AM1200

AM1200 – 8/10

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Nicely made and atmospheric short film. It’s kind of hard to say much about the plot without spoiling it, and I generally believe the less you know about a film going in, the better. Certainly if I’d looked at the IMDB synopsis of the plot, I’d have figured out the ending early on.

What I will tell you is it’s well directed, I liked the story, and being a short film means it fills its 40 minutes well. The acting is all good, and it’s well worth your time to check out. There’s a small amount of gore, which is all the more horrifying because it is a small amount. The atmosphere of the movie is such that I found myself constantly on the lookout for things hidden in the dark, or fleetingly glimpsed.

I was originally told the only way to get a copy of this was to download it, and so I did. I’ve since managed to track down the website and will be buying a copy on DVD. It’s well-made enough to have earned my cash, and it’s a film I will enjoy occasionally showing to people.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.
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Die, Monster, Die!

Die, Monster, Die! – 7/10

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It starts off making use of a bunch of ever-popular tropes – the village that won’t talk to strangers about stuff, the menacing old house that doesn’t welcome visitors, an odd past, secrets, people disappearing or going mad… and the film handles all these things well. It’s weird, creepy, forced, and over-the-top in all the right ways.

On top of that, most of the performances are good, the sets are lovely, the direction fair, and while slow, it keeps one interested. There are also some lovely effects in the greenhouse scene later in the film. Most of the film’s chills and scares come from its over all creepiness.

I say most because it all comes tumbling down in the last third. It doesn’t know if it wants to be a “cursed family” movie, a “science gone wrong,” one, or what. And just when it decides it wants to rationalise everything is right when the things that happen within the film cease to make much sense.

The movie also makes the decision that building a creepy atmosphere is no longer good enough, time to break out the cheap jump-scares that are there for no other purpose. It does know that it has “monster” right there in the title, so it better give us one, no matter how nonsensical the reasons why.

It’s a variable adaptation of Lovecraft’s The Colour Out Of Space, and definitely worth a look, just keep expectations low so when the ending comes along you’re prepared for the drop in story-telling.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Intruders

Intruders – 7/10

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This is a film made or broken by its ending. If you like or accept the conceit, the film will hold up better than if you don’t.

It’s certainly weird and creepy, with some great moments and concepts. Basic idea is two children in different countries visited by a strange and scary creature. To say more is to spoil the film.

In the end, I think it took the less interesting option with the storytelling, which is a shame because there’s some really great ideas in it. I do think it’s a worthwhile film to see, but your mileage may vary.

At some point I may do a follow up post full of spoilers talking about how it failed to use some of its more interesting ideas.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Rare Exports – A Christmas Story

Rare Exports – A Christmas Story – 8/10

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Went for one of the creepier posters for this one.

 

This one is less cosmic horror and more a mildly humourous semi-Lovecraftian take on Father Christmas. Essentially it’s “What if Santa was an Great Old One?” It’s entertaining and clever, and it plays with its ideas in a couple of unexpected ways.

Not overly horrific, it aims more for being odd and strange. Probably the most haunting image in the film is that of a naked, scrawny old bearded man. With no effects work and little more than stillness and nice direction, some moments with him are really creepy.

Over all, not very cosmic, but with a little nasty horror and some not too over the top humour, it’s a great watch. Can’t wait until my kids are old enough to see this dark, strange Christmas movie.

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For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

I’m back and angry…

Hello gentle reader.  Sorry to have been away so long.  December was busy, a virus ran through our house, and then I had to go interstate to visit sick relatives and bereaved friends, and post-trip I was pretty bloody tired.

So what brought me back out again?  What was it that got me all fired up and angry?  What got me so very annoyed that I could not avoid hitting the keyboard?

Steven Bloody Moffat!

So that’s why I love myself. But enough about me. Why do YOU love me?

I read this today – “Steven Moffat has defended criticisms that his stories contain plot holes.

In an interview with BBC Radio 2, Moffat addressed the issue for both Sherlock and Doctor Who and explained that he thinks clever viewers are able to join the dots themselves and don’t always need an on screen explanation.

He said: “I think people have come to think a plot hole is something which isn’t explained on screen. A plot hole is actually something that can’t be explained.

“Sometimes you expect the audience to put two and two together for themselves. For Sherlock, and indeed Doctor Who, I’ve always made the assumption that the audience is clever.”

That’s the whole of it, but here’s a link to the site.

What I dislike about this is the cynical, utterly transparent, manipulative intent of his comments.  What he’s essentially saying is, “No, it’s not that I’m leaving plot holes, it’s that people who criticise my writing aren’t very clever, unlike people who like what I do.”

