“What’s The Knife Got To Do With Anything?” MOVIES! Sometimes My Questionable Taste In Movies Spans Several Decades!

I’ve not had time to write up any comics, but I have written up some movies. I didn’t do a proper intro either. See?All complaints to the management, pal.

 photo combs_CrampB_zpsinffvvn3.jpg Combs & Crampton in FROM BEYOND

Anyway, this…

THE YAKUZA (1974) Directed by Sydney Pollack Starring Robert Mitchum, Ken Takakura, Brian Keith, Herb Edelman, Keiko Kishi, Eiji Okada with Richard Jordan as “Dusty” Screenplay by Paul Schrader and Robert Towne, Story by Leonard Schrader Music by Dave Grusin

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She said: “Robert Mitchum is always a good time.”

Richard Jordan! I know! Fellow elderly readers have just threatened the purity of their incontinence pants! Whatever happened to Richard Jordan? He seemed to be in every movie made for about five minutes back in the ‘70s. And then: nada. (See also: Michael Sarrazin) Anyway, like you care, with your youth and your lattes and your wild ecstatic dancing. So, yeah, Richard Jordan is in this as the young scamp supporting Robert “Bob” Mitchum as he glides through Japan on a vengeance tip like a ferocious rock on a Segway®. A super cool rock, mind. One that returns to Japan to re-spark a WW2 romance while extracting a pal out of a jam with the Yakuza. Violence and stifled erotic yearning ensue. Based on a Paul & Leonard Schrader (with some Robert Towne tinkering) script it’s directed by Sydney Pollack. Unfortunately Pollack seems a poor fit for something that would benefit from being punched up with some of the shabby insanity of, say, Paul Schrader’s ROLLING THUNDER (1977). But then that’s a perpetual problem with Pollack’s stuff, a glaring lack of last act whorehouse shootouts. Particularly so in TOOTSIE (1982). THE YAKUZA keeps trying to be classy, basically. Too classy for the neo-noir material really. If you can get past that (and a truly jarringly inept flashback sequence) this is a pretty fun time. Not only do you get to see Mitchum placidly fuck the Yakuza up, but as an added bonus the perpetually underappreciated Brian Keith is gallantly sporting a quite remarkable hairpiece. This was on TCM so the print was hardly spectacular but still worth a  watch, if only for the sight of Robert Mitchum bursting through paper walls and emptying his gun into Japanese gangsters with all the emotion of a fridge. If nothing else THE YAKUZA proves that paper walls are no defence against elderly enraged Gaijin on the vengeance trail. GOOD! 

CHILD’S PLAY (1988) Directed by Tom Holland Starring Catherine Hicks, Chris Sranadon, Alex Vincent, Brad Dourif, Dinah Manoff with Jack Colvin as “Dr. Ardmore” Screenplay by Don Mancini, John Lafia and Tom Holland Music by Joe Renzetti

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She said: “It’s silly.”

She’s not wrong, but it’s meant to be silly; so that’s okay. I got this on Blu-Ray just t’other day, because My Lady of Perpetual Suffering got herself gussied up as Chucky for Hallowe’en, but had never seen the movie. I know! Talk about an impoverished upbringing! One of the great unacknowledged burdens of Modern Life is the seeming inability to directly address any of life’s glaring injustices. Seven pounds sterling and twenty four hours later and I had kicked the lack of Chucky movies in my loved one’s life to the curb.  Next week: John ends world poverty. In the meantime I’ll tell you about CHILD’S PLAY, mainly so that I can claim the seven pounds back as “Business Expenses”. Thankfully, Tom “FRIGHT NIGHT” Holland is clearly not pulling a Pollack here and smartly plays down to the premise’s nutty strengths. Which is a good idea, as here he’s dealing with Brad “WISEBLOOD” Dourif’s serial killer escaping death by possessing an overpriced kid’s toy and then offing a bunch of people, before trying the same soul swap trick on Catherine Hick’s resourceful single mom’s kid. Given the not entirely straightforward premise the script does a remarkable job of cramming exposition, character work, set pieces, horror and humour into its wiry 87 minutes. No one’s going to give CHILD’S PLAY an Oscar® (unlike TOOTSIE) but as low budget ‘80s horror movies about foul mouthed killer dolls go it’s a pretty fun time. The fact it’s Brad (EXORCIST III) Dourif hissing expletives out of the chubby plastic face doesn’t hurt, obviously. For the time and the money they do a remarkably good job on the Chucky stuff. Which is clearly important as he’s (it’s?) the star, no matter how much fun Chris (FRIGHT NIGHT) Sarandon has with his Bwanx! accent. But Sarandon gets the best scene where, in a spirited blend of horror and physical comedy, he has to fend off Chucky’s attacks while driving a speeding car. But all the kills are well staged being either silly (Mr McGee from the Hulk gets electro shock) or flinch-making (the voodoo bone breaking. OH!) or creepy (Chucky skittering around the apartment like a barely glimpsed homicidal, ginger wigged cockroach). It’s an ‘80s movie so there are scenes of hobos with shopping carts, hairspray, a “spunky” best mate ripe for a spectacular fall, an explosion caused by someone putting the gas oven on, smoking, and a niggling sense that there was a lot of ruby and violet lighting (even though there probably wasn’t). It’s not as good as FRIGHT NIGHT (1985) but CHILD’S PLAY is still GOOD!

