Sunday, 12 November 2017

Seconds

John Frankenheimer, 1966, USA

As a kid, John Frankenheimer’s ‘Seconds’ always gave me serious chills. Not only did this come from the grand guignol of the ending, but also from the idea of failing at life, of not quite being in control, of not quite knowing the tricks of assimilation and survival that others seem to possess so effortlessly. It’s based on mid-life crisis and, as Kim Newman says, on a wartime generation that felt they had missed out on all the fun the youth culture were just about to enjoy. As a kid, I venture that this was unnerving me as it tapped into the suspicion that life would not be the constantly upward curve I was promised. The idea of wanting to do your life over again, of wanting a second chance, of being an outsider not quite fitting in, are not likely to go out of vogue. 

It’s the kind of scenario you might find in ‘The Twilight Zone’: Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is a rigidly unhappy and unremarkable soul when he receives an odd offer from an old friend - one he presumed dead - to be “re-born”, of starting life over. It’s an offer of a second chance, to be what he never was but wanted to be. To this end, the mysterious company who orchestrates this seems quite accommodating – after they have snared him staging him with a false rape, that is. He is reborn as Rock Hudson in an idyllic Californian location. The trouble is: once an unhappy soul, always an unhappy soul.

Based on David Ely’s novel and populated by a cast of faces that would become familiar but weren’t so much at the time of casting – it is very well cast and notably Frankenheimer went for a lot of previously actors black-listed in the McCarthy era – ‘Seconds’ was never popular and greatly derided. As Brian Eggert says, “Frankenheimer himself noted how the film “went from failure to classic without ever being a success.’” There’s a truth and poeticism when Landon Palmer calls ‘Seconds’ the loneliest films of the 1960s. 

With James Wong Howe’s crisp black and white cinematography, Saul Bass’s disturbing credits sequence, the distortions by fish-eye lenses, a seasoning of psychedelic sensibility and undertones of body-horror, there is something always off-kilter in this world. Even the early scenes of Hamilton’s humdrum life alternate from claustrophobic close-ups and agoraphobic wide-shots, creating unease immediately. Not only the accentuated camera techniques but the bedrock of plastic surgery, identity theft and over-reaching corporations were ahead of the times, as Edward Tenner notes; and perhaps its seemingly contemporary backdrop fooled people and contributed to the backlash. Maybe if it had looked more like ‘Fantastic Voyage’, it would have been more obviously a genre piece and audiences may not have felt so threatened, have recognised such a clear attack on their culture.

It’s a world of the mid-life crisis, where post-House of Un-American Activities Committee paranoia is paramount and the film attacks commercialism, bourgeois privilege, arty pretensions and free-love hedonism equally, seeing in it all a phoniness and tapping into our fear that our whole life is performance and our surroundings staged for us, that everyone else in on it. As Eggert notes, ‘Seconds’ offers as a solution neither conformity or escapism – but perhaps “escapism” is the wrong word and hedonism is more appropriate. And yet, rather than a criticism, it seems more a cautionary tale and a warning that happiness lays not within what you are told by corporations and social movements.

Will Greer gives a sublimely genial folksy old man performance as the apparent owner of this somewhat bizarre and mysterious firm which is both sinister and weirdly empathic (hey, they seem to go out of their way to upgrade your second life). Rock Hudson cracking up is the attention-grabber, but John Randolph’s sad-sack performance is equally haunting. This is a far cry from the action inclinations of mainstream genre fare. Indeed, the science isn’t credible at all, but that’s not the point: this is the kind of science fiction whose vigorously bleak attitude shows that the phenomenon of progress will always be susceptible to human weaknesses. With a greatly disturbing finale to top off this haunted tale of a lifetime of dissatisfaction, ‘Seconds’ is uniquely disturbing.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (just a first watch)

