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Tremors

Director – Ron Underwood – 1990 – US – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

Review from TNT magazine, June 1990, republished here on the death of actor Fred Ward, May 2022

If Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) was Jaws In Outer Space, Tremors is Jaws In The Nevada Desert. As such, the film represents a return to the production values of the desert bound sci-fi of fifties alien invasion staple It Came From Outer Space (Jack Arnold, 1953). In place of the shark from Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) is a species of malevolent giant worm which burrows under the earth like something out of Frank Herbert’s Dune (most recent version: Denis Villeneuve, 2021).

It’s never explained where these monsters have come from, but then you tend not to worry about such things when one of them is about to knock down your home. Hapless victims disappear into sudden holes formed in the sand like a rerun of Blood Beach (Jeffrey Bloom, 1980); then muppet-like snakes grab people, bite them, and tug them under the ground, finally the full-grown beasties get to attack.

Producer-writers Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson plunder numerous other sources too, but the emerging whole is infinitely better than the sum of its parts.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies Shorts

Memories (Memorizu, メモリーズ)

1/ Magnetic Rose (Kanojo no Omoide, 彼女の想いで)

2/ Stink Bomb (Saishu Heiki, 最臭兵器)

3/ Cannon Fodder (Taiho no Machi, 大砲の街)

Directors

– 1/ Koji Morimoto, 2/ Tensai Okamura, 3/ Katsuhiro Otomo

– 1995 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 113m

*****

Executive producer Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime anthology adapts three of his dystopian-themed manga stories into animation – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

The film that made Otomo’s name and the one with which he’s most frequently associated is Akira (1988). It wasn’t his first film, though. Previously, he was one of nine directors who collaborated on the uneven portmanteau Robot Carnival (1987), a compendium of different animated stories based around robots of various types. One of the other directors was Koji Morimoto.

Memories is loosely similar – it only has three stories (and three directors), allowing each of the segments a bit more room. Its three episodes are very different yet perfectly complement each other. Otomo directed the third section Cannon Fodder.

Parts of the roughly two hour Akira drag, while Otomo’s later Steamboy (2004) gets lost within a massive set piece after a near perfect opening first reel or so.… Read the rest

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In Fabric

Director – Peter Strickland – 2018 – UK – Cert. 15 – 118m

*****

A red dress bought from and returned to a department store wreaks terrible fates on serial owners in a film much stranger and more worthwhile than it sounds – now on MUBI and Curzon Home Cinema

A wildly inventive and unashamedly British affair, Strickland’s latest film mixes tacky 1970s aesthetics with several workplaces – a department store, a personal loans company and a washing machine repair firm. Clothing emporium Dentley & Soper is run on a series of arcane regulations, obedience to the seemingly arbitrary rules for conduct of personnel at Waingel’s Bank is encouraged by smarmy middle management types Stash and Clive (Julian Barrett and Steve Oram) while washing machine repair firm Slaverton’s Wash insists any personnel who mend their own machines must do so on the firm’s books.

Although the film is constructed on the portmanteau template used in many horror films, whether it’s a horror movie as such rather than a very strange and stylish arthouse movie is open to debate. Loosely linked narratives are woven around serial characters – Waingel’s employee Sheila (Marianne Jean-Baptiste), Slaverton’s repair man Reg Speaks (Leo Bill) and his fiancée Babs (Hayley Squires).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Europa

Director – Haider Rashid – 2021 – Iraq, Italy, Kuwait – Cert. 12a – 75 m

****

A young Iraqi migrant is hunted by mercenaries after he crosses the Turkish/Bulgarian border – out in cinemas and on demand on Friday, March 18th

A number of movies hang over this bold adventure thriller about Kamal (Adam Ali), a young Iraqi migrant who after crossing from Turkey into Bulgaria finds himself hunted by paramilitaries with guns and balaclavas. One is the gothic classic The Most Dangerous Game / The Hounds Of Zaroff (Irving Pichel, Ernest B.Schoedsack, 1932) in which the passengers of a luxury liner shipwrecked on an island find themselves in a deadly relationship with the big game hunter who lives there. The others are much more recent. Utøya July 22 (Erik Poppe, 2018) is a one take recreation of the Utøya teen camp Summer massacre in which kids attempted to survive a rampaging gunman while Son Of Saul (László Nemes, 2015) follows a Jewish worker-prisoner around a Nazi death camp.

The connection with The Most Dangerous Game may actually be coincidental rather than deliberate, since what inspired Rashid was stories of real life migrants’ experiences. The locations are a Bulgarian woods not a constructed Hollywood jungle set, yet it fits neatly into that lineage.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Shape Of Water

Loving the alien

The Shape Of Water
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Certificate 15, 123 minutes
Released 14 February 2018

There’s a tradition in horror films and fairytales that the monster is bad. The Shape Of Water is a fairytale that features a monster (Doug Jones) who is viewed very differently by different characters. To the military security man, Strickland (Michael Shannon), it’s an affront to the image of God, in which man is created, which must be brutally subdued. To the scientist and Russian agent, Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), he’s an intelligent being from whom our species has much to learn and who should be kept alive at all costs and treated with respect – rather than killed and dissected as the authorities suggest. And to the mute cleaning lady, Elisa (Sally Hawkins), who subsequently falls in love with him, he’s someone who responds to hard-boiled eggs and Benny Goodman records, and sees her for herself rather than for her so-called disability… [read more]

Read the full review in Reform, February 2018.

