Described as the world’s pre-eminent stop motion animator, Phil Tippett has been harnessing his craft through such fine works as the original Star Wars trilogy; Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom; Robocop; and Dragonslayer.
Such is the talent that he brings to his craft, a long dormant vision, 30 years in the making, has finally come to fruition, thanks in part to a kickstarter campaign to aid in the funding.
Mad God is a beautifully bleak dystopian tale filled with a blend of industry, machine-like creatures, in tune with the organic infestations that embody the landscape.
This outlook is something straight out of the insane mind of Dr. Frankenstein, with some of these creatures born out of assembled body parts, adding to its appeal.
Whilst I do love the artform of stop animation, it can deter in places and feel fragmented as a result. Mad God can feel like this at times when viewing which can be due to the production time frame.
Weaving together these surreal images is The Assassin, shrouded in a jacket and a gas mark, who is charged with a mission to destroy the world as we know it. His journey of descent into an inferno of lust, power, greed, and the destruction of life is a cyclical and hellish one. It bears a light on the shadowy side of humanity, forcing the viewer to face its brutality.
Through all its fragments and destruction, is beauty and evolution at its core. Director Phil Tippet is a master of his craft and his labour of love is a must see for all fans of stop animation.
The dystopian landscape is a visually striking and harrowing masterpiece that captures the dark heart of humanity in a way that this style of art form and an auteur of his field can truly supply.
Last week I joined up with fellow Surgeon Myles Davies to watch Ti West’s latest turn behind the camera with his seventies inspired horror slasher flick, X.
A couple of days later, my colleague fired up the following tweet to cast his judgement before the world.
But what prompted this response from our slasher surgeon guru?
What compelled him to go Cujo frothing crazy?
Was he merely spouting foreign tongue, possessed by Satan’s work?
Or was there a method to the madness and perhaps people should sit up and take note of his prophecy?
Well, let’s throw the beast onto the mortician’s slab and dissect the film to get to the heart of it.
It’s been about six years since West sat in the directors chair for a feature length movie, and his subject of choice is a love song to the late sixties and early seventies with the infusion of sex and slasher horror.
There are obvious nods to the porno scene that had infiltrated the movie Plex with films such as Debbie Does Dallas, opening to dorr for adventurous and risky filmmakers to make their mark with cheap, low budget, guerrilla style approach to the medium.
Similarly the slasher scene was starting to raise its head, notably through The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper and from which West draws the bulk of his inspiration from.
West is clearly a man who knows his field though with suitable nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Kubrick’s The Shining, and even early 80s horror flick Alligator.
X follows a group of young filmmakers intent on making an adult movie that could launch them to stardom; whether it was through escapism, to be famous, or for the money. Leading the stakes with that certain X factor is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), a stripper and pornographic film actress. Joining her on their filming expedition is her boyfriend and producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), fellow actors Bobby Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi), Director RJ (Owen Capbell), and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega).
Their choice of location happens to be a farmhouse in Texas (of course) and much like its inspiration, there’s more than meets the eye from its occupants, but not necessarily how you would expect… an elderly couple. Pearl (also Goth) is unwilling to let go of her sexuality just because of her age; and Howard (Stephen Ure) who will stop at nothing to satisfy her needs, but time may not be on his side.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and all it takes is one simple flip to turn our intrepid pioneers in filmmaking to be pushed into a world where they may not return from. Once the characters and setting take hold, West then lets loose with a slasher frenzy of delight, painting his celluloid brush with the artistic style and grace that the genre lends its name from, dabbing from a palette of iconic horror visuals to stimulate the audience with.
X is more than a homage to films of yester-year though as West immediately lures us in with the style from the era, both visually and auditorily, scintillating the senses. As he subjects us to the charm of the movie, West then pulls us in further with rich characterisation, who on face value appear to be stereotypes of the decade, but beneath the surface are more than their appearance depicts. In fact, West’s masterstroke is in forcing the viewer to look beneath the surface of these characters, delving deep into their personalities and forcing their true selves to the fore. The biggest component that Wast dapples with is the social stigma that age has on society, and how sex can diminish when time plays its part on us all. Does age damage the psyche? When we are left with our souls, and our body begins to fail us, what makes us worthy then when we aren’t able to let go of our sensuality?
