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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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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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The Intruder (El Prófugo)

Director – Natalia Meta – 2020 – Argentina, Mexico – Cert. – 95m

***1/2

A woman moves between dreams and reality as she starts to fear that a foreign entity may be taking her over – on BFI Player as part of the BFI London Film Festival 2020 from 20.30 Monday, October 12th to 20.30 Thursday, October 15th

This opens with a close up of a woman’s body bound in bondage gear. She speaks in Japanese and then somewhat disorientatingly (as if this disturbing imagery hadn’t already thrown you enough) in a different voice in Spanish. Voice actress Inés (Erica Rivas) is working in a dubbing theatre. “More powerful, Inés”, says the man in the booth. After a take or two more, he’s got what he needed and they move on to the next clip.

The film’s a bit like that. The opening is representative of what is to follow: a series of bravura and often disturbing sequences that suck you in and make you wonder exactly where the film will end up. As the sequences build, one on another, I was fully expecting this to be a five star review. Alas, the film didn’t seem to know how to end and the final scene, which needed to somehow pull everything together and make sense of the larger whole, quite simply didn’t.… Read the rest

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Foreboding (Yocho, 予兆 散歩する侵略者)

Director – Kiyoshi Kurosawa – 2017 – Japan – 140m

*****

Loving the alien. Again. Japanese director reshapes his earlier Before We Vanish into an effective drama which plays out as an edge of the seat, sci-fi alien invasion thriller – from the London East Asia Film Festival (LEAFF) 2018

This is not exactly a remake, not exactly a reboot, not exactly a sequel. Most definitely a companion piece, though, and arguably the more effective of the two movies. And apparently, an edit of the director’s five-part series for Japanese satellite station Wowow, although it feels like a (well over two hours long) standalone feature. Kiyoshi Kurosawa revisits Before We Vanish / Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (2017) for another story about the aliens clad in human bodies who steal concepts from people’s minds by touching a finger to a forehead E.T. (Steven Spielberg, 1982) style prior to a full scale invasion of Earth.

Where previously the director took the material and threw a cornucopia of different elements at it, this time round his efforts feel much more thought through and the resultant film far more consistent overall – a creepy and unsettling sci-fi paranoia thriller grounded in compelling, character-driven human drama.

Kurosawa builds his reinvented narrative round shop floor worker Etsuko (Kaho) whose friend Miyuki is going mad because of the strange presence in her home.… Read the rest