Category Archives: Films

Byzantium

byzantiumI didn’t see this when it came out at the cinema earlier in the year but remember middling reviews for it – it’s currently at 61% on Rotten Tomatoes – with reviewers highlighting the lack of scariness, but also commending it for not being a usual vampire film. However, not knowing much about it I thought I’d give it a go and I was strangely taken in.

Gemma Arterton, who I last saw marching about in leather and firing stakes like bullets in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, is still marching about in leather but this time she’s a 200 year old vampire called Clara on the run with her vampire daughter Eleanor, played by Saoirse Ronan. Tom Hollander, who was in the fantastic Hanna with Ronan also turns up in this as a college teacher, and Johnny Lee Miller staggers in and out as a whoring, thieving officer in the British army in Clara’s youth.

Clara and Eleanor are constantly on the move, and this time get washed up on the shinglebyzantium 3 beach of a dying English coastal town – full of retirement homes, drug addict prostitutes and desolate concrete boulevards. Byzantium is the old hotel they end up in, which Clara quickly turns into a brothel to make money, but Eleanor – forever protected by Clara and eternally 16 years old – lives a half life. Unable to settle down and unable to tell anybody her real story, she struggles to define herself and resorts to writing her story down on paper and throwing it into the wind for somebody, somewhere to read.

These vampires do not sink their fangs into their victims – instead they have this strange extendable thumbnail, which they stab into their victims’ necks to feed. Clara feeds on the powerful men who have done others wrong, whilst Eleanor is a merciful angel of death, bringing peace to those in pain. Everything comes to a head however, when their past catches up with them.

Byzantium 2I say that I was strangely taken in, and I think that’s because there are three separate strands to the film, each with a different feel. We have Eleanor’s aimless drifting and scribbling, telling us her story in voice over, and her budding relationship with a young waiter she meets, then we have the harder world of Clara who uses her body to get by and slaughters those who get in her way, and then we have the flashbacks to 200 years previously where we find out how they both became vampires. For me the flashback bits didn’t really work as well as they did in Interview With The Vampire, which Neil Jordan also directed, and the iffy CGI of spiralling birds and blood red waterfalls on the mysterious island which can only be found with a certain map didn’t quite match up with the more dreamy quality of Eleanor’s limbo.

I liked the contrast of Clara and Eleanor – one hard and vengeful and the other kinder andbyzantium 4 yearning for something more, but a deeper focus on how human they felt they were and what purpose they felt they had would have been more interesting for me. There is blood sucking in it, and lots of other blood, but I like that it went off on its own route a little where the vampirism wasn’t just what they were – they don’t seem particularly hampered by it in any way though you would think that after 200 years they would have learned how to get rid of a body rather than just leaving it on a beach. You only get a flash of hunger for blood occasionally, and for me this was more a symbol of Eleanor longing for intimacy with somebody else and sharing her story with them, whereas Clara uses it as a punishment.

Yes, it wasn’t perfect by a long way, but I thought it was interesting and in some parts touching, but the heavy-handed chasing of the two women by the Brotherhood who consider them to be abominations and Clara’s murdering of men left, right and centre thins out the more sensitive aspects. I was intrigued by the method of how one becomes a vampire – they enter a circular stone shrine on the mysterious island and are seemingly killed by themselves. An allegory of having to master yourself if you are to achieve what you want to achieve perhaps?

A Good Day to Die Hard

Warning: Spoilers

A good day to die hard25 years on, Bruce Willis is still out there, putting himself on the line, ready to shoot a whole new bunch of bad guys in the face even though they look very similar to the kind of bad guys he was shooting way back in 1988. You know the kind; bleached blonde hair, strange fashion sense, often one heavily muscled bad guy wandering about ready for a fight scene that lasts at least ten minutes and requires somebody being hit with an industrial chain on a meat hook. This one however breaks the mould, it isn’t just about John McClane, it’s about his relationship with his… hang on… his son? His son that he doesn’t get on with… which means that we’re going to have to put up with continuous ‘moments’ where the son repeatedly refuses to call his dad ‘Dad’, and instead just keeps saying ‘John’ over and over and over until they have a significant moment at the end of the film where the entire film set has been blown to oblivion and they can finally have a slow walk through the burning debris and realise that family is more important than depleted uranium?