STAGE FRIGHT (1987) Directed by Michele Soavi Starring David Brandon, Barbara Cupisti, Robert Glogorov, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Clain Parker, Loredana Parrella, Martin Philips with James Sampson as “Willy” Screenplay by George Eastman and Sheila Goldberg Music by Guido Anelli, Simon Boswell and Stefano Mainetti

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She said: “This is just fucking awful; I’m going to bed.”

My paramour having been pummelled into early retirement by a distressingly ‘80s dance sequence, I was left alone to savour this, a poorly dubbed Italian slasher flick in which a bunch of thesps rehearsing an awful musical are stalked by an escaped nutter wearing a massive owl mask. The dialogue and the acting are kind of terrible, but that’s not why we’re here. No, we are here to see an escaped nutter wearing a massive owl mask off some thesps in inventive, suspenseful and, hopefully, excessively gory ways.  Which is what happens, oddly enough. Since Aristotle first posited the notion of catharis, the belief has persisted that watching stuff like this is, uh, cathartic, stopping us from doing bad stuff by soaking up nasty urges. Since I have never heard of anyone donning a massive owl mask and offing a bunch of thesps, the evidence, anecdotal as it may be, is on Aristotle’s side. Who knows how many poorly dubbed thesps’ lives this movie has saved simply by existing? No one knows. Because it’s a stupid question. Putting aside the pretentious crowbarring in of ancient mega brains in an attempt to class this up Sydney Pollack-like, STAGE FRIGHT is a slasher flick and slasher flicks are all about the kills. Oh, there are some sweet “kills” in this one. Hurr. Kills. Hurr. I like the kills. Hoo! Hoo! See how they die! Hey, Aristotle said it’s good for me, so don’t you be judging me! For the more erudite cineaste there’s a brilliantly staged piece of suspense where the heroine has to retrieve a key from right by the killer’s feet by shimmying under the stage, all the while unaware of whether the killer’s caught on, because of the giant face occluding owl mask he’s wearing. The choppy and unpromising start can drive the more sensible viewer away, but if you can tolerate the initial stretch of almost hallucinatory poor, well, everything STAGE FRIGHT rewards you with some hectic homicidal mayhem. It gets a bit odd at the end, with a character repeating things like he’s suffered a brain injury and a “shocking reveal” that centres on the inability of the police to count. But, y’know, I came to see an escaped nutter wearing a massive owl mask slaughter a bunch of thesps and I got exactly that. So STAGE FRIGHT was OKAY!


TARNISHED ANGELS (1957) Directed by Douglas Sirk Starring Rock Hudson, Robert Stack, Dorothy Malone, Robert Middleton with Jack Carson as “Jiggs” Screenplay by George Zuckerman Based on the novel 'Pylon' by William Faulkner Music by Frank Skinner

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She said: “Everyone is having emotions!”