So what is the conclusion? Is this as Myles states, a potential contender for horror film of the year?
Ti West serves up a beautifully shot movie that sparks nostalgia and awakening to the slasher genre. The performances, especially from Mia Goth in her dual role are an absolute delight. And the slow burn tension that flicks with humour and horror is perfectly balanced throughout the film. Plus the use of age and fear of ageism in the wake of losing one’s sexuality as the central theme is a bold but rewarding one.
West has always proved to be a quiet achiever from the mumblegore movement, but deserves more praise for his efforts.
X has just elevated his profile further and with the promise of turning the movie into a trilogy and a prequel called Pearl due later in the year, West could very well have made the best horror film of the year. Stay tuned 2022.
Another Giallo horror film marks a milestone this year with Emilio Miraglia’s The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave celebrating 50 years since its initial release.
At its heart the film is a tale that depicts how the wealthy are inescapable of punishment, free to carry out their wims. Where it gets slightly complex is through the unhinged mind of its central character Alan (Anthony Steffen) who is mentally scarred when he finds his wife making love to a man. It’s a bender that sends him into an institution, but upon release his unstable condition is all too apparent when he hires red-haired prostitutes that remind him of his wife, to enact tortuous and murderous acts upon them as a form of warped revenge.
The twist in the tale however, comes when Alan attends a séance where the medium makes contact with Evelyn sending Alan spiralling downwards. It is here that Alan’s cousin George moves into the mansion to take care of him, but does he have an ulterior motive?
To add more oddity to the fold, Alan then meets Gladys (Marina Malfatti) he instantly falls for her charms (maybe a little too easily) and it is not long that they are wed and Gladys too moves into the mansion. Then the sinister nature of the movie takes hold again as Gladys begins to experience some further goings on at the mansion when she meets Evelyn’s brother and his invalid Aunt, who instantly take a dislike to Alan’s new bride. Gladys is convinced that Evelyn may have faked her own death, and is still alive haunting the mansion and sending Alan further into repression.
There are further twists and turns throughout the narrative like most giallos’ of the era before a conclusion is reached. As it unravels, the madness of the piece is on show and its convoluted plot never really awakens in the mind of this writer and leaves me a little unsatisfied as a result. Not nearly as clever or complex as other films in the Giallo genre, and a little more gratuitous for the sake of it. The ending tries to be smart and shocking but instead, it just leaves you feeling cold.
At the time of writing this article Halloweenhas made over $106 million dollars in Box Office sales and taken the second-best ever opening weekend of October and has become the best-ever film starring a lead actress over 55 years old.
It’s director David Gordon Green must be riding an all-time high at the moment, which is interesting as he was the original choice to direct the Suspiria remake which would have starred Isabelle Huppert, but due to a confliction of interests this vision fell through.
One can only wonder how his operatic nod to Dario Argento’s classic would have looked like. Instead Italian director Luca Guadagnino, who turned heads last year with his film Call Me By Your Name, picked up the mantle and collaborated once more with actress Tilda Swinton with his homage.
Now, a lot of people would have balked at the very idea of someone attempting to recreate a much-loved horror film, especially as Suspiria was so unique in style and content.
And yet, it’s because of this that you could argue that there is room to revisit the storyline and create something different for a new generation.
And with the trailer’s release earlier in the year, you could tell that Guadagnino was aiming to do jus that and develop a movie with the look and feel of it’s time and setting, 1977, Berlin.
It’s a fascinating time in German history as it was going through a huge discord and anarchy through political unrest, driving far-left militant organization, Red Army Faction (RAF) also known as the Baader-Meinhof Group to drastic measure involving bombing, kidnapping, and assassinations.