Denis Villeneuve, 2017, 
USA-UK-Canada

I know it’s going to take second watch to fully determine what I think of Villeneuve’s continuation of Ridley Scott’s classic. I like Villeneuve ever since I thought the direction of ‘Sicario’ proved exceptional, but I felt ‘Arrival’ had major problems that dented my appraisal of him (although that was more the material than his execution). From the trailer, I thought ‘Blade Runner 2049’ was going to be a more action-filtered rendition of the premise, hyped-up with adrenalin for a modern audience, so I was pleased and surprised that the tone proved to be measured and faintly abstract. In fact, it’s so wilfully – and in my opinion appropriately – languid and conceptual that this seems to obscure its storyline: it has been accused of lacking story, but the storyline seems to me to offer plenty to chew on. A replicant (an artificial human) with an identity/midlife crisis is going about his job of killing other replicants when he is given reason to follow up on his heritage; this leads him to a revelation that makes him think he is special as well as to the narrative of the previous film, but in a nice snub to The Chosen One trope that is so dominant in fiction, he finds he is mistaken. Rather, he sacrifices himself for the greater good. This seems plenty to be getting your teeth into and perhaps it is the overwhelming art-design and mood that leads people to believe the narrative is smothered and lesser than it is. 

And this is a gorgeous film. Many times, I found myself marvelling at the visuals, with Roger Deakins’ cinematography accentuating the glare of the opening, the perpetual neon night of Los Angeles and the art design of Jared Leto’s domain. The film is almost overwhelming with visual wonder – many of the urban vistas are breathtaking – but it also abundant with details to sift through: Pan Am adverts left over from the original; 'Peter and the Wolf' as a ringtone; the idea that a personality is just memory on a data stick (an idea completely in tune with Philip K Dick’s agenda); etc. Surely it is a veritable wealth of Easter Eggs that it is impossible to parse on a single watch. On top of that, the holo-Vegas fight and the final battle in a flood are exemplary action pieces.

“K” (Ryan Gosling) has a personality built upon artificially implanted memories, but when he gets home, all he wants is a traditional set-up where a devoted wife-figure serves him dinner and dotes. Is such an old-fashioned domestic desire programmed into him? Indeed, are we to deduce such desires can be credited to his programming or a more independent personality, growing from the programming, and that this vision of an idealised lifestyle is derived from the surrounding patriarchal/misogynistic culture? Nature or nurture? And are we to assume in this future setting that gender-politics haven’t gathered any nuance in the past hundred years, at least? It’s easy to take issue with such details but it remains steadfastly ambiguous and that is surely a strength and a nod to the unresolved questions of the original, questions it snakes around answering and mostly leaves open-ended.

We can maybe attribute “K”’s heterosexuality (and that is presumably programmed too) as triggering the objectified female holograms, but we don’t see any parallel and balancing experiences from the women character’s perspective so it leaves the film wide open for accusations of misogyny. This is mitigated by having Robin Wright as “K’”s boss, even taking advantage of her power by making a pass at him; also by shading Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) by having her seem increasingly saddened during her actions, as if she is asking herself Is this all I am: a murderous replicant? Mark Kermode makes a solid argument that actually it is the women of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ that hold all the power and that it is the patriarchal mindset of the male characters that hinders them in seeing things clearly. More than once, characters are told their attractions are programmed and then the film continues to maintain the air of ambiguity. Perhaps it is human vanity that we wish the replicant characters to be human? But the original surely took a jab at this by having Roy Blatty (Rutger Hauer) in the original be the most soulful character, despite the humans?

Indeed, it is surely the female characters that actually have more to do and show. The men come from the stoic, underplayed side of things, and one of the main frictions is waiting to see if Ryan Gosling will break out of his reserve. When Harrison Ford turns up, he effortlessly shows that you don’t need so much to exude a broken, grizzled machismo. Jared Leto has come in for attack for its high mannerisms, but that is surely a piece with the original replicants. But no, it’s the women that get to show more layers, more evident intelligence and range; and with the female prostititute and assassin replicants, they express a barely subsumed tiredness at working within patriarchal culture is expressed. It’s this that muddies the waters of criticisms for ‘Blade Runner 2049’s gender politics: it’s not that they don’t have some grounding but that it’s working on a more complex terrain than might be originally thought.

