Archive for the horror Category

Broken

Posted in British cinema, films, horror, horror movie, movies, review on Tuesday, 30 August, 2016 by Ed

Broken drags the viewer by the scruff of the neck through a world populated by damaged characters and the debauchery they employ to hide from their realities.

The premise is a relatively simple one: John (Mel Raido) is a professional musician rendered disabled from the waist down after a drug-fuelled accident; Evie (Morjana Alaoui) is his live-in carer. Where Broken excels is the extraction of intense character interactions and genuine atmosphere from this modest set-up. The viewer is coerced into an uneasy intrigue as to how the story will play out, which provides a gratifying immersive experience.

The decision to shoot in the limited environment of a single house was no doubt aided by budget constraints, but was masterfully utilised to create a claustrophobic sense of mounting tension.

The two lead characters are locked together by necessity of the script. This is where the character of John’s ex-bandmate, Dougie (Craig Conway), is written as a perfect catalyst to the plot linking to the outside world and John’s past. Conway plays him to precision; before actions demonstrate his true nature – his demeanour, delivery and presence all put the view on guard. Intangible tension is the most powerful, especially in the first act.

Raido’s delivery of the wing-clipped hedonist managed to tread the difficult line between overacting and understating such a reversal in fortune. This was a relief, as the film would largely sink or swim on his ability to convince the audience of his situation. Although markedly different characters, there are similarities to Richard. E. Grant’s portrayal of Withnail in Withnail And I insofar as John is simultaneously detestable and endearing; whilst escaping his reality with drugs and booze.

Morjana Alaoui is a fine actress, capable of mastering the most challenging of roles, as anyone familiar with her extraordinary performance in 2008’s Martyrs will attest. Here she captivates on screen, deftly transitioning between a range of emotions and motivations, thereby conveying to perfection the intricacies of her character’s inner arc.

The dialogue was faced with some challenges which it largely managed to overcome. The nature of the characters’ situation required a manner of discourse that could, in lesser hands, veer towards cliché or excessive exposition. Rarely did this occur thanks to the superior writing and the delivery of a very capable cast. Where the dialogue excelled it was scalpel-sharp and truly masterful. In a scene where the plot necessitated the creation of parity between John and Evie’s situations, writer and director, Shaun Robert Smith, trusted himself and his actress to deliver her backstory with dialogue so perfect and descriptive that the effect created a vicarious link to her experience that was not broken for the rest of the film.

Visually the film succeeds in creating the feeling of confinement within which John is trapped. This is interspersed with some creative flourishes using mundane household items, artistically shot, that serve to create mood, much like Argento did with colours in Suspiria. Argento-esque styling was also present in some of the dream sequences in the way that stairs and mirrors were framed, dramatic outstretched hands reaching for the perpetually spinning wheel of wheelchair, uneasy vertical shots etc. This effectively broke up the essential banality of portraying John’s housebound existence.

At its core the film examines what happens to broken people who remain damaged. It correctly, and interestingly, surmises that they attract other people with unresolved issues. Ultimately Broken is an effective horror/thriller that lets these interactions play-out within a confined, insalubrious setting. Evie becomes Carl Jung’s “Wounded Healer” and eschews the drugs and booze everyone else is hiding behind; Dougie is projecting his resentment of John on to Evie; and John is masking his pain with whatever solace his can find. This creates an engaging triad, which mercifully does not resolve with Evie being sanctified or martyred (no pun intended). Instead we are shown what happens as the ripples of abuse are allowed to radiate unchecked, and the price of an individual’s personal catharsis.

There is a sense of restraint in the horrific elements of the film, certainly those wishing to find a graphic revival of Alaoui’s past will not find it here, but it is executed in a manner that exudes a palpable uncertainty that the full horror of the situation could be unleashed at any moment. The transgressive heart of the piece comes from Conways delivery as Dougie continues his descent (no pun intended, again) into realising his character’s path of sadism, bitterness and self-gratification at any cost.

