<![CDATA[Ginger Nuts of Horror - FILM REVIEWS]]>Tue, 23 Jan 2018 12:16:24 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[TV REVIEW: REQUIEM (BBC 1)]]>Mon, 22 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/tv-review-requiem-bbc-1
requiem bbc supernatural drama
The BBC has had numerous successes with dark dramas centred around family secrets and the weight of the past haunting the present day.  However, these dramas have always had both feet firmly planted in the realms of reality, as dark and twisted as they may be their sense of dread and tension always came from the actions of the mundane world that we all know so well.  While it could be argued that many of those past dramas could be classed as horror, the creators were never brave enough to go "full horror", until now.  

Lydia Wilson stars as Matilda, a talented young cellist, whose life is turned upside down minutes before the most important concert of her career. Looking for answers to a mystery that has been buried in her family Lydia travels to a Welsh town determined to unravel why she is connected to the tragic disappearance of a toddler 23 years ago.  

Requiem, airing on 02 Feb on BBC1,  is just what fans of horror and supernatural drama have been waiting for.  Written and created by Kris Mrksa Requiem wastes no time in setting the tone for the rest of the series with a compelling opening scene filled with ghostly going ons and hints of long-buried secrets.  On the surface, the opening scene to Requiem could easily have been part of a Midsummers Murder episode; a landed gent dressed all in tweed falls to his death at his country mansion is something we have seen countless times before in cosy dramas.  However, the viewer is put in no doubt, thanks to an effective spooky handling of this opening scene; we are not in the safe and pleasant land of the traditional murder mystery.  

Drawing on the unground swell of interest in Folk Horror, Requiem successfully blends supernatural elements into the more traditional framework of a BBC drama; we have haunted mansions, secretive Welsh communities, long forgotten secrets, prophetic dreams, and hints at something stirring in the dark corners of the Welsh town.  

None of this may seem particularly original to the well-read or well-watched horror fan, and you will spot the references and influences in almost every scene, but this doesn't take away from the effectiveness of Requiem as a powerful and compelling drama.  Mrksa handling of these elements is assured and respectful of the genre, forgoing the typical route of jump scares galore, Mrksa has woven a tight story that prefers to find the scares from atmosphere and tone rather than loud bangs and faces jumping out of the shadows.  One scene involving Matilda's mother is particularly effective at invoking a sense of dread, and just when you think it is going to go one way (think red raincoat), Mrksa takes a sharp left turn to provide an unexpected shock.  It is these touches that lift the script from something that we have seen before into some fresh and captivating.  
Even his handling of the cliched insular village wary of outsiders is dealt with just enough originality to stop prevent the viewer from thinking that they have seen it all before.  Hopefully, Mrksa will continue this throught the subsequent episodes.  

Aiding the strong writing are two exceptional performances from the lead actors.  Lydia Wilson is a revelation, with her icy blonde hair and fragile looks she is the perfect modern-day successor to the Hammer Horror heroines.  Her performance as a woman whose life has been shattered is exceptional, a strong and convincing one filled with subtle layers.  

While Lydia's performance is exceptional, it is Joel Fry's turn as Hal that is the real eye-opener.  Having only ever seen him in comedic roles such as Plebs, you cold, like myself, be forgiven that he had a limited range as an actor, which is a shame as his rather good in here.  His role could easily have fallen the down the hole of comedy foil, and while he does provide light relief from the more emotionally intense scenes, he never overplays it, allowing Hal's relationship with Matilda to develop into a very natural and convincing friendship.  

Overlaying the script and acting performances is a wonderful
soundtrack filled with haunting cello music.  The music cues are pitch-perfect, hinting at what is to come without ever taking over from what is happening on the screen.  

Based on episode one Requiem is shaping up to be powerful, and chilling supernatural drama.  There are enough scares to please fans of horror, yet it handles it in such a way that it shouldn't put off those who think horror is a dirty word.  It's a hard thing to pull off, but Mrksa handles it with great success.  Shows like Requiem have sadly been missing from terrestrial Tv schedules for far too long; hopefully, based on the strength of this opening episode, it will mark the return of intelligent supernatural drama. 
The six-part series Requiem starts on BBC One on 02 February at 9pm.
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<![CDATA[MATRENOX REVIEWS: KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (1974-1975)]]>Wed, 17 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/matrenox-reviews-kolchak-the-night-stalker-1974-1975
This week  Youtube video reviewer Matrenox takes a look at Kolchak: The Night Stalker.  

