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Posts Tagged ‘jake west’

Top 5 Horror Films of 2010

Friday, December 10th, 2010

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Take Two.

I had originally planned to put together a top 10 list of films; I even made a start on it, before I realised it was going to be harder than I thought. Hell, I even found myself cheating – like adding in films which came out last year… in other words – and I freely admit I’ve missed out on a couple of films which others amongst you have rated highly – 2010 was a slow year for horror films. That said, some clever, thought-provoking, well-executed films have appeared this year too – so, here are my top 5.

5) VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC, CENSORSHIP AND VIDEOTAPE


A documentary rather than a straighforward movie, true, but this for me absolutely has to make the list. As I said in my full review (which you can read here), Jake West’s film strikes a balance between the ever-relevant history of the ‘video nasties’ hysteria, and the sheer exuberance of the fandom. He also keeps it fairly well-balanced: although you might have an inkling of where West’s sympathies lie if you know anything of his work, he makes a real effort to speak to and understand those who eventually implemented, or helped to implement the ban. An exhaustive resource and great fun too, this really feels to me like the last word on the debacle. But will it be the last time we feel the effects of hysterical censorship? Perhaps forewarned is forearmed, and if so, you have to own this film.

4) A SERBIAN FILM


‘Hysterical censorship’ brings me neatly to the next film on my list. To be honest, I’m half-surprised I find myself listing A Serbian Film here. I saw a screener of the film earlier in the year and I initially had a mixed response to it: actually, I still have that mixed response. However, and without including the shock and awe which the film has generated since I saw it (including being pulled from UK horror festival Frightfest and having a record amount of footage cut by the BBFC to render it fit for a release), A Serbian Film is one of the only films I have seen in a very long time which has really stayed with me – and no, not for what has come to be spoken about in hushed tones as ‘that scene’. What sticks to my bones is its overarching intensity: it has a bleakness of atmosphere I’ve only ever felt in one other film, Nacho Cerda’s Aftermath. There’s an aggression and a hopelessness in A Serbian Film which is quite like anything else.

The director, Srdjan Spasojevic, has gone on record in the press recently to explain that he considers his film to be a political allegory, for the years of warfare and their fallout in his homeland. This still feels unconvincing from my own point of view of an audience member – like a means of political explication to justify the film’s content after the fact – but obviously, it ain’t my film and I can only ever guess at this. A Serbian Film for me is an exploitation film with a whole new remit in terms of style and tone, and it even has the gall to throw in some very, very dark humour too.

3) DREAM HOME


I’ve never been much of a slasher fan, but Dream Home is such a gem of a film that it got under my radar. Perhaps this is because it is one of a new breed of slashers which just feel so much smarter than their predecessors; of course, not all slashers were mindless, but they were frequently formulaic, and Dream Home disrupts that familiar form to bring us not a mindless killing machine, but a fallible, reluctant murderess who feels driven to act as she does for a complex, long-standing and – for some – recognisable reason. I found it impossible not to empathise with her – even as she was butchering her way through the (previously) lucky few in her des-res. A neat, engaging structure holds the film together well and the lead actress Josie Ho’s performance is sterling. Hong Kong, the horror community has missed you!

2) F


Good modern horror can give to us the sort of unease and terror associated with archaic times & places, bringing the Gothic Рand I definitely mean my use of the term  Рbang up to date. These new films can make the lightest, airiest modern spaces become horrible. F does just this with a school environment, using this familiar space as the backdrop for a story of familial and personal redemption Рwith actor David Schofield turning in a brilliant performance as a damaged, disillusioned, but ultimately resilient father.

The threat here initially seems to stem from a timely paranoia about feral youth, or ‘hoodies’; this is a theme which has been used in other horrors of recent years, but F doesn’t develop this in the same way that, for example, Eden Lake does. Here, they lose even the shreds of humanity which they have in Eden Lake – operating almost as supernatural entities – and this makes for a very different sort of film, one which balances the real and the unreal in an interesting, savage way. With a gutsy ending (which took some thinking on my behalf before I could accept it) and a good cast, F is a stylish, often nerve-wracking horror.

You can read my full review of F here.