The thematic heft of ‘Blade Runner 2049’ is surely stronger than the original, which benefited and may be seen as superior from having a simple film noir narrative and a romantic intention that were instantaneously familiar as a guide through the tremendous art design. That Villeneuve with Michael Green and Hampton Fancher’s screenplay manages to capture and continue much of the ambiguity and abstract tone, smothered in state-of-the-art effects and set design, is surely a remarkable and stubborn achievement (although it might be seen by detractors as just pilfering and imitation). The fact that it is surely to be hotly grilled and debated in many studies to come – not least about its gender politics – is surely indication that, although already mostly warmly received, it’s true worth is yet to come. And even in that, it follows in its seminal original’s footsteps. 


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Cohen & Tate

Eric Red, 1988, USA

There was a time in my youth when my friends and I would drawl “Piss on you!” in terrible Southern American twangs, mimicking Harley Cross in ‘Cohen & Tate’. I’ve waited a long time for this to feature in the DVD/Blu-Ray revolution and now here it is. There was a time in the eighties when its director Eric Red seemed a reliable name, being the writer of ‘The Hitcher’ and ‘Near Dark’, but he never quite lived up to that promise after those cult titles that helped define the era’s horror. Even so, I always had a soft spot for ‘Cohen & Tate’, the tale of two mismatched hit-men sent to kidnap a nine year-old boy (Cross) who some mobsters somewhere think saw something he shouldn’t have. 

What follows is a nocturnal road movie – which typifies these early Red favourites – in which it is quickly apparent that the two hit-men are thorough opposites and get on one another nerves. The kid senses this quickly and plays them off of one another. You will have to allow that a preteen can manipulate a couple of hardened killers, but it shouldn’t be underestimated just how tricksy and smart kids can be; and viewing it through the filter of a fairy tale about a child using wits to overcome odds bolsters suspension of disbelief. 

Red’s often quotable script gives everyone nuance and weakness: a hearing-aid; a temper that, when thwarted, dissolves into childish self-pity; childish precociousness giving way to tears. Hit-men coming undone when their victim proves quite a match is a staple thriller storyline but nevertheless this doesn’t try to be groundbreaking, it’s just a good thriller. Perhaps Baldwin is over-ripe and cartoonish, but Cross is more than a match for his adult co-stars, amusingly annoying one minute and a scared little kid the next. Roy Scheider is the backbone, delivering all the stolid adultness to hold it all together; it’s a fine portrayal of a man caught up in something he’s tired of. The stripped-down narrative and locations give this a direct intent and nightmarish edge, with the deleted scenes on the disc showing that this was intended to be even more brutal. These sudden moments of brutality, a crisp script and some memorably framed shots makes this a stand-out. A highly entertaining black humoured thriller with a centre of how adult weaknesses can capsize simple plans.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Beast - and the joy of erotic offence

The Beast ~ La Bête
Walarian Borowczyk, 1975, France

It’s the typical poster of some beauty in the infernal clutches of a monster/alien/robot. But even with ‘King Kong’, I was thinking, “So he fancies Fay Wray… and…?” But with King Kong, the monster’s infatuation could be attributed to a plutonic obsession with aesthetic beauty (she’s so small, delicate and pretty…). So what’s The Creature from the Black Lagoon’s excuse, with all that simulated underwater sex? Monster films typically have an “other” inexplicably lusting for a human that it surely wouldn’t be wired to lust after? I mean, wouldn’t that be a form of bestiality? And yes, I know interspecies sex is a thing, but nevertheless... Are these monsters/aliens/robots merely conceptions of male lust that dominates the fantasy and science-fiction universes, and are women just to be in peril? Is this some kind of rape fantasy?