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Woman Of Fire (Hwanyeo, 화녀)

Director – Kim Ki-young – 1971 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 98m

*****

A married couple’s housemaid seduces the husband, ensnaring him in a love triangle from which there is no escape – 4K Restoration played at the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) (European Premiere) and screens again 6.30 at the ICA on Friday, November 5th book here as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung (Best Supporting Actress, Minari) at the London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young is probably better known for his breakthrough film The Housemaid (1960) than any other title. Not only did the film establish him as a maker of dark films about twisted relationships, it also inaugurated something of his trademark style. While a real watershed in Korean cinema generally and Kim’s career in particular, the material was something he felt he could do a lot more with: he remade it directly not once but twice as Woman Of Fire (1971) and Woman Of Fire ‘82 (1982). Where the highly effective original was shot in both black and white and the old 4:3 Academy format, the two remakes like many of his later films were both colour and scope, and made full use of both, giving them additional qualities lacking in the original.… Read the rest

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

Director – Don Siegel – 1956 – US – Cert. PG – 80m

*****

The classic, paranoid SF outing about the residents of a small, American town being replaced by conformist, emotionless duplicates – on BFI Blu-ray from Monday, October 25th

This is an incomplete review, currently in progress…

Made in the middle of Hollywood’s 1950s B-movie Sci-Fi boom, this movie was made by Don Siegel who previously made hard-boiled crime thrillers after cutting his teeth as an editor of montage sequences in, among other things, Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, 1942) with a striking script and a strong cast headed by Kevin McCarthy and, in her first starring role, Dana Wynter, which also includes Carolyn Jones who would later achieve fame playing Morticia Addams in The Addams Family TV series (creator David Levy, 1964).

Based on a Colliers Magazine serial by Jack Finney, it’s built around the highly potent idea of human beings being replaced by emotionless duplicates who operate as a communal whole rather than individual people. It’s often been read as a metaphor for the anti-Communist McCarthy witch hunts of the period, but as noted in the fascinating documentary Sleep No More, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers Revisited (2006), the left thought it was a satire on the right while the right thought it was a satire on the left.… Read the rest

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Censor

Director – Prano Bailey-Bond – 2021 – UK – Cert. – 84m

****

In the 1980s so-called ‘video nasties’ era, a BBFC examiner increasingly confuses horror films with reality – on MUBI from Sunday, October 31st

A peculiarly British film in that it pertains to the way so-called ‘video nasties’ were dealt with by the UK censor in the 1980s. With the rise of video technology, a legal loophole meant that while cinema films were given a certificate by the UK censor, films released straight to video were not. A number of horror films far more violent and bloody than the censor would allow for cinema exhibition thus found their way onto VHS videotape, into video stores and onto the nation’s home TV screens via the video player.

Sections of the UK press ran stories of ‘video nasties’ suggesting that seeing such videos would corrupt children and impressionable members of society. One or two Tory MPs campaigned for changes to the law, resulting in the 1984 Video Recordings Act. Now videos came under the BBFC’s remit (it changed its name from the British Board Of Film Censors to the British Board Of Film Classification) and video titles were examined then passed, passed with cuts or banned.… Read the rest

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Death, Desire And Rat Poison

An introduction to the films of Korea’s late and, lamentably, largely unknown director Kim Ki‑young – originally published in Manga Max, Number 8, July 1999. Reprinted here to coincide with London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF)’s screening of Woman Of Fire (1971) on Friday, October 29th. If you missed it, the restoration screens again on Friday, November 5th as part of a strand dedicated to actress Youn Yuh-jung at London Korean Film Festival (LKFF) which runs from Thursday, November 4th to Friday, November 19th

Kim Ki-young

It seems unthinkable that the world could have failed to recognise a director whose 2.35:1 widescreen visuals compare favourably with Seijun Suzuki and John Boorman and whose marriage of technique with subject matter is as terrifying as anything by Dario Argento or Alfred Hitchcock. Nevertheless, when 1997’s Pusan International Film Festival (PIFF) ran a retrospective season of films by Kim Ki-young (the first of a proposed series of annual events showcasing Korean directors) it quickly became clear to astonished audiences that the unthinkable had indeed happened. Sadly, on February 4th 1998 – within six months of his new-found international acclaim – Kim and his wife died in a fire in Korean capital Seoul.… Read the rest

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Throne Of Blood (Kumonosu-jo)

Director – Akira Kurosawa – 1957 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 110m

*****

Plays in the BFI Japan 2021 season October / November at BFI Southbank. Also currently streaming on BFI Player as part of the Japan programme alongside 21 other Kurosawa films together with a much wider selection of Japanese movies.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most familiar plays. In 1957, Kurosawa reworked it against the backdrop of feudal, 16th Century Japan. Ascendant samurai Washizu (Toshiro Mifune) and Miki (Minoru Chiaki) hear from an old crone at a spinning wheel in the forest that Washizu will become Lord of Cobweb Castle, later to be succeeded by Miki’s son. Washizu’s wife Asaji (Isuzu Yamada, her face rigidly fixed in Noh mask poses) preys on his insecurities to convince Washizu to murder his way to the top. Slayings, ghost sightings, hand washing and his demise duly ensue.

Not only does Kurosawa jettison all Shakespeare’s dialogue, he also makes the material thoroughly his own even while remaining true to its essence. For instance, when Washizu, eating in public, sees Miki’s ghost, Mifune with the camera following him starts running around like a man possessed, slashing wildly at an unseen apparition.… Read the rest