McClane for some random reason has decided that now is the time to find his son and make amends for being a rubbish parent – 30 years too late you may well say but cast such thoughts aside because this time he really does care, and goes on holiday to Moscow to prove it. And you know this because throughout the film one of the four set phrases that Bruce Willis will utter is ‘I’m on holiday!’, along with ‘Jack!’ , ‘Arghh!’ and ‘Scumbags!’, usually whilst in charge of a vehicle that will imminently be exploded, driven off a bridge or thrown into a building.

a good day to die hard 2

Fun day out in Russia

His son, it turns out, is a CIA agent who is trying to rescue a Moscow political prisoner in order to get a particular ‘file’ which will tell everybody who was really responsible for the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl. Yes, Chernobyl was apparently the direct result of two men enriching uranium and ‘getting greedy’. ‘Scumbags’, agrees McClane. After a car chase across Moscow where approximately 450 cars get crushed by an armoured car that the bad guys got from somewhere unspecified, McClane and his long lost son start their bonding over high powered automatic weapons and throwing themselves out of windows.

a good day to die hard 3

Interesting female characters? Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. Stop being silly.

Eventually, after half of Moscow is reduced to rubble, but with absolutely no police presence whatsoever, it’s down to CIA agent Jack, who for some reason seems to have been left to make things up by himself, and John McClane who is largely irrelevant apart from an occasional cameo where he squints and falls out of another building, to work out what happened at Chernobyl and what ‘the file’ contains. The real Chernobyl has become a tourist destination in recent years and would take precisely 12 hours and one minute to reach by driving according to Google maps seen as it’s in the Ukraine and not ten minutes down the road. However, in the world of Die Hard the gun toting good guys turn up seemingly a few minutes after the radiation-suit wearing bad guys at the nuclear reactor, which rather than the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident just looks like an abandoned factory.

a good day to die hard 4

Scumbags, all of them

They’re desperately trying to convince you that this is the the site of a terrible accident which is still highly dangerous, with the baddies goggled up to the eyeballs and waving ipads around that bleep at alarming levels, but this feeling of imminent evaporation by uranium depletion is slightly marred by the fact that Bruce and his son just stroll in with little more than a bullet belt to protect them. At one point they fall into what looks like a swimming pool, which was supposedly built inside a nuclear reactor mind you, after jumping out of yet another window and the son just shrugs this off because it’s ‘just rainwater’.

a good day to die hard 5

We shot everybody yet?
Well, the ceiling’s still attached so I suggest we go for that next.

For a light hearted action film it fills 90 minutes with repeated explosions, guns, Bruce Willis either throwing himself out of windows or being thrown into windows, and helicopters rocketing around, but for a Die Hard film it really is dire. What’s happened to the character of John McClane? The wise cracking, vest-wearing one man demolishion machine? In this he’s just wandering about slightly out of focus just repeatedly saying ‘scumbags’ now and again and crashing jeeps. The plot is so poor it’s laughable. Chernobyl? Really? Chernobyl is a three story factory with a swimming pool is it and the largest nuclear disaster ever can be explained with one file? It’s difficult to understand why this even exists, or why just a bit more effort couldn’t be employed with the plot. There’s a political undertone but it’s so flimsy that the film merely rests on its action scenes, however ridiculous they may be. In the last Die Hard film we saw Willis launch a police car at a helicopter and jump out of the back of a lorry onto a fighter jet and this film just can’t compete. He’s out-ridiculoused himself and all he has left is sappy slow-mo shots where he has a family reunion with his grown children.

Overall, if you want a bit of silly fun it kind of does the job but the more you think about it the worse it gets so turn the brain off and enjoy the CGI explosions and ignore the fact that they turned up at Chernobyl with a gas that can apparently de-radify an area in a couple of minutes.

Movie challenge days 11-20

Day 11 – A Film By Your Favourite Director

I’ve already mentioned Kubric, and I could go with The Shining or 2001 A Space Odyssey as two outstanding pieces of work, but I’m going to choose Alfred Hitchcock, even though it turns out he was pretty weird.

