Titane is the second feature film of French director Julia Ducournau (Raw (2017)) and the Palme d’Orwinner of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The film is not for the faint of heart. Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a girl who suffered a brain injury as a child and now works at striptease car shows. Her encounter with grieving father Vincent (Vincent Lindon), who works as a fire-fighter, unveils the full extent of both his and her mental disturbances. People say that there is no art in shock value and Ducournau is set to prove them wrong. In her horrifying picture, she demonstrates that films with violence, nudity, sex and drug abuse do not need to be “trashy” and can be as stylish as any high-end production. There is nothing “cheap” about intense Titane which shines with inventiveness and brims with its own special intellectual, emotional and physical rawness, finding its own appreciative viewers.
Rabbits is a series of short surreal films with the overall running time of forty minutes. It features three humanoid rabbits (two female and one male) in one single room. They sit on a sofa, enter and go out of the room, talk to each other and recite poetry. Through eerie music, rabbits’ nonsensical dialogue and strange visions, the viewers may discern that something truly unsettling has happened, is happening or is about to happen. Rabbits is a good example of a minimalist experimental short which uses the lightning, music and the theme of inexplicability to create feelings of uneasiness and barely perceivable fright. Here, inexplicability is key. Uneasiness lies in the inexplicability. Watching the film, the viewers may start pondering: “what is that?”, “what is happening?”, “what is the meaning of all this?” The meaning just about escapes us, even though we definitely sense that the three rabbits are being terrorised by something. The precise cause of what is going remains unclear and the underlying fear is transmitted to us through the specific “trigger words and phrases”, including “coincidence”, “a man in a green suit”, “I hear someone”, “It was red”, “We’re not going anywhere” and “I’m going to find out one day”. These words and phrases stand for some hidden distress. David Lynch proves once again that inexplicability and strangeness alone will sustain the interest.
Directed by Joseph Losey, The Servant is considered by some to be one of the finest British films. It tells of Tony (James Fox), a flamboyant member of the upper class, who has just moved in to his central London residence after a period spent in Africa. He immediately hires a man-servant for himself, demure, respectful and knowledgeable Hugo Barrett (Dirk Bogarde). Hugo not only knows how to cook and take care of a house, but he is also an expert interior decorator and has been a gentleman’s servant for many notable Lordships. This tale of a friction between the upstairs and the downstairs reaches the zenith of tension when Hugo introduces “his sister” (Sarah Miles) to the household and when Tony’s own fiancée (Susan Stewart) decides to make the house her own dominion. The Servant works delightfully as a satire on class differences and servitude, showing a thin line that often separates usefulness from a nuisance, and kindness from submissiveness. This tale of hidden corruption has a frightening change of dynamics.
Ari Aster takes horror to a completely new level in his latest film Midsommar. Inspired by TheWicker Man and horror folklore, this film tells of Dani (Florence Pugh) who reluctantly decided to accept an invitation and go with her boyfriend Christian (Jack Reynor) and his friends to a festival that celebrates a midsummer in Hårga, Sweden (originally, the Midsummer Festival was a pagan holiday to commemorate the arrival of summer). On location, we, through the unsuspecting group of friends, slowly become immersed in the odd ways of life in this rural village in Sweden, slowly discovering its strange residents and their disturbing rituals. Welcoming and friendly villagers are only too happy to show their visitors around, as well as introduce them to their traditional midsummer celebration, but will our group of friends, as well as we, the audience, stomach what the villagers prepared for them and presented on their silver plate? In this gripping, “hallucinatory” film, we soon discover that, for the emotionally-vulnerable Dani, the stage has already been set for a showdown of her life. Continue reading ““Midsommar” Review”