It’s Moffat attempting his own version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. [1]

He’s broadly attempting to do two things.  One is to make people think twice before criticising him, lest they be perceived as being a bit dim.  The other is to bolster the support of those who enjoy his writing in an uncritical way, by telling them that by enjoying what he does, they must be more clever than those who are critical.

Well, I’m bloody calling him on it. Continue reading

The Moffat Master Plan – Series 6 (part 1)

Warning – Some spoilers for Pyramids of Mars, Father’s Day, and Waters of Mars. Major spoilers for important bits of series five, six, and seven.

Okay, welcome to part two of my investigation of Steven Moffat’s story arcs and writing, and how it holds together.

Hint = it doesn’t.

This article will only be about the first story of series six because there’s a lot to say. But the series certainly started strong…

Boy, I hope we don’t completely screw up this iconic scene later in the season…

Impossible Astronaut While at Lake Silencio, Amy spots a figure on a hill. It’s a Silent. But even though it’s incredibly likely that she’s seen the footage of the moon landing at some point in her life, she doesn’t immediately try to kill it on sight. Continue reading

Possession (minor spoilers)

Possession – 8/10

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Some people will see this film and think it’s an amazing piece of cinema. Some will see it and find it dreadful. Both views are correct.

Depending on my mood when I saw Possession, I could find it falling anywhere between those two extremes. It’s… a difficult one. People throw around the term ‘mindfuck’ for films with clever twists or disturbing ideas – I think I will now ask anyone using the term how those films stack up against Possession, because I’ve seen few films as psychologically gruelling as this one.

Most of the characters in the film are unlikeable and strange. This is something I’ve complained about in other movies and yet here it is also kind of the point. Early in the film we get to watch to odd, troubled, and unsympathetic characters as their marriage disintegrates horribly. It’s awful in all the ways it should be and a very uncomfortable watch.

From there it spirals into madness. Hard to tell if it’s the film-maker’s or the characters’ or the breakdown of the universe. Despite the title, you’re (probably) watching allegory.

Full credit has to go to Isabelle Adjani for playing her part as the disturbed, and disturbing Anna, with such unflinching, unwavering, mania. There are long, long sequences where she will act out what must have been a truly exhausting scene, physically and emotionally, without the camera ever cutting away. The scene in the subway quickly gets past uncomfortable, moves on to gruelling, and keeps on going way beyond that. She won awards for this and other films, and I’m not surprised. She’s an amazing actress.

Sam Neill does a solid job too, as Mark, who spends much of his time broken and unlikeable. His mood and attitudes vary, but you’re never completely on his side even when his wife is cruel to him.

Credit too must go to writer/director Andrzej Zulawski for filming long unbroken takes which give things a visceral quality. It’s a bit like watching a car crash, you can’t tear your eyes away as events unfold infront of you in terrible and unexpected ways.

One of the things I like about it is that it doesn’t give you any answers. You can’t tell if it’s real, if the film is from the point of view of the madness of its characters, or all shot in Symbolism-Vision. It’s a film that more than earns its right to be called a mindfuck movie, and depending on your mood you’ll hate it or appreciate it, but you probably won’t like it. I’ve seen several reviews by people who said they felt violated by the movie. It’s a strong term to use, but I can see exactly where they are coming from.

It’s not a nice film, and it will likely stay with you. I could easily have given it anywhere between 9/10 or 6/10, in the end I settled on 8 because that’s what I feel at the time of writing. Ask me again tomorrow, it will probably get a different score.

I never want to see it again, and yet I will probably buy a copy because it truly is an amazing piece of cinema that, when I feel strong enough, I will certainly want to revisit.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Dagon

Dagon – 8/10

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The first third of Dagon is a little… unengaging. The protagonist isn’t very likeable, and neither is his girlfriend, though she is better than him. So I watched as it meandered along, waiting for it to pick up.

And pick up it did. Things quickly take on a surreal, creepy and dangerous bent, and to some degree, even with his irritating character, the protagonist starts to come into his own. He’s still not that likeable, but at least what is after him is even less likeable.

The film suffers in a few ways. I don’t think Ezra Godden, who plays Paul, is that good. The scripting of his character is variable, but even when it’s good it often feels like he plays it wrong. The best performance comes from Francisco Rabal, and it’s a testament to him as an actor that he’s so good even though he’s hard to understand as he struggles with the English dialogue.

Macarena Gómez is quite good. She has a nicely unusual face, and plays her part quite well. The film also uses computer graphics to achieve some moments, but sensibly uses them sparingly, and to good effect.

While it gets some things wrong, once it gets up to speed it does a fair job of carrying the audience along with it, even when it gets slightly silly. Bad things happen, and no-one comes out of it too well. There’s some gore, but it is nowhere near as horrible as the situation. Not to everyone’s taste, but certainly it captures the tone of hopelessness and and unknowable horror well.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Adventure in Space and Time, and Day of the Doctor

After dreading The Day of the Doctor because of Steven Moffat’s highly variable writing, I have to say I was very happy with it.  It’s a solid 8 out of 10 from me, which means it’s good.  It was fun, and humourous, and not overwrought or full of false drama.

