Michael Myers Comes To London

Michael Myers Comes To London

Another past event has just popped up in the Memories section of my Facebook account. Apparently, 15 years ago I was watching Halloween at the National Film Theatre.

And apparently, I have scanned and posted the NFT notes for the screening.

As I remember, this screening was utilising a brand spanking new 35mm print that had been freshly made. The video and audio were sensational and a far cry from the print that was used at another cinema screening I attended a few years before this. That print was from the original release of the film in 1978 and was in a dire state. Although it was of historical value and great to see the BBFC card for the film from when it was released, it looked and sounded terrible.

Anyhoo, here’s some film history for you.

The Irishman, Laurie Strode and The Empathy Chip

The Irishman, Laurie Strode and The Empathy Chip

I’m so glad I studied Psychology in college. I’ve always found the subject interesting and have sought to build on what I’ve already learnt through my interactions with different people throughout my life.

I became aware of Narcissistic Personality Disorder quite by accident recently. It was information that I had been trying to discover for years as I had very, shall we say, unfortunate interactions with a narcissist a few years back.

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When I stumbled across the info on NPD I wasn’t surprised to learn that this sort of personality belongs in what is called the Cluster B personality disorder category. If you want to see how disordered these personality types are then pay heed to the fact that other examples of Cluster B personalities are psychopaths and sociopaths. I began looking into how these disorders shared similarities and how they differed.

In the midst of all of this research Scorsese releases The Irishman. As well as being a brilliant piece of entertainment it’s also an amazingly detailed depiction of a sociopath (I mentioned about Frank Sheeran’s psychological state in my original review of the film- particularly shown by the scene where as a soldier he makes two other soldiers dig their own grave before shooting them when they have completed the task).

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I’m so glad that one of my favourite film analysis YouTube channels The Discarded Image have just uploaded a video regarding the psychology of The Irishman’s Frank Sheeran, Scorsese’s protagonists in general and much more. It can be found here.

And whilst you’re there check out the same channel’s video on John Carpenter’s Halloween. One of my favourite films of all time, I’m impressed by any analysis that makes note of aspects of the film that no-one else has considered. This video does it many times, especially when talking about Laurie walking over to the house across the street, how it’s handled and her impending doom. This video is here.

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Stunning videos.

 

Review- Psycho 2 (1983) ****

Review- Psycho 2 (1983) ****

The project of Psycho 2 was a poison chalice. On one hand, it provided a director with the opportunity to prove themselves by making a sequel to a bona fide horror classic by a master auteur. It also made available the possibility of continuing a story of one of cinema’s greatest and most complex characters, Norman Bates.

But on the other hand, the film would certainly be met with howls of derision from some cinema purists. Also, some would see a sequel to such a horror landmark as being cheap, an exercise in making a fast buck and the finished film would certainly draw comparisons to it’s superior first film.

Richard Franklin accepted the offer to act as director and does a pretty good job.

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Everyone’s favourite Momma’s Boy Norman leaves the asylum he has been an inhabitant of for the last 22 years as he is judged to be satifactorily rehabilitated enough to be let loose into the wider community. Marion Crane’s sister Lila (Vera Miles returning to replay the role and a definite plus for the movie) vehemently opposes this move however and wants to see him locked up out of harm’s way forever.

Norman takes a job in a small diner near his home and it’s here that he meets Mary Samuels (Meg Tilly) who has just split up from her boyfriend and finds herself homeless. Norman offers her board and it’s here that the freakiness starts. Norman starts to see notes supposedly from his dead mother. Unexpected murders occur. Could Norman be up to his old tricks again? Or is he being gaslighted into lapsing into his old murderous ways?

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Put down the knife, Norman

It’s interesting that for this 80’s sequel the director knew that horror had not only advanced and evolved as a genre but that it was at that point in time enjoying somewhat of a renaissance with the slasher subgenre dominating the box office with seemingly new films being released almost every week. These films relied on gory and (in the best examples) innovative death sequences. Psycho 2 duly notes this and so we get some doozy gore scenes. The sequence involving a victim receiving a knife through the mouth exemplifies this. In this regard the sequel is like another sequel to a horror classic, Halloween 2. In the three years between the original John Carpenter classic and it’s sequel the horror genre had accelerated forth like a cinematic juggernaut with deaths becoming more explicit and graphic. Whilst there is little gore, blood or graphic violence in Halloween, it’s sequel includes scoldings, hypodermic needles in eyeballs and a hammer to the cranium to mention just a few ways as to how victims are disposed of.

