Sunday, 4 December 2011

LEEDS FILM FESTIVAL 2011

I've been letting actual life get in the way of updating the blog lately - sorry folks, it's been a busy few weeks! You can always check up on my musings by visiting the Facebook page.


So, the Leeds Film Festival is over for another year.


Look, a massive banner over the Town Hall
In a hectic whirlwind of drunken upstarts, flying vampire heads, angry manga fans and sublime Japanese craziness - and 16 consecutive days in the cinema - I managed to see a grand total of 17 films, 4 Q&A's and meet a lovely director so all in all a very successful 25th year. I'll do my best to recap it all for you, but apologies my thoughts aren't as sharp as they would have been straight after the full thing. Birthdays and whatnot...


Opening Night: Wuthering Heights
I've never worked the Opening Gala before so was unprepared for how insanely hectic it is, and the genuine need for 50 volunteers. I was supposed to be working on the doors but was immediately pulled onto another section as soon as I walked into the Town Hall. Luckily for me it was the VIP area, specifically looking after the cast and crew comp tickets, plus the media melee that had been especially invited to the event. Of course, Wuthering Heights is set and was filmed all around Yorkshire so it was a special screening and an apt opener to the festival. And we had mini celebs there as well: Solomon Glave (young Heathcliffe), Shannon Beer (young Cathy) and James Howson (older Heathcliffe) plus director Andrea Arnold (Red Road, Fish Tank) who was introducing her take on the much adapted Bronte tale to Leeds ahead of its nationwide release. Andrea Arnold was lovely - the biggest and warmest smile in the building. I'm afraid the rest of the cast all blended into one another (well dolled up young people all look the same, don't they?) But though the perks of the job were great, unfortunately I didn't get to see the film itself as the screen was packed out. I had been looking forward to it, but only for the sake of being there - it didn't have a big circle around it in my brochure so not a huge loss, plus bonus going home early and free pizza. There was a bit of drama as well when one of the actors had an attack of the 'don't-you-know-who-I-am' (er, no, you're all newcomers) and was escorted out for being drunk and disorderly on the balcony. Tee hee hee. Oh, listening to those 'eviction' convos is so awkward!


And now to condense the action slightly, here are my top 10 films of this year's festival, in standard racing heart inducing reversal...


10. The River Used To Be A Man
My first film of LFF11 was a slow and slight one, and makes No.10 on my list. A German man travels to deepest Africa (Tanzania) and is escorted through the isolated wilderness and swamplands by a local paddler. But when the old man dies, he is left alone in a land he doesn't understand and a route back to his car that he can't remember. It's an interesting fable on the young, arrogant white man lost in a strange land of nature and magic and the focus on these African traditions and beliefs is particularly effective, especially when he stumbles back into the old man's village and the people react to the news that the body has not been buried - sacrilege: the old man will now be resurrected as a crocodile and kill them all. Because the atmosphere is so heavily soaked in the surrounding environment there is very little dialogue and the story loses its way in places. The ending is just bizarre - leading you to believe the man miraculously escapes the foreign terrain in a way you'll never know, or he died and his escape was his last fantasy as he awaits the crocodile. It's all rather too sparse to take much from it. The Q&A with director Jan Zabeil was great though, and bless him for hobbling about on crutches to talk to us about his affinity with the area they shot in, and how there's only one actor in the whole of the film.



9. Finisterrae
This was one of the films I was most looking forward to at the festival, after watching the trailer for it at the LFF showreel preview. Two ghosts travelling on a journey to reach the end of the world where they hope to return to the land of the living. But don’t take it too seriously – the ghosts are your quintessential white sheets with two holes cut out for eyes, one of them rides a horse and one them is seeing a therapist. Along the way they encounter all types of bizarre and surreal people and situations (an annoying hippie-slash-cavewoman; a 1970s infomercial in a tree) but rather than delight and surprise it was all a bit too weird for me. There are genuine funny moments of incredulity, but for the most part it drags. The ending, where one of the ghosts turns into a frog, who is then kissed by a man and turns into a woman, and a stag wanders around an empty house... Am I looking for meaning beyond sheer randomness? Gah I wish it had been better.