Here Douglas Sirk adapts William Faulkner’s 1935 novel ‘Pylon’, reportedly much to William Faulkner’s apparent 1957 displeasure. Lighten up, Billy Faulkner! I know, I know, TARNISHED ANGELS looks like one of those movies you watch with your elderly parents on a Sunday afternoon. That’s what it looks like, what with Rock (SECONDS) Hudson as a tipsy reporter in a hat, Robert (AIRPLANE!) Stack as a moody stunt flyer, Jack (MILDRED PIERCE) Carson as the cheeky mechanic, Dorothy (WINTER KILLS) Malone as the woman caught between them, and Chris Olsen as the tow headed child alternating between weepy and cheeky in the background. To top it all off Rock Hudson’s character is called Burke Devlin, a name so butch it’s got hair on its knuckles. And most names don’t even have knuckles. Unthreatening Sunday matinee material a-go-go then. Ah-ah-ah, not so fast! This is a Douglas Sirk movie, so for a start the emotions on display are so intense they almost exist independently of the actors expressing them. Being English and thus an emotional invert I find Douglas Sirk movies quite traumatic viewing. Where war movies have bullets and horror movies have monsters, Douglas Sirk movies have emotions. And in Douglas Sirk movies emotions wound like bullets and maul like monsters.  Some mock Sirk for being a kind of bland romantic, but TARNISHED ANGELS for one is one sleazy movie about really unhealthy relationships and horribly damaged people. It’s a movie which is only saved from being vilely unsavoury by the slight dilution afforded by the restraints of the time. Unfettered, I feel Douglas Sirk would have made movies that made REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (2000) look like TOOTSIE (1982). I mean, Christ, in one scene here we are cruelly forced to view a child trapped on a fairground plane ride hysterically freak out as he watches his dad’s fatal plane crash mere yards away. And if that pitilessly harrowing scene isn’t a perfect summation of the Sirk approach, it’s only because it isn’t soaked in sumptuous swathes of lush Techni-color. Alas, TARNISHED ANGELS is in B&W but otherwise it’s as SIrk as Sirk can be. EXCELLENT!

FROM BEYOND (1986) Directed by Stuart Gordon Starring Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton, Ken Foree with Ted Sorel as “Dr. Edward Pretorious” Screenplay by Dennis Paoli, Brian Yuzna and Stuart Gordon Based on the short story by H. P. Lovecraft Music by Richard Band

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She said: “There’s just too many tits in ‘80s horror movies!”

And she wasn’t talking about Malcolm McDowell. BOOM! BOOM! Prudes beware; this is based on the H. P. Lovecraft short story ’From Beyond’ in the same delightfully vulgar way as the same team’s REANIMATOR is based on ol’ shovel chin’s ‘Herbert West: Reanimator’. Which is to say that if H. P. Lovecraft ever saw either one he’d probably expire forthwith, face empurpled and eyes agog. Because FROM BEYOND is Trashy McTrash, no doubt. But it’s unapologetically trashy; trash which winks because it’s smarter than you think.  No, for 21st Century citizens with their elevated tastes there’s just no getting around the fact that Barbara (YOU’RE NEXT) Crampton’s arse gets a good airing and her chest gets a good mauling by gooey claws, while Jeffrey (THE FRIGHTENERS) Combs slowly transforms into a giant phallus, and poor old Ken (DAWN OF THE DEAD) Foree’s good-natured cop can only try to keep spirits up with his dumplings and gravy. But why would you want to get around any of that? You should wallow in it, wallow, I say! Otherwise you’re watching the wrong movie. Try ****ing TOOTSIE (1982) if you want inoffensive claptrap. So, having built a “Resonator” (as one does) to stimulate pineal glands (!) Dr. Pretorius’ head brutally disappears leaving a babbling Crawford Tillinghast (Combs) and an upset neighbour in curlers in its wake. Eager to make a name for herself Crampton’s shrink (Dr Kate McMichaels; who must have started studying medicine at the stately age of 4) takes Tillinghast back to the scene of the weird science crime to find out what happened. Slightly concerned about the headless corpse and the fact that Tillinghast was the only suspect, the police insist Detective Bubba Brownlee (Foree) accompany them. (To be honest this might not be an entirely accurate reflection of police procedure.) McMichaels has the bright idea of repeating the experiment, and then things get a bit rudey-roo and gooey-goo as reality is invaded by creatures and impulses …from beyond! FROM BEYOND is unusually bawdy for a horror movie, but it’s got plenty of the old claret splashing and brain munching as well as some freaky creatures. Everyone acts like they are having a blast, and since most of the FX are physical it stands up to blu-ray pretty well; the blue screen stuff suffers, but since that’s minimal it’s hardly a deal breaker. Taken optically, FROM BEYOND provides your RDA of saucy horror tomfoolery. VERY GOOD!