And that’s where we come in with Borowczyk’s ‘The Beast’. It’s as if Benny Hill had directed a Hammer horror. Originally conceived as a part of the anthology ‘Immoral Tales’ and then expanded to feature length, ‘The Beast’ is the tale of a woman into bestial fantasises that a monster in the woods chases her and… lusts after her - she likes it really - until she seemingly fucks it to death. The film sets out its agenda from the outset, starting with a prolonged and explicit sequence of horses breeding. It’s this that turns her on, because any hint of sex seems too. Lucy (Lisbeth Hummel) comes to a big old estate to be married to a business-man’s son, who is being scrubbed up to be presentable as the issue of his being baptised seems to be a sore point of domestic politics.

Glenn Kenny is surely wrong when he says that Borowczyk is “neither decorative not decorous”: the set design is lush, if filmed without exaggeration; and when he says that “His lighting is generally flat” one can only imagine Kenny has not seen a decent print of ‘The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne’. But yes, there is a straightforward rendering that might be seen as the opposite of the aesthetic of, say, Kubrick’s ‘Barry Lyndon’. But he is right when he writes that Browczysk is an artist “whose ability to appal and exhilarate and to make one fall sideways laughing at erotic absurdity will certainly find appreciation from anyone whose taste for the Psychotronic runs to extremes.” The tone is of farce, bizarre pornography, surrealism, of perversion, of a wrongness pummelled down by the ludicrous. There is a whole roster of details to be offended by along with the bestiality: light-hearted rape; a black servant associated with rampant lust; small children stuffed into a closet so that the adults can romp; a pederastic priest – but an assault on good taste is surely the agenda. All of this is filtered through farce, accompanied by incongruous jaunty music to accentuate the comedic. Even the gargoyles rudely and suggestively have their tongues out. But when Borowczyk has Lucy masturbate with a red rose, the film reaches for a merging of the explicit, pleasure and the romantic and arguably achieves a moment beyond just shock into something more complex in effect. When a snail slimes over a deserted slipper, it can be read a metaphor for how the ickiness of nature always overwhelms tokens of civility. 

It’s not a film to look for great performances or characterisation and, as with porn, personalities are mostly condensed to sexual appetites; but there is an underlying precision to Borowczyk’s use of the ridiculous and the explicit that mostly hits its mark. It’s certainly unique. As Scott Nye notes, it draws together “eroticism, sin, horror, repression, vulnerability, and humiliation.”  As well as a somewhat ratty monster costume that evidently fell off a back of a lorry that is another indication that this melange of erotica and the b-movie is mostly comic, if not for many. It surely scores as a logical result of the sexual subtext that underlies so many monster-movies. 

Saturday, 7 October 2017

In Between

Bar Bahar

Maysaloun Hamoud (writer/director), 2016, Israel-France

In Tel Aviv, three women share an apartment and try to find their place in a patriarchal society that admonishes them as soon as they show independence. 

A vibrant drama with magnificent performances from the three leads -  Mouna Hawa, Sana Jemmelieh and Shaden Kanboura. Into the world of a sassy, sexy lawyer and a lesbian DJ comes the more traditional girl, and the stage seems set for a conflict of their personalities. But this isn’t the case for they have a greater shared enemy with a culture that demands they repress their individuality and parades them before disapproving men and families. Their affinity as women emerges as stronger. 

Even if there may be a more obvious political backdrop to call upon, Hamoud’s Palestinian drama  is set in the no less political world of gender roles. The conflict between traditional demands and the context of modern society proves their central dilemma. Why don’t they just get married? Layla (Hawa) just wants good time to let off steam from being a smart lawyer and although she can casually tell a colleague who makes advance they should keep their relationship fun and flirty, she’s not above being smitten. Salma (Jemmelieh) is perfectly as ease with herself but being outed is something else. Nour (Kenboura) plays by all the traditional rules – wears a Hijab; is deferential to her fiancé – only to find that that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be treated right. And so there’s no surprises because these are usual dramas – and yes, there will be a dancing-in-the-lounge moment – but it’s energetic and daring as a tale of modern Israeli-Palestinian women trying to kick against an old world conception of gender. Even if Nour’s tale does veer into something touching on thriller, it also clearly heads that way to show that the woman have to bond together and try more desperate measures to deal with issues when it’s obvious that there’s no help forthcoming elsewhere. 