Kolchak: The Night Stalker is an American television series that aired on ABC during the 1974–1975 season. It featured a fictional Chicago newspaper reporter—Carl Kolchak, played by Darren McGavin—who investigated mysterious crimes with unlikely causes, particularly those that law enforcement authorities would not follow up. These often involved the supernatural or science fiction, including fantastic creatures.

The series was preceded by two television movies, The Night Stalker (1972) and The Night Strangler (1973). Although the series lasted only a single season, it remains popular in syndication. In early 2017, until Labor Day 2017, it aired Sunday evenings on MeTV. It is often cited as the inspiration for the popular series The X-Files.[1] Following the success of The X-Files, the franchise was resurrected in 2005 in a second television series with a new cast and characters, as well as subsequent novels and comic books. It was a ratings bomb and was quietly cancelled after just 13 episodes were aired.

Matrenox is a Horror Reviewer, Writer, and Live Action Cartoon Based on YouTube.

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/matrenox

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MatrenoxReviews

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/matrenoxreviews/

I'm also on the Official Horror Amino App.
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<![CDATA[FILM REVIEW: ​Playground]]>Wed, 10 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/film-review-playgroundBy Joe X Young


​I have found that with horror films in particular there are so many excellent ones that people miss out on because they can’t be bothered with subtitled offerings due in some cases to the belief that there will be Hollywood remakes in English at some point. Although that’s a known quantity it’s not necessarily smart thinking because certain films are so much better in the original version. I think Playground stands very little chance of a remake as I doubt Hollywood would touch it, and I’m pretty sure that even the most twisted British film studios would also give this one a very wide berth if they want to remain in business as it states in the blurb that it is based on a terrifying true story, and although the film is Polish it is quite possible that they are referring to the notorious British murder case in 1993 in which Robert Thompson and Jon Venables brutally tortured and murdered two year old Jamie Bulger.

Playground has a rather mundane beginning, nicely showcasing the young stars of the film as they prepare to start the day in routine fashion and fairly normal surroundings. There’s a palpable sense of something seriously wrong here though with the three main characters being fleshed out in a believable fashion with one being a shy and plain little girl with a crush on her classmate, the object of her desire living with (and abusing) his disabled dad and the third one being his friend who is a bit of a rebel with a cruel streak who likes to film the stuff he does. Nothing outstandingly horrific happens for the first third of the film but there’s enough character development to suggest that when it kicks off it could be somewhat vicious.

The ‘End of Term graduation ceremonies’ are simple and straightforward, children winning prizes, mostly sitting around bored waiting for the teaching staff to finish talking. The end of term is perhaps the last chance the young girl has as she has fallen in love but wants to know if the boy feels the same way, so she arranges to meet him at some ruins. What happens next is masterful acting and unfortunately true to life. Without going into too much detail the object of her affection doesn’t feel the same way. He has his friend with him who films their encounter on a mobile phone. It’s nasty but mostly verbal bullying and the girl leaves more psychologically upset than physically harmed.

This is where things get seriously disturbing. When the girl leaves, the boys head off elsewhere, walking through the town where for some reason everyone is standing still and looking at them. They head off to a shopping mall, where they muck about for a bit, just loitering, but then they see a young boy sitting in a coin-op ride-on machine outside a shop. As with the Bulger case they abduct him, take him by railroad tracks and with gut-wrenching realism they kill him. It’s not filmed in a sensationalist manner, it’s all rather ‘matter of fact’, which adds to the horror as it’s all so routinely presented as to appear somehow normal, if something that evil ever could be.

Mercifully the murder of the child is shown at a reasonable distance so although you can clearly tell what is happening you don’t have the gore going on, so it’s not the ‘torture porn’ sort of scenario a lot of films use. The special effects team on this film are top notch, if I had just seen this particular footage and nothing else it would look as if someone caught a real murder on camera. It doesn’t go on for long, but it’s very disturbing stuff, which leads me to wonder why the film was made.