In 2012, a science-fiction film titled Antiviral hit both the Cannes Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, and what everybody talked about was that this film is from David Cronenberg’s son – Brandon Cronenberg. People started to look for similarities between Antiviral and David Cronenberg’s films and trademarks, and they found plenty of those. One of the points of this review is that Antiviral is an impressive film debut from Brandon Cronenberg, irrespective of his link to his famous father. That film and that director should be recognised in their own right. Antiviral is not a perfect film, but it has many interesting ideas and a good execution. It also has a feel different from David Cronenberg’s filmography. In Antiviral, Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones, Three Billboards OutsideEbbing, Missouri(2017)) is an employee of Lucas Clinic, a place where the dream of obsessed fans to be closer to their celebrities may be realised by injecting them with a live virus from one of the sick big celebrities. This way, customers will experience a one-of-a-kind union with their idols. One such celebrity which has a link to the clinic is beautiful Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon (Indignation (2016)). When Hannah falls ill after a trip to China, Syd flouts company regulations and becomes a host to her virus, not even realising that Hannah is on the brink of death. Continue reading ““Antiviral” Review”
The film adaptation of Sarah Waters’ novel “The Little Stranger” had some bad public reviews, and, therefore, I was curious to see it. In the story, Dr Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson) reacquaints himself with one stately house (Hundreds Hall) he used to admire in his childhood. This is the house belonging to the Ayres family, who now find themselves in a pitiful financial and societal position. Dr Faraday tries to help the son of the family Roderick (Will Poulter) with his health issues, and gets close to the daughter of Mrs Ayres (Charlotte Rampling) – Caroline Ayres (Ruth Wilson). However, with his blinding attachment to the house, Dr Faraday does not even guess the horrors which the house apparently holds. The film is not bad. It is stylishly presented and has some intriguing character presentation. However, it is also problematic in a way it tries too awkwardly to tie together a period drama, with one central maladjusted character, and supernatural horror. Continue reading ““The Little Stranger” Review”
I am wishing all my followers and readers a very Happy Halloween, and am presenting a scary and psychologically-interesting Australian horror film “The Babadook“. This film by Jennifer Kent takes its concept from her own short film “Monster” (2005) about a spooky presence pestering a family of two. Similarly, in “The Babadook”, a widowed mother and her son, who has behavioural problems, are trying to cope with the death of their husband/father, while their house is slowly being invaded by a terrified being from a children’s story-book. This wonderfully thought-out, acted and designed film can be read deeper than it initially appears. In “The Babadook”, what may seem to be a straightforward horror story could actually be a thought-provoking cinematic allegory of people learning to deal with and accept the trauma in their lives.
Peter Strickland is known for such unusual and, in some way, brave films as “Berberian Sound Studio” (2012) and “The Duke of Burgundy” (2014). In “In Fabric”, he takes his boldness and unconventionality to a whole new level and crafts a film which is an eerie ghost story involving a dress on the one hand, and a critique of consumerism with much humour, weirdness and some shock thrown into it, on the other. Can horror and comedy, and a consumerism critique and a ghost premise be fused together successfully? Strickland thinks they can, and, probably, only he can pull off such a mix of premises without a film becoming a disaster. The story here is that a woman, Sheila, stumbles upon a gorgeous, silky red dress, without realising that it is possessed by a ghost of a woman who modelled it before. Sheila goes on a blind date wearing the dress, but also develops a strange rash after wearing it. Then, the ghostly dress ends up in the hands of a mechanic and his girlfriend, while also having evil intentions. In the meantime, in the department store that sold the dress, strange, shocking rituals take place, with sales assistants knowing the power of the dress only too well not to want to have it back. The plot may sound a bit ludicrous and not everything works there, but it is the film’s aesthetics, music and colour, its feel of the 1970s decade, recalling Italian giallo movies, and its strange humour which all work best.
Ari Aster’s debut feature horror/drama film has caused quite a stir so far. With such quality horror films that have come out in recent months/years as “AQuiet Place” (2018), “GetOut” (2017) and “The Witch” (2015), to name just a few, it may be safe to say that the calibre revival of the genre is in full swing. It also seems like a long time has passed since we had to rely solely on James Wan (“Insidious” (2010), “The Conjuring” (2013)), horror sequels or classic movies for some kind of decent horror entertainment. “Hereditary” is an impressive and scary film, but not in the way most will assume. Its tricks, twists and general horror content may have been recycled from previous movies, and its inner intelligence and coherence will no longer awe discerning horror/thriller fans that have followed recent movies. Nevertheless, where “Hereditary” really impresses is in the setting-construction, in the unhurried building of the right, creepy atmosphere, in its attention to detail and characterisation, and, of course, it impresses with its top-notch acting, the kind that we probably have not seen in a horror film, maybe even since “The Silence of the Lambs” (1991).