The climate was ripe for a dark evil to erupt, and in this instance it resides with a coven of witches in The Markos Dance Company, which too was going through a split faction between Helena Markos, the self-proclaimed Mother of Sighs and the company director, Madame Blanc, (both played by Swinton).
The story evolves through a series of Acts that opens with an unhinged Patricia Hingle (Chloe Grace Moretz) discloses to her psychiatrist Jozef Klemperer (another Swinton performance as the elderly Gent, a performance that sometimes amazes in just how powerful an actress she is, but on occasion distracts through the times that her character slips a little) about the secret sect.
Hingle quickly disappears from the scene, allegedly involved with the RAF movement. This opens the door for when our story truly begins, when American, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives at the dance company and quickly rises as Blanc’s protégé.
All the while, the dancers are unaware of what truly lurks behind the mirrored walls and beneath the dance floor and Professor Klemperer continues on his quest to find the missing Hingle (an effort that masks his own failings in never finding his wife during the outbreak of the second world war).
There are so many layers to this film that it’s easy to get lost in the narrative and fall under the spell that is cast with powerful performances from all the actors driving you deeper into the world as you spiral into the hypnosis.
This is strengthened further by the musical score supplied Thom Yorke, something of a masterpiece in his delivery and trance-like songs that perfectly accompany the atmosphere and direction of the movie.
Equally effective are the dance pieces that closely pull from the Martha Graham technique, using a psychoanalytical viewpoint on the medium depicting human struggles through every contorted and distorted action from the performer.
It’s a perfect accompaniment to the films narrative and proves a central tool to evoke the darkness beyond the known world.
American writer David Kajganich who wrote the screenplay for Suspiria openly admits that he is not a fan of horror movies and prefers to keep the drama grounded in reality. It’s a curious choice to take for a horror film, but one that speaks volumes to the final product on show.
There are some great moments in the movie that drive the drama forward in a fairly slow pace towards a fevered conclusion.
One moment that I found compelling was when the coven congregates around the dining table, providing small talk, but in the same instance offer a small window into their world and the synergy between them all.
The problem is the choice taken pulls as far from a horror as you could get with the exception of an absolutely phenomenal sequence when one of the dancers, Olga has her body twisted and contorted in a gruesome fashion that is so relentless on the screen, that you can’t help but squirm in your seat.
The timing of this delivery is hopeful too and leads you on a hopeful journey that the movie is going to go dark and harrowing, but it never comes.
By the time the finale arises, the left-of-centre change in direction is a little jarring and feels remiss and leaves any horror fan wanting.
It’s a slow-burn movie that grinds its way to a stumbled conclusion.
The drama is gritty and realistic with some stunning performances and dramatic dance sequences that hook you in, but rather than set you ablaze in a fury of emotion, it peeters out to a mere whimper.
Summer of ‘84 is one of those movies that tries to tap into the whole 80s nostalgia thing. Think Stranger Things, The Burbs, and Stephen King all wrapped into a neat All-American thriller where four boys believe that one of their neighbours is a notorious serial killer.
The trouble is it strives so hard to emanate the decade and all its glory, (wicked soundtrack included) that it struggles to form a unique identity of its own. That is until the final 20 WTF!!! Minutes of the movie that shakes up your preconceptions and messes with your heard.
By this stage, you would have lost some of the audience, waiting for something to seperate Summer of ‘84 from the pack, and the other half of the audience barely hanging on.
This is a shame because the trailer teased and tantalised an epic feature, but if you can stick it out to the end, the pay off is definitely worth it.
The premise follows Davey Armstrong, the son of a journalist, who suspects neighbour Mackey a well-respected police officer to be the Cape May Slayer, who has murdered of 13 teenage boys in the county area.
At first his friends, Woody, Curtis, and Eats, all find Davey’s story too far-fetched. That is until Davey claims to have seen the latest missing kid at Mackey’s House. Cue espionage style tactics from the kids as they try every spy trick in the book to uncover the truth from tracking his every move, going through his trash and finally breaking and entering.
Is Mackey the murderer, (I mean, there is something a little off about his mannerisms, expertly played by Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) or is it the wild imaginations of a young mind?
