Six Picks For an ALTERNATIVE Halloween Film Night
Just in case you've exhausted your collection of classics such as THE SHINING (1980), THE EVIL DEAD (1981) & HALLOWEEN (1978), curiously made very close to each other I noticed. There's a reason those sorts of films are watched over and over, but I wanted to write about films that've had less of an audience or deserve to be re-discovered. I've compiled a mix of picks for a Halloween film night focussing on lesser known gems, old and new. Read on for a few filmic treats lurking in the list you maybe haven't tasted before...
1. CROOKED HOUSE (2008)
Mark Gatiss stars in & writes a refreshing ghostly drama about an ominous manor house that keeps (very) dark secrets & is the setting for various spooky stories from varying periods of time; that then leads up to a present day atmospheric climax. Originally aired as a three-part TV series showed on consecutive nights in the run up to Christmas Eve, inspired by the GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS. The DVD however, joins the episodes together to make one long film. Whilst this doesn't hurt CROOKED HOUSE too much, this wasn't how it was broadcast affecting the structure of the narrative as it was for TV - that an episode would end when a story concluded. This is a real gem & it's really cheap to buy too. Towards the end it moves into TWILIGHT ZONE territory & you're drawn increasingly into the lore of the house; DOWNTON ABBEY, this is not!
2. I SAW THE DEVIL (2010)
A film that mixes, bends & challenges genre. I debated having it on this list - is it a horror film? Is it a slasher film? Is it a revenge film? Is it an action film even? Well it's these questions that naturally play in the mind whilst you watch the film, deciphering what'll occur next, that's part of it's addiction to watch closely with intrigue & fear. This is without a doubt one of the most suspenseful films I've ever seen, real unrelenting suspense; an indisputable example, from director Kim Jee-Woon, of a film mixing art with staples of horror such as gore & ultra-violence. Not that an "art" film shouldn't include content of that nature, but to see such a talented director dedicated to the telling of this hardcore story is really quite the experience. It's unrelentingly violent, shocking & creates full bloodied chaos within such precise filmmaking beauty, it deserves to be hailed as a modern classic.
3. THE INNOCENTS (1961)
Adapted from the Henry James novella THE TURN OF THE SCREW, THE INNOCENTS is an immaculately produced & delicately shot film. We follow the story of a new nannie who is to take care of two children at a large house in the countryside. Beginning to see phantoms, she starts to search as to who they are & why they haunt. If you're already wanting to pass on watching the film due to it being dated, the film rarely shows examples of it's age & at least for me, continues to scare deeply much because of a fault sense of security - don't let it put you off! The rich & smooth monochrome cinematography glides throughout the environment, often keeping the haunting events at an observational distance. The way sound is used is impeccable & does a lot of subtle storytelling, expanding the events into much more than a usual "haunted house" affair, adding more substance. It's seriously creepy & there's some pretty taboo stuff that arises in the film, if you allow it to be acknowledged. As a result of this, it may leave you feeling more unsettled than the usual fare of it's kind.
A fine, if not one of the best, examples of brooding ghostly horror that you shouldn't expect to go easy on you simply by it's early sixties release date.
4. TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL (2010)
Now for something very different. I'd heard about this film during it's successful festival run & seen the great trailer too; but it was only until my brother bought it for me as a gift, raving about it, that I got to see this excellent film. It's a hilarious, very cleverly written parody on the seemingly age-old characters of the typical redneck killers you get in so many American horror films. TUCKER & DALE VS EVIL shows the perspective of those characters & runs riot with the idea, doing it absolute justice throughout & thus creating a very gory rewarding comedy - it's such an achievement of a film. It's ideal for Halloween, as it's mocking so much of the inconsistencies & stock characters shovelled into so many horror films. Such an amazing job is done making you see Tucker & Dale as so misunderstood, that it makes you want to re-watch all the classic horrors just to make sure you got your opinion right on them all the first time.
5. EVENT HORIZON (1997)
Audiences seem to react greatly to science fiction horrors; films such as ALIEN & INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS - the genres mix well. Our fears of the unknown of space or an unknown "people" merges with horror cinema; the monsters, killers & unseen threats. I think a neglected example of this is EVENT HORIZON. While it clearly isn't for everyone, having just had a little look at opinions on the net, some people really hate this film! Well, I found it sh*t scary & that's why it's on the list. In a nustshell, it's a gory "haunted house" film set in space that gets pretty terrifying & uneasy. After a spaceship returns following a sudden mysterious disappearance, a crew is sent aboard to investigate, yielding incredible & disturbing events as a result of where it's been... & it hasn't returned alone.
BE SERIOUSLY CAREFUL, KEEP THE BASEMENT DOOR SHUT & MAKE YOUR CHOICES WISELY...