I know there’s an enormous market for gruesome stuff, I’m a fan of it, but sometimes there are Film Gutter offerings such as ‘Let the Right One In’, ‘The Human Centipede’ and ‘A Serbian Film’ to name a few, which can satisfy the darker desires while still remaining obvious entertainment. So I’m somewhat ripped in two by this because although well shot and definitely well-acted I cannot see any way in which Playground is entertainment. If anything I’d say it has more of a documentary feel to it.

I normally watch things three times, but with this film once is enough, so if watching a little boy being beaten to death is your sort of thing then you know what to do.


<![CDATA[MATRENOX REVIEWS: THE FLY (1958) VS THE FLY (1986)]]>Mon, 08 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/matrenox-reviews-the-fly-1958-vs-the-fly-1986
Ginger Nuts of Horror is proud to announce a new partnership with Youtube video reviewer Matrenox.  We shall be hosting a number of her informative video reviews over the coming weeks.  Today we present her comparative review of the 1958 version of The Fly against the 1986 remake.  
Matrenox is a Horror Reviewer, Writer, and Live Action Cartoon Based on YouTube.

Social Media links:




I'm also on the Official Horror Amino App.


<![CDATA[HORROR FILM REVIEW: ​THE RIZEN (2017)]]>Wed, 03 Jan 2018 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/horror-film-review-the-rizen-2017BY JOE X YOUNG 
Don’t, just don’t okay! Don’t do it, you’ll regret it, trust me, I wouldn’t lie to you.
It is 1955 and Frances Day is being dragged down a hallway by some lumbering brute whose head is entirely bandaged, she is semiconscious and coming around rapidly. Within the first few minutes things take a turn for the brutal with Francis fighting back, defeating her captor and smashing his head in with a rock, it seems as if she’s hitting him so hard and so often that it would be hard to believe there was anything left of his head.

As it is set in the 50s there’s some very clipped English being spoken, which may have sounded perfectly correct from a BBC newsreader back in the day, but now just comes across as comically theatrical. A quarter of an hour into the film it’s already set up a little bit of back story through flashbacks, some intrigue and the problematic amount of gore, I say problematic because the characters we meet thus far are unconvincing with Francis being joined by a Professor who can’t remember much of what’s going on and appears to be there as some sort of comic foil to the extraordinarily calm killing machine called Frances. I’m puzzled as to the film’s intentions, with some of Britain’s finest comedy actors taking part it being comedy horror might be why things are presented how they are as the acting style is reminiscent of “The Comic Strip Presents” back in the 80s, however it isn’t actually a comedy, or if it is, it’s missing every comedy beat by an extreme distance.

Half an hour into this and it has escalated from being just plain dull to somewhat reminiscent of old Doctor Who episodes. There are more bandage headed things on the prowl in the corridors, I think the attempt with them is to have the feel of the nurses in Silent Hill, these have none of the impact, especially as Frances dispatches them reasonably quickly and easily. She is accompanied by the Prof, who gets into a fight with one of them in what is one of the most ridiculous punch-ups ever committed to film.

I’m not going to say that this film is bad; it would have to improve significantly to qualify for that. At the 45 minute stage there is finally believable and normal acting delivered by Bruce Payne. Unfortunately Bruce cannot save this as his scene is soon followed by one introducing Lee Latchford-Evans, formerly of the pop group ‘Steps’, whose acting is only slightly less wooden than Treebeard from Lord of the Rings. The story, the acting and the general mood leaves much to be desired though in all truth the cinematography and sound are fine, and the special effects although minimal are well handled. I am one hour into the film, with 40 minutes left and it appears to be stuck in a cycle of walking a couple of corridors, confronting a bandage head, smashing his head to pulp and moving on with all the characters doing exactly what they did 20 minutes ago. It’s like being made to watch a cheap video game.

Laura Swift as Frances Day has enough physical presence and fighting capability to assert herself as a good female action role model, but in this she is very much swimming against the tide. Ah! I’ve now seen one of the bandage heads without a bandage and am doing a rethink on the whole special effects thing as it’s one of the most poorly made masks I’ve seen in five decades of watching horror movies. There are cosplayers on you tube doing better than that for fun. It’s not getting any better.

