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Amulet /Master

Amulet /Master

AMULET Can horror be 'progressive'? Actor and now director Romola Garai talks about 'changing the narrative' of horror with her first film but I'm not sure that she's managed it (what is this 'narrative' anyway?) though she might have thrown a few spokes in its...

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Bad Luck Banging, Or Loony Porn

Bad Luck Banging, Or Loony Porn

Ah, masks! Still de rigeur at the ICA at this point (this was before Plan B kicked in). During the London Film Festival I dared to go in there unmasked, which felt like a transgressive act, but hey, it was a festival and anyway isn't the ICA supposed to welcome...

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BFI London Film Festival 2021: Age and Agency

BFI London Film Festival 2021: Age and Agency

LA ABUELA In this Spanish film from Rec director Paco Plaza, Susana (Almudena Amor), a fashion model on the verge of success, has to take a career break when her grandmother Pilar (Vera Valdez) has a brain haemorrhage and she has to go and look after her, at least...

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Frightfest 2021

Frightfest 2021

NIGHT DRIVE A mysterious fugue enveloped Frightfest last year – it's like it didn't really happen. But suddenly here I am again in the Empire Leicester Square, and – after a few 'missing' years - Dave is even back, and sitting next to me. It all feels suspiciously...

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Censor / Surge

Censor / Surge

CENSOR Prano Bailey-Bond's Censor makes a link between censorship and (emotional, psychological) repression that's pretty obvious, but the film has a knack of making the obvious work – which has the additional virtue of being thematically appropriate. After all, the...

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New Year’s Evil (1980) / Bloody New Year (1987)

New Year is, as everybody knows, a massive anticlimax. We all get frantically excited about what turns out to be just a glib transition into more of the same. Here are two films (showing in the BFI's Cult strand) which try to give New Year some genuine significance...

BFI London Film Festival 2014: Three Horrors at the Odeon Covent Garden

SPRING If you thought Richard Linklater's Before Sunset might have been improved if Julie Delpy had periodically turned into a squid (and is there anyone who doesn't?), then this may well be the film for you. American backpacker Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci) hooks up with...

BFI London Film Festival 2014: Metamorphoses/White God

METAMORPHOSES Christophe Honoré's film is based on something I've not read – Ovid's Metamorphoses – but no need to be alarmed: the stories are spelled out very clearly. Indeed, almost too clearly. The set-up is that Europa (Amira Akili) is a schoolgirl learning about...

Downton Abbey (2019) / Ray and Liz (2018)

DOWNTON ABBEY For many years the TV series Downton Abbey, created by Julian Fellowes, mined the Sunday night craving for reassurance about the past, presenting it as a world in which everyone knew their place. The past, at least the past we never knew personally, is a...

Hereditary

In theory it ought to be possible to respond to a film without taking into account to the critical reaction to it, but once you are aware of that reaction and have seen it pasted on the sides of buses, there's not much you can do about that: it's already in you. But...

In Pictures

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) is said to be the first giallo, but of Bava's films it is this that feels like the ur-giallo, a template for everything that came after – not just 70's gialli, but 80's slasher films as well....

Eyeball (1975) / Short Night Of Glass Dolls (1971) / Spasmo (1974)

EYEBALL The original Italian title of Umberto Lenzi's Eyeball translates as Red Cats In A Glass Labyrinth, which makes very little sense and is all the more impressive for it. However, there is no doubt that Eyeball is more to the point. This giallo is about a busload...

A Brexit Trilogy

GOD'S OWN COUNTRY (2017) Brexit – is it humanity asserting its freedom to be perverse in the face of global capitalism, or is it just a backward-leaning movement composed of people whose preciousness about their 'British identity' makes you wonder who the real...

GUILT-FREE CINEMA? The New York Ripper (1982) / Hitch Hike To Hell (1977)

At some point in the run-up towards Christmas I found myself watching a documentary on BBC4 by Catherine Bray that encouraged us not to feel 'guilty' about watching 'bad' films. It seemed to be right up my alley and for a good twenty minutes all seemed to be well....

Emmanuelle 5 (1987)

My interest in Polish director Walerian Borowczyck came about by accident. Back in the early 80's I saw his 1971 film Blanche described in the Daily Mail's TV listings as one of the most frightening ghost stories ever filmed - at any rate, this is what I remember. As...

Some more reviews.

In Pictures 2: Rope (1948) /Possessor (2020)

In Pictures 2: Rope (1948) /Possessor (2020)

ROPE On the extras on my DVD of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope screenwriter Arthur Laurents nails several of the reasons why this adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's play (based on the Leopold/Loeb case in which a couple of students felt entitled to kill a 14 year old boy...

Apples / In The Earth

Apples / In The Earth

APPLES Who on earth, returning to the cinema after – well OK, during – a global pandemic would go and see a film that is about the pandemic, even if obliquely? About six people (including me) is the answer, if this afternoon showing is anything to go by. Apples seems...

In Pictures

In Pictures

BLOOD AND BLACK LACE (1964) Mario Bava's The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) is said to be the first giallo, but of Bava's films it is this that feels like the ur-giallo, a template for everything that came after – not just 70's gialli, but 80's slasher films as well....

The Boxer’s Omen (1983) / Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003)

The Boxer’s Omen (1983) / Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003)

THE BOXER'S OMEN I saw this in late 2016 at the Barbican in a season called Cheap Thrills, a celebration of bad taste. Is this then a 'bad film'? If so, we need to dismiss any judgmental qualities that might still be clinging to the word 'bad'. We are not condemning...

Screen Time

Screen Time

MYSTERIES OF LISBON (2010) Lockdown was a good time to finally sit down, maybe even lie down, and watch those films whose running time demanded an entire day devoted to them, and their extras. The Chilean director Raúl Ruiz, in the extras on the New Wave Films DVD of...

Downton Abbey (2019) / Ray and Liz (2018)

Downton Abbey (2019) / Ray and Liz (2018)

DOWNTON ABBEY For many years the TV series Downton Abbey, created by Julian Fellowes, mined the Sunday night craving for reassurance about the past, presenting it as a world in which everyone knew their place. The past, at least the past we never knew personally, is a...

LFF 2019: Jallikattu/Saint Maud

LFF 2019: Jallikattu/Saint Maud

Ah yes, the London Film Festival. I remember that. Well it did happen this year, it was just 'different' – they even tried to suggest that the festival we had (mostly online) represented some kind of exciting innovation rather than an attempt to pretend that a film...

Phantoms of the Opera

Phantoms of the Opera

IL MOSTRO DELLA OPERA (1964) In the days before the cities became tombs and the cinemas morgues I went to a showing of this obscure Italian film at the Barbican on a Saturday morning, only to discover that I was encroaching upon a Phantom Of The Opera symposium. Who...

Rabid (1977) / Black Magic 2 (1976)

Rabid (1977) / Black Magic 2 (1976)

RABID (1977) I watched this (on Arrow Video Blu-Ray) quite early on in lockdown, before the later symptoms of COVID-19 like frothing at the mouth with blue foam and biting people in the neck appeared. Oh no wait, that hasn't happened yet has it? Nevertheless this is...