Thursday, 31 October 2013

Netflix Hallowe'en Horror Suggestions


My Netflix Hallowe'en Horror Suggestions was for Cinema Chords. Check out all of the horror content on there including a lot more features based around Hallowe'en viewing. 

It’s Hallowe’en once again and everyone starts to knock through horrors to get them in the frightened spirit. Netflix‘s member base is growing and growing and as the member base expands, so does the list of titles. It can be difficult to decide on what to finally watch, before you know it, that three hour slot you booked for a film has now evaporated into a 35 minute window in which to try and cram an episode of something in as you kick yourself for not deciding sooner. Worry not, here at Cinema Chords we have tried to narrow the list down so the decision should only take an hour, or maybe two, at best. We’ve set aside the endless cheap imitations and countless awful sequels such as Gingerdead Man 3: Saturday Night Cleaver (yes, that’s on the US Netflix) and Surf Nazis Must Die as well as all the exploitive horror filled with nudity like Girls Gone Dead, Strippers vs Werewolves and 1313: Cougar Cult (yes, again, these films exist and most are on US Netflix if you feel like punishing yourself). Regardless, below are the recommendations split into two categories, the first which is “Highly Recommended” which should be read as “If You Haven’t Seen it Then Correct That Now”.

Highly Recommended


The Awakening (US)
Yeah, this British horror is unfortunately only on the US Netflix but is definitely something that’s worth a watch. It seems quite typical period horror where a paranormal debunker goes into a haunted orphanage to disprove the existence of a boy with a twisted face. It is atmospheric, having the colouring reflect the gothic nature with darkness and candlelight for the majority of the sequences at night. It’s well crafted by the director, the performance from Rebecca Hall is genuine and of course it’s scary.

Carrie (US/UK)
The remake is out soon in the UK and already is in America so why not familiarise yourself with Brian De Palma’s adaptation? Sissy Spacek plays the shy, suppressed girl who snaps after having her idyllic moment ruined by bullies. This film still is a classic horror because you care about Carrie, you feel for her and it’s horrible to see it all go wrong.

The Evil Dead (US)
Sam Raimi’s low-budget indie classic is available if you feel like catching up with the world of stop-motion gore and the Necronomicon’s ritualistic horror that birthed the cult favourite Bruce Campbell.

Evil Dead 2 (US)
This is, pretty much, a remake of The Evil Dead but still starring Bruce Campbell as Ash. It’s a reboot with more money but it has 2 in the title so it’s technically a sequel but it ignores what happens in the first really. Regardless, this is funny, gory fun that will tickle you then scare you.

The House of the Devil (US)
One of the best indie horrors to come out in recent years. This is Ti West’s best film so far in his career. It is an homage to all of the B-movies of yesteryears while feeling modern, rejuvenating and not at all stagnant. Never does it feel like a cheap rip off but a film of its own that tips its hats to the genre. Jocelin Donahue’s performance as the housesitter is greatly unnerving and it’s a true slow-burner in horror, using sound and silence to get that chill up your spine that will stay with you for weeks after the credits roll. Lights will remain on when walking around your house.

Identity (UK)
This is different to normal horrors and to normal paranoid thrillers that play on one person in a group in an isolated location being a murderer. James Mangold has created a horror film with an ending that many will roll their eyes at when in fact it’s a brilliant one. It stars John Cusack, Ray Liotta, John C. McGinley, John Hawkes, Amanda Peet and Clea DuVall who all don’t do it for the wage nor believe the film is beneath them, there’s an admiration for the work and it is achieved.

Let the Right One In (US)
Remade with Chloe Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee in 2010, this original one is a much more intimate take on it, not adding the police investigator that seems to be a standardised addition to the story. Tomas Alfredson focuses on the touching relationship between neighbours Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) and Eli (Lina Leandersson), creating a haunting experience that is tragically beautiful and sometimes horrifying. It should be watched for the cinematography alone by Hoyte Van Hoytema – Christopher Nolan’s new DP for his next film Interstellar.

Maniac (US)
Released in the UK in January uncut (surprisingly), Franck Khalfoun’s remake surpasses the original because it makes Frank’s (Elijah Wood) character completely sympathetic. Instead of the usual distant monster that terrifies because of its inhumanity, this one is harrowing because of its humanity. His constant struggle with his life and himself leads to one the year’s scariest and goriest.

