Shin Godzilla (2016)

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This is why it’s imperative to never expose your rubber duckie to radiation.

The mere fact that a movie about a massive monster wreaking mayhem upon a major metropolis begins with roughly half an hour of solemn and serious politicians blathering slightly too quickly in a series of utterly forgettable conference rooms should seem like a bleak sign. Even considering how many movies in the Godzilla series focus heavily on a human story almost to the exclusion of kaiju action, none have been quite so fascinated with the minutiae of governmental process. But this political thriller is less C-SPAN than Armando Iannucci, blending the anti-nuclear message of the 1954 Godzilla with a dry satire of the current state of Japanese politics, particularly their response to crisis. The main character is not a stalwart soldier or brilliant scientist, but a bureaucrat responsible for coordinating the reaction to a natural disaster, albeit one involving a gigantic and rubbery sea creature that spews fire and radiation. Caught between the indecision of his superiors and the call for a scorched earth response by the US-led UN, young prime ministerial aide Rando Yaguchi (Hiroki Hasegawa) must find a way to defeat this monster with the help of a team of scientific rejects and crackpots. Continue reading “Shin Godzilla (2016)”

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The Ring (2002)

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The possible advantages of a remake are clear if only we can look past the deep personal offence of daring to meddle with beloved source material in the first place. Translation of a story into a new context can endear it to new audiences, and potentially lead them to revisit the original. Flaws can be addressed, and underdeveloped threads can be explored by shifting the film’s focus. This is a best case scenario; more usually, something goes missing in transit. The Ring is less subtle, less visually appealing and less complex than its Japanese predecessor. Comparisons are not kind, but when the same idea has been executed more capably before, they are difficult to avoid. The crime is not in being a remake, but in being an inferior remake. Continue reading “The Ring (2002)”

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)”

Aliens (1986)

Holidays are one of the best reasons to watch movies, among the literally trillions of other reasons to watch movies. Christmas offers a cornucopia of choice, from timeless classics like It’s A Wonderful Life, to adopted festive films like The Wizard of Oz and Jurassic Park, to the best and least-festive Xmas flick of them all: Gremlins. Other occasions do not offer so many options. For my money, Mother’s Day offers only one serious option, one of the greatest sequels ever made, James Cameron’s Aliens. If Alien turned Ellen Ripley into a hero, Aliens is where she ascends to the status of true badass, one of the Holy Trinity of amazing sci-fi movie heroines alongside Sarah Conner and Leia Organa. Aliens expands upon the original concept into a very different kind of film, and confidently ticks every box on the ideal sequel checklist. Continue reading “Aliens (1986)”

Dundead 2017 Day Four

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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

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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

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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

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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)”