Saturday, 30 August 2014

FrightFest 2014: The Babadook Review

Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, The Babadook, is a horror tale uncommon in its shattering poignancy. Bearing the influence of Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla, as well as the creepy ambience of J-Horror (Hideo Nakata’s Dark Water, especially), the film is fronted by Essie Davis’s electric performance. Quite brilliantly, Kent’s haunted house chiller has managed the neat trick of packing a mighty emotional punch and providing de rigueur scare-jolts.

One day, single mum Amelia (Davis) and her boy, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), find a creepy pop-up storybook titled ‘Mister Babadook’. Something isn’t quite right about this mysterious tome. (Imagine a collaboration between Maurice Sendak and Michael Myers.) Not long after the discovery, things start to go bump in the night. Samuel is convinced his mum has let ‘Mister Babadook’ into the house and the spirit wants them both dead.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

FrightFest 2014: Day One

FrightFest moved venue this year, from the huge and beloved screen at the Empire to the Vue cinema next door. Because of the smaller capacity, the festival had to be split into three main screens, and while there was a definite loss of atmosphere as a result, the cracking line-up more than made up for it. Indeed, this was not only the best edition ever since I started attending a few years ago, I'd say it also gave Sundance London a run for its money, offering a better snapshot of US indie talent, as well as some intriguing new voices in world cinema. The organisers also made some bold choices and unusual for the main screens, which paid off handsomely, even though some hardcore fans were heard grumbling a little.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

FrightFest 2014: Another Review

"I have thoughts and feelings that aren't mine," says Jordyn (Ana Paula Redding), the confused heroine of Jason Bognacki's Another. "I wake up in strange places and I can't remember how I got there." Jordyn's sense of extreme disorientation is perfectly reproduced in the viewer too as this sequence flows into that and one location bleeds into the next, with little adherence to the norms of spatiotemporal continuity. The film's unconventional editing engenders a world that feels slippery and oneiric, with little to anchor events to actuality - and even a mundane conversation between Jordyn and her nightshift colleague John (Michael St Michaels) is cut up in a jittery, mannered fashion that drips with neurotic unease. Here the irrational rules, dreams dominate, and a young woman's contemporary life takes on the forms of both fairytale (chiefly Snow White) and ancient rite (of passage), with the canted angles and stylised sets just adding to the off-kilter nature of this film's reality.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Deliver Us From Evil Review

     Claims to veridicality are a cliché of horror, and for those already playing the game they are as clear an advertisement of fiction as 'once upon a time.' Still, even the most gullible of viewers would do well, when they read the words 'inspired by true events' that open Scott Derrickson's Deliver Us From Evil, to remember that his last similar film to have opened with a similar claim, 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose, validates a priest who, in the real story on which the film is super-loosely based, in fact through overzealous credulity exorcised to death a young girl whom even a Commission of the German Bishops' Conference subsequently ruled was never possessed in the first place. So caveat emptor, for here the devil is truly in the details.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Tom At The Farm Review

French-Canadian boy wonder Xavier Dolan’s latest picture, Tom at the Farm, based on a play by Michel Marc Bouchard, draws suspense and high tension from a clash between dilemma and desire.

Tom (Dolan) makes a trip to his recently deceased boyfriend’s home, out in the sticks. His unannounced arrival is a delicate matter. The family, it appears, are unaware the son was gay. The mother welcomes the visitor with open arms – even inviting the lad to stay in the deceased son’s bedroom – but Tom is shaken by Francis (Pierre-Yves Cardinal), the older brother of Guillaume, who’s brooding intensity and dangerous physical strength both captivates and unnerves the city slicker. He stays for a few days, but the mother and son’s hospitality is akin to being locked in the family crypt. At Francis’s behest (and threats), Tom is forced to tell lies about the relationship with Guillaume, so as not to upset Agathe (Lise Roy), the mother, even further.

Monday, 11 August 2014

The Rover Review

Early buzz and expectation surrounding David Michôd’s second feature, The Rover, spoke of the film as a potential descendant of George Miller’s 1979 classic, Mad Max. In fact, The Rover doesn’t trade at all in high-octane actioneering. The refitting of the iconic white line nightmare for a new generation of cinemagoers has been left to Miller himself and the forthcoming Mad Max: Fury Road.

Might Michôd be cruising for a box-office bruising? Here is a movie set in the near future, in rural Australia, and one that opens with a brief scene-setting note situating the story after the entire country has experienced a ‘collapse’. An air of lawlessness is apparent throughout the film and social contracts, it appears, have been rendered non-void. Does this not sound very much like the world of road warrior Max Rockatansky and those crazed highway goons prepared to slit any throat necessary for a tank of guzzaline?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Should Film Critics Kickstart Their Career?

Last week, respected film critic MaryAnn Johanson launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her "What to Stream" column on her own website, Flick Filosopher. A few eyebrows were raised due to the novelty of her approach, and while I was a little puzzled at first, I was even more surprised to see how she found herself at the receiving end of some vitriol on Twitter, which was completely uncalled for. If anything, the whole incident has put the spotlight on the current and difficult situation film critics find themselves in at the moment.