WE ARE STILL HERE (2015) Directed by Ted Geoghan Starring Barbara Crampton, Andrew Sensenig, Lisa Marie, Larry Fessenden with Monte Markham as “Dave McCabe” Screenplay by Ted Geoghan Music by Wojciech Golczewski

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She said: “That’s really shit me up, that has!”

This was an impulse view and, boy, this was a good one. You could almost smell my relief as I found that my aging impulses remain sound. Unhealthy, sure, but still sound. I didn’t know anything going in to WE ARE STILL HERE and it was all the better for it. Hence the brevity of this review, as I seek to replicate that experience for your good self. In essence though, Barbara (FROM BEYOND) Crampton and Andrew Sensenig play a couple still shell-shocked by grief for their recently deceased son, who move into a remote house in a snowy and bleak bit of ‘70s America. Creepiness ensues. It really would be a shame to spoil it, but the best thing was how it ended up crushing expectations like a still beating heart in a vengeful corpse’s fist. WE ARE STILL HERE starts off all elegantly measured and mournful, with brief glimpses of disquiet and then it lunges suddenly into, well, something else. Clearly the people involved all love horror movies and know how to make ‘em, but most impressive was the acting. Everyone’s acting is top notch, really , really top notch; everyone nails the characters just right. But even so, unsung screen vet Monte Markham stands out with his enormously entertaining affable bastardry. Damn, this was just such fun. You’ll probably never look at a sock the same way again. WE ARE STILL HERE is still VERY GOOD!

THE NAKED ISLAND (1960) Directed by Kaneto Shindô Screenplay by Kaneto Shindô Starring Nobuko Otowa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka, Masanori Horimoto Music by Hikaru Hayashi

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She said: “That was sad. Good, but sad.”

This is a Japanese movie about a family of four whose hard scrabble life is dominated by the farming of a harsh lump of an island in the Setonaikai archipelago . Most of each day is taken up with rowing to the neighbouring island to draw the water essential for life and agriculture. For part of the day the two children attend school. The school together with the water bearing and trips to sell crops are their only links with the wider society. The movie is minimal and realistic; Shindô and his cast and crew lived on the island throughout the filming. No words are spoken for the first half hour, and for the most part the movie just follows the family’s bleak, repetitive existence, creating a soothing rhythm until the inevitable occurs, and the lack of things we take for granted takes a terrible toll. Then life resumes and then life goes on. With THE NAKED ISLAND Shindô is as quiet as Sirk is loud but to no lesser emotional effect. THE NAKED ISLAND is the kind of deceptively artless movie which seems to be doing nothing but is quietly doing everything. Unlike ***ing TOOTSIE. Whatever, THE NAKED ISLAND is EXCELLENT!


NEXT TIME: Oh, go on then – COMICS!!!

“Today Is The First Day Of A Life Of Sacrifice.” MOVIES! Sometimes It Takes Me a Bit To Warm Up.

It’s 2016! I don’t know about you but I know that the one thing I really need right now is another year to get through! Nothing quite gets me smilin’ like the feeling I’m starting from scratch all over again. Sisyphus ain’t no mythyphus, Camus! Ugh. What is it with time? It just never stops. Ugh. Time. Double ugh. So, before I pull the covers back over my head, here’s some stuff on movies which you’ve all already seen and made your minds up about. I tried to make it even more useless than that even, but it just wasn’t possible. HAPPY NEW YEAR!  photo WHIP_B_zpsszbypdsq.png The movie WHIPLASH (2014) in one panel.

Anyway, this…

Last year I didn’t go to the movies, they came to me! Which sounds super glamorous and exciting, as though Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams popped round in an ironic flurry to personally preview for me the latest derivative piece of billion dollar budgeted, pulseless shit brimming with lens flare and fan pandering. Alas, the reality is that due to bone idleness and a refusal to accept the fact that the outside world exists I don’t get out to the picture house, and so I relied this year largely on blu-rays and streaming services. Yeah, we know, John, and we know you mostly watch unpleasant foreign films, largely involving women being stabbed in the face, because you are a weird old misogynist forever locked into old horror movies as a coping mechanism for your utter failure to take control of your life, and, also, John, in a vain attempt to stem slightly the bitterly venomous resentment this inculcates in you for people better than you, and we do so hope your mother is proud, John! Ah, uh, well, okay, can’t deny you might have a slight point there, but in my defence I am vast and sometimes I watch other stuff. This year, okay, sure, I was on a bit of a horror kick, but despite my best efforts some proper muck snuck in too. I won’t go into everything I watched (please stem your disappointment) but here are the highlights of John’s Movie Year (2015):


All pictures ripped from the bleeding heart of Wikipedia because I am in a rush. As ever, all “And she said”s are supplied by La Belle Dame sans Merci and used without permission.