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The gorier Halloween 2 (1981)

There is even a nod to the slasher genre within Psycho 2 as we see two frisky teens break into the basement of the Bates House to indulge in atypical slasher teen activities like, y’know, making out whilst smoking pot. Mother wouldn’t have approved.

The film has a great feel and look that I haven’t experienced in any other film. It has a very grimy atmosphere. The fact that De Palma staple actor Dennis Franz is one of the cast playing a sleazeball who has turned the Bates Motel into a ‘rent rooms by the hour’ motel for those of lower morals also helps foster this dirty vibe. Psycho 2 feels like the innocence of Norman and the first film has been (for the audience’s entertainment) been defiled and is irretrievably gone (in a good way). The film is very astute in this way as maybe it was a comment on society in general.

Another major factor that helps establish this sleazy air is the amazing cinematography by the ever brilliant Dean Cundey (another factor that helps lift Psycho 2 from just being a cash-in sequel). Check out the astonishing camerawork that almost levitates and prowls around the outside of the Bates House as we see first the teens and then later Lila gain entry via the basement. In these scenes the camera feels like an ever present supernatural and voyeuristic entity as we see events that only an ever watchful killer would.

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Of course, we’re waiting for Norman to go mad during the course of the film and this is brilliantly shown in the scene in which Norman is seen by Mary talking on the phone to his dead Mother and asking her what he should do next. This scene shows the brilliance of Anthony Perkins in this role. Psycho 2 would have been half the film it is if he hadn’t have returned to reprise a role he made all his own.

Add to all of this a final scene which is one of the most unexpected scenes in horror history (no, I’m not going to ruin it!) and you have a very good 1980’s sequel to a horror classic. No, it’s not as good as Psycho but then few films are. But it’s still well worth investigating.

4 out of 5 stars

 

Excursions Into Hell: My Favourite Filmgoing Experiences

Excursions Into Hell: My Favourite Filmgoing Experiences

With the news that Female Trouble, John Waters’ meisterwerk and design for living is being shown, my noggin got a joggin’.

I started thinking about the films that I’ve been lucky enough to watch on the big screen and with an audience.

My favourite filmgoing experience has to be when I got to see a film that I never thought I’d ever see in a cinema AND in the format that it was intended to be seen in. That film is the brilliant Friday the 13th Part 3D. I had moved to London from York in 1994 to study film and had started to go to the amazing but very high-brow (although it can’t be that high-brow as they let me in…) National Film Theatre known as the NFT to London’s cineastes and skinny latte drinking set.

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Shortly after graduating from Uni and getting a job (real life is worse than ANY horror film) I heard that the NFT were to show a season of 3D films which were to be actually shown in 3D using the vintage technology that was required. I then read that the third Friday the 13th film would be part of the season. I have never bought a cinema ticket faster in my fucking life!

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Friday the 13th Part 3D starts with the end of Part 2 which isn’t in 3D. The NFT film snobs were sniggering at how corny this sequence was and were clearly thinking that their tastes in film were so much more elevated than this supposed generic slasher film they were watching on the screen.

But then, Part 3 started in earnest. If you haven’t seen the film, the 3D is brilliantly done. The makers of the movie really knew how they could make full effect of the 3D process and were willing to use it to blow audience’s minds.

The first glimpse of the 3D happens when the titles literally shoot out of the screen at the audience out of the decapitated head of Pamela Voorhees. But to really show how awesome the process was and how far it could be taken, the titles come forth but only part way before they come out even further so that they are right in front of the audience’s noses. It was a great piece of showmanship on the part of the filmmakers- ‘Here’s the 3D. Oh, hang on, we can do better than that! HERE’S the 3D!’

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With that first 3D one-two punch by the film I have never heard such a scream of excitement emitted by a cinema audience (and it sounded like every single member of that audience squealed in delight) before or since. The film was so well crafted with so much thought placed on the 3D aspects and how the gimmick could be used in so many innovative ways. A movie that was primarily made for horror fiends had just demonstrated that it could also work on the snobbiest film audiences imaginable and completely enthral them. Now that’s genius.

The 3D was used for both comical purposes to make the audience chuckle ( these involve yo-yos, juggling, a joint being passed towards the audience) but more importantly it’s also used so that spectators can experience the sheer pain of Jason’s killings. There is one scene in which Mr Voorhees squeezes a bit too hard on a character’s head and one of his eyeballs shoots out of it’s socket and straight at the audience. In another we get an arrow shot from a harpoon that Jason has fired at another victim. This also shoots her in the eye (after wheezing towards us first). It’s almost like the filmmakers wanted to exploit the ‘eye injury’ angle with this being a 3D movie. They were making the movie as painful as possible for the audience. Hooray for 3D!