'A FILM BY ABIGAIL' (2011) IN COMPETITION AT SLEEPWALKERS FILM FESTIVAL
I am very happy to announce that today I have been informed A FILM BY ABIGAIL (2011) has been selected to be screened at the international SLEEPWALKERS STUDENT & SHORT FILM FESTIVAL. This will be the short film's international premiere and in addition it will be in competition for the Grand Prix prize of the event.
According to the competition programme, the event "...takes the cream of short films from the best and most renowned film schools from all corners of the globe." Alongside A FILM BY ABIGAIL (2011) the festival plays host to films from countries such as Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, Russia & Sweden competing in various categories. The festival is being held in Tallinn, Estonia from 12th - 15th of November; it is the only festival of it's type in the country, dedicated to internationals shorts. This is very exciting news for what it is but also that it may to help it get accepted by other festivals around the world too. Until Nov 5th, when the official programme is published online, I have no idea how many films have been selected or how many documentaries are among them - there is a Best Documentary award (found from researching other years of the event), so fingers crossed that the film charms the audience and stands up to the other work in it's category to be a contender for that.
A FILM BY ABIGAIL (2011) is a short documentary film about a young girl creating and explaining a story for a film she hopes to make.To learn more about A FILM BY ABIGAIL (2011), a profile page is on my site HERE
To read more about the SLEEPWALKERS festival, check out their website here: http://www.swff.ee
Ghost STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS | HITCHCOCK TRAILER
GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS
After years of anticipation, the BFI are finally releasing the celebrated GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS series fully - as a 5-disc DVD box set. This BBC produced series spanned from 1968-1978 and was made up of MR James ghost story adaptations (with the exception of Dickens' THE SIGNALMAN (1976) & some of the modern ones such as THE ICE HOUSE (1978) ). Included also, are the brief revivals of this film tradition that were made recently: A VIEW FROM A HILL (2005), NUMBER 13 (2006) & WHISTLE AND I'LL COME TO YOU (2010).
This DVD set is incredibly overdue in terms of interest and demand, with the previously released films: A WARNING TO THE CURIOUS (1972), WHISTLE & I'LL COME TO YOU (1968) & THE SIGNALMAN (1976) all racking up extortionate prices in the past few years, becoming increasingly rare on DVD (even garnering interest in similarly rare VHS versions), the popularity of the films has been very evident. Another issue with the previous DVD versions was that they were released singularly, rather than a set; at 50 minutes max running time for each film it made for pretty inefficient use of disc space and lousy value for money. Speaking as one of the fans hunting for these TV gems, it was frustrating but now ultimately worth it, as it clearly demonstrated a decent market for the series exists to the BFI and all that searching/streaming of these lost films must have contributed to the new release.
The great writing, smart pacing and believable acting adds credibility to the films, that clearly follow a typical but highly enjoyable ghost story formula. Obvious set-ups, plots and devices feel recognisable but fresh, they've simply never been implemented as well as this; a testament to the quality of the works. Let's not ignore that's it's the familiarity of situations in horror/mystery films that often allows an audience in, to enjoy and relate, then the subsequent subversion of that. Without going off on a tangent... it's a fitting metaphor to compare a roller-coaster to films like these; you can see what's ahead of you but it seldom doesn't give you a surprise during the ride. We know what it's going to do and we have good foresight of how it'll try to do "IT" - to scare us. A roller-coaster will be enjoyed whilst riding, like watching a film, the satisfaction comes with understanding the ride but being unaware of the path - the then and now within the moment that gives satisfaction. After the film or roller-coaster is finished, how does it linger in the mind? Is that the true test?
If you like your subtler terrors and a more vintage style of scaring an audience, I highly recommend this set. Actually, if you have a DVD player, I recommend it.
The set features the three aforementioned titles and nine other films never-before on DVD. With Halloween close and the road to Christmas upon us, these sought-after eerie films have been shrewdly scheduled for a seasonal sale - of which I've totally bought into and pre-ordered. To read more about GHOST STORIES FOR CHRISTMAS, there is a brief but informative article in Sight & Sound (September 2012 issue) and the full synopsis/context from the BFI can be viewed HERE. The films can also be purchased as individual sets with 2-4 of the films on each (as pictured above).
The trailer for HITCHCOCK has hit and it seems really promising. Rather than being a full life-long biographical film that I'm sure would struggle capturing such a prolific figure, the filmmakers have wisely focussed on a specific period of Hitch's life; that being when the director was trying to get PSYCHO (1960) off the ground and into production. With the hindsight we have as an audience for the film's success and knowing how regarded Psycho (1960) will become, the premise is really interesting. From the trailer, this appears to create some great drama and humour we've been unaware of associated with the film. We can see from the dramatisation of the real events, that it appears it was far from easy to get the classic made and this should make for a great film. Plus, performers such as Scarlett Johansson have pretty much transformed into the older actors they'll portray from Hitchcock's films, it's quite astonishing. Take a look...