8. She Monkeys
You know I’m always up for films about teenage angst! Swedish drama She Monkeys is the debut film from Lisa Aschan which chooses the sport of equestrian acrobatics as the arena for the power struggle and sexual curiosity between two young girls: Cassandra – tall, blonde, queen of the team, intimidating and inspiring; and Emma: the shy new girl with a fierce determination and a free spiritedness about her that Cassandra both envies and desires. Emma’s goal is to be as good as the other girls and get herself onto the competing team, but her friendship with Cassandra is also important to her, though it pushes her boundaries and leads to this inner angst of hating herself for being attracted to another girl, and hating Cassandra for having this intoxicating power over her. As this is a genre I love and know quite well, there’s nothing new here, and She Monkeys is so quick and precise (a fleeting 85 minutes) that – not to be too insulting – it’s rather forgettable. Emma’s younger sister Sara is actually more interesting: portraying a six year old girl who looks up to her older sibling so much she mimics her behaviour to slightly disturbing effect given her innocence. And the unexpected horse sex… why did the film have to take us there?!



7. The Whisperer in Darkness
Such an enjoyable B movie from the world of HP Lovecraft! Now, I wouldn’t profess to being an all-knowing Lovecraftian (I still can’t spell Cthulhu first time right) but I do spend the majority of my days fighting Mi-gos and Shoggoths in the hope of getting into R'lyeh so I can seal the gate before the Ancient One Yig awakens. Yeah, I’m cool. Whadda ya mean I’m supposed to be blogging? Anyway, The Whisperer in Darkness is a short story from the master of tentacles about a sceptical professor who is contacted by a farmer claiming to be terrorised by winged alien creatures. He is initially dismissive of the man’s claims and supposed ‘photographic proof’ but when he goes to visit him at his home he uncovers a sinister neighbourhood cult who have been brainwashed - and brainrobbed - by the monsters, and now support the rise of Yuggoth to end the world. The professor must save them all, but in the words of a favourite meme of mine: 


Loved the style and commitment of it, right down to the black and white imagery and shoddy but great special effects. Not in the least bit scary but a fun, fun ride.



6. Involuntary
A blackly comic anthology of stories from Sweden – the Scandinavians do their humour so well, though Involuntary has more than its fair share of drama. No stories or characters actually connect or intertwine but each one grabs the attention and the full piece flows together brilliantly. Drunken pranks between a group of long-term male friends go awry; a teacher sticks to her guns to help a pupil but alienates herself with her colleagues; a father tries to hide his firework induced injury to endure a family celebration; two bored teenage girls get a little too friendly with a webcam and alcohol; a bus driver takes accidental damage a bit too far. What’s so superb about Involuntary is oddly, how awkward and uncomfortable each story becomes. The stillness of the camera doesn’t allow you to turn away either, you live it through the characters. I think the worst for me, is the teacher after she has been ostracised for ‘grassing’ another teacher for striking a pupil, the rest of the staff passively and indirectly shut her out. She is sat with two other teachers during a lunch break whilst they are having a conversation, and she interrupts to ask the main speaker to look at her as well when he’s talking, as it’s rude to exclude a third person in a conversation between two people. He apologies, and continues the story with her involvement, but it peters out in that uncomfortable disrupting the peace fashion. It’s quite delicious, but slightly toe curling as well. I thought all the characters were so well drawn, and despite only getting a few minutes with them all, they are memorable and authentic. This screened at Cannes a couple of years ago, and director Robin Ostlund is also responsible for this year’s Play which culturemouse has previewed a fair few times throughout festival season.