The kids are all likeable enough to keep you wondering and caring when they fall into precarious situations, with plenty of decent back story to most of them.
There’s even room for a love interest in old friend and crush, Nikki, who also seems a little unhinged and leaves you wondering if this is a result of her parents separating or is there something darker going on underneath her sweet demeanour.
Directors Simard, Whissell, and Whissell certainly tick all the boxes and it’s only when we are feeling secure that they decide to whip the carpet of safety from under our feet and throw a massive curveball into the midst.
From a political point of view, when Reagan was in power, it’s as if the creatives wanted to make a sweeping statement that American life would never be the same again and that ‘home life’ as we knew it would be totally broken apart and everything that we could rely upon would leave us questioning our faith in everything that our society is built upon.
There is no sanctuary. Not anymore.
Summer of 84 nearly falls prey to standard thriller territory until it sucker punches you in the gut for the climax of the movie, leaving you feeling unnerved and a huge talking point.
Forty years ago Attack of the Killer Tomatoes entered the horror arena and marked itself as the B movie of all B movies.
Since then we’ve had a plethora of killer fruits and vegetables coming out of the wake to replicate the crazed, low grade antics of their predecessor.
Now it’s the turn of delectable sugary snacks in Attack of the Killer Donuts.
When crazed Uncle Luther performs a wild experiment on his pet rat, he is able to reanimate the beast and believes he’s on a massive scientific breakthrough .
One trip to the local donut store though and the formula is leaked in the kitchen and contaminates and entire batch that go on a killer frenzy throughout the local town.
The only people to stop the sweet rampage are the deadbeat employees of said store, Johnny (Justin Ray), his potential love interest Michelle (Kayla Compton), and his best friend Howard who just so happens to be sleeping with Johnny’s Mum.
Director Scott Wheeler cut his teeth in visual effects with previous films such as Avalanche Sharks and Martian Land and here he makes a decent stab at bring the killer donuts to life and look menacing enough… well as menacing as they can be. It’s not exactly going to turn heads, it is a low budget, straight to dvd feature, so what do you expect. It does exactly what it says on the tin.
If there was a criticism to be thrown at the feature, it would be that on occasion there is too much dialogue, particularly at the end of the movie, when the dust has settled, it feels like it takes a hell of a long time to actually rest with unnecessary storylines being tied up. Sometimes, you don’t need to explain every last detail. Especially not in a film like this.
AotKD does boast C.Thomas Howell (The Outsiders, The Hitcher) in its cast as one two bumbling cops, (it’s a film about killer donuts, you have to have cops right?) which was refreshing to see.
Plus it heralds some hilarious killer death scenes that will satiate your appetite.
It’s a B Movie that is as farcical as it sounds, but in keeping with similar films of yester-year.
It’s watchable without rotting your brain too much and fans of this kind of sub-genre will find it entertaining… just maybe play it safe and stick to popcorn as your movie snack. Popcorn’s hardly going to come back and bite you, right? Right?
When director Todd Sheets set about fulfilling his dream passion project of filming a practical effects werewolf movie (that was reminiscent of the classic movies of yesteryear such as The Howling or An American Werewolf in London) via an Indiegogo crowd funding, he hardly expected it to gain the massive traction that it finally generated.
The interest and backing from like-minded individuals keen to see a film produced similar to the ones they grew up loving with an old school mentality approach even gained interest from Indiegogo, citing the campaign as a benchmark in crowd sourcing.
The movie is ultimately a B-movie horror, but that term isn’t necessarily something to look down upon, as Bonehill Road is elevated by Sheets’ choice as both writer and director.
The creature effects are impressive and trigger the perfect amount of nostalgia along the way, but it’s the heart of the story that is it’s strongest point and the journey that our two leads, Emily and her daughter Eden are forced to go through in their fight for survival.