Sorry, but this film really is/was utter shit. The ending is a major let-down, supposed to be some big scary reveal but is actually just laughable and not in a good way. The aforementioned comedy actors have negligible bit part roles which in all honesty could have been played by anyone with as much competence. When I saw Ade Edmondson, Julian Rhind Tutt, Sally Phillips and Bruce Payne were in this I assumed it would at least be halfway decent but now I know better. The basic premise is promising enough, but the film fails on every possible level to live up to that promise, so all that is left to say is that it is as always your choice whether you see this or not, so if you are that way inclined then go for it. It’s available from uncorked entertainment on VOD January 2nd.


<![CDATA[HORROR FILM REVIEW: THE ELF]]>Sun, 24 Dec 2017 14:07:24 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/horror-film-review-the-elfBy Charlotte Bond 
I believe I can sum this film up in three seasonally appropriate words:
Ho. Ho… Oh.
I love Christmas. Anyone who read my Christmas flash fiction that appeared on Ginger Nuts last year or my article from 2015 about the best Christmas reads will know this. So when the chance to review a Christmas film came up at Ginger Nuts Towers, I leaped on it. Everyone’s seen those brilliant pictures parents post of the crazy, sometimes cruel or sardonic, positions in which they put The Elf on the Shelf each night. With such imaginative ideas floating around, surely a film about this very idea will be dark, brutal and very funny. That film might exist, but it’s not The Elf.
The story centres around Victoria and her fiancé, Nick. We first encounter them out at a pawn or charity shop, looking for toymaker souvenirs for some reason that is never really explained. It’s clear that these two are competent actors, relaxed into their roles; it would just be nice if they were relaxed into roles in the same film. Thanks to the terrible, stilted dialogue, there’s no real chance for chemistry to develop between the two leads. It’s really hard to believe they’d even be friends, never mind lovers. And with no explanation for why they’re there, what they say to each other seems to have very little rational meaning.
While their presence in the shop might remain unexplained, a call from Victoria’s friend, Sky, provides a massive plot dump for the rest of the film. If you didn’t notice the stilted dialogue before, it’ll certainly be painfully evident when you watch this scene.
To be fair to this film, there were a few good bits. As I mentioned above, the two actors seem reasonably competent. In addition, the section where Nick finds the doll is almost atmospheric and creepy. I really enjoyed the later “hunt” through the basement with Victoria’s father, and the incapacitation of the mother by means of a close-up ankle slash actually made me jump slightly when the blood splattered the screen. Those scenes were nicely done.
But those moments of entertainment can be counted on one hand and the majority of the film is really quite terrible – and not even in a fun way. I mean, Seasons of Belief, an episode from the third season of Tales from the Dark Side, was quite terrible, but it was filled with Christmas decorations and had a proper seasonal feel to it. The Elf didn’t even have that going for it, since a main part of the story was that Nick eschewed everything Christmassy. I’m willing to forgive a lot to experience a proper Christmassy atmosphere, but there wasn’t even that redeeming feature here.
The music, so often an essential part of a movie, was decent enough, but like the actors, you kind of felt that it was a score that had been designed for a completely different film. It was loud in the wrong places and at one point horrendously clashed with some music box music that was playing as part of a scene.
I really enjoyed the opening of the movie, which was a kind of prologue to the film. We are shown an old man in a cold, dark room, sewing together an immobile child’s lips, the titular elf lying next to him. The man’s earnestness and good intentions are clear, and as a sinister shadow advances on him, I had high hopes that this might be something genuinely dark and creepy. But the film never manages to live up to the promise of this introduction, and the flashback that follows later on in the film (relating to Nick’s past) is just confusing and badly done.
The technical aspects of the film are also a bit amateurish as well. The film is badly edited – you can practically see Victoria hanging back, waiting for the director to shout “action” before she starts moving and talking when Sky calls her; the conversation that follows contains so many empty spaces of dialogue, it’s quite laughable. The camerawork leaves a lot to be desired as well. It’s very shaky, clearly a handheld, and while I don’t mind that in my horror films, I actually laughed out loud when there was a loud noise on screen and the shot jerked to the side, a result of the cameraman clearly jumping at the sound on set. I mean, who doesn’t go back and reshoot a scene like that?
To say that the carved elf is the least wooden character in this would be unfair, but it’s a close call. Combined with a bad score, shoddy camerawork, unpardonable editing and dialogue that is as sluggish as a dying victim crawling through the snow, I think you’re best giving this film a miss and going to play with your own Elf on a Shelf: you’re likely to create more terrifying situations than you’ll see here.
<![CDATA[FILM REVIEW: OUR EVIL (MAL NOSSO)]]>Sat, 23 Dec 2017 08:16:45 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/film-review-our-evil-mal-nossoBy Joe X Young 
our evil film review