Sometimes art emerges at a time that feels synchronous. Society currently finds itself in the hands of people who are savagely cutting funding to those with mental and physical disabilities, and to the wider health service. The monetisation of care, and who gets it, couldn’t be more relevant, and this is the cultural atmosphere that the film is being ushered into. Broken feels like a film of our times.

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The Herd: Brutal new horror with a purpose.

Posted in British cinema, extreme cinema, films, horror, Short film with tags , , , , on Monday, 7 April, 2014 by Ed

Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) and featuring a score by Laurent Bernard of Gallows, THE HERD is a study into the most unimaginable human suffering, yet it depicts a violence that is perpetrated every day on a massive scale.

THE HERD is written by Ed Pope (Transgressive Cinema) and directed by Melanie Light, and features the additional acting talents of Victoria Broom (ABCs of Death 2, Stalled), Jon Campling (Sleeping Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) and Charlotte Hunter (Dungeons and Dragons, Vitality).

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Imprisoned within inhuman squalor with other women; Paula’s existence and human function is abused as a resource by her captors.

Escape, on any level, is hopeless as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their imprisoners for one reason only – their milk.

Enslaved, inseminated and abused – every facet of their life is violated. At first the premise seems exaggerated and absurd; but is, in fact, disgusting in its stark normality.

Deliberately avoiding the lack of finesse associated with “torture porn” and sexploitation, THE HERD eschews these in favour of a vicarious descent into the visceral nightmare of relinquishing the most innate rights of existence.

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Existing principally as a dark and transgressive horror short; THE HERD also asks questions as to how we approach the sentiency of other beings and the importance of the concept of individual freedoms in modern society.

Advocates of high quality independent horror cinema can find out more about the film and, should they wish, how to support it here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/herd

The Seasoning House.

Posted in British cinema, horror with tags , , , , on Tuesday, 1 April, 2014 by Ed

seasoning houseThe Seasoning House is a stark tale of repression and the point at which revenge becomes a necessity, not a desire. Girls are abducted to a literal den of iniquity and forced into a life of sexual slavery at the hands of Viktor (Kevin Howarth) as a commodity for his abhorrent clients. The protagonist is a young deaf girl, Angel (Rosie Day), who is spared the sexual abuse of the other girls, but is required to prepare them for clients and has to avoid the ever-present threat of violence that accompanies her captivity.

Set in the war-torn Balkans in 1996 (perhaps ’96 to deliberately place it outside any of the Yugoslav Wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo of that decade?) The Seasoning House uses its set and setting to perfectly encapsulate the horrors that are to come. The cheapness of life and absence of basic humanity are thematically represented in both the macro and microcosm of this film.

Within the first six minutes the Director (Paul Hyett) lays bare the full tragedy of the premise. New girls are delivered to Viktor and he immediately slaughters one to ensure the obedience of the others. This warns of a difficult cinematic experience ahead, but it is performed with such accomplishment there is confidence that all will be handled competently.

The appalling reality of the house is further revealed as the girls are bound and Angel is forced to administer Heroin to them – their compliance now assured in a tether of violence and narcotic submission. Hyett employs an appreciated lack of sensationalism to the process, which keeps the film grounded and focussed on the absorbing tale that is beginning to unfold.

Indeed, this atmosphere of vile oppression is unrelenting and the film is harrowing throughout. The death of Angel’s mother at the hands of laughing, complacent soldiers is depicted with heart-breaking clarity in flashback. Angel’s life from prior to her abduction is shown this way to enhance her character development, beyond what would be possible with a deaf mute in a single location. Whilst being unobtrusive to avoid slowing the pace of the film, the flashbacks still provide a stark contrast between Angel’s previous life and current situation.

Hyett uses most of the first act to build the immersion into the emerging story. There is no doubt as to the hellish existence of the girls, the utter revulsion at the men who pay to use them or the callous barbarism of their captors. Thus, as the first major plot point arrives, suspension of disbelief has been expertly crafted.