THE BABADOOK (2014) Directed by Jennifer Kent Written by Jennifer kent Starring Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Ben Winspear Music by Jed Jurzel  photo BADA_B_zpslm87q7kw.jpg And she said, “I had my eyes covered! What happened!”

I liked this low key, small scale, Oz set nerve jangler quite a bit. I was particularly partial since it was obviously about something, which is always nice. What it’s about is the horror of being a parent, specifically the horror of being a single parent. Being a single parent is, undoubtedly, more horrible than being one of a pair of parents, but I’d wager they have much horror in common and it’s the intensity that differs. In the interests of balance I should say that being a parent has its upside, but this is a horror movie so that’s not the side it sets its sights on. I mean, yes, THE BABADOOK is about a nasty kind of Struwwelpetery thing which gets out of a kid’s book, and menaces a mom and son duo in a horrific and violent manner, one which escalates towards a seemingly inevitable and tragic ending. But it’s also about the fear of being unable to protect your kid, and even moreso the definitive parental terror that sometimes the person you need to protect your kid from most is yourself. Think of REPULSION (1965) but centred around a stressed and sleep deprived single mother rather than a woman too sexy for sanity. Folk without kids will have a fun and spooky time with plenty of jump scares mixed in with a real sense of threat, but parents get most fun for their pennies as they’ll feel like they’ve been kicked around the room a bit. Noah Wiseman makes for a realistic kid; one at times irritating, at times infuriating, but still a kid for all that. While Essie Davis seizes the screen with her authentic portrayal of a mother clearly aware of the impossibility of what is happening and eaten away by her failure to affect the final shape it seems fated to take. But they are just stand out performances, and by rights everyone involved should be proud they made a movie about a  thing in a top hat which jumps out of a kid’s book which not only shit me right up but was GOOD!


GATE OF HELL (地獄門, Jigokumon) (1953) Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa Written by Teinosuke Kinusaga Starring Kazuo Hasegawa, Machiko Kyō, Isao Yamagata, Yatarō Kurokawa, Kōtarō Bandō, Jun Tazaki, Koreya Senda, Masao Shimizu Music by Yasushi Akutagawa  photo GOH_B_zpszufkuct2.jpg

And she said, “It’s like Powell and Pressburger made a samurai film!”

Oooh, hark at her with her high-toned comparisons! She wasn’t wrong mind. And that’s the highest praise there is Chez Kane – P&P being shorthand for Peak Cinema hereabouts. This was an elegant, stately paced and sumptuously costumed period samurai tragedy. Cinematically this was just operating on another level really; as good as everything else here was, this was better. Sometimes that’s just how it is, no offence to all the other movies here. No one’s ever going to confuse it with 13 ASSASSINS because it’s not that kind of movie, but if it’s the kind of movie that could be confused with Powell & Pressburger then it’s my kind of movie. Like IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE this one was pure cinema. Just lovely, lovely stuff; a movie as colourful and sedate  on the surface as it was as dark and turbulent  in its heart; all the codes and protocols, all the honour and values of the samurai could not build a society robust enough to resist the evil born of human weakness. Oh, being flash I watched this on blu-ray via the Masters of Cinema series and you should know that the big thing about blu-rays is how variable the image quality can be. I guess people are still getting the hang of the tech or something, but I’ve seen some real stinkers. I’m not going to get sucked into technical specs, but I can assure you the picture quality on this one is magnificent; everything has a slightly faded opulence as befits the subject and the only degradation here is in the souls of the characters.  Sure, GATE OF HELL is old, and it wasn’t exactly a barrel of laughs and it certainly wasn’t a high–octane thrill ride but it was vivid, captivating, painfully poignant and basically EXCELLENT!


A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (2014) Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour Written by Ana Lily Amirpour Starring Seila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Dominic Rains  photo AGWHAN_B_zpszjaz2iup.jpg

And she said, “I like that top she’s got on.”