'VIBETOWN Live @ Eiger Studios' comprises of three live music video promos for the band VIBETOWN. They uniquely cover the popular songs 'Forget you' (originally performed by Cee Lo Green), 'Shine' (originally by Booty Luv) and the incomparable rock ballad 'Livin' On A Prayer' (originally performed by Bon Jovi). The first two videos are available to watch HERE & NOW below and I encourage thee to do so!
VIBETOWN are an excellent function band that (knowing their hectic schedule) will be inevitably lighting up a dance-floor near you with the talent and charisma they deliver night in, night out. The videos were filmed in the versatile Eiger Studios (Leeds), the sound mastering by the studio also. I produced, directed, shot and edited the videos; with additional camerawork / lighting / equipment from Justin Litton.
The last video of the set, 'Livin' On A Prayer', is in the very very final stages of post-production and will be released online (and via VHS) in the coming week. I'm finding it a little difficult to place the shot in which the band glide onto the stage harnessed, but I'm sure it'll fit somewhere... enjoy.
'FORGET YOU' LIVE @ EIGER STUDIOS
'SHINE' LIVE @ EIGER STUDIOS
AVAILABLE FOR HIRE NATIONWIDE
WWW . V I B E T O W N . CO . UK
DJANGO UNCHAINED | SANTA SANGRE
For all three of you reading this blog: I'm going to start blogging on new films & DVDs that I want to share with any lovely people who'll read - perhaps they're little gems that I hope (even in a minuscule way) I get more exposed, interesting things to do with cinema/art or a DVD re-release of something special... it'll be anything; the blog may take various forms... like a skrull. Down below, the new trailer for DJANGO UNCHAINED followed by news on the double-disc DVD release of SANTA SANGRE and a little on JODOROWSKY today.
A steady rise in "returning" to form after the brilliant INGLORIOUS BASTARDS for Tarantino with DJANGO UNCHAINED? It seems to me his work is looking better and more accomplished than it ever has. Is the once serious future of independent American cinema reaching the height his knowledge and passion can clearly reach? I hope so. This trailer looks like an incredible mix of his usual comic book aesthetics mixed with a gritty multi-tonal western. I really can't wait to check this out. I'm not usually a massive Di Caprio fan but he looks like one sinister interesting villain here.
If you have never seen an Alejandro Jodorowsky film or heard of the Chilean-born filmmaker, you really need to see some of his works - if only so you can simply acknowledge a director who baffles and creates with such incredible scope within his craziness that he outdoes any other filmmaker in that department hands down. I start to wonder how someone could imagine such imagery or articulate such incredible sights of seldom beauty, colour, blood and... well, you have to see these things for yourself.
Mr BONGO, a little known but very good niche Music/DVD distributor is re-releasing SANTA SANGRE, an odyssey like no other, as a double disc DVD and single disc Blu-Ray. Some of Mr BONGO's recent acquisitions have been the epic Antonioni documentary on China (originally banned by the country) and Wojciech Has' remastered THE HOURGLASS SANATORIUM, a time-bending journey through a man's memories as his Father lays ill in a sanatorium that has no regard for normal reality. SANTA SANGRE is a less seen (quite rare and pricey) film and a well-deserved release with care and attention towards it. For a reason unknown to me, his films are often very hard to get hold of on region 2, so this is a great event for fans he's accumulated and the new ones that'll discover this gem.
Notable works from a short but strong filmography are such as; the brilliantly insane masterpiece HOLY MOUNTAIN that I can't even begin to elaborate on and the violent acid western EL TOPO. The latter of which, according to the DVD notes, had it's distribution rights acquired by John Lennon. This meant the film did a hell of a lot better than it might have, unfairly slipping the net of popular international cinema canon we regard today, caused by a lacklustre theatrical release lost in obscurity - thankfully that didn't occur. JL, what a nice guy.
Very recently Jodorowsky has appeared in a formal video (following suit to many filmmakers of today financially stung) pitching new film LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD with the intention of funding it's production from donations. I would love to see what he comes up with in the modern day; it might be that he totally avoids new technology / SFX but can you imagine a 3D Jodorowsky film? I'm no 3D advocate but that'd be quite something. Anyhow, after seeing the pre-production art for the DUNE film that never was (hunt them down on google!) followed by watching this clip of a documentary all about the professed "greatest science fiction film never made" VIDEO LINK HERE, I'm very excited to see this oft unsung director have at least once more dance in the light. The video is linked below, as well as the SANTA SANGRE pre-order.
WATCH JODOROWSKY on LA DANZA DE LA REALIDAD
Award winning and internationally selected director of dance, fiction, experimental and documentary films with screening highlights of London Short Film Festival at the ICA, LACMA, Zealous X exhibition (Oxo Tower Wharf) and San Diego Comic-Con. His work has broadcast on BBC One and ikono TV.