A Brazilian film with English subtitles.
(Don’t let that put you off, it’s an excellent film)
It begins with a guy called Arthur (Ademir Esteves) searching the seedier side of the Internet for a sociopath capable of performing a specific task and he finds the perfect man in Charles (Ricardo Casella) who has posted a couple of helpful videos indicating the kind of man he is. We are shown the sequence so we as the viewer are also in no doubt as Charles brutalises a woman in such a sadistic fashion that I was left wondering if this film wouldn’t have been more suited to a review in ‘The Film Gutter’ section of this site. I cannot say that this film is a gorefest as the incidents are relatively few, but I can most certainly say that this film has a core concept which I found to be totally original, thoroughly absorbing and even thought-provoking.

Avoiding spoilers is difficult here as there are so many aspects to Our Evil which are worthy of discussion and it is so rare to find such intelligent horror as this. It contains twists, none of which are poorly contrived and all of which give a perfect clarity to Arthur’s motives for hiring Charles as one would assume that there would be no logical reason for anyone to ever hire as brutal a bastard as Charles to carry out a…. Ah! Dammit! I almost slipped and spoiled the surprise. You will just have to watch it for yourselves.

All aspects of the film are flawless, the acting is so natural it’s almost as if you’re watching reality, albeit the sort of real-life events the sane among us would readily avoid. There’s nothing glossy going on here, nothing ‘Hollywood’ if you know what I mean, it’s all rather normal in lighting, sound and general mood, which makes the underlying point of it much more powerful, and it does have a point which goes way beyond simple entertainment.

As stated at the beginning of this review it is Brazilian with English subtitles, and we all know that subtitles can be a pain in the arse, but not in this instance as the film is not dialogue heavy. If you like cerebral shockers ‘Our Evil’ will not disappoint.

Written and directed by Samuel Galli it’s available now for purchase from Amazon
<![CDATA[​King on Screen Bonus Track: Gerald’s Game]]>Wed, 20 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/king-on-screen-bonus-track-geralds-game