I’m going with The Birds from 1963, where Tippi Hedren follows a man she likes the look The birdsof to a small Californian town which quickly becomes besiged by murderous birds. It’s quite a subtle horror film, there isn’t a madman with an axe or chainsaw running around, nobody gets their arms chewed off, there aren’t any ghosts lurking about, just birds. And a bird by itself unless it’s trying to steal your chip butty in Blackpool isn’t that threatening. But imagine walking outside and seeing every available surface covered in birds, all staring at you, and then you start finding bodies…

Challenging to make after Hitchcock decided to scrap mechanical birds and throw live birds at Tippi for five days, but not tell her until she turned up on set, I think this film is the best at showing ‘The Master of Suspense’ at work. Also, there isn’t an answer as to why it has happened, leaving the interpretation completely up to you.

Rear Window is also a fantastic film, Virtego is a bit confusing, Psycho isn’t that interesting once you know the ending, Rope is interesting because of the long unbroken scenes which make it look more like a play than a film, and Marnie has a fascinating performance by Tippi again.

Day 12 – A Film By Your Least Favorite Director

Well, I don’t have a director that I can’t stand, but for consistant levels of absolute tripe Uwe Boll does an extraordinary job. You know what you’re going to get with Uwe – a plot so full of holes you just have to ignore it else you give yourself an aneurism, constant battling, characters saying stupid things (‘I am the devil incarnate!’) and people wearing inappropriate clothing in Nazi controlled areas.

dungeon seigeThe latest of his films I saw was In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale, which lies from the very beginning because not one dugeon throughout is laid under seige, more ram raided. Jason Statham – yes, Jason Statham, action man of the moment, God knows how they managed to get him into this twaddle, but then again he did do Death Race – is a farmer in a little idillic village somewhere on the coast, and he has his beautiful lovely wife and lovely kid and lovely neighbours, but unfortunately the Krugs turn up and shit goes down. Statham, in one of his finest, most sensitive roles, manages to force his bald little head into a kind of constipated flicker of what could remotely be called emotion after burying the body of his young son, before setting off to get his wife back, acompanied by his two sidekicks: a young eager guy and an old grump played by a bloke from Sons of Anarchy. Seemingly indestructable, one of them manages to fall into a canyon at one point after some comic relief on a tightrope, and merely get a bit wet.

So, bad director? Yes, but his films are quite enjoyable if you like writing sarcastic blog posts about them.

Day 13 – A Guilty Pleasure

Labyrinth is probably up there, but these days when you can watch it on a 50 inch TV and labyrinthsee David Bowie’s crotch four foot wide in HD you can hardly blame me.

Stallone films are probably my biggest guilt pleasure – I bloody love Cobra. Cliffhanger as well (Rambo on a mountain), the Untouchables, Rambo three and four where he basically wipes out half of Afghanistan or Burma by himself. All without really doing much but grunting and sticking a pair of shades on.

Day 14 – The Film That No One Expected You To Like

satans_clawI think ‘no one’ is casting a pretty wide net here. I don’t hold polls on facebook asking all of my friends which films I’m most likely to detest, but Inbetweeners the movie was one that I myself didn’t expect to like, and yet it was actually far funnier than the TV programme, especially this bit.

Conversely, a film I expected to like and didn’t is Blood on Satan’s Claw, which is diabolical, and not even in a fun Uwe Boll diabolical way, it’s just shit.

Day 15 – The Film That Depicts Your Lifedawn of the dead

Well, the London rush hour commuter crowd can be reimagined as a hoard of mindless zombies but with more backpacks, so I think Dawn of the Dead probably fits the bill. See the photo – that’s exactly what people look like at King’s Cross.

Day 16 – A Film You Used to Love, But Now Hate

LOTR_setCan’t bring any to mind, though for somebody who says they love the Lord of the Rings films I actually haven’t seen them that many times. They’re just too damn long – you need to pack sandwiches and tell people you’ll be out of contact for the rest of the afternoon if you start on one of these and once you accidentally wander into the extras you’ll be ensonced in model building of Rivendell and stories about how long it took to get the prosthetic feet on for the next four days. I’ve probably seen more of Elijah Wood’s feet than his own mother.

Day 17 – Your Favourite Drama FilmBrideshead

I really liked Brideshead Revisited and I think it can serve as an excellent example of the kind of 1930s Edwardian era film