They flee from an abusive husband/father only to jump out with the pan and into the fire when they encounter a murderous psychopath who has a number of women tied up in his home. In this one moment, Bonehill Road turns from your typical werewolf flick to a story about female empowerment. A genius stroke from Sheets as it makes the movie not only contemporary and relevant in todays climate, but also cuts to the pointy end of sexual oppression that is so often overlooked in the news and media. The women must bond together in their suffering and rise up against the constant wave of male dominance in order to survive. It’s a shame then that the Gramps character has to make an entrance to help initiate a rescue. It may have been cool to have a gender swap here to and have Granny coming in to aid, and leverage off the classic wolf story, Little Red Riding Hood a touch. Then again, that road has already been travelled to a degree with Neil Jordan’s A Company of Wolves, so who am I to judge?
When the werewolves do come and they do as a pack, as our victims are hold up inside the house, they attack from every where, heightening that feeling of societies judgement and vitriol towards victims of sexual and domestic violence comes crashing through the walls with no direction or safety on the apparent horizon.
Throw in the casting of a name in the horror circuit with Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) as one of the fellow kidnapped victims and Sheets provides some further leverage in bringing in a wider fan base to Bonehill Road, proving that not only is he one of the most likeable directors in the business but also one of the smartest.
Todd Sheets brings a bout of old school werewolf horror to the B movie scene packed with practical effects, and offers a strong heart that beats with purpose offering a fresh take on a tried and tested genre.
Back in 1968 George A Romero created what is now commonly accepted as a zombie in modern mythology with the classic Night of the Living Dead.
Since then the celluloid screen has been saturated with reanimated corpses ranging from 28 Days Later to The Walking Dead and everything variant in-between stretching into the Rom-Zom-Com, Warm Bodies and TV series iZombie.
Each example has tried to inject something different into zombie make-up to differing effects, and some may argue, (much like how vampires cornered every pixel to exploit the popular phase that it was going through), that zombie stories are becoming stale and decadent as a result.
So it’s heartening then to see that as the genre starts to shuffle of its mortal coil before reawakening in a brand new cycle, that we get a fresh take delivered by the creative mind of writer, director David Freyne with his feature debut, The Cured.
Conceptually it looks at the aftermath of a zombie outbreak where a cure is found for at least 25% of those that were infected, but the catch is that they can recall everything last gory detail of the time when they were consumed with the virus.
This leads to animosity from the wider population who are more than skeptical about allowing ‘The Cured’ back into society.
With this proposal set in place, we have a very different movie unfolding for the audience.
One that centres on isolation, segregation, racial hatred, and the extent humans will go to in order to establish security, and separate themselves from those less fortunate. Suddenly this movie becomes a smarter proposition.
Throw in the Irish setting, which as a country has seen its fair level or turmoil and unrest, and the acting talents of Ellen Page and then it becomes heavily grounded in its storytelling.
Told through the eyes of Senan (Sam Keeley) who is one of ‘The Cured’ returning to his hometown to live with his sister-in-law Abbie (Page) and her son. Not only does he have to struggle to fit back in, but also harbours a secret that he carries from the time that he turned.
The tension mounts as he tries to contain his guilt and the pull he has towards fellow ‘Cured’ survivor Conor in an added component to mythology has become an alpha zombie, displaying strong telepathic skills over the zombie horde and fellow survivors. He utilises these traits to plot against the current regime and tear down the walls of civilisation and the security that accompanies it. The metaphor on terrorist acts in Ireland isn’t lost here.
Only Senan knows the truth about Conor’s plans, but does he have the strength to expose them without unearthing the truth about him? Should he stick with his own kind knowing that goes against his beliefs or hold on to the last piece of humanity that he can?
It’s a bold approach and much like the film Cargo, it ventures primarily into the drama genre more so than horror, but manages to weave in the latter with great effect. Not all horror lovers will warm to the choice in storytelling, but with great direction and superb acting, The Cured does enough to offer a new slice in the zombie world to feel fresh and inviting.
Being dubbed “The scariest movie in years” was always going to be a tough statement to stand by. The bar has already been set pretty high in the horror scene and if, like me, you live and breathe the genre, then you’re going to want them to stand by such bold convictions.