It’s loose-limbed, funny, mature and engaging and although the end leaves them a little stranded, the impression is that these women are just getting started (as the title implies). As if to prove Hamoud right, she has had a fatwa placed on her due to simply making this film about and for women. Dabbed with neon-inflected credits and a dance tunes, the tone is far from downbeat and even if the world seems to be doing these women no favours, their upbeat defiance will surely leave the world trying to catch up with them and not vice-versa.                                

Sunday, 1 October 2017

mother!

Darren Aronofsky, 2017, USA

The trailer for ‘mother!’ was shown frequently at FrightFest 2017 and it seemed to be a home invasion/scary cult ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ kind of thing: I was thinking that the trailer gave away too much. But of course, now I see that is all those things too but that a trailer could not give it all away even if it tried, because Arofonsly’s latest is all allegory and that’s the kind of thing a teaser cannot convey. I went into it with a horror fan’s mindset, feeling unease at the infiltration of the domestic setting between Jennifer Lawrence (“Mother”) and Javier Badhem (“Him”), enjoying the bonkers escalation of events when their siblings turn up. But by the time it becomes clear this is all symbolism and metaphor, such tension dissipates and the main job is to decode and ride the escalation of events as things go off the rails. 

And then, as they are all symbols, it becomes apparent that involvement with the characters as personalities is moot, although Lawrence and Badhem and the cast in general are great: they provide the human ingredient. There is a lot of humour and farce to be had in the scenario of people just turning up all the time – and Michelle Pfeiffer’s increasing scathing looks got frequent laughs when I saw it – and there is a underlying affinity with schlock and exploitation that is surely being lost on people that simply see it as pretentious: this is in accord with Aronofsky’s previous work as much as the religious allusions. It has a visceral full-throttle and swelling trajectory that is surely derived from the horror genre.

When I first came out I said that I didn’t think there was much to decode: but that is obviously wrong and what I think I meant was that it it’s so evidently an allegory that there is no mystery. Aronofsky has posited ‘mother!’ as an allegory for our times: Lawrence represents mother Earth and so on; and then there are the multitude of religious references. But I am of the mind that people think religious references instantaneously meaningful instead of lazy and obvious and I am not the receptive audience for parables. A friend of mine saw it as an allegory for abusive relationships. Indeed, it can easily be seen as a tale of how men use young women up and then just move on: if you find this critical of patriarchy may depend on whether you think Aronofsky is being empathic or guilty of relishing a little too much the suffering of women (I tend to think it’s sympathetic, but like ‘Black Swan’, it treads a fine line). And if one subscribes to its value as parable, it can be read as equally as scathing of how religion abuses women as ‘Martyrs’

As I am not one to think religious insinuation is intrinsically profound, my interpretation was that ‘mother!’ was an allegory for the creative process with Jennifer Lawrence being the somewhat mistreated muse. You let the fans in, they inspire you, they are weird, have a party with and start wars/arguments over your art and eventually they tear it all apart with their cult fandom – they find the unbraced sink of weakness and test it until it brings the wall down – and then you have to start again with a new muse. That such a conceit has been promoted in such a mainstream style amuses me no end. It’s going to be so divisive –and it is – because it isn’t what you expect and behaves more like one of those films that mainstream audiences hate (and where the goal was to get people through the door, the promotion surely worked). It’s certainly a film that grows in stature upon consideration afterwards – if you do like it at all – but as a film that straddles the absurdities of the horror genre and the pomp of art cinema, it’s certainly a go-for-broke effort. 

