Monday, 4 May 2015

Discopath

2013
Dir. Renaud Gauthier

Disco isn't dead, but you just might be!

With its admittedly ludicrous plot concerning the bloody exploits of a serial killer whose rampage is triggered when he hears disco music, Discopath unspools as a soiled love letter to grindhouse exploitation shockers such as Maniac, The New York Ripper, Pieces and Don’t Go in the House.

With its retro-sleaze appeal, trashy aesthetic, low budget charm, practical FX and vintage-sounding synth score, it perfectly emulates the creepy, gritty atmospheres of those psycho-on-the-loose flicks of yore, while also echoing exuberantly violent Eurohorrors such as the Italian giallo.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Herd

2014
Dir. Melanie Light

The Herd is an unshirkingly brutal, vegan-minded short which serves as a chilling metaphor for the inhumane treatment of cattle at the hands of the dairy industry.

Hundreds of millions of these sentient creatures suffer and die every year as their bodies are treated like machines. Forcefully impregnated so they produce milk, they are pumped full of growth hormones to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk, and antibiotics to combat constant mastitis infections. When they are no longer able to lactate, they are destroyed.

The Herd substitutes women for cattle and subjects them to the same horrendous processes as the average dairy cow as it delves into the everyday horrors of the dairy industry…

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

See No Evil 2

2014
Dirs. Jen & Sylvia Soska

Slasher films are infamous for instigating a seemingly unending chain of sequels. Cynically speaking, slasher sequels are generally inferior titles that simply rehash the plot of the original in a desperate bid to capitalise on its success. Speaking as the owner of various slasher franchise boxsets, a few sequels can surpass expectations and actually enhance the impact of the original, fleshing out characters, exploring back stories and expanding mythos.

Of all the slasher films you’d expect to spawn a sequel - and a rather belated one at that - See No Evil (2006) probably wouldn’t be high on your list. A conventional, if rather unremarkable affair, it featured WWE star Kane (Glen Jacobs) as a reclusive psychopath brutally murdering a group of delinquents who, as part of their community service, are sent to clean up the old abandoned hotel he resides in. While commercially successful, it was essentially a re-run of old slasher conventions, grimed up with an urban setting, juvenile delinquents and Kane making a bid to become a new slasher icon. While it didn’t particularly warrant a sequel, it got one. And a pretty decent one at that, with a surprisingly good cast (Katherine Isabelle! Kaj Erik-Erikson! Danielle Harris!) and effective direction courtesy of the Soska sisters.

See No Evil 2 might stick closely to the slasher formula, as its pretty teens are violently dispatched by a hulking psychopath in a sprawling underground morgue staffed by a graveyard shift skeleton crew (Erik-Erikson and Harris), but with the Soska sisters at the helm, at least it has fun while doing so. Sadly, the Soskas weren’t responsible for writing the script - which lacks their unique panache - but they were able to revise it and convince the producers to let them tweak a few aspects. As such, they play around with conventional gender roles, throw in a few twists - adding some oddball charm and dark humour - and lead us to a surprisingly bleak denouement with unexpected pathos. While things are fairly lighthearted to begin with - cheeky references to American Mary and grim foreshadowing abound as the camera lingers on various medical instruments throughout the opening credits - as soon as the stalking and slashing commences, the Soskas prove utterly astute in ratcheting up tension, particularly during a number of taut chase sequences, and maintaining a suitably stark and creepy atmosphere.



Unlike many of its kind, See No Evil 2 is a slasher sequel with a group of rather likeable characters the audience is inclined to root for, particularly Kaj Erik-Erikson as Seth, the aforementioned Katherine Isabelle, who delivers a particularly gonzo, highly strung performance and is one of best things about the film, and the ever reliable Danielle Harris, who can by now do this sort of thing without even thinking. As Jacob Goodnight, Kane proves to be a formidable antagonist with all the makings of a classic slasher villain, right down to his stiflingly religious upbringing (explored through various flashbacks) - which taps into that old moral conservatism slashers are famed for - and his startlingly violent crusade to cleanse society of the ‘morally corrupt’ who, in this case, are a group of friends gathered at a morgue for a surprise birthday party.

With echoes of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, See No Evil 2 picks up immediately after the events of the previous film, the same night in fact, and its murderous villain is similarly revived in a morgue, setting the scene for a brutal killing spree. Unlike the aforementioned slasher sequels however, the remainder of See No Evil 2 actually plays out in this creepy setting and it doesn’t just serve as a prelude to the villain making his way back to a favoured stomping ground, a la Haddonfield or Crystal Lake. It’s a seriously creepy backdrop and, with its shadowy, labyrinthine hallways, is milked for all it's worth to enhance the atmosphere.

As a Soska sisters' film it’s not quite in the same league as their previous titles, particularly American Mary, but its an interesting slasher sequel that’s a cut above its predecessor and further evidence (if any was needed) that the Soskas are emerging as two of genre cinema's most interesting filmmakers. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

2014
Dirs. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

A documentary crew follows the bemusing exploits of a group of house-sharing vampires in this charming, oddly heart-warming comedy-horror from New Zealanders Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement.

From arguing over the cleaning rota and attempting to gain entry to the most hip and happening nightspots, to deciding what should be done about the dead vampire hunter in the basement, the utter banality of the situations the misfits find themselves in, renders their attempts to integrate with the outside world infectiously humorous.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

And remember, "We're werewolves, not swearwolves!" 