We even get Jason staggering towards us whilst he’s mid-battle with the film’s Final Girl with an axe sticking out of his hockey mask.

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This screening was such a success with the NFT’s audience that there was even applause when it finished. The audience whooped, yelped and had a jolly good time. Job done.

I went to see Jaws 3D the following night. Even in 3D it’s dreadful and further testament to the innovative use of the format by Friday’s filmmakers.

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Shortly after this screening I heard about a season of films showing at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (known as the ICA), another establishment of all things high culture and respectability. All of the films chosen were then (1998) still banned by the British Board of Film Classification (the BBFC- as you can tell we like our acronyms here in the United Kingdom or UK *haha*) and were all banned horror movies with some appearing on the infamous Video Nasties DDP List. Through some legal wrangling the ICA had asked the BBFC to let them be shown for one day only.

Thus, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Driller Killer, Zombie Flesh Eaters, House by the Cemetary, Nightmares in a Damaged Brain and Zombie Holocaust were all shown whilst they were all still banned in the UK.

The thrill of seeing these forbidden fruits of the Video Nasties era when they were still banned was palpable. James Ferman was still the Director of the BBFC and was notoriously strict when it came to horror (it was under his regime that The Exorcist and Texas Chain Saw Massacre remained banned. He seemed inflexible when it came to art of any kind and clearly behind the times).

But things were about to change when it came to TCM. The movie was released in early 1999 in London when Camden Council were granted a license to show the film within it’s area boundaries only. For this release the film even had it’s own certificate of ‘C’ for Camden. Only people who were 18 and over would be able to watch the film in a cinema. I saw the film during this release.

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I remember I had gone into London to browse the many film memorabilia shops that existed around the West End then (all sadly gone now unfortunately) and then to go onto the gay scene with it’s numerous bars that were close to the ABC Shaftesbury Avenue. As I exited the excellent Cinema Store I walked past the ABC Cinema on Shaftesbury Avenue and saw that TCM was showing. I didn’t know about this release until I saw the poster outside the cinema.

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This was also my first visit to this particular cinema with it’s gorgeous carved frieze on the outside. It reeked of history inside and out and with further investigation I found out that it went back decades and was even used for film premieres.

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The afternoon screening of TCM only had two other people in it. Watching TCM is like going to Hell (in a good way) for an hour and a half and it seemed really perverse that one minute I was trolling the West End and was then immersed in one of the most intense and frightening horror movies ever made. I remember none of the punters in that screening left before we had seen all of the end credits through to the end. The house lights then went up, we exchanged looks to each other as if to say ‘What the fuck have we just been through together?!’, smiled and then left.

A favourite more recent screening that sticks in my mind was when my local arthouse cinema showed Pink Flamingos. The Hyde Park Picturehouse here in Leeds shows a cult film most Saturdays under the banner of Creatures of the Night. The cinema is located in a part of Leeds which has a huge student population. Hence, you have plenty of students who attend these screenings, a minority of whom think that ‘cult’ means ‘rubbish’. These people obviously don’t know what cult cinema is and wouldn’t know shit from clay. I’ve attended screenings here of films such as The Terminator, The Warriors and Christine which, unfortunately, this clueless and jaded minority have thought it appropriate to snigger at and ridicule. As a side note, these people will never ruin a cinema screening for me. I would never give them the satisfaction or feed their narcissism in such a way.

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A surefire way to tell if your film still has ‘it’ when it comes to cult cinema is to see and hear how the audience reacts. Right from the get-go Pink Flamingos shocked the audience at this particular screening into submission. At the start of the film there was a stunned silence of utter disbelief at what was being seen and then there were howls of laughter at all the right places with screams of disgust at all the appropriate scenes also (the dog poo scene especially) as Divine and co won the hearts of the punters.

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In fact, there have been a few John Waters related screenings that stick in my mind. Firstly, the time I went to see his live film This Filthy World in New York which he attended. He answered questions after it. Also, the time he taught a film class that I was lucky to be invited to in which he showed one of his favourite films, Boom! starring Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. We all then talked about it and asked him about his career…But that has been covered by myself in a previous blog post. Talking about it again might be seen as bragging *walks away whistling*

Review- Doctor Sleep (2019)

Review- Doctor Sleep (2019)

I read Stephen King’s sequel to The Shining and thoroughly enjoyed it when it was first published. I was eager to see the film adaptation and if it was as satisfying as the book.