5. The Other Side of Sleep
Ahh, a little beaut of a rural murder mystery. A young girl's body is found in the woods outside of a small working class town in Ireland and the impact this has on the community - a place where everybody knows each other's business and like to gossip - unravels. One person who is more involved than most is factory girl Arlene (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), who has a disturbing connection to the murdered girl: she woke up in the woods next to her. Arlene is prone to severe bouts of sleepwalking, severe enough to unlock and break through closed doors and wander the streets outside. Her obsession with the dead girl (befriending her sister, keeping newspaper articles, breaking into her house, wearing her lingerie for her boyfriend...) and her increasing nocturnal state gives the film an eerie dreamlike quality which I loved: that magical and wonderful (when it works) disorientation of not knowing what is a dream and what is reality. Campbell-Hughes gives a strong performance as the isolated and emotionally fragile Arlene who we discover is still haunted by the story of her mother's murder in England when she was just a baby and her obsession with the dead and flirting with the danger of it herself has taken over her life. It's a captivating watch and one that does not provide any easy answers. A great debut from Rebecca Daly who spoke about the film afterwards, and her own experiences with grief.

4. Snowtown
Another film I had been looking forward to seeing from the LFF preview showreel (if “looking forward to” are the right words). Snowtown was never going to be an easy watch, given the grisly reality behind what you’re watching. In 1999 Australia's most prolific serial killer John Bunting was arrested following the discovery of eight bodies in the small town of Snowtown, north of Adelaide. Three more bodies were found in the following days, and further arrests made. The ring leader, John Bunting, was a man in his 30s whose deep hatred of homosexuals, paedophiles, transsexuals, mentally handicapped people and drug addicts, coupled with his ability to charm and coerce those around him fuelled the murder spree. This film, based on two books written about the murders, focuses on one accomplice in particular: James Vlassakis, a teenage boy abused and introverted, who looks up to John as a father figure. He is initially in awe of the man, but when he discovers the terrible crimes he has been committing, he is terrified to go against him. Not exactly sympathetic to Vlassakis, the film paints a picture of a young lad with no positive role model in his life, no structure and no purpose and how he was misled too deep. John wants him to help with the murders, but Vlassakis runs away from the horror, and instead compiles his guilt by keeping his silence, and leading the victims to their death, namely his stepbrother David. More disturbing than the murder scenes (of which there aren’t many, but the victims are tortured by Bunting and his right hand man Robert Wagner in the most unending pain. There’s a scene with a toe that I couldn’t watch) is Bunting’s psychopathic picking of his victims – they are all random. A web of hate is shown displayed on the wall in one of the rooms in his house, highlighting people in the community whom he deems sick, unnecessary, evil (he had been a Neo Nazi growing up). He then selects one at random – akin to closing your eyes and pointing – and they are tortured, killed, and their bodies (most of them) stored in acid barrels in the town of Snowtown, away from where Bunting has set up home with Vlassakis, his brothers and their mother Elizabeth Harvey. It’s a powerful film, none so because of the performance of Daniel Henshall as the emotionally ruthless serial killer. His charisma and charm sucks the family in, but all the while there is something off kilter about him, something seriously creepy and demented behind that smile and those eyes, taking everything in. You know if you upset him and he says it’s okay, you’re almost certainly dead. A towering performance. Perhaps just as Jacki Weaver broke through for her role in the oft-compared Animal Kingdom, Henshall will also receive some nods when awards season comes around. Lucas Pitttaway also deserves an honourable mention for portraying Vlassakis with such ill-fated haplessness in what is his first time in front of a camera. It’s director Justin Kurzel’s first time out as well, and what he does so well is the horror of what is happening behind closed doors against the background of children playing in the streets, and riding past on their bikes. Chilling, and undeniably grim, but for any brave enough to elicit a fascination with killers and disturbing events (isn’t that all of us?) a must see. 