Due to the recent cinema releases of The Dark Tower and IT, along with the BFI showing a season of King movies to celebrate his 70th birthday, I saw five movies based on King’s work at the cinema in the month of September. So, here’s a mini-series of trip reports - nothing so grand as reviews - based on my month of King Cinema. Severe spoilers for both the movies under discussion and the source books abound, so be warned. Enjoy.
So I’d planned to be done with this miniseries of reviews following my viewing of The Mist at the BFI. The whole point was about experiencing King movies at the cinema, after all, and the next time I’m likely to be doing that will be when chapter two of IT comes out sometime in 2019.
But those sneaky gits at Netflix had other ideas. Ideas involving a platform exclusive adaptation of King’s 1992 thriller Gerald’s Game.
Resistance proved futile. So here we are.
I want to start by recapping the premise of the story, because I still think it’s one of King's best and most batshit ideas ever: A married couple, to ‘rekindle the spark’, go to a holiday home in the middle of nowhere for some kinkyfuntimes. Specifically the use of handcuffs - not toy sex game handcuffs, but real, industrial ones. Gerald is waaaaaay into this, Mrs. Gerald (the POV character) increasingly not so much, especially once cuffed to the very sturdy bed.
At which point Gerald has a gigantic heart attack and drops dead. Leaving Jessie Burlingame (Mrs. Gerald) handcuffed very securely to a very solid double bed in the middle of nowhere with nobody coming.
I mention this because, as an amateur, aspiring storyteller, this is exactly the kid of idea I’d run a mile from. I mean, it’s obviously genius, but it’s equally obviously impossible. Perhaps not since The Long Walk has a premise for a novel struck me as being as simultaneously brilliant and preposterous as this. How on earth do you take that premise and make a remotely functional novel out of it?
And the inevitable answer is, of course, ‘be Stephen King good’.
I mention this because although I haven’t read Gerald’s Game since the 90’s, from memory this film is a pretty faithful adaptation of that book, albeit one that understands how to make the premise work as a movie. So where, in the book, Jessie has long conversations with herself and her dead husband in her head, in the movie those conversations are played out with the actors - Bruce Greenwood does an exceptional job playing Jessie’s mind-version of her husband, and Carla Gugino is amazing as both versions of Jessie - the one chained to the bed, and the projection of herself that is trying, desperately, to help her escape.
Large sections of the story also take place in the past, as Jessie’s suppressed memories of childhood abuse begin to surface. At first, this appears to be happening simply as a result of her trauma, but as the narrative unfolds, it becomes clear that fully remembering her past is the only way for her to escape her present predicament. It’s the kind of fluid storytelling that leaves me in despair, honestly; how is it possible that a writer who doesn’t plot in advance can tell a tale that hangs together this well, that feels meticulously constructed?
I realise I’m talking a lot about the book, here. That’s because the film captures the essence of the book so well; not by simple slavish devotion, but by understanding how to translate the book effectively to screen. It’s a masterful piece of work, from acting to camera work to effects (the eclipse sequence is stunning, and the big gore moment in the finale is grit-your-teeth visceral). There’s also a tie-in moment with Dolores Claiborne which I was surprised but pleased to see included, and a couple of other King references/easter eggs which will have been fun for hardcore fans but shouldn’t distract a casual viewer.
Gerald’s Game is a dark tale - in some ways, given the subject matter, one of King’s darkest, both in terms of Jessie’s immediate circumstances and her back story. The film doesn’t shy away from that darkness, which makes it uncomfortable to watch on a number of levels. The depictions of child abuse are sensitively handled, but no less skin crawling for that, so viewers especially affected by that kind of content should certainly go in forewarned.
That said, at the moment, reasonably fresh for a first viewing, I’d say this adaptation of Gerald’s Game ranks up there with the best of King screen adaptations, for me. And in a climate where Harvey Weinstein and the #metoo juggernaut are forcing a long overdue conversation about male sexual entitlement, predatory behaviour, and rape culture, a retelling of this (among other things) feminist story about coercion and consent, ‘blurred lines’ that are anything but, and the lasting damage abuse can cause to even apparently healthy and well adjusted survivors, feels incredibly relevant (and indeed eerily prescient, given the production schedule).
And then you remember it was based on an early 90’s novel, that itself built off conversations that have been raging ever since the 60’s (and whispered about long before that), and one is left with the uncomfortable understanding that many of us have always known this was how the world was, and were yelling loudly about it to anyone who would listen.
It’s terrible and enraging that it’s taken this long for the dam - maybe - to break. It’s also heartening to see it happen, finally. I hope that the many painful and necessary conversations that are happening right now do represent a step change in how we choose to treat each other, going forward.
And I’m grateful, too, that there is brilliant, uncomfortable art like Gerald’s Game that can help form part of the conversation.


<![CDATA[​KING ON SCREEN 5: THE MIST (BLACK AND WHITE)]]>Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:00:00 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/king-on-screen-5-the-mist-black-and-whiteby Kit Power 

Due to the recent cinema releases of The Dark Tower and IT, along with the BFI showing a season of King movies to celebrate his 70th birthday, I saw five movies based on King’s work at the cinema in the month of September. So, here’s a mini-series of trip reports - nothing so grand as reviews - based on my month of King Cinema. Severe spoilers for both the movies under discussion and the source books abound, so be warned. Enjoy.

Back to London for this one, for one last visit to the BFI - Screen 3 this time. Which is a lovely cinema, but lacks the mind-buggering scale of the IMax.

