when the Hellmans, dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), mum Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco), move into their new dream home. Jesse, an artist, is beset by an irresistible urge to paint grotesque images, and his obsession starts to take a dire effect on the family. When the house’s previous occupant Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a strangely innocent man tortured by sinister, whispering voices, begins to take a special interest in Zooey, the rifts in the family threaten to become truly lethal.  Continue reading “Dundead 2017 Day One”

Best of Dundead 2016 – Southbound (2015)

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The anthology horror has made something of a resurgence in recent years with films like V/H/STales of Halloween and The ABCs of Death. In any such collection there will be stronger and weaker segments, some good enough to justify a film’s whole existence, some sufficiently terrible to sink the entire movie. Southbound achieves an impressive balance of quality, perhaps never achieving excellence but never tripping itself up. Watching the film is rather like enjoying a marathon of decent-to-great episodes of The Twilight Zone, albeit all set in the same haunted and arid wasteland. At Dundead 2016, much fanfair was made about Jeremy Saulnier’s Green Room, which ultimately turned out to be an okay movie rather bafflingly lauded as fantastic. In my own case, Southbound was superior, gripping and imaginative and unsettling. Continue reading “Best of Dundead 2016 – Southbound (2015)”

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 Three – Supergirl (1984) & Hardware (1990)

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. 

Supergirl holds the distinction of being the first American superhero feature to star a female protagonist, an achievement that becomes all the more important given the fact that movies about female superheroes can easily be counted on less than two hands. After the mediocre-to-awful Superman III, the intent was to spin off from the franchise, elevating the largely unknown Helen Slater, in the same way as Christopher Reeve was, in the role of an iconic DC character. Given the obvious lack of a Supergirl II, this was ultimately unsuccessful, and the quality of the movie must take its share of the blame for this. Feeling as though several scripts were thrown together without regard for consistency, pacing or basic coherence, Supergirl shows only moments of greatness in a broadly dull and oddly small story.

Continue reading “Sequence Day Three – Supergirl (1984) & Hardware (1990)”

Sequence Day Two – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) & Watchmen (2009)

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. 

If Heavy Metal‘s view of “mature” content is that of a hormone-addled teenager, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm takes a more genuinely adult perspective, despite being aimed at a younger audience. Based on the celebrated Batman: The Animated SeriesMask of the Phantasm utilises its longer running time and higher rating certificate to tell a story of revenge that delves into the psychology behind loss, and what separates vengeance from justice.

Continue reading “Sequence Day Two – Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993) & Watchmen (2009)”

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)”