It is soon revealed that Angel uses vents in the building to secretly move around the house. This adds an interesting extra dimension not just to her character (an inevitable harsh penalty for discovery still can’t fully contain her) but also to the set, as over an hour of the ninety-minute running-time takes place in this building, which is now made an extension of Angel’s private world. The irony that the structure which imprisons her becomes her greatest advantage is an obvious but enjoyable one. Naturally this was reminiscent of The People Under The Stairs, although The Seasoning House is a far more tangible and oppressive movie.

Right on schedule at the half-way point of the film, the soldiers who killed Angel’s mother turn up at the house. Angel hears the screams of the only girl she has befriended in the house, as one of the military men rapes her to death. To this point the film’s pervasive sense of helplessness made it easy to forget that this is a story of revenge; so Angel’s first act of retribution came as a genuine shock, not least because it was so utterly brutal in its ferocity and violence.

A fantastically anxious final act then follows with the soldiers and Viktor hunting Angel down through the house and beyond. Hyett hit the balance between ultra-violence and adrenaline-inducing thrills very well. The earlier craftsmanship to create such empathy towards Angel reaped its rewards as it transformed into a vicarious tension as she is pursued.

Sean Pertwee, as Goran – the captain of the militia, was typically excellent. This is the kind of role he excels at (such as in Dog Soldiers). The south-eastern European accent must have been a challenge to maintain, and this occasionally shows, but not too much to be intrusive. Indeed, the acting across the cast is very good, with Rosie Day another stand-out, as Angel, hitting the perfect note in every scene, and avoiding the easy clichés of playing victim or heroine.

It is true to say that every aspect of this film has been done before; but originality is a harsh yardstick to hold any movie to, especially horror. The Seasoning House proves that if a tale is well told and the production values are high, lack of innovation in the story and set pieces are not sufficient to prevent the film being an effective one.

Quality scriptwriting ensured that it was gratifyingly uncertain as to how the ending of The Seasoning House would arrive. Would there be salvation, retribution or the brutal realism of an unhappy ending? The Seasoning House makes its choices, leaves an intelligent degree of ambiguity and executes its conclusion in the same satisfying manner afforded to the rest of the piece.

I Saw The Devil.

Posted in Asian Cinema, extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , , on Wednesday, 5 September, 2012 by Ed

I Saw The DevilRevenge movies have largely gone the way of the zombie film in recent years; they are overdone to the point of tedium and it requires a picture of high quality to elevate itself above the dross. I Saw The Devil does just this.

 With the sub-genre having been debased to the very formulaic structure of: Act One being half-an-hour of prolonged murder, Act Two being the attempt to capture the antagonist and Act Three being half-an-hour of bloody revenge; I Saw The Devil proves beyond doubt that you don’t need an original plot to produce an intelligent and engaging film, if you structure it in an interesting way. It is atmospheric and beautifully shot, and once the viewer is immersed to the point that they trust the competence of the director, the actions of the characters become enjoyably unpredictable. This is executed by fine acting from the two leads.

 With a commendable freshness, Director Jee-woon Kim deftly weaves this familiar tale – of the bereaved husband seeking revenge for the murder of his pregnant wife. Whilst it is undeniably violent, the film never once feels gratuitous. Recognising the need to effectively vilify his serial killer antagonist, Kim avoids the pitfalls of lesser filmmakers by eschewing lingering scenes of women being murdered, yet skilfully creates his villain by showing the intense, merciless fervour with which he slaughters. Thus, each of the killer’s actions shock and offend the viewer anew, rather than serving to desensitise.

 I Saw The Devil does not feel long at a 2.5 hour running time. This is achieved by interspersing the main story arc, of pursuit and revenge, with an interesting focus on the emotions and motivation of several of the characters. There are moments of black comedy and some well executed action sequences that would not be out of place in a more mainstream film. Kim defies our expectations by having the antagonist ensnared repeatedly – only to be released to prolong the hunt.

 It is the exploration of the nature of revenge that raises I Saw The Devil above the norm. It functions to examine revenge as a base emotion and what this ultimately achieves. Does revenge simply become a convenient obsession to distract from grief, and if so, what happens should revenge be realised or not? Kim addresses this theme successfully without it encroaching on the plot or ever being condescending.