The Mist (UK)
Frank Darabont’s classic horror here focuses more on the horror of humanity than the horror of what’s outside. This film destroys souls. Created with a cynical view from the mind of Stephen King then adapted for the screen with an even more depressing view of life by Frank Darabont. Prepare to have a heavy heart, a heavy chest and a heavy hatred of humanity for a while after. This film causes side effects.

Pulse (Kairo) (US)
This Japanese horror is one of the more muted experiences that shows a slow inevitability and a supernatural epidemic that’s impossible to stop. Fear is achieved by having everything slow, inescapable, because curiosity really can kill. Kiyoshi Kurosawa has created something so atmospheric that even a walk is terrifying.

Scream Quadrilogy (US/First available in the UK too)
Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson’s postmodern deconstruction of the horror genre is an obvious classic and the sequels aren’t bad either though many would disagree. The first is obviously the best and managed to be funny, witty, tell us the rules outright then completely subvert them. Scream 2 has one of the most tense films ever and adds to it with the rules of sequels and so on for the other two. You cannot go wrong with any of them, including the underrated fourth which is the weakest but still worth a watch.

Sinister (UK)
Putting in a performance that cements the authenticity of the piece, Ethan Hawke manages to terrify us by playing a character that we like getting involved with. Not only that but it’s a character that reacts genuinely to the horror going on around him, reluctantly looking around an empty house at night and playing his fear with a credibility that makes everything more horrifying.

The Snowtown Murders (US)
Want to watch one of the most disturbing films ever? Go to this. The less you know about it the better.

The Strangers (UK)
A great home invasion horror that manages to get a real performance out of Liv Tyler – that should not go unnoticed. The cinematography is beautiful, the masks petrifying, the tension tangible. With the final shot of the film ruining a lot of its hard work, The Strangers is a work of creepy brilliance that plays with the couple as much as it does with the audience.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (US/UK)
Another good deconstruction horror, this focuses more on the comedy side of things rather than the horror. Tucker and Dale are mistaken as monsters who are about to go on a slashing spree on the teenagers who are staying up in the woods. They think – because of their horror knowledge – that if they get them first then there’s nothing to worry about it. What ensues is brilliant comedy which is directed really well by Eli Craig but the film’s funniest moments comes from the duo of Alan Tudyuk and Tyler Labine that really make this a necessary watch.

V/H/S (US/UK)
Found footage  anthology directed by a lot of upcoming filmmakers of horror makes this a bit muddled because of its anthology nature but really is a scary piece of cinema too. The shorts are well-constructed and are all vastly different meaning you’ll have several different nightmares that night. It can, for some, start off weak but the two final segments are especially effective.

V/H/S/2 (US)
They heard the criticisms of the first and completely understood by making this a sequel that builds up on the strengths of the predecessor. The Safe Haven segment directed by Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto is the best in it and stretches out to roughly 30 minutes but it’s an insane 30 minutes of everything going everywhere for the most chaotic and scary minutes of your life.

 

Recommended


The Bay (US/UK)
Barry Levin. Yes, Barry Levin. Yes, the guy that did Rain Man. Barry Levin was in charge of this found-footage and environmental horror that tells the story of a town which undergoes a huge problem. Told in a reconstruction of all of the footage that could be found from various different outlets – news crew, biological researchers, police car, CCTV – to create a scarily realistic problem but not one that’s necessarily scary-scary like others on this list.

The Cabin in the Woods (US/UK)
It’s not that huge of a subversion, it’s not really that gigantic of a game-changer, it’s not really anything that great but it’s worth a watch. Many disagree and it is adored so the addition comes more from its status rather than anything else.

Devil (US)
This horror film written by M. Night Shyamalan and Brian Nelson is underrated in all honesty. Pitting people against other in a lift is a pretty great idea and director John Erick Dowdle has fun playing around with the audience. When it goes black, there’s such dread of what will happen next. Tightly paced terror in a compact space and the characters are still interesting, creating full arcs in a few feet.

Drag Me to Hell (UK)
Throwback horror at its finest with a lot of people dismissing it for the most ludicrous of reasons. People who believe that plausibility in horror should only stretch too far have a hard time dealing with a single moment near the end of the film that lasts maybe 15 seconds but don’t let that detract you. There’s a great performance by Alison Lohman and, of course, plenty of horror to stop you from sleeping or trusting any old woman you see walking down the street.