Sunday, 17 September 2017

One moment in: 'Kaos'

‘Kaos’
Vittorio & Paolo Taviani, 1982, Italy/France

The films of the Taviani brothers are abundant with beautiful images, but when I saw ‘Kaos’ at the cinema, there was one moment that left a long-lasting impression (and for a long time I had to keep it as a fond memory as the film didn’t seem to be available on VHS or DVD). It’s when the family visit a desolate island, away from civilisation, where the beach is made of sand as white as mountains of flour. When the kids tumble down the slope into the ocean, it struck me as one of the most beautiful and carefree images in cinema.

One moment in: 'Exists'


Eduardo Sanchez, 2014, USA

‘Exists’ is a pretty average monster horror. It suffers, as these things tend to do, from unremarkable and frequently annoying twentysomething characters, the kind you can’t particularly be too concerned with. It’s also a shakycam p.o.v. “found footage” film, with all the weaknesses that brings with it. However, it is a bigfoot film and it’s here it wins. When the p.o.v. aesthetic works, its effective to giving in an “insiders” view of horror moments we are familiar with: I’m thinking of the monster’s p.o.v. when they fly off in ‘V/H/S/’ and ‘Jaruzalem’, or the ending of ‘The Borderlands’. In ‘Exists’, there are effective shots of the sasquatch running through the woods to catch up with a victim cycling away, but better than that, and the one shot that means this film will always overcome its weaknesses with me, is that phenomenal, convincing, elongated close-up of the beast at the end. I always thought that Chewbacca was probably the most convincing alien in ‘Star Wars’ and, here, such a convincing man-in-a-suit design creates something truly scary and magnificent in the monster pantheon. All the way through the film, I wondered if we would ever get to actually see, properly, the monster. I mean, it wouldn’t necessarily matter – after all, ‘Willow Creek’ scared me and is probably my favourite Sasquatch film despite the absence of bigfoot sightings – but then when the bigfoot got his close-up, and sustained it, I was mesmerised. Many sasquatch films have kept the beast at arm’s-length, because after all it is just a man in a monster suit and it’s best not to reveal its shortcomings too much, and anyway things are better with a little mystery. But this monster-mask is convincing, scary and is thoroughly able of absorbing scrutiny. 



Wednesday, 13 September 2017

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne



The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Miss Osbourne

Dr Jekyll and the Women
Docteur Jekyll et les Femmes

Walerian Borowczyk, 1981, France-West Germany

Borowczyk offers Robert Loius Stevenson’s seminal work as a chamber piece where a gathering of the upper class pontificating about metaphysics and transcendence, that kind of thing, find themselves destroyed from the inside-out as Dr Jekyll’s alter-ego uses the event as an excuse to rape and murder.

Where Stevenson’s tale can be seen as good intentions leading to the worst of man, Borowczyk’s version here is more the perverse outcome of the ego and the pretensions of the upper class. There is plenty here that might verge on the unintentionally laughable, not least the dubbing – which always tends to make things unintentionally laughable – some over-ripe acting – which is par-for-the-course in this kind of venture – and its verging on the “Stupid Female” syndrome; and of course then there’s Jekyll’s considerable penis and the sewing machine as an erotic prop. But the atmosphere overcomes such potential weaknesses as well as the sheer audacity, including having Dr Jekyll’s transformation being reduced to flaying around in a bath. 

The framing and the use of light transcend the straightforward imagining of the Dr Jekyll (Udo Kier, who  always seems game for this kind of thing) story as a chamber piece to create a dreamy, painterly and immersive experience. The blue filters for night and the soft golden interiors are a vivid contrast. Sometimes the edges of the frame are soft or dark, making frames resemble a painting, perhaps something by Johannes Vameer who features as an example of “transcendent” art and of a dowry.  The jewellery catches the light and sparkles. It’s like an ornate doily covering an obscene ornament. This mood is helped by Bernard Parmegiani’s electronic score that flirts with the discordant to make the whole thing feel more like a psychedelic excursion of the era typical of, say, Nicolas Roeg than a period piece. 