This is a B&W romantic/coming of age/vampire movie set in (a hopefully imaginary version of) Iran, I think. I’m letting you know upfront it’s B&W because some people are funny about that. Like they are about subtitles. Oh, yeah, it also has subtitles. So, to recap -  it’s B&W and it’s also got subtitles, so it’s maybe not your thing. That’s okay, I’m not judging. Michael Bay’s still working, so you’ll be okay. HA! I was judging you all along! Stealth judging! Christ, lighten up; watch what you want. I do, so I watched this and I just really grooved on this one as an experience. It was just my cup of cinematic tea, seeing as how it was very much like a young David Lynch adapting an unwritten Barry Gifford novel. Yes, it was like that, but that’s not all it was. Lynch and Gifford are some weighty blankets of influence to chuck over a nascent film maker, but Amirpour’s up to it and wrestles free to produce something unique. I’ve not seen a movie so in love with silence for a long time. No, smartlips, silent movies don’t count. It’s not like G W Pabst had a choice is it?   Now, I’m not saying it was quiet but I’ve heard more dialogue between Yorkshiremen fishing.  So, okay, I am saying it is quiet and the whole embracing silence for large parts of the movie thing worked spectacularly well. It takes some special cinematic magic to make a boy oh-so-slowly crossing a room to a girl feel more thrilling than a Bond pre-credits sequence. My cuticles were screaming for mercy. Just great, great stuff; stepping back and letting scenes take as long as they took really helped with the immersion. If I was still in my twenties I’d be a living miracle, but I’d also have this poster up next to WILD AT HEART (1990) because it’s very much a movie about being Young. Or the particularly romantic view of being Young the Young have. In short the movie was as bleakly romantic and thrillingly unhurried as, er, a girl walking home alone at night. (Also, the bit with the skateboard. Yes!) VERY GOOD!

  YOU’RE NEXT (2011) Directed by Adam Wingard Written by Simon Barrett Starring Sharni Vinson, Nicholas Tucci, Wendy Glenn, A. J. Bowen, Joe Swanberg, Margaret Laney/Sarah Myers, Aimee Seimetz, Ti West, Rob Moran, Barbara Crampton Music by Jasper Justice Lee, Kyle McKinnon, Mads Heldtberg, Adam Wingard

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And she said, “Well, it was better than I thought it was going to be when it started.”

This was a fun one. It’s one of those home invasion movies which by their very nature have to involve an upscale middle class family, since, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, you can get from the front of my house to the back in three steps; any high stakes games of cat and mouse would be severely truncated and somewhat sparse on the suspense fronta s a result. Rich family – big house, makes sense set up wise. Unlike FUNNY GAMES (1997) which wants you to know the director is cleverer than you and wants you to hate yourself for watching people die, YOU’RE NEXT understands that watching people die is just part of modern day relaxing, like candles in the bathroom and Candy Crush. YOU’RE NEXT is supposed to be a pulpy bit of fun and it succeeds in that, but it was also a bit better than that might lead you to expect. It doesn’t mess about and gets stuck in pretty quick, rarely letting up from then on in, but it still draws the characters vividly and as obnoxiously as you might expect of a wealthy family gathering in a horror movie, but when the bad stuff kicks in somehow you start feeling a bit bad for them. I mean, the brother at the start is set up as a major douche and no mistake, but he rallies and you feel a bit sad for him as his evening gets progressively worse. Look, my surprise at the fact a horror movie actually evoked empathy for its victims speaks, I feel, more about the poor quality of modern horror movie making than any lack of humanity on my part. Well, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Fast, funny and pulpy YOU’RE NEXT was like an updated John Carpenter siege movie starring a Joe R Lansdale heroine. Even without the perfectly healthy nostalgic pleasure conjured by the comfortingly reassuring sight of Barbara (RE-ANIMATOR, FROM BEYOND, BODY DOUBLE, CASTLE FREAK) Crampton shrieking under extreme duress it would still have been GOOD!


IT FOLLOWS (2014) Directed by David Robert Mitchell Written by David Robert Mitchell Starring Maika Monroe, Keir Gilchrist, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary, Olivia Luccardi, Lili Sepe Music by Disasterpeace  photo IF_B_zps5h5itecp.jpg

And she said, “That’s that guy from FRED: THE SHOW!”