My stepson was also in tow (last seen watching IT with me at our local multiplex  <http://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/king-on-screen-4-it >) and we got ourselves situated in good time for lights down. I hadn’t seen the movie before. My mind had slotted it in as a late 80’s film (possibly confusing it with The Fog), but one I’d heard very good things about. It swiftly became obvious to me that I’d gotten that hilariously wrong, and also that I was watching something not merely pretty good but actually kind of magnificent.

I can’t speak to the colour version - I have since caught a brief section of it on TV, before swiftly turning over - but the black and white print we saw oozes atmosphere and menace. It is gorgeously shot, and of course the lack of colour gives the titular mist a luminosity that is deeply atmospheric and sinister, even before its nature is revealed. Later, when the monsters start to show up, it’s even more effective, rendering what I suspect might in color be some slightly shaky CGI into an unnerving, visceral experience. Interestingly, for me the black and white didn’t negatively impact at all on any of the gorier moments, either, with the black blood inviting just as much of a reaction as the red would have done.

And it’s worth reiterating King’s central storytelling philosophy here; in On Writing, he makes no secret of his disdain for advanced plotting, instead insisting that plot is, in essence, what happens when characters meet circumstance. The story of The Mist is an exemplar of this kind of King storytelling, with a vivid cast of characters trapped in a mundane environment made horrific by it’s surroundings. Apply heat until characters come to a boil, then watch them melt. 

Given that, casting is hugely important, especially with the ensemble nature of the piece. Luckily, the cast was, I thought, uniformly brilliant. Thomas Jane has a blue collar everyman vibe to him - a kind of gritty, rougher Tom Hanks quality - which feels like it should be at odds with his profession as a fantasy and horror artist (one who appears to be working on a Stephen King book cover, to judge by the painting on display at the start of the film), but Jane sells it well, playing off the character as taciturn, withdrawn. It works, and sells both his relationship with his kid and with his neighbour (Andre Braugher, kicking every bit as much arse here as he did in Homicide: Life on the Streets).

But honestly, I’m struggling to think of a weak link. It was kind of odd seeing so many future Walking Dead alumni facing a different horror apocalypse, but you can see why the casting director of that show thought of them, based on this. The group dynamics are brilliantly played, with many of the best scenes created not through big action set pieces (though we have those, and they are glorious) but through groups of people simply talking, discussing, arguing, trying to puzzle out what is going on and what to do next.

At heart, it’s a very claustrophobic piece, and the basic theres are expressed pretty clearly by a small group of the characters themselves, as they debate what they can tell the larger group about the tentacle that just killed a kid as he tried to fix the generator: civilised behaviour is dependant entirely upon the trappings of civilisation, and that absent those structures and controls, things - people - quickly spiral out of control and into destructive, evil behaviour.

It’s not a terribly comforting view of humanity (and,as I get older, one I find less and less convincing as a Deep Truth) but bloody hell it makes for good horror stories, and certainly plays expertly on our own darkest fears about ourselves.

So the movie handles this well, with uniformly superb performances and intelligent, unflashy filmmaking. And while the initial tentacle attack via the loading bay felt just a touch overplayed, the two later action set pieces, especially the ill-fated drug store raid, are magnificent. That sequence really is everything you want from action horror - atmospheric, creeping dread, the fake out jump scare, incredible lighting and intelligent shot choices, and then the reveal that our heros are in very, very deep shit. The spider monsters are vile, and the moment they burrowed out of the captured soldier’s stomach was genuinely skin-crawling. 

But for all of the adrenaline rush of that sequence, the later bug attack on the store, and the final mad dash to the car, the greater horror of the film comes from the deterioration of the survivors, as the bleakness of the situation presses down on them. The monsters outside the store are horrific, but it’s the ones inside the store that are ultimately more disturbing. The capacity for ordinary people to become part of horrific movements, and buy into demagoguery and/or religious extremism, is an anxiety King returns to again and again throughout his work, but it’s never writ larger or with bloodier clarity than in The Mist, and Darabont seems to have fully grasped this as being the true guts of the story. The script and direction reflect that, and allow the horror of fear driving desperation and barbarism to play out with truly uncomfortable clarity.