Saturday, 28 March 2015

In Conversation with Disasterpeace

It Follows is the insidiously creepy tale of a young woman who becomes the target of a relentless supernatural stalker after she has sex with her boyfriend. The intensely atmospheric electronic score - courtesy of San Francisco-based Rich Vreeland, aka Disasterpeace - is one of the most distinctive horror scores in recent memory, and was described by one critic as sounding “as if [John] Carpenter had Trent Reznor around to score Halloween back in 1978.”

Rich very kindly took the time to have a chat with me about, amongst other things, composing the score for It Follows, video games, horror films, musical influences, Adventure Time and more.

Head over to Paracinema to read the interview and listen to some of the creepy score. 

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Devil's Advocates Presents 'Suspiria'

Devil's Advocates is a book series devoted to exploring the classics of horror cinema. Contributors to Devil's Advocates come from the worlds of academia, journalism and fiction, but all have one thing in common: a passion for the horror film and for sharing that passion.

Each instalment delves into a specific horror film, exploring everything from its conception to its impact on genre cinema and wider popular culture. Titles thus far include Let the Right One In by Anne Billson, Witchfinder General by Ian Cooper, SAW by Benjamin Poole, The Descent by James Marriott and Carrie by Neil Mitchell.

Excitingly, a forthcoming addition to the series will peer into Dario Argento’s occult classic, Suspiria. Author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas is a visiting fellow at the Institute of Social Research at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Her other books include Rape-Revenge Films: A Critical Study (McFarland, 2011) and Found Footage Horror Films: Fear and the Appearance of Reality (McFarland, 2013). Here’s what Alexandra says about Suspiria and what we can expect from her forthcoming book…

As one of the most globally recognisable instances of 20th century Eurohorror, Dario Argento's Suspiria (1976) is poetic, chaotic, and intriguing. The cult reputation of Argento's baroque nightmare is reflected in the critical praise it continues to receive almost 40 years after its original release, and it appears regularly on lists of the greatest horror films ever. For fans and critics alike, Suspiria is as mesmerising as it is impenetrable: the impact of Argento's notorious disinterest in matters of plot and characterisation combines with Suspiria's aggressive stylistic hyperactivity to render it a movie that needs to be experienced through the body as much as through emotion or the intellect. For its many fans, Suspiria is synonymous with European horror more broadly, and Argento himself is by far the most famous of all the Italian horror directors. If there was any doubt of his status as one of the great horror auteurs, Argento's international reputation was solidified well beyond the realms of cult fandom in the 1990s with retrospectives at both the American Museum of the Moving Image and the British Film Institute. This book considers the complex ways that Argento weaves together light, sound and cinema history to construct one of the most breathtaking horror movies of all time, a film as fascinating as it is ultimately unfathomable.  

You can pre-order a copy here, and keep up to date with Alexandra here. For further information on Devil’s Advocates, go here

Monday, 16 March 2015

Starry Eyes

2014
Kevin Kolsch & Dennis Widmyer

And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Starry Eyes is a powerful, deeply unsettling rumination on the cost of fame and stardom and the monstrous things desperately ambitious people are prepared to do in order to obtain it.

Unfurling as a blood-dark character study, the narrative follows Sarah (Alexandra Essoe), a young, eager-to-prove-herself Hollywood actress whose encounter with a sinister production company sends her reeling downwards into a harrowing maelstrom of despair, madness, diabolism and body-horror, as she attempts to make her dreams of fame a reality. At any cost.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

13th Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards


The Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award nominations have just been announced. Now in their thirteenth year, the awards honour ‘the best in classic horror research, creativity and film preservation.’ Much to my surprise and delight, I’ve been nominated (for a second time) for an award in the Best Article category. The article, 'Family Man' (a look at Tobe Hooper’s meaty representations of the family unit in all its deadly, dysfunctional and dynamic forms), was published in issue 20 of Diabolique Magazine in March/April, 2014.


If you feel like it, please vote for me. You can vote for as many or as few nominees/categories as you like.

Check out all the nominees here.

Please also consider voting for these fine folks; then just copy and paste the below into an email to taraco@aol.com. Remember to include your name to ensure your vote counts. Polls close at midnight on Sunday 19th April. Good luck, everyone!

11. BEST BOOK OF 2014 - SUBVERSIVE HORROR CINEMA: Countercultural Messages of Films from Frankenstein to the Present, by Jon Towlson (McFarland, softcover, 256 pages, $45). Brings insight and social analysis to films rare and familiar.

12. BEST MAGAZINE OF 2014 - Paracinema

13. BEST ARTICLE (Please select two; one will win) – ‘Family Man’ by James Gracey, DIABOLIQUE #20. How the films of Tobe Hooper disrupted the traditional film family.

Please also consider voting for ‘Lady Impunity’ by Max Weinstein, DIABOLIQUE #22. The blood-filled legacy of the life of Countess Elizabeth Bathory.

15. BEST ALL-AROUND ISSUE – DIABOLIQUE #22: Dark side of feminine horror, from Carmilla to childbirth to Bathory.

17. BEST COVER - DIABOLIQUE #22 by Robert Aragon.