3. Symbol 
Wow, I loved this! Once you get past the infantile humour it occasionally gurgles out, Symbol is a perfect slice of that sublime Japanese craziness I mentioned before. On paper there are two storylines working in tangent: a wrestler who is gearing up for his biggest fight, and a man who wakes up inside a white featureless room with no idea how he got there. But really it’s the latter story which drives the film, and amazes. Cube is already a bizarre cult classic, so imagine if the Japanese got anywhere near it. Much more playful than the American sci-fi, this man who finds himself stuck in a cube finds that when he presses (I’m stealing the IMDB line here as it’s genius) the “phallic protuberances” sticking out in the walls, each one delivers to him something unique: whether it be a vase, drum sticks, a scooter, sushi, water, an irritable tribal man, soy sauce or select copies of a series of graphic novels (cheekily they skip Volume 4 just when he’s getting into it). Experiencing several emotions – frustration, upset, glee, contentment, generally stupefied – he finally comes across a, erm, button which brings up a door and his means of escape. But of course, the door always closes before he can quite run to it. So unfolds a sort of physics/logics game where he must choose which of the objects will help him to find a way to get out of the door. This is ingenious. Just when he thinks he has found a way to the door, he finds out it is locked and he needs to find the key, and when he finds the key he finds another lock at the top of the frame which requires another key and so on and so forth. It’s just brilliant, although if you’re a viewer like me, you start getting agitated with his methods and want to shout instructions at the screen: “you’ve already pressed that one!” “why aren’t you filling the vase with soy sauce?!” “JUST PRESS ALL THE GOD DAMN BUTTONS!” etc. It’s a very involving experience. Hitoshi Matsumoto, who plays the unnamed man and also writes and directs (he’s also famed for his predecessor film Big Man Japan which also played at the LFF this year) demonstrates hilarious slapstick comedy and a dogged determination which totally wins us over. It’s what’s behind the door, and the connection his escape has to the wrestler in the outside world which suddenly reveals all the answers of Symbol and it veers into existential territory. Still, absolutely worth a watch.


2. The Artist
I was cross when I went to see this film, as I had forgotten my glasses. Not usually so much of a catastrophe but with it being French I thought I was going to struggle to read anything of what was going on, so had to sit virtually on the front row of the cinema (not so much a choice anyway as it was sold out). I had been so excited when the LFF announced they were showing this film as a late addition, as the reviews from Cannes and London have been amazing – it’s being labelled as the film of the year. But despite all the buzz it became clear that I actually knew very little about the film as the opening credits rolled. I knew it was a movie set in the silent film era in Hollywood, but I didn’t realise it was actually going to be in the silent film style. Turns out this was the best possible film to have forgotten my glasses in!
George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is the biggest silent movie star around, coupled with his also starring wife and amazing performance dog (in fact the wife is secondary – it’s all about George and the dog). Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo) is a young girl, dreaming of making it big, using her talent for dancing to get her small parts in the films George takes centre stage in. There’s a spark between the two, but they are worlds apart. But then a big upheaval in the world of cinema changes everything: pictures with sound begin to get made, and films begin to move in a different direction. George is scornful and dismissive of sound, believing it to be a ‘fad’ and parts with his long time director (John Goodman) to make his own silent movies, which draw only minimal crowds. Peppy meanwhile, rises to stardom in the world of sound and takes over the same accolades George was once receiving. George, washed up and depressed, is left by his wife and forced to sell all his possessions due to debt. He turns to drinking, and puts his own life in danger (much to the horror of his faithful dog). But Peppy has always remembered George, and goes out of her way to help him get back to the top – and also win his heart.
This film won my heart! Delightful, enchanting, uplifting – just so refreshing. Unlike anything else you’ll see at the cinema this year. I think I loved Bérénice Bejo more than anyone – she had such a light about her, and is such a good comedienne. The scene where she sneaks into George’s dressing room and starts dancing with his coat on the stand, and then he comes in and catches her is priceless! And loved the scene where they have to do various takes of their dance together because they keep getting distracted. Her warmth and love for George is iridescent, regardless of his belief she is merely taking pity on him. And she’s so sparky when she winks! But Jean Dujardin is also excellent, and well deserving of the Best Actor award at Cannes (he will sure be receiving many more noms). He’s at his best when he’s revelling in the spotlight with a faux coyness about his celebrity. His interactions with Uggy the dog (who was played by three Jack Russell terriers, but Uggy did the majority of the scenes and won the Palm Dog at Cannes .Yes! The Palm Dog! Such a thing exists! Some great dogs if you peruse the list) was wonderful to watch, but also heartbreaking at the same time as George loses his passion for life and has no regard for his well-being, setting fire to his house and trying to kill himself – Uggy does his best to keep his master alive.
The film is also exquisitely made – in black and white of course (it’s a silent film all on its own) and silent, except for some brilliantly placed moments of sound: an amazing scene in George’s dressing room when suddenly everything around him makes a sound (meta, I love it) and at the end when Peppy convinces George to star with her in his first audio feature. It’s classic without being a parody, and authentic without being try-hard. I cannot recommend it enough when it goes on release December 30th. A perfect film for those January blues! And sure to be a big fish at the Oscars.


