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Showing posts from November, 2012

Audiodrome #12: Vertigo

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In keeping with Paracinema's Hitchcock Appreciation Month, this month's instalment of Audiodrome focuses on Bernard Herrmann's mesmerising score for Vertigo (1958). Hitchcock's classic tells of a retired acrophobic detective - played by Jimmy Stewart - investigating the strange activities of a friend's young wife. As he becomes completely bewitched by her, the film becomes a haunting rumination on the concept of obsession.

Of the score, Martin Scorsese commented: "Hitchcock's film is about obsession, which means that it's about circling back to the same moment, again and again … And the music is also built around spirals and circles, fulfilment and despair. Herrmann really understood what Hitchcock was going for — he wanted to penetrate to the heart of obsession."

Head over to Paracinema.net to read my review of Herrmann's masterful score and listen to an excerpt. While you're there, why not revel in all the appreciation of The Master and…

F

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2010
Dir. Johannes Roberts

A number of teachers and pupils staying late in a suburban school are menaced by murderous youths.

The problems faced by teachers in British schools have been fairly ubiquitous in mainstream media for a number of years now. As well as having to contend with an overwhelming abundance of bureaucracy and red tape on a daily basis, in increasingly extreme cases they’re also having to deal with violence from pupils and parents. A number of cases have been well publicised in British newspapers, as have instances involving desperate teachers snapping and turning on their students. To ensure I don’t digress into a rant, just go here to read about the trials and tribulations facing those in the teaching profession today.

F, along with a number of recent similarly themed films such as Eden Lake and Cherry Tree Lane, as well as the French home invasion shocker Ills, and the American slow-burner The Strangers, highlight how the media’s depiction of a wayward generation …

Cry of the Banshee

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1970
Dir. Gordon Hessler

In his attempts to purge his town-land of witchcraft and heresy, a tyrannical ‘n’ puritanical magistrate picks the wrong coven to mess with. After he massacres her followers, local witch Oona invokes a curse upon the magistrate’s family and before long, they are gruesomely picked off by a ravenous beastie…

Cry of the Banshee is an intriguing, if not always entirely successful, hybrid of occult horror shenanigans and werewolf slasher flick. Hanging heavy with an eerie, doom-laden atmosphere, it revisits, and arguably rehashes, the story of Witchfinder General - made two years prior - in its tale of a merciless magistrate offing members of his community he believes to be guilty of witchcraft. It certainly revels in the same sadistic violence as its predecessor and boasts floggings, fiery brandings and buxom wenches burnt at the stake as witches. Opening with a young woman being forced to confess her dalliances in the occult as the pious Lord Edward Whitman (Vinc…

Terror Train

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1980
Dir. Roger Spottiswoode

A group of college kids responsible for a prank gone wrong several years prior, are menaced by a masked killer as they throw a New Year’s Eve costume party on-board a train.

The early Eighties is now regarded as the Golden Age of the American slasher film. From 1978 to about 1985, cinemas were saturated with gory flicks featuring masked psychos stalking nubile teenagers in lonely locations, gruesomely killing them off one by one. The popularity of these movies was ignited by John Carpenter’s Halloween, and their rigid template was confirmed by Friday the 13th. Each successive title layered on the violence, gore and nudity, neglecting to realise that what made Carpenter’s film so effective was its use of suspense and the anticipation of violence.

Terror Train was one of the first slashers to cash in on Halloween’s success. It epitomises the sub-genre, sticking to its conventions as tightly as Jamie Lee Curtis clinging to a knife for dear life. Everything as…

Friday Night Frights Podcast

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Friday Night Frights is the Official Starburst Magazine Horror Podcast. It’s brought to you each week by Jon Towlson of Shocks to the System: Subversive Horror Films, who recently invited me to join him for a chat about Dario Argento.

Our conversation covers Argento’s entire career, from his beginnings as a film critic and screenwriter, and his international success with the likes of Deep Red and Suspiria, through his recent critical decline and current offerings such as Giallo and the forthcoming Dracula 3D; we cover the lot!

Head over to Starburst’s online lair to listen to/download the podcast.

Interview With Éric Falardeau, Director Of Thanatomorphose

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In his existentialist tome The Sickness Unto Death, Christian philosopher Søren Kierkegaard stated that the human concept of death marks ‘the end’, whereas in Christian faith it is merely a necessary step towards eternal life, and therefore nothing to fear. Kierkegaard goes on to suggest that when an individual is ‘in despair’ – something which is born out of denying God or God’s plan - he loses himself and risks spiritual death, which the philosopher describes as ‘Sickness unto Death.’

It’s these very themes that are addressed in Éric Falardeau’s debut feature film, the uncompromising and haunting Thanatomorphose; the title of which comes from the French term meaning the ‘visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death.’ The bleak tale of a young woman who awakens one day to find her body has begun to decay, Thanatomorphose not only features staggeringly visceral imagery, but also unfurls as a deeply personal and thoughtful film. Throughout its duration Falardeau poses …

American Mary

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2012
Dirs. Jen and Sylvia Soska

Following on from their low-budget but exuberant debut Dead Hooker in a Trunk, the Soska sisters’ sophomore offering is a darkly sexy and wholly unsettling tale of an impoverished medical student who finds herself lured into the bizarre underground world of illegal surgery and extreme body modification. Unfurling as an intriguing character study, American Mary is a much more refined and mature film than Dead Hooker, though it still retains the jet-black humour and off-the-wall tone the filmmakers are quickly becoming known for. Part body horror, part rape-revenge, part black-comedy, the various sub-genres the filmmakers utilise and dabble in to tell their tale are swirled into one highly distinctive and provocative whole.

From the opening moments depicting Mary (Katherine Isabelle, Ginger Snaps) practising her surgical skills on raw chicken flesh, to the various characters who later enlist her talents to alter their physical appearance, the emphasis in…

Tulpa

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2012
Dir. Federico Zampaglione

With his sophomore film Shadow, Federico Zampaglione – Italy’s answer to Rob Zombie – made a concerted bid to breathe new life into Italian horror cinema. While Shadow may have been more influenced by the current slew of ultra-violent ‘torture-porn’ films than Italy’s own distinct brand of bygone horror, it still emerged as an atmospheric and taut exercise in grim tension, with Zampaglione infusing it with enough of his own sensibilities to keep it surprisingly original. With follow up Tulpa, the director has attempted to create a contemporary giallo that is so faithful to its lineage it arguably borders on parody. Based on a story by Dardano Sacchetti, who wrote/co-wrote the likes of Cat O' Nine Tails (1971), Bay of Blood (1971), Schock (1981), The New York Ripper (1982) and A Blade in the Dark (1983) amongst many others, Tulpa is the lurid tale of Lisa Boeri (Claudia Gerini), a respectable businesswoman who secretly frequents a private sex club in…

Thanatomorphose

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2012
Dir. Éric Falardeau

A young woman awakens one day to find her flesh beginning to rot…

The title of this unsettling low-budget film comes from the French word meaning the ‘visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death.’ Moodily shot and with very little dialogue, Falardeau’s feature debut is an unsettling rumination on the fragility of the flesh, and an uncompromising exploration of the dark realm where sex and death interlock. With it’s rather Cronenbergian concept of someone essentially trapped inside their own body as it rots away before their eyes, Thanatomorphose boasts an unflinching ‘body horror’ narrative that doesn’t shy away from depicting all manner of disturbing imagery and worrying ideas.

The plot, so to speak, follows a nameless young woman’s downward spiral into madness, as her already seemingly fragile mental state begins to unwind as her body decomposes. Kayden Rose delivers a suitably detached performance that enhances her character’s dissociative …