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It’s always a brave move to write a sequel to a well known book that is now considered to be a classic within it’s field. The film is seen as a true classic in the horror genre and is regularly in the Top 10 Horror Movies of All Time polls if not occupying the top spot in a number of instances. So, making a sequel to a film with such a lofty reputation was a brave move.

The film starts in Florida in 1980 after the events of the first film and Danny is still haunted and having his life affected negatively by the spectres he saw from The Overlook Hotel which are now haunting and harming him wherever he is. Dick Halloran reappears to Danny to teach him a valuable life less on how to mentally deal with this. I noticed that some of the darker details Dick talked about in the book aren’t here. Maybe the film wouldn’t have been a 15 certificate if they had been.

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Taking the plot up again in 1980 is a brave move. It works wonderfully as the plot points that are raised are crucial to the plot. All actors who are filling the shoes of people who have become iconic since the first film’s release do a great job. But it’s Carl Lumbly (yes, Petrie from Cagney and Lacey!) who is a true revelation here. He is Scatman Crothers reincarnated! It’s a performance that is eerily accurate and absolutely amazing to watch. Thankfully, Dick appears throughout the film to give Danny advice in the way as if he were Danny’s conscience or inner voice.

The film then comes forward to 2011. Danny is an alcoholic. An episode of how chaotic his life is is shown through an incident in bar were he gets drunk, gets into a fight with a fellow bar patron, beats him up and then hooks up with a woman. How chaotic his life is at this point is shown the morning after. We see him waking up next to a woman who has vomited in the bed they slept in, the memories of them doing coke the night before come flooding back and Danny running out on her (after maybe taking money from her to pay her back for her using his money to buy the coke with). Danny is then shown sleeping rough.

Danny then makes his way to New Hampshire. Its here that he meets Billy who he instantly feels a bond with. Billy in return sees Danny as having problems and sets out to help Danny address some of his demons- namely, his alcoholism as this is something that Billy has had to face also. Danny starts to go to the Alcoholic Anonymous group with Billy.

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Whilst this is going on we get introduced to a new group of characters known as The True Knot, a cult led by Rose The Hat. They are a cult whose immortality depends on them feeding off and capturing the ‘steam’ given off by children who also possess the shining when they are tortured and killed. Yes, Doctor Sleep is extremely dark. The sequence when the baseball player who is only 10 is murdered made for difficult viewing. But I’m glad that the film dealt with issues that were this dark rather than feeling like a lightweight and whimsical quick cash-in.

Danny starts working at an old people’s home. The resident cat there will instinctively spend time with the resident who is next to die. Danny sees this and so uses his shining to make the resident’s departure as painless as possible. He is using his shining again and as a force of good after years of forcing himself to repress and not use his gift.

Eight years pass. Danny is shown to have been regularly attending the AA meetings and appears to be conquering his addiction.

A young girl starts to communicate with Danny using her shining which is shown to be the most powerful example of the power that Danny (and later Rose) has ever experienced. She’s only a child but is shown to have shining stronger and more potent than any adult. Abra tells Danny about the 10 year old baseball player who she has visions of being killed. Unfortunately, Rose psychically ‘feels’ that Abra is watching this murder through her own powers of shining/second sight and this alerts her to Abra’s existence. Members of the cult haven’t been exposed to any really strong ‘steam’ for quite some time and cult members have shown to be starting to suffer because of this (we see what happens to members of the cult when this happens during the film as the oldest True Knot member expires into a cloud of steam himself). This makes Abra a target for the group.

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And that’s where I’m going to leave the synopsis. To give any more details away is to ruin the film for everyone!

This is a great sequel. References to the past film are subtly placed here and there (one prime example- the overhead shots of cars driving along in the same style as those used by Kubrick in the opening scenes of the original) but they feel relevant and not tacky. If some fans feel that the references are too sparse they should rest assured. The references start to become more frequent as the film progresses. The final act of the movie then takes part at the Overlook Hotel! It would be impossible not to have past references come in thick and fast at this point. And they do and it feels like old friends coming out to play again rather than a desperate attempt to milk some more bucks from a trusted horror classic. Everything that happens at the hotel feels like it’s being used in a plot that rightly calls for their use in progressing the story towards it’s conclusion.