The ending of the movie takes that bleakness to it’s logical conclusion, and is stunning in its brutality. Jane knocks it out of the park in the final scene, becoming utterly undone by what he has to do… especially as the final gut punch lands and he realises he had to do no such thing. In the end, even the good people weren't immune to the warping effect of terror and desperation, and even the very best of intentions led to damnation. 
It’s a genuinely shocking conclusion that elevates an already superbly made movie to something approaching genius. And as the credits rolled, the sounds of people exhaling rolled over the cinema, a collective expression of shock and relief. Quite a moment.

The Mist is one of King's finest novellas - maybe the finest - and with this film, Frank Darabont has delivered a movie the equal of the source material.

In fact, with that ending, he may even have surpassed it. I don’t have much higher praise than that.

This was a fantastic end to my mini King film festival. 

Or so I thought.

Turns out, Netflix had a surprise in store for me, in October…



<![CDATA[FILM REVIEW: THE UNSEEN (2017)]]>Wed, 13 Dec 2017 05:12:16 GMThttp://gingernutsofhorror.com/film-reviews/film-review-the-unseen-2017
The Unseen stars Jasmine Hyde as Gemma, an audiobook narrator whose young son tragically drowns in an indoor pool accident shortly after the film begins.  The resulting sense of guilt and loss that Gemma feels manifests in a series of never-ending panic attacks; these panic attacks are made even more upsetting by their ability to cause Gemma's vision to become blurred to the point of complete disorientation.  As Gemma and her husband spiral into a bottomless pit of despair and an inability to deal with their senses of guilt and Gemma's increasing frequency of the debilitating panic attacks, they decide to try and get away from it all by taking a weekend trip to a country house owned by Paul.  

Gemma met Paul thanks to a random encounter during one of her panic attacks, when Paul helped her to get through it, but is Paul the good samaritan that he first appears or is there a more profound and darker reason for his good deeds?  However, during their weekend getaway, Gemma's panic attacks continue to get worse, and their relationship finally starts to unravel, to a point where Paul may just get exactly what he wanted all along. 

The Unseen is a refreshing if that is the right word, entry in what is now becoming an overcrowded market of low budget thrillers/horror films.  The film is shot on a shoestring budget, however where many of other films of this type waste their money on silly special effects or stupid jump scares, The Unseen uses its tight budget and filming time to construct a film based around some compelling performances and a powerful and emotionally charged script.  

The Unseen straddles many genres, at times it is unsure whether it wants to be a thriller, a supernatural mystery or a domestic drama, this uncertainty on the whole works very well.  The hints of some sort of spectral presence that are scattered throughout the film help to keep the viewer guessing as to what is really going on, this sense of confusion is aided by the brilliant cinematic portrayal of Gemma's panic attacks.  When Gemma suffers from one the viewer is given an insight into the utter sense of confusion and despair she feels by allowing the viewer to witness what she sees and feels thanks to a massively disorientating blurred screen effect and a perfectly pitched soundtrack.  The film may slightly overuse this impact and its function to "signal" specific plot events, but even so, this is a clever and brave cinematic effect that fully delivers on its intended function.  

The film's unwillingness to fully commit to one genre, to some, might feel somewhat wishy-washy, but this reviewer loved this approach, it allowed the film to flex its dramatic muscles and gives the actors a lot of room to deliver some terrific performances, and when the film finally settles on an actual direction in the final acts it adds to the power of the film.  

As mentioned previously The Unseen is carried by some truly magnificent performances.  Jasmine Hyde's performance as Gemma is heartbreaking, raw and fascinating; you are drawn into her world with an utter sense of futility and panic, her pain becomes your pain.  

Richard Flood's portrayal of her husband is one of the most emotionally charged depictions of a grieving father you are likely to see.  His sense of loss and helplessness from the loss of his child and his inability to help his grieving wife is devastating; this is a performance that will punch you hard in your soul.  

Even Simon Cotton's performance as Paul is finely tuned and effective one.  A charismatic and chilling presence, Cotton oozes a like a malignant stain across the lives of Gemma and Will. 

The Unseen is a brooding, slow burner of a film, a disturbing and emotionally devastating look at the loss and grief suffered by the death of a loved one.  A compelling narrative boosted by stunning performances and elegant cinematography, it is a welcome change to the standard fare offered to horror fans these days. ​