The Faculty (US/UK)
Good fun with a sharp script, it channels and pays homage to plenty of great sci-fi beforehand – especially Invasion of the Body Snatchers which is spoken about here many times. There’s a great cast of famous people before they’re famous that makes this a good nostalgic film as well as thrilling one.

Grave Encounters (US)
Get past the first 20-30 minutes of annoying mockumentary presentation and you’ll find yourself involved in one of the more terrifying ideas of recent years by the Vicious Brothers. It’s a shame that the performances sully moments of a great idea that would improve to one of the best horror films of the past decade had it been performed well. Otherwise a great horror film.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (US)
It’s based around the real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and Michael Rooker puts in an unsettling yet thoughtful performance that can lead to tender moments before they’re ruined by his bloodlust.

A Horrible Way to Die (US/UK)
Not exactly the all out horror film that will terrify but more one that will instantly dampen your mood and prove how horrifying addiction is.

The Host (US)
A Korean film about a monster that appears from the river one day that makes a lot of comments on political, societal and environmental problems but it’s confused atmosphere ruins a lot of its hardwork. It loses a lot of it through poor music choices, a running time that’s too lengthy and a lack of suspense in a lot of the scenes that loses the audience.

The Innkeepers (US)
Empty hotel with a past of hauntings and two characters that have a great repertoire make this good fun but scary when it wants to be too. When it is empty around the frame, enveloped in darkness or lack of characters, there’s true terror looming over it but when it goes for it, it goes too far. Otherwise a fantastic film.

The Pact (US)
Our lead suffers from the problem of trying to be a strong female character when really that makes her insufferable to be around. There’s one fantastically tense scene but its status in the horror community was one that was hard to ignore.

Resident Evil (US)
Paul W.S. Anderson started strong and that is in no way a sarcastic statement about the man. This series started well but it fell apart in different ways in different films. Definitely worth a visit, it pays a few good enough tributes to the games while remaining an entertaining film.

Resident Evil: Extinction (UK)
The only worthwhile sequel in the tired franchise that shouldn’t have been, this actually makes the social and political commentary that games made for the first time in the franchise… and the last. Not only that, it’s scary again, creating something that isn’t awful but instead entertaining thankfully.

Stake Land (US)
Vampires are worn out if they’re not sparkling or sexualised but in this they’ve returned to them being carnivorous bastards that will destroy you. Jim Mickle pays more attention to the characters within the story but never fails to land the horror beats he aims for either. Thoughtful, clever work rather than an all out attack to the senses.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Term Has Started and I'm Lazy

Before, there was a post about going back to university, now I'm back and have been for weeks. So far though, I've been a tad lazy when it comes to, umm, attendance. That's the problem I've always struggled with anyway. I feel that - personally - I don't learn much from attending lectures because it never sinks in or it's too basic to have much value when it comes to doing essays. The reading involved is much more helpful, insightful and detailed because they can be. Lectures can't really be that detailed because they don't have enough time or it has to be broad to give more freedom when writing essays. I got called up for an attendance meeting that went fine and have since been attending but I'm tired of them - especially when you have to listen to some idiot waffle on about how he's too good for our uni or how much he can quote Marc Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey. Instead I'd rather the freedom to learn myself rather than the obligation of attendance of lectures. University was sold as independent education with most reliance on yourself which is true so why can they not trust students to do the work themselves? After all, it's them who suffer more than the university. It's their money, their debt, their problem, their failure.

Beforehand I was excited to do my module Film Genre because it's primarily horror based and I am so damn up for anything horror related lately it's great. We've studied great films so far and to be honest had decent seminars that I don't mind attending. It's actually a shame they're only an hour because at the 40 minute mark everyone starts discussing properly, they get interesting rather than irritating or silent and then the time runs out. That sucks. It's rare that they're actually good but the groups actually talk, they don't just regurgitate information from the lecture the day before. Classical Hollywood Cinema was a module I was excited for too, to get a good knowledge of film history but the seminars are the most uncomfortable 50 minutes of my life. The room stays near silent, not a barely a word is ushered from anyone other than the tutor. It's uncomfortable. No one learns anything. Time then feels like every second is a minute because of how excruciatingly painful that silence is. You can see the seminar tutor getting fed up and when anyone brings up a point, no one debates it, there's just silence.