Danny walking through The Overlook and seeing all of the old sites again sent shivers down my spine. There was even a scene that firstly made my jaw drop wide open and then almost reduced me to tears. I’m certainly not going to give it away but it’s astounding in it’s potency and power.

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There is plenty going on in the film as you can tell from the plotline. On top of all of this there’s even an implied bromance between Danny and Billy which is as intriguing as it’s subtle. Intelligent filmmaking is at play here. I predict that the kind of film analysis that was applied to the original film will also be generated from the material that lies within this film.

Doctor Sleep is also visually stunning and feels genuinely innovative in some scenes. In fact at some points I thought of the hypnosis scenes from Get Out.

Doctor Sleep is a film about addressing the past and confronting demons so that they can be laid to rest and people can progress forward. It’s also a film about closure and making peace with your past, the relationships therein and the wounds that until then never seemed to heal.

Doctor Sleep is a brilliant film and throughly deserves to be the sequel to such a revered and loved horror classic. And if Ewan McGregor doesn’t get a tip of the hat from The Academy then theres something VERY wrong happening.

Which makes me think. This years could have nominations for Joaquin Phoenix for The Joker, Zac Efron as Ted Bundy and Ewan McGregor as Danny Torrence. This years Oscars might be good for a change. Carl Lumbly definitely deserves to win plaudits for his extraordinary performance.

4 out of 5 stars

Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Tentacles (1977)

Day 31- 31 Days of Halloween- Tentacles (1977)

I loved it when big name stars decided to degrade themselves by starring in Italian exploitation pics in the 70’s solely for a big paycheck. This Italian Jaws rip-off stars Henry Fonda, John Huston and Shelley Winters.

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The original quad UK cinema poster

A seaside resort (a long way from Amity though) has become the feeding supply of a giant octopus. John Huston’s news reporter and a marine biologist cast the blame on Fonda’s construction company Trojan who have been building an underwater tunnel and using extremely high radio signals in the process. This has royally p*ssed off Mr Octopus which has taken to attacking divers and anyone else unlucky enough to cross his underwater path and thus becoming Octo-fodder.

Like most other high(er) budget Euro horrors from this period this is camp, slicker than your average Jaws clone and an efficient popcorn rollercoaster ride of a movie. It does what it says on the tin, the cast ham it up for all it’s worth and it’s good fun while it lasts. OK, so theres nothing to have Mr Spielberg looking over his shoulder here but it never leaves you thinking ‘Thats 90 minutes I’ll never get back!’

3 out of 5 stars

 

Day 29-31 Days of Halloween- The Prey (1983)

Day 29-31 Days of Halloween- The Prey (1983)

Healthy horny idiots go camping in the woods (I know, an alien scenario for a slasher film!) The woods they go to were the location of a bloodbath decades earlier as someone from a gypsy camp was falsely accused of rape by a female member of the townsfolk. The townsfolk burnt down the gypsy settlement but one of the younger members of the travellers escaped albeit with massive amounts of burns. The present day campers get the feeling that someone is watching them and then start to be dispatched by You Know Who.

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The Prey was made in 1980 but not released in the States until 1983. Edwin Brown was directing porn movies before he decided to branch out into horror. And it shows! The sex scenes in this movie are a lot more raunchy than in other slasher movies. Theres a longer version of this film called the ‘Gypsy Cut’ which contains a full prologue regarding the traveller characters. This sequence is VERY sexual and feels like the sequences of porn movies that you see before sexual organs get an airing. This includes the kind of flat acting that you could only see in pornography.

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The film feels like it wants to establish the fact that it’s a Hillbillies vs City Folk movie and even has a character playing a banjo!

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But whilst this is a blatant Friday the 13th rip-off theres enough here to hold your interest. The kills are very effective (courtesy of special effects guru John Carl Buechler), the cinematography is stunning (even if scenes shot in a forest are pretty hard not to portray as beautiful. Check out the scale of some of the shots and how the humans are sometimes shown as minuscule in comparison to the woods. Also, check out the abseiling scene). Theres also a very unexpected ending that shows that Ol’ Scarface has other plans for the Final Girl rather than killing her. This reminded me of the backstory to the mutant family in the masterpiece, The Hills Have Eyes. The kill of the Final Girl’s friend before this is also very left-field and takes the audience by surprise (no, I’m not going to disclose what it is!)

Check out the Arrow Films Blu ray. Both cuts are on there along with a gorgeous transfer and plenty of extras.

3 out of 5 stars