 I Saw The Devil is disturbing, entertaining and thought-provoking. It remains unpredictable to the end, despite feeling very familiar. Jee-woon Kim creates a world with a palpable sense of threat and obsession, which is not only a beacon in a tired and lazy revenge sub-genre, but the new standard for all modern horror thrillers.

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence).

Posted in extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, 8 May, 2012 by Ed

Human Centipede 2 Full SequenceShot in black and white and with a lead character who doesn’t utter a single word during the entire movie – The Human Centipede 2 feels very different to its predecessor but is exactly the film that many incorrectly assumed that Tom Six had made with the original installment.

Like the first movie no one can fault the casting selection. In the original film Dieter Laser was a masterful choice as the deranged scientist who envisaged the concept of a “human centipede” – yet in the second offering this has been surpassed. Laurence R Harvey – who plays the socially inept and mentally deranged Martin – portrays his character with a significant physical presence; with a toad-like appearance he elicits simultaneous pity and disgust.

Martin lives with his vile mother and works a night shift monitoring CCTV in a car park. This solitary employment allows him to indulge his obsession with the first Human Centipede movie. He watches it endlessly, documents it and even pleasures himself with sandpaper whilst watching it. Eventually Martin decides to make his own bigger and better Human Centipede with twelve people instead of just the three. Thus he sets about the logistics of his task and collecting the necessary human components.

There is some interest in Martin’s character and story – and no one could fault the acting of the limited cast. Martin’s relationship with his mother develops to a crescendo which becomes a horrendous “Psycho” image for the Saw generation. The film does leave an unanswered question in the viewer’s mind, but not one that lingers for too long.

To assess a movie like this from a point of high-brow smugness is to miss the point completely. The concept of the Human Centipede First Sequence was fairly innovative and on this basis alone should be praised and encouraged – as there is a paucity of originality in the modern genre. In this Full Sequence Tom Six spares no detail and pushes any boundary he sees fit. Although this style delivers nothing new in these days of ultra-gory horror it at least fulfills its brief – and anyone sitting down to watch a film such as this has only themselves to blame if such content bores or offends them.

The monochrome style, which serves to make the graphic gore less sensational but no less repulsive, and the curious antagonist make this a more interesting film than the previous one. Ultimately such a movie will always revolve around its very basic premise – accept this before proceeding and enjoy being grossed out for 90 minutes, otherwise don’t be shocked if you are disappointed.

Transgressive Cinema on Exquisite Terror.

Posted in horror with tags , , , , , , on Thursday, 17 November, 2011 by Ed

I have recently been pleased to contribute to an exciting new horror project called Exquisite Terror. This is the brainchild of Naila Scargill, someone who has strong links to the UK horror and publishing scenes and I urge all readers of Transgressive Cinema to check out the good work going on over there.

To get you started, here are my offerings to Exquisite Terror so far:

Cannibal

This debut fea­ture from Bel­gian writer and dir­ector Ben­jamin Viré fol­lows in the foot­steps of the recent Mex­ican We Are What We Are by tak­ing the can­ni­bal sub­genre and exor­cising its leg­acy — which is rooted in 1970s Italian gore films such as Can­ni­bal Holo­caust. Can­ni­bal rejects the degen­er­ate tone of these early works and con­trasts the vis­ceral nature of humankind’s old­est taboo with styl­ish film­mak­ing and an absorb­ing storyline.

 

Continue reading at Exquisite Terror: http://www.exquisiteterror.com/cannibal

 

The Rig

This film opens to imme­di­ately estab­lish two points. Firstly, drilling for oil on the seabed has unleashed a strange and aggress­ive creature. Second, a severe storm is immin­ent and the oil rig is being evac­u­ated of all non-essential staff. Thus, prom­isingly, a threat has been defined and placed in an isol­ated envir­on­ment with a group of likely vic­tims. Sadly, The Rig fails to cap­it­al­ise on any ini­tial poten­tial and becomes more tedi­ous with every drag­ging minute of screen time.