Like the thin musk from a faded car deodorizer in a suspiciously shiny ‘58 Plymouth Fury John Carpenter was (again) a phantom but persistent presence during IT FOLLOWS (2014), through the widescreen framing of shots, implacable pacing and the cunning use of music in particular. But no one likes that kind of untrimmed nosehair talk so let’s stick to the fact that IT FOLLOWS was basically a movie about teens who had to fuck to live. Oh, that got your attention didn’t it now, trampyhands. Well, leave the moisturising creme in the bathroom, because this movie is about as sexy as spilt Lilt on a Pound Shop floor. Purposefully so; it’s a horror movie not a skin flick. Unlike the (decent) slasher flick CHERRY FALLS (1999) doin’ it here wasn’t a guarantee of safety but just a stay of execution. Whatever the IT was attracted to was passed via, uh, intimate contact, to the partner who then had to, uh, romance someone else with their groin before IT got them. If IT caught up and got the last person to, er, shingle someone’s roof then it would work its way back down the daisy chain. In a killin’ way. Also, when IT appeared IT would resemble someone you knew such as your Granddad or Mom which made IT’s appearances super creepy. Particularly if IT was grinding IT’s groin against yours as it throttled you like you’d just spent the rent. EeeeW!  IT FOLLOWS was stylish stuff which successfully mutated the mundanity of its working class USA setting into an almost surreal theatre of horror, and while the metaphor at first seemed clear (promiscuity!) it was certainly a tad more complex than that (Her Dad? You get that?). Oh my, metaphors yet! Ugh, trim those nose hairs, John! Ignore all that dusty chunter because IT FOLLOWS was an intelligently creepy time, cleverly directed, well-acted by all involved and it set off some real ripples of unease behind my eyes where rumour has it my mind hides. IT FOLLOWS was GOOD!

  WHIPLASH (2014) Directed by Damien Chazelle Written by Damien Chazelle Starring Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, Jim Neiman, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell, Nate Lang, Chris Mulkey, Damon Gupton, Suanne Spoke Music by Justin Hurwitz  photo WHIP_B_zpsbg5vou7t.jpg

And she said, “D’ya wanna feel the Spirit of Jazz up inside ya!”

This is that movie everyone, even your parents, liked in which J Jonah Jameson shouts at a kid so he will play the jazz drums better. Full disclosure - I’m hardly the most musical of men (check out my record CD collection for proof. Haw haw haw!), and cinematically the last jazz outing I saw was that episode in DR. TERROR’S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965) where Roy Castle and Kenny Lynch upset The Spirit of Jazz by nicking his rhythms. (Bad Voodoo ensues.) In essence, then, I’m not exactly Dr. Jazz, you know. But I got the gist of this; about pushing yourself and drive and gifts and talent and, and, and, basically, and all that stuff I’ve never really felt the need for. I’m largely inert ambition wise; I just hope to get through life without killing anyone or starting a war, and maybe having raised a decent kid. It doesn’t sound like much but it sure fills the hours. The world will have to look elsewhere for excellence in jazz drumming, I fear. So, I’m probably not the ideal audience for something like WHIPLASH with its driven jazz drummer and question(s) about how much is jazz drumming worth giving up? Sure, it was extraordinarily well executed visually; at no point was I as bored as I am when people are actually jazz drumming in my vicinity in reality. And it felt like the thing had the structure of a thriller (I didn’t check though; maybe it didn’t, but it felt like it did, and that’s more important) which helped with the whole keeping-the-musically-illiterate-ambition-averse-viewer (i.e. me) interested thing. And the performances were great all the way through. Even the little parts were well done (Paul Reiser!) and the big parts were screen excellence par excellence. I hear old JJJ shouted at the kid so well that he got an Oscar(?), but, you know, Miles Teller as the kid was good too; he had the harder part I felt since he was a dick, but sometimes with great jazz drumming must come great dickishness. I think the idea was to suggest some of that “Oooh, it’s a bit of a Grey Area!” people are so fond of these days. I wasn't convinced by the ending either, but what can you say, a well made movie is a well made movie. Alas, I’m unfashionably hard line on this one; playing the jazz drums well is super special and all that, but I don’t think jazz drumming at any level is worth some kid stringing themselves up from light fittings (Don’t worry, that’s not what happens to him. I don’t do spoiling. Hopefully.) Call me old fashioned but don’t call me trad, Dad. Unhip I may be but I’m no churl, so WHIPLASH was Jazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz! (Oh, okay, it was GOOD!)

Next Time: COMICS!!!