Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Guest Review: Sonia Hickie on The Guest (Adam Wingard, 2013)

The Guest may not be what you would expect if you’re familiar with Adam Wingard’s earlier genre films, Home Sick (2007), A Horrible Way to Die (2010) and You’re Next (2011). The Guest has a much lighter, amusing feel and sports a slick 80’s visual style complemented by a soundtrack that evokes that period. David [Dan Stevens] arrives at the Petersen’s Midwest family home where the mother is still grieving for her son who has been killed in combat. With David claiming to be a friend of the deceased soldier, any apprehensions she has as to who this stranger may be are quickly lost as she finds someone she can talk to about her son. Similarly, the rest of the Petersen’s lose any apprehension as David’s psychotic charm wins each of them over, with the guest knowing exactly what different style of personality works on the individual family members.

The Guest is paced well with its only drawback being an ambiguity as to why events eventually spiral out of control, taking a short bathroom break at the wrong time could leave you mystified. Don’t over think Wingard’s latest exercise in genre film-making and just enjoy the film for what it is; a tongue in cheek homage to 80’s horror that will have you laughing rather than hiding behind your seat. With a memorable soundtrack and beautiful visuals that in the last few scenes are reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, The Guest is a deftly handled slice of entertainment.

Sonia Hickie

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Trailertastic: Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide...part 2: Draconian Days

Prepare to be corrupted and depraved once more as Nucleus Films releases the sequel to the definitive guide to the Video Nasties phenomenon - the most extraordinary and scandalous era in the history of British film.

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide Part 2, a three-disc collector’s edition box set, is being released on DVD on July 14th 2014, to tie in with the 30th Anniversary of the Video Recordings Act 1984

For the first time ever on DVD, all 82 films that fell foul of the Director of Public Prosecutions “Section 3” list are trailer-featured with specially filmed intros for each title, alongside a brand new documentary - VIDEO NASTIES: DRACONIAN DAYS, directed by Jake West.

In Review: Hobson's Choice (David Lean, 1954)

My review of David Lean's adaptation of Hobson's Choice, celebrating its 60th anniversary, is up over at Eye For Film. Click on the link below to see what I think.

Monday, 12 May 2014

In Review: Birth of the Living Dead (Rob Kuhns, 2013)

With The Walking Dead, In the Flesh and The Returned on television and Warm Bodies, Juan of the Dead and Zombieland gracing the big screen in recent years, our collective love affair with the pop culture phenomenon that is the zombie shows no sign of abating any time soon. All of the various aforementioned undead themed shows and films owe a debt of gratitude, large or small, to the director and film that fully established the zombie in the public's consciousness back in 1968, George A. Romero and Night of the Living Dead. Over 45 years later, NOTLD is a recognised classic of the horror genre, its director a genial, treasured figure and the film's production history still one of independent cinema's great success stories. 

Though the story of NOTLD's production, and the context within it was made, will not be news to fans of Romero and his movies, Rob Kuhns' new documentary on the subject is still an engaging watch. For those who may be unaware of its impact both on the horror genre and independent filmmaking, Kuhns' documentary will prove to be an illuminating experience. 

Kuhn's presents a tried and tested mix of film clips, archive news footage, animated sequences and contemporary talking-head interviews.  Romero himself, director Larry Fessenden, producer Gale Anne Hurd and critic Jason Zinoman, among others, speak fondly about the film, its making and the profound effect it would subsequently have on modern horror and independent film productions of all types. 

Running at a brief 76 minutes, Birth of the Living Dead does a swift, deft job of encapsulating Romero's debut movie and the social, cultural and political climate from which it emerged. Though Romero's contemporary zombie movies, Land, Diary and Survival of the Dead, unfortunately, leave a lot to be desired, NOTLD is fully deserving of its place in film history and Kuhns' film is an entertaining, celebratory reminder of that.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

To Die For... The Killing of America (Leonard Schrader & Sheldon Renan, 1981)

What film can't I live without? Tough question, and one I can't really answer in a single film. There are so many films, from the highbrow to the lowbrow, that I love with a passion. So how do I decide on just one? I could say The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, or a bunch of Russ Meyer movies, or loads of Godard, or Bunuel, or Lynch. They'd all be valid choices. But I'm going elsewhere. There is one film that sticks out, simply because it seems to be my go-to movie for showing people. Come round to my house more than once and you'll probably end up sitting through The Killing of America.


 This documentary film was made in 1981, financed by Japanese backers who were expecting another Faces of Death (that movie having, according to legend, outgrossed Star Wars in Japan). Instead, they got a bleak study of violent crime in America, written, produced and co-directed (with Sheldon Renan) by Leonard Schrader, bother of Paul.The two Schraders were clearly cut from the same cloth – this would make a good 'decline of American civilisation' double bill with Taxi Driver. The film charts American violence – mostly, though not exclusively gun violence – from the JFK assassination to the murder of John Lennon. Narrated with perfect pacing and somber tone by Chuck Riley, the film features news footage – no fake reconstructions here – as well as interviews with killers like Sirhan Sirhan and Ed Kemper. It's dark, angry and nihilistic, expertly structured and the footage is uncompromisingly shocking – there is plenty of real death shown here, but it is never sensationalised or pitched at the sort of inadequate ghouls who enjoy films like Faces of Gore. Rather than the shockumentary that was expected, The Killing of America is both history lesson and polemic, an angry cry of despair at a nation that seemed to be on a downward spiral through lax gun laws and a culture that glorifies violence.


Such a message was hardly going to appeal to US audiences – it was far too close to home and on the nose. The Killing of America notably failed to secure an American release, even on video. It's legend would grow somewhat over the years, thanks to bootlegs and an uncut UK DVD release (even the BBFc recognising it as a serious work), but the film is still widely and ignorantly dismissed as just another sensationalist mondo movie. It's not a film for everyone, but it honestly deserves to be better known than it is.

David Flint

David Flint writes about pop culture, sexual politics, censorship and beer. You can find his blog here, and you can follow him on Twitter here. David is the editor of the new book Sheer Filth: Bizarre Cinema, Weird Literature, Strange Music, Extreme Art, which you can buy here.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rendez-Vous With French Cinema 2014

In collaboration with Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Picturehouse, including Brighton's Duke of York's is proud to present a short season of previews, showcasing the very best in French cinema coming up in 2014. the three films playing at the Dukes are Bright Days Ahead (Friday, 6.30pm), Violette (Saturday, 2.00pm) and Venus in Fur (Tuesday, 9.00pm). 

Bright Days Ahead

Venus in Fur


Thursday, 17 April 2014

Coming soon...Birth of the Living Dead

In 1968 a young college drop-out named George A. Romero gathered an unlikely team - from Pittsburgh policeman, iron workers, housewives and a roller rink owner – to create a low budget horror film that would revolutionise the industry, and spawn a new flesh eating monster that endures to this day… that film was ‘’Night of The Living Dead’’.

With a range of candid interviews and fascinating insight ‘’Birth of the Living Dead’’ is an absolute must have for any horror fan, enter the original Zombie Universe, but remember ‘they're coming to get you, Barbara’.

BIRTH OF THE LIVING DEAD (cert.15) is out on DVD & VOD on 12th May 2014, courtesy of Solo Media.

Director Rob Kuhns
Cast George A. Romero ((Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead)
        Larry Fessenden (Producer; The Innkeepers, Stake Land)
        Mark Harris (Author; Pictures at a Revolution)
        Gale Anne Hurd (Producer; Terminator, aliens, AMC's The Walking Dead)
Certificate 15tbc
Running Time 76 mins
Genre Documentary
Distributor Solo Media