An Adventure In Space and Time is harder for me to rate.  I know the history of that period fairly well.  And I really know about how the role of the Doctor changed Hartnell, brought so much joy to him, and also how he struggled.  And all that is captured so beautifully by the writing of Mark Gatiss and the acting of David Bradley.

So it’s hard for me to rate because I had to, literally, stop the vid at least seven times as I bawled uncontrollably.  Seriously, I was a giant mess.  Most of that crying was at the sweetness and kindness shown to Hartnell, and a bit was at those heartbreaking moments when you knew an ill and insecure man was about to be hurt.

In all honesty, I have never had any film affect me as deeply as this one.  I typed the last paragraph and this one with tears in my eyes at the memory of it.

So, I think it may be a 9 or a 10 out of 10, but I’ll need to rewatch it first and I’m not sure I’m quite up to it again yet.

But I will rewatch both, because it’s become obvious I need to run through references and Easter Eggs for people.  Not sure when I’ll get them done, though I’ll try to get to them as soon as I can.

Here’s just a couple…

In The Day of the Doctor, when the character of the Doctor is getting described, there is at least one quote from the 1972 book, “The Making of Doctor Who” by Terrance Dicks and Malcolm Hulke – “He is never cruel or cowardly.”

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Glass Daleks, everlasting matches, and a car crash on a dark night – this book has it all.

Also, the very start of An Adventure In Space and Time has Hartnell pulling up on Barnes Common on a dark and foggy night, and pausing to look at a real police box.  In the very first Doctor Who book, “Doctor Who in an Exciting Adventure with the Daleks,” David Whitaker tells a different version of how Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright meet the Doctor and Susan. And it all happens on Barnes Common, on a dark and foggy night.

The opening location from Adventure in Space and Time is also replicated for The Day of the Doctor.  It’s not the same location (I thought it was but closer inspection showed houses in the background of the Hartnell scene), but they’ve gone for as close a match as possible.  It’s way too close to be a coincidence.

There were many other references, of course, so I’ll get on it.  But until I do, I’ll try to finish my edit of the Series Six Moffat’s Master Plan article within the next few days to hold you over.

City of the Living Dead

City of the Living Dead (AKA Gates of Hell) – 7/10

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD-POSTER 3 BY SILVERFOX

My first Italian cosmic horror. It has some obvious Lovecraft inspiration, given the name of the main town is Dunwich, but it’s very much its own thing. Whether or not you’ll like that thing is really a matter of taste.

Probably the most problematic aspect of City of the Living Dead for many people is it feels very disjointed. Seriously, things occasionally seem to happen for no other reason than they do, which at times means you’ll get a scene like the one where a zombie gets stabbed in the stomach and dies. I love surreal film-making, but even I had some issues with this. There doesn’t seem to be any logic to a chunk of it.

That said, this aspect is sort of in keeping with one of the concepts brought up with cosmic horror – we don’t understand or know what’s going on. I think it would be up to the individual viewer to figure out for themselves whether Lucio Fulci understood the background logic to why things occur or not. I’m guessing not. And honestly, once you get used to the disjointed nature of the film, I’m not sure that matters.

For me, I found the chopping and changing actually started to make me feel uneasy. It was a good enough film that I was involved, but I had no freaking idea what was going to happen next. There are many films where this would annoy me, but somehow here it worked to build tension.

It’s also quite a gruesome film with sequences that are fairly over the top. As an ex-meatworker I know offal, so when a character starts to vomit guts and the odd internal organ, I can tell they’ve used the real thing. Also a scene with literally thousands of maggots makes no sense, but is a hard watch because it goes on way past where it would be comfortable, and they’ve obviously used real maggots for all of it, including the ones spirit-gummed to actors’ faces.

Full credit to the bleeding eye effect, too. Never seen it done before in the way it’s handled in this film, and it really is quite effective. Took me a few minutes to figure out how they did it.

Sound design is also a feature of this one. Being 80s Italian I’m assuming, and it certainly sounds, like all the audio is dubbed on later. This does two things. It makes everything sound just a little off, and it means that the howls, screeches, and sloppy, squelchy noises are very loud and distinct, only adding to the dream-like nature of things.

All up, definitely not a film for everyone. I’m not sure I’d watch it again, but it still makes me feel uneasy, surely the hallmark of a good horror film. The ending… is in keeping with the rest of the film. It may not be satisfying, but given some things stated within the movie, it makes a kind of sense, albeit in a disjointed way.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.