Maddy at MaddyLoves Her Classic Films hosts a second blogathon in honour of Alfred Hitchcock and his films, and I am writing, as they say, on his most terrifying film – “The Birds” (1963). The film takes inspiration from a story by Daphne Du Maurier (“Rebecca” (1940)) of the same name, and it is about a strange behaviour of birds in Bodega Bay, California. The centre of the story is Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren), a wealthy socialite who romantically pursues a lawyer Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), whom she has just met. While we watch all the romantic tensions and a love triangle developing, the birds in the area start to attack people, and what initially looks like a light and intriguing romance story takes a sinister turn and we are confronted with unimaginable horrors. Complex and technical to film, “The Birds” represents one of Hitchcock’s most admirable accomplishments. Here, an intriguing romance story with thought-provoking elements meets an original take on horror and the result is a classic, “must-see” film. Continue reading “The Second Annual Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: The Birds (1963)”
John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” is currently on everyone’s lips, a horror that tries to “reinvent” the horror genre (if such thing is possible after “Get Out” (2017) or “TheWitch” (2015)). Preoccupied with silence, “A Quiet Place” is about a close family of four: father (John Krasinski), mother (Emily Blunt), and their two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe), who are forced to live in complete silence because any loud noise can provoke an attack of aliens populating Earth. This clever horror film has the theme of alien invasion as its touchstone, but then goes off in its own direction to become something more innovative and absorbing, largely thanks to its effective use of sound or lack thereof.
This film, based on the novel by Peter Ackroyd “Dan Leno and The Limehouse Golem”, starts with Victorian London being shaken by a series of gruesome murders deemed to be perpetuated by an individual so mythical he is called Golem. Eccentric Inspector John Kildare (Bill Nighy) is assigned to the case, and begins to delve into the mind of a deranged individual, while, at the same time, a woman, one Elisabeth Cree (Olivia Cooke) is about to stand trial for the murder of her husband John Cree (Sam Reid). As Inspector discovers more information, he realises that the late John Cree may have been the London serial killer Golem, while other three men also equally come under suspicion, namely Karl Marx, Dan Leno and George Gissing. In content, this film is not just the recycling of the Jack the Ripper ideas. As “From Hell” (2001), “The Limehouse Golem” engulfs the viewer into the same gory atmosphere of Victorian England where cruelty and debauchery reign supreme, but it is probably the film’s unexpected twist at the end, as well as the superb acting of its cast, which make it distinguishable and memorable.
It is that time of the year again: time for trick-or-treating, pumpkin-carving, witches-watching and party-going! To celebrate the tradition which may date back to some ancient rituals of Celts, here is my review of the film “Split” from one of the front-men of the modern horror/thriller genre – M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Unbreakable” (2000), “The Village” (2004)). Also, to get you into the festive mood, you can check out my other reviews of horror films, all of them are listed here.
This film is M. Night Shyamalan’s latest creation, which exceeded everyone’s expectations. Here, a man Kevin (James McAvoy) abducts three girls and holds them hostage in a building. Kevin suffers from a multiple-personality disorder, one of the most serious and rarest of all psychiatric illnesses. He has twenty-three different personalities, who compete for attention in his head, and the captive girls must race against time to free themselves before the emergence of the most frightening and uncontrollable twenty-fourth personality called simply “The Beast”. “Split” is very well-made, with the outstanding acting, especially by McAvoy, and a fascinating plot and topic. What about Shyamalan’s penchant for unbelievable twists, one may ask? Well, there are simply no twists, in a traditional sense of this word, or none to concern oneself when watching the film.
Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films is hosting the Horrorathon, celebrating horror movies in the light of the forthcoming Halloween, and I have decided to contribute with a short review of one intelligent and highly influential film which some view to be one of the parents of the modern psychological horror/thriller genre:
Les Diaboliques (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot’s French-language film “Les Diaboliques” is the film which Alfred Hitchcock was dying to make, but never did (he ardently wanted to buy the rights to the book). The film is not a strictly horror movie, but, rather, a psychological thriller with suspense and horror elements combined. Here, two women, Christina and Nicole, the wife and the mistress of the oppressing director of a boarding school respectively, decide to kill their man and dispose of the body. Everything goes according to plan, but does it really? After the murder, the two women realise that the corpse of their victim is nowhere to be found and the mystery seems to deepen with each passing day.
“Get Out” is one of the best-reviewed films of this year. It is a debut film of director Jordan Peele, and has a dedicated, up-and-coming cast to match the film’s ambition. In this film, which is part psychological horror and part societal critique, Chris and Rose (Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams), an interracial couple, go to visit Rose’s parents upstate. It would be the first time that Chris meets Rose’s parents and he is visibly nervous. Soon upon arriving, Chris is overcome by the atmosphere of unease all around, questioning whether he is really that welcomed in the neighbourhood. Despite elements of brilliance in setting the atmosphere, unfortunately, the film strays half-way through from its initially brilliantly-presented social horror into some mediocre overt-hostility premise, and ultimately leads to a predictable and unimaginative ending.
Julia Ducournau’s debut feature film “Raw” provoked extreme reactions from the critics and audiences alike. Despite its grim story and graphic imagery, the film managed to gain an all-round critical acclaim. “Raw” is a French-language film about an adolescent girl Justine (Garance Marillier) who enters her first year at a veterinary school in France. There, Justine joins her older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf), and soon realises that the life of first-year students at the school is not an easy ride, and her recently-acquired (and initially forced) passion for raw meat is the cause for major concern. Realistic in its presentation, the film is known for its graphic scenes of cannibalism, but, ironically, its most shocking premise is not the immoral craving of another being’s flesh, but the film’s ghastly and disturbing setting.
“Everybody has a secret; some just hide it better than others” (Tommy in “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”).
André Øvredal, better known for well-received “Troll Hunter” (2010), here presents “The Autopsy of Jane Doe”, the kind of a horror film which provides one with an instant “horror” gratification. It has enough good scares, from hard-to-stomach surgical images to frightening otherworldly encounters, and an interesting story setting to keep things interesting until very end. Here, father Tommy and son Austin, medically-qualified pathologists, receive a new corpse at their family-run business to establish a cause of death. The corpse belongs to an unknown young woman who was found at a multiple murder crime scene. As she is unknown, she is assigned a name Jane Doe, and the two begin their work on her swiftly, only to discover later that Jane hides too many mysteries. As the weather outside of their home worsens, father and son soon realise that they got much more on their hands than they bargained for, and what, on the first glance, begins like a routine autopsy may actually result in something very different.
This will be my 100th film review and to celebrate the occasion I thought I would review one of my favourite of psychological horror films – Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. Adapted from a novel by Robert Bloch, this film is a real classic of psychological horror genre, which practically revolutionised the way horror films were shot ever since its premiere. Relatively innovative in how it presents the characters, story and the ending at that time, Hitchcock’s “Psycho” is as suspenseful and frightening as it is entertaining, and is definitely a “must-see” for anyone who has even a slightest interest in the genre.
“Brimstone” is a highly controversial film produced by the Dutch director Martin Koolhoven. The film’s non-linear plot follows Liz (Dakota Fanning), a young girl and then woman, who is plagued by the harassment and persecution of one – the Reverend (Guy Pearce). Unflinching in the way it portrays highly controversial topics and beautiful in its execution, this film will be deemed “shocking” and “distasteful” by some, while others will only see in the film extreme courage, originality and intelligence. Either way, this atmospheric film will have a big impact on the viewer, and the sensations it will provoke will not fade away any time soon. In that vein, although “Brimstone” was misunderstood and fiercely criticised in the US, the film has been the centre of praise in Europe, and rightly so.