1. Take Shelter 
I’ve seen this film twice now. The first time, which was at the LFF, I felt like someone had rigged me up to a clamp on a bench and for the majority of the film they continued to twist it, so much so that when the film ended and I had to run out quickly to help collect and coordinate response slips etc, I felt like somebody had just punched me in the lungs and I couldn’t breathe (it was probably walking out into the Town Hall foyer which was freezing cold due to the door ALWAYS.BEING.OPEN.). The second time I saw it, two days ago – as it’s now on general release – I also felt like I had been punched in the lungs. Yes it had been snowing… the point I’m trying to make is that even if I go and watch Take Shelter next Summer and it’s 25 degrees outside (you laugh), I’ll still feel like I’ve been punched in the lungs, and why? Because it is like walking down a dark corridor into your worst nightmare. The dread that will infiltrate you is extraordinary.
I’ve been looking forward to this for ages (big up Sundance) and was delighted to see it as part of the LFF, and even better to be working it (the audience loved it too). The premise is so intriguing, and then when you watch the trailer it sends tingles down your spine. Curtis (the remarkable Michael Shannon) is a construction worker, living in mid America with his wife Sam (Jessica Chastain) and young daughter Hannah. His life seems fairly normal, aside from his daughter being deaf and the family struggling to come up with the money for an operation. But then Curtis starts having apocalyptic dreams, which turn into night terrors and then hallucinations in his waking life, of the mother of all storms bearing down on the world: dead crows dropping from the sky, a wall of tornadoes, rain falling like oil. Sometimes there are people in the dreams: faceless people who are out to steal his daughter in the storm. As the portents – or madness – gets worse, Curtis becomes dually obsessed with trying to diagnose his mental illness thought to be passed down by his schizophrenic mother and rebuilding the tornado shelter at the back of the house to protect his family. Both his actions are done without the consultation of his wife, who freaks out at his unreasonable and frightening behaviour and when he loses his job and his health insurance to pay for their daughter’s operation. As the film builds to its climax, everyone including Curtis believe he is undergoing an acute psychotic disorder and encourage him to face his demons and take therapy. But what if he’s not mad at all and the storm is actually coming? 
I feel I can honestly and sensibly review this film having seen it twice. The music! It's so eerie - the xylophone notes like fingertips running up your spine to make you shudder. One of those irrepressible scores that will plummet you back into the throes of the movie after hearing just a couple of seconds. The cinematography is stunning, the CGI so cleverly used to swirl up the storm sequences that it looks pulled from a (terrifying) nature documentary. The crows flying down on Curtis and his daughter has to be one of the most breathtaking (and it is, that) moments of the film, if not cinema this year. I cannot fault the acting - someone needs to give Michael Shannon the Oscar now. He is incredible at portraying the mentally unbalanced (see Revolutionary Road) and the scene in the soup kitchen was too powerful for words. Watching it a second time I had tears rolling down my cheeks as you've got to let the emotion out somehow! Jessica Chastain continues to be a force to be reckoned with this year in another major role - she's a mother as in The Tree of Life but is the practical no-nonsense parent here to Curtis' emotionally led counterpart. She finds it difficult to understand what he's going through, but plays it so stoically. The little girl was great too - and watching it a second time, I wondered whether she had some of her father's visions as well, but perhaps I'm reading too much into things. 
My favourite scene is when they're in the storm shelter and Sam makes Curtis open the hatch. I kept thinking the film was going to end as he pushes the doors, and we were never going to know whether it was fine outside or whether they were in some sort of 'eye' of the storm. That's the brilliance with this film - you think you know what's happening, but you're never quite sure. That's why you hold your breath until the very last, astonishing, scene. For some, Take Shelter is a horror film, but for me it's a psychological drama that's a prevailing success and one you shouldn't shy away from watching. One of my films of the year. You'd be foolish not to go see it. But remember to breathe!



And the rest...


22 May - a completely undeserving winner of the Golden Owl award for Best Film – BEST FILM I tell you! By God, it was dull. I had been looking forward to it as well as the trailer looks so dramatic – it tells the story of a suicide bomber at a shopping mall in Germany, and the security guard who meets the victims of the bombing in the aftermath and they blame him for not rescuing them. A strong premise with the potential for high emotion and clever storytelling – ghosts, flashback, connecting memories, people, insignificant throwaways into the larger picture, and the question of, why? But it’s a mess. I started wondering whether I wanted to leave the cinema or not halfway through but I can never comprehend actually doing that – a nap is better. The beginning was actually fine, but then the pace and tone goes skewiff and the characters were all so tedious and unlikable. The acting was negligible. It was one of those frustrating drones of a film that bores into your mind (I couldn’t nap) and throws an invisible net over you so you’re struggling to escape it then on. The slo-mo of the force of the explosion, people flying, their faces changing as they feel shock moments before death, the loud music searing overhead – it all became melodrama wearing CGI. I didn’t feel any pathos or sadness for what was happening. And then they go and throw in a giant bunny costume near the end. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. Best Film?! What kind of loony tablets are these juries actually taking with their popcorn?


Marianne - I always like dipping into Day of the Dead to see a film or two, but afterwards wonder why I bother. Last year it was the laughable The Last Employee (which won the Méliès d’Argent for best fantastique film at the festival – HA HA HA HA) and this year it was the equally implausible Marianne, which to be fair, had a write up comparing it to The Last Employee so I should really have known better. A Swedish horror film which to a certain extent plays on the success of Let The Right One In and focuses on mythical and supernatural beings in Swedish folklore, this time a ‘mare’ -  a banshee type creature who preys on the life force of a man she is seeking revenge on for a wrong-doing in her past life as a human. The story is pretty weak, and the ‘twist’ at the end leaves you slightly dumbfounded as you thought… you’d been told that already? Ack! A scorned mistress plots revenge on the man she loved returning to his wife by causing a car crash involving the couple. The man’s wife dies, and in his anger he throws the badly injured mistress over the bridge into the river. She comes back as a mare, draining his energy as she preys upon him at night. Believe me, it sounds spookier than it is. The only faintly terrifying bit is when the man lines his bedroom door with linseed so she can’t enter, and she instead goes into the nursery and kills his baby instead – that was pretty unsettling, but the fact he seems to get over this in about two days waters down the horror. It stumbles into comedy at times too, with the inclusion of a – there is no better term – ‘doofus’ mythical expert who is dating the man’s daughter. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but it seems to send up the premise rather than enrich it. And the continual moody arguments and sulks between the man and his daughter weigh the film down too much. It’s more an emo than a horror. However, the Foley-style sound effects of grinding teeth and wet clomping heels as the mare moves are inspired.


Forest - not much to say other than I HATED IT AND NEVER WANT TO BE PUT THROUGH IT AGAIN. I did however, have a successful nap. Hurray!

Detroit Metal City - I was pleasantly looking forward to this re-showing Japanese film which won audiences over a couple of years ago at the LFF. So many people had told me it was amazing, and they were actually jealous of me watching it for the first time. But I could never warm to it. I found everything OTT, the humour jarring and the plot itself ridiculous: a shy young Japanese man who dreams of being the next American heartthrob with his Swedish pop songs (“with the cheese tart in your hand…”) accidentally ends up the lead singer of death metal band Detroit Metal City, as the alias Krauser – a man who worships the devil and hates everything (according to his fans). Thus the schtick is pulling off both identities, whilst trying to fulfil his dream and win his schoolgirl crush. Eh. It wasn’t boring… plus there was a cameo from Gene Simmons as the rival death metal singer which is never a bad thing. I can think of a tonne of people who would love this; I’m just not one of them.

Mystics in Bali - now this was AMAZING. On paper I really wasn’t bothered about it at all and was kinda hoping I could sneak off after everyone was happily settled in the screen, but I felt bad and thought I better be a good volunteer and sit in. Soooo glad I did! This is a 1970s Malaysian horror film having a big screen re-release as part of the Fanomenon section of the LFF. It was the most hysterical film I’d seen in ages! The plot is, well just flaming ace: a young American student called Cathy travels to Bali to study/write some thesis on black magic and she strikes up a friendship-y romance with local boy Mahendra, who takes her to the witch/voodoo woman of the village to help her with her studies. But the witch takes advantage of her and possesses her so she can ‘borrow’ her head – which is then transported into a flying vampire head with organs hanging off the end in the best worst CGI you have ever seen in your life – to kill. Once the local villagers realise what is going on, they turn to their soothsayer (Mahendra’s uncle) to stop her. OK firstly, the dubbing is awful so therefore any delivery of any line is a punchline. Everybody laughs at everything which just induces giggles – the witch has this insane cackle that goes on for about a minute longer than it’s supposed to, and she speaks like a Jim Henson puppet. My two favourite bits: 1) Cathy vomiting up green liquid and live mice after she has spent a night being a ‘snake’ with the witch, and Mahendra asking her, “Cathy are you alright?” and 2) a random woman coming out of nowhere to save Mahendra at the end and saying something like “even though you were with her, I sill love you” – where the fuck has this woman been for the past whole of the film?! Haha, oh my, just genius. If you’ve exhausted the likes of The Room, Troll 2 and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus then this is next on your list. Not even trying to be cult, this was banned back in the day for being too shocking – now it’s just ridiculous! And happily available on Region 2 DVD.



Repulsion - this would have been well into my top 10 had it not been retro. Polanski’s first mass market offering is evident in the work of many horror maestros today, although it’s clear he was also influenced himself – by Hitchcock. Catherine Deneuve (beautiful) plays the painfully shy Dutch girl who is left alone in her sister’s apartment in London when she goes on holiday, and the loneliness sends her into madness (and murder). There are some genuine jumpy moments and the film just builds and builds in an idiosyncratic, unnerving manner rather like our chief protagonist Carole, who is beguiling from the start. Always in a haze, who really knows what’s going on in her mind? She is plagued by terrors of a man breaking into her apartment and assaulting her, suggesting she may have been raped in the past. She’s not good with men in general – hating her sister’s boyfriend, ignoring her admirers and flinching at any attention. But then the end of the film focuses on a photograph of the family, and a young Carole who holds that same listless stare into the distance and not connecting with anybody. Perhaps she has always been mentally unbalanced, a danger to herself and others? There were some scenes I just adored, and cursed myself for not watching before so much other horror, but the last third does descend into farce territory, as the flat becomes littered with bodies. At least we didn’t get a ‘it was all in her mind!’ reveal at the end – yes, it was all in her mind, but she’s fucked up the outside world as well.


Shame - got to see this for the second time (rallying the friends round) in the Town Hall. Amaze.



That didn't really condense it at all, did it? Ah well never mind. Here's to more spills next year!


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