Now it's time to start my essays, one of which is a textual analysis about any horror film I like. Decisions are too difficult. Time to write some shorts and make some since people want to (I'm looking at you Joel, if you're reading this) and that will definitely be fun if I can get people to act (I'm looking at you Jack, if you're reading this which you probably aren't). Anyway, that's enough of my rambling for now, it's pointless and isn't important but there we go. Just felt like writing something.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Interview with Michael Cudlitz

At this year’s Film4 FrightFest, we had a chance to speak to Michael Cudlitz all about his latest film that’s still touring called Dark Tourist. It was lovely to chat to the man who’s always been in the public consciousness, whether sub or not. This sees him move into producing, getting the script by his friend, Frank John Hughes off the ground to make this indie project out of love and definitely not out of financial gain. Now he’s just been confirmed as a regular in The Walking Dead‘s fourth season and it’ll be interesting to see how his character is integrated into that. Below he speaks about Dark Tourist, promoting his love for the dark, psychological thriller that could unsettle more than any supernatural horror.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

MTOS Questions on Cinematography and Cinematographers - 20th of October



A couple of weeks ago, Paul Furr (@JustCallMeFurry) hosted Movie Talk on Sunday on the topic of scores and soundtracks. That focused on the importance of music around the film which inspired me to think about film's biggest part: its visuals. This week we've got 10 hopefully interesting and diverse questions about cinematography and cinematographers. Don't worry if you don't know cinematographers by name (that's rare anyway) because you can point to films and visual styles that you like; there's also plenty of time to swot up if you fancy pulling a few names out of the bag. There's plenty to think about when it comes to cinematography. Cinematography is important in all aspects in filmmaking, even if you don't realise it. Comedies need good cinematography to frame visual jokes as well as making sure that we're not so up close to the actor (unless that's part of a joke) to be uncomfortable when presenting the jokes. It's important to all types of films really, it aids the mood of the film and can help portray themes.

On Sunday, at 8pm, it'll follow the usual MTOS format. If you don't know what that is then don't worry, it's pretty simple. Basically there are ten questions and one is asked every ten minutes. To join in, you put your answer like so "A1. This is the answer to the question. #MTOS" and make sure to hashtag it so all can see, respond and delightfully discuss how lovely cinema is. That's basically that's all there is to it and it's always enjoyable. Fingers crossed we get some debate and some diverse answers but don't worry if you feel you lack in this topic because chances are you don't. Your eyes know what they like so reflect over great visual moments and tell us about your favourites.


Q1. Let's start off easy, what film is your favourite cinematography wise? What makes you love the visuals? #MTOS 

Q2. Do you prefer certain types? Like tracking shots and steadicams for a smooth style or visceral and handheld? #MTOS

Q3. Who are your favourite cinematographers? Roger Deakins, Emmanuel Lubezki, Jeff Cronenweth, Gregg Toland, Christopher Doyle, Wally Pfister, Newton Thomas Sigel etc. #MTOS

Q4. What film from this year has visually impressed you the most? #MTOS

Q5. Do you care a lot about cinematography or is it something you rarely notice? Is it important in filmmaking? If so, why? #MTOS

Q6. What are your favourite director and cinematographer partnership? #MTOS

Q7. Animated cinematography is important too with the likes of Up, WALL-E and etc. Which is animated film is the most beautiful visually? #MTOS 

Q8. Life of Pi won last year's cinematography award but it was largely VFX. What's your opinion on its win and do you think it matters that it was digitally created? #MTOS

Q9. People still love how film looks but we're obviously moving into the use of digital cameras. What's your preference? Can you personally tell? #MTOS

Q10. After this, we're going to want some pretty films. Name all the pretty films that come to your head so we can all watch something new. #MTOS 

Those are the set questions for Sunday's MTOS and remember to join in at 8pm and tag all of your tweets with #MTOS for everyone to see. Hopefully I'll see you there!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Interview with Gareth Evans


We recently had the satisfaction of talking to Gareth Evans while he was out in Indonesia, deep into the editing process for his highly anticipated sequel The Raid 2: Berandal, following on two hours after the events of the sleeper hit The Raid: Redemption. It’s great to see a director exceed out of nowhere and gain a status after his action packed adventure in a claustrophobic apartment building. What’s even greater is that it came from talent rather than connections. Gareth Evans was a Welshman with no industry connections that studied what he loved, noticing what it was that made him love certain films then pursuing his findings into making his own features. Below we got to chat to all about his future project The Raid 2: Berandal quite extensively, Breaking Bad and what could possibly be next.


Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Sharknado DVD Review



Bad films that, in their terribleness, become good cult classics of comedy are a common thing but the new one to gather a Twitter storm and a hipster Tumblr following is Sharknado. Many films are so bad that they’re good, enjoyable in their crazy idiocy and stupidity but Sharknado simply isn’t one of them. Not even close. This isn’t one of those moments where you laugh at the exploitive filmmaking to get a laugh from the audience; this one is so horrible that it’s offensive to filmmaking as it completely disregards all the regularities of shooting a film so you can understand the location. The camera bounces around from close-up to close-up, ignoring all rules of continuity and tension, grating because of the irreverent filmmaking.

There’s not much in the way of story or plot from Sharknado but do you really want one? You want sharks, in a tornado, being thrown around to eat and kill people. It promotes that sharks are eternally violent with one particular back story being told to us as the reason for hating sharks. In the end, it’s up to the audience on if they want to have a good time with the film or not. It was a surprise hit for SyFy which isn’t usually a barometer of quality. Most ideas are born for their disdain for the English language then extended into an actual story. A sure recipe for quality and success.

Gathering a huge following has made this into a cult classic but it’s hard to see why when it isn’t fun or funny. It’s hard to see where the budget of $1m (apparently) went when there’s no essence in quality at all. It seems cheaper. It looks like it was made for £3.50 and £2 of that went to the VFX team. Sharknado felt destructive of filmmaking rather than a hedonistic throwback to loved B-movie classics of the yesteryears. There’s no part of it that feels like fun. None of it is earned. It’s cheap, exploitive filmmaking that somehow got more attention than the Ghost SharksDinocroc vs Supergators and Piranhacondas of the SyFy world. Terrible, angering film that raises blood pressure and could potentially cause aneurysms, heart attacks and strokes. It should come with a warning label. ENOUGH SAID.
½

Extras
Behind the Scenes, the trailer and a gag reel that’s funnier than the actual film.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Paul Furr's MTOS Questions on Scores and Soundtracks - 6th of October

 

@JustCallMeFurry

Movie Talk On Sunday - Scores and Soundtracks

The film score has been a powerful tool in the director's arsenal for many years; the beauty of the sound isn't just the splendour of the music but also the emotions those graceful, or sometimes bombastic notes illicit in all of us. Often the score is forgotten in favour of the visual, but the auditory is just as important in all our cinematic experiences. A good score and soundtrack has the ability to rouse for the hero and us shed a tear for the fallen, so let's celebrate their glory on Movie Talk on Sunday.


Scores and Soundtracks have moved with the times, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But of their time, they all bring something extra to their respective film. The greatest are remembered and inevitably made into ringtones, whilst the languid are placed upon the rubbish heap only to be brought up on a Sunday evening in early October.
So here we are with @JustCallMeFurry calling in a favour from @ashleyrhys' to host the questions... And away we go...

On Sunday 6th October at 8pm GMT I will be tweeting these 10 questions, that will be one question every 10 minutes. Take your time, familiarise yourself and delve into all those music memories... Just don't forget to use the #MTOS hashtag on each of your answers.

Q1. Simple and straightforward to start with, who is your favourite composer and why?

Q2. What is your favourite film score?

Q3. What was the first film you remember where the score truly became part of your movie experience?

Q4. What do you like from a film score?

Q5. Do you prefer a classic score from your film or one mixed with a soundtrack and why?

Q6. What is your favourite song from a film of all time?

Q7. What is your least favourite score/soundtrack and why?

Q8. As relevant as they were at the time, some older scores and soundtracks don't stand the test of time. What classic pre-2000 film for you stands out as one with really dated soundtrack?

Q9. Back in the day every movie had to have a song tie-in, what in your opinion was the most ridiculous?

Q10. The likes of Tarantino and Scorsese famously use songs in their films to great effect. What in your opinion is the scene where the song truly makes it iconic? 

All there is to do is get thinking about your answers and don't forget to follow me on Twitter @JustCallMeFurry.