1) THE LOVED ONES

Quite simply, the enthusiasm and skill which Sean Byrne and his team bring to The Loved Ones makes it the stand-out genre film of the year for me. That skill starts with the most important of basics, developing a likeable protagonist in Brent (Xavier Samuel) together with a ‘demented family’ schtick whose main character Lola (Robin McLeavy) moves easily from pitiable, to odd, to deserving of her very own place in the horror canon of scary females.

The Loved Ones happily acknowledges its influences from existing horror films – with Carrie as an obvious example, though there are more – but good writing, a real warmth and some brilliantly-handled shifts in pace do more than enough to maintain interest. But, more than all that, the skill behind this film is demonstrated by how it lays on all that nastiness and still manages to be heartwarming at the end of it all. Brent’s transformation as he goes from hating his life to fighting for it might not be (and was probably never intended to be) heavily-drawn or sentimental, but it’s there alright, and adds something interesting and worthwhile to the film as a whole. I’d say this is a cult horror of the future – and I loved this.

You can read my full review of The Loved Ones here.


Lesbian Vampire Killers

Friday, June 18th, 2010

Ah, the genre that is horror comedy. In recent years there have been some great horror comedies, with Shaun of the Dead as a sound example. Shaun of the Dead worked – where countless lame parodies of horror films failed – because writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have both knowledge of and affection for the horror genre. It’s apparent at every step of the way; the tongue-in-cheek in-gags, their playfulness with established conventions of zombie films, and above all a genuine pleasure in what they’re doing.

If zombies have become part of the cultural landscape in horror, familiar enough to most viewers – genre fans or not – that they can understand the references and jokes, then vampires should surely be a safe target for humour, particularly in a world where the renewed popularity of the vamp (via Twilight, True Blood etc) has spawned an interest in older representations of the bloodsucker, all the way from Nosferatu to the heaving bosoms and suave demeanours of UK horror mainstays Hammer Films. Magazines across the world have run features on the ‘Top 50′ vampires, old films have been re-released, and even academia has seen some renewed sniffing-around the theme (when a genre finally reaches the professors, it has reached a notable level of saturation).

The thing is though, that as much as the elder vampires seem eminently familiar, for many people they aren’t, not really. Many people know the stills; a lot of people recall seeing an old film or two; essentially many people are vaguely aware of the films and their motifs, but those vaguely-aware people are just not well-equipped to churn out comedies on the topic. If you want to satirise or parody something – ooh, let’s say Hammer horror – then you need to know your subject, or the jokes will fall flat.

And so we come to Lesbian Vampire Killers. Don’t be fooled by the poster – that’s as near as you’re getting to nudity. Oh, and the vampirism is impossibly anaemic, and the killing? Pretty absent.

Director Phil Claydon thought, as is evident from the extras on the DVD release, that he had made a completely different film to the one I watched. He waxes lyrical on the gory visuals (huh?) the hot lesbianism (buh?) and the creepy setting, with evidently not a clue how tame and derivative it all is. He’s incredibly proud of the appearance of comedians Matthew Horne and James Corden – of course, as the film would not have been made without the appearance of two actors currently enjoying huge popularity thanks to their TV work – although their roles in such a poorly-scripted film can do little, ultimately, to carry the film along.

The film does not work either as a comedy or a pastiche on horror, because it is evident from every element in the film that there is no love whatsoever for the horror genre from which many of the comedy elements are expected to derive. And ultimately, this has been done well already by Steve Coogan’s series Doctor Terrible’s House of Horrible – funny, and warm, both to horror fans and non-horror fans, because Coogan is comfortable with his subject matter and can crack jokes which work.¬† There’s no affection for the Hammer horrors which Lesbian Vampire Killers rather aimlessly seems to look to, so we get no in-jokes, no sense of familiarity. This is a film which rather lazily tries to cash in on the vampire craze by half-remembering saucy elements from horrors of days gone by, thinking how easy it would to make something hilarious and lucrative along those lines, but falling at the first hurdle.

It is possible to combine laddish humour with horror – Jake West’s film Doghouse would be a lesson to the makers of Lesbian Vampire Killers, and criminally, it hasn’t received half the exposure that the latter has – so ultimately, the joke’s on us! Avoid this film like the stereotypical village in the woods. Nothing of merit lies therein.