There is some abstraction to the threat with the group mostly finding violence's remains, the corpses that keep cropping up. They react by hankering down and shooting innocents by accident. The paranoia and frantic responses of the privileged not to mention the hypocrisy makes for ripe satire. Borowczyk ultimately wants to cross genders with this usurping of upbringing and civility and here it truly departs from Stevenson’s agenda, making women just as complicit.

At the end, Borowczyk lets the craziness out, but it consumes itself in the back of a carriage before it gets too far. It’s a perverted comedy of manners, a phantasmagoria of genre absurdities reaching for the sublime, a farce of murder and debauchery.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

FrightFest 2017 - epilogue

This is all about the FrightFest main screen.


More than ever, it seemed that people came to applaud bad guys meeting gory and despicable just desserts, to wallow in the special kind of poetic justice that the Horror genre provides. It was ‘Killing Ground’ and ‘The Terror of All Hallows Eve’ that seemed aware of the consequences and the trauma of horror scenarios where others used the genre to be kill-happy and to generate a high standard of comedy. There was more laughing and clapping with glee than ever this year.


Some random thoughts this FrightFest:

- Hey, the glass ceiling caving-in scene in ‘Cult of Chucky’ verges on the pretty.
- I may not have been persuaded by ‘Death Note’, but seeing it on such a big screen – and it is a big screen – was the best way to see it.
- Yep, it wouldn’t have surprised me if I was the only one that dug ‘Psychopaths’. But it lingered with me and I know I am going to like it more on a second watch.
- …Trying not to be annoyed that I had to work Friday morning and miss three whole films. Do they not know how important this is?
- There’s a lot of sassy kick-ass girls this FrightFest, but for me it’s Harriet Dyer in ‘Killing Ground’ that topped them all. Maybe because nearly all the others were all fantasies of one kind or another ('Lowlife' excluded).
- Started watching ‘Leatherface’ and the guy next to me was still using his phone until the guy further on said loudly “Turn your phone off.” He did and then left halfway through the film and there was just something about this behaviour that made me think “He must be an industry person.” Afterwards, a FrightFrest friend said he recognised him as the producer of ‘Turbo Kid’, which I love.
- ‘The Terror of All Hallows Eve’ really bothered me with its message of “don’t lose your temper to revenge”, which is correct, but you couldn’t blame the kid and he didn’t deserve such a fate. Unfairness is one thing that really haunts me. For example, the characters of ‘Killing Ground’ and ‘Better Watch Out’ didn’t deserve this either, and that’s why these films were the most troubling for me. And that’s why I really liked them.
- ‘The Villainess’ was exactly what I thought it would be, and all the better for that. But the p.o.v. action that defined ‘Hardcore Henry’ I can see becoming old hat as a novelty very soon.
- The standard of writing and dialogue was so high this year, probably due to the demands of comedy.
- Such a litany of great female performances... almost in every film.
- Such good and strong horror comedies, from the satire of ‘Better Watch Out’ to the drunk dad of 'Dead Shack' to the dumb fun of ‘Victor Crowley’. I’m sure I enjoyed the latter more because I was with the right audience. 



The ones I liked best?  

- ‘Psychopaths’ because it was so intriguing and not ashamed of its artiness 
- ’68 Kill’ for being such a fun and mean-edged romp
- ‘Game of Death’ for being sly, cruel and well thought-out
- ‘Killing Ground’ for credible characters and for being genuinely gruelling 
- ‘Lowlife’ for being funny in despair and for having a neat ending without being obvious 
- ‘Better Watch Out’ for such a scathing take-down of certain Christmassy tropes

Second tier: ‘Dead Shack’, ‘Double Date’, ‘The Terror of All Hallows Eve’

See you next year, I’m sure.