 

Continue reading at Exquisite Terror: http://www.exquisiteterror.com/the-rig

 

Evil Things

Like foot­ball, Evil Things is a work of two halves. The first half main­tains its sim­il­ar­ity to soc­cer by being quite dull and pop­u­lated by char­ac­ters devoid of per­son­al­ity. The second is well set up and executed, with genu­ine scares.

A group of col­lege kids are driv­ing through a New York State snowstorm to cel­eb­rate a birth­day at a vacated, and remote, fam­ily home. En route they are har­assed and stalked by a black van, the driver of which is never seen. These sequences would have been more effect­ive had they not been pla­gi­ar­ised from Spielberg’s Duel. Arriv­ing at their des­tin­a­tion, the run-in is largely for­got­ten in lieu of get­ting the fire lit and start­ing to drink. For­tu­nately writer and dir­ector Dominic Perez avoids the clichéd frat-house antics that typ­ic­ally ensue, and the film is bet­ter for it.

Continue reading at Exquisite Terror: http://www.exquisiteterror.com/evil-things

Transgressive Cinema will continue as normal, and I will keep you updated with any writing I may do elsewhere in the future.

Suspiria

Posted in horror with tags , , , , , , on Tuesday, 18 October, 2011 by Ed

It is always prudent to be cautious with grandiose statements, but Suspiria is one of the greatest horror films ever made. Legendary Italian director Dario Argento utilised every aspect of his considerable talent to create the ultimate expression of terror; it is hard to define exactly why this 1977 classic is so effective, but that is part of its brilliance.

The plot is not a complex one.  Suzy (Jessica Harper) is an America ballet dancer who has travelled to a German dance academy to study her art. On the night of her arrival a powerful storm rages, and one of the students is brutally murdered.  Suzy becomes increasingly unnerved by a series of strange and mysterious events, and ultimately comes to suspect that the academy is run by a coven of murderous witches.

The setting allows a disconcerting sensation to germinate. The academy is a great gothic building, with large, highly decorated, rooms and seemingly endless corridors. When the storms begin outside, they lash and howl like something from mythology.

As one would expect from an Argento film, the Goblin soundtrack accents everything that is occurring on screen – but the score and sound effects for Suspiria are second-to-none. The instruments are combined with screams and growls; the pounding rhythms and repetitive melodies are mesmeric and hypnotising. The resultant aural effect is disturbing in its own right.

The cinematography combines artistry and innovation in a manner rarely seen in the genre. Lights in strange hues saturate the shots – occasionally bright red, deep green or cool blue; the physical source of this illumination is irrelevant and never addressed. This lighting is successful in catalysing the otherworldly sensation experienced by the viewer and has no other purpose. Such is the skill with which Argento presents his art we are not required to suspend disbelief for it to be effective – the technique simply works.

Suspiria is consentient with a lot of Giallo films. Firstly, a sense of mystery is central to the story – Suzy doesn’t understand what is happening and the film is structured around her trying to find out. Secondly, where kills take place they are frightening and violent – but also stylised and artistic. The opening death is one of the genres finest – for its build up, viciousness, imagination and presentation. It is a brutal slaying, but beautifully done – typically Giallo.

The film consistently builds its sense of dread. The evil lurks just around the corner, creeps about at night and tries to get in through the door. Argento creates a mood that sneaks into the mind and make one shift uncomfortably in the seat. This atmosphere is punctuated with highly efficient moments of visual horror and violence which ensures that the intrigue is matched by well structured pacing. This includes maggots raining from the ceiling and a cutthroat razor earning its name.

If filmmaking is an art form, and it surely is, then Suspiria is a masterpiece. There is not a single frame of film in which Argento has not tightly orchestrated the sound, dialogue, gesture and lighting to create an atmosphere of distress and unease. The result is that Suspiria evokes the same raw sense of fear as waking from a childhood nightmare.

It is true that Dario Argento eventually lost his way in his later career, but realistically nobody could maintain the level of achievement he set with Suspiria. The film is undoubtedly a classic, not just within the horror genre, but of cinema in general. Whether it is to study original and artistic filmmaking, or just to be genuinely scared and entertained – all lovers of film should experience Suspiria.