So, with the gauntlet thrust down, I stared down the barrel of torment, chest exposed, ready to receive the thrills that I had so been longing to receive in the class that I’ve come to love so dearly.
Whilst Hereditary didn’t tweak the amygdala to produce deep and charting scares, it did throw me into a river of disturbance and terror that was positively haunting.
One might find the pace of the film a little slow but the current is a steady one, offering enough pain and suffering to propel you on the perilous journey that the family face, which has a lot to do with the stellar performances on show.
Toni Collette is a huge standout and somehow oozes every ounce of crazed anarchy, agony, and deterioration as she struggles to come to face up to the impact that her mother’s death has had on her and her family.
Director Ari Aster in his directorial feature debut carves our an intricate and detailed portrait of grief and the extent one goes to in order to reconcile with those feelings that takes you places you may not ordinarily be willing to go to, and plays with the vulnerablity that you may encounter with each action you take leading to drastic consequences.
Supporting Toni in her delivery of Annie Graham is Gabriel Byrne as her husband Steve, who has the tough job of bringing a delighting with enough subtly, so that he can allow other key players to shine, namely the two children Charlie (Milly Shapiro who draws out an incredibly haunting character) and Steve (Alex Wolff who also deserves the accolades for his character arc).
Hereditary has been likened to the old school horror movies that were being produced in the 70’s such as The Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby and whilst it does appear that we’re about to go through a reawakening of this era (especially if the new Suspiria trailer is anything to go by), I struggle to find this movie matching the chilling feeling that you got from watching those movies from that time.
Instead we’re faced with an incredibly detailed and evocative feature that takes the audience on a trouble and unsettling journey.
Hardcore horror fans will be left wanting, but those who like to have the brain stimulated by smart and disturbing terror can expect a movie to resonate and tingle the senses.
I’m not sure what it is about the Day of the Dead storyline that jars so much.
On paper, it boasts an interesting premise of science vs state. Always at conflict in the real world and makes sense that they would come under close scrutiny when faced with a post apocalyptic world full of zombies.
Arguably though, it is the weakest movie from George A Romero’s original trilogy, and yet, it has now mastered two remakes, one released back in 2008 and one Day of the Dead: Bloodline tries to make its own mark on the subject, leaving many to ask, ‘what’s the point?’
The bones of the original film are still present, with an underground bunker containing some civilians reside under the rule of military personnel.
The changes are significant though. The first is a strangely confusing beginning marking the initial outbreak in a typical American street before taking us to a scientific laboratory to essentially show us the outbreak again, but from the viewpoint of lead character Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton) a medical student who witnesses her friends and peers all wiped out as carnage ensues within the facility.
Before all this occurs though we are introduced to Max (Johnathon Schaech, a creepy patient who has a serious crush on Zoe, and in case you missed the heavy hint, also happens to have a mysterious blood type. Like that’s not gonna come back later.
Just as Max forces him myself in Zoe, the living dead make their entrance, forcing Zoe to go from one ordeal to another.
Both of her worlds will collide again though, as we pick up our story again as we time jump to a few years down the track, where Zoe lives in the afore-mentioned bunker, and formed a relationship with Baca, the younger brother to the Lieutenant running the military outfit, Miguel.
Cue conflict both internally and externally.
It is on a medicinal run back to the laboratory when their troubles really begin as Max who has somehow partially survived, becoming both walking zombie and human, (essentially this version’s Bub) and perhaps the answer to their salvation.
Of course it won’t go swimmingly for the survivors, but by this point everything feels so bland and blah, blah, blah, that we have gone beyond the point of caring.
Schaech gives a decent performance as the ‘villain’ of the piece, but the one small thread that we can hang onto is that Skelton actually gives a solid performance as Zoe, and this keeps you intrigued enough to push you towards the films conclusion, but just barely.
It’s a fairly stable effort, but neither diminishes or improves upon the original film. Characters are two-dimensional and the plot line is weak, leaving you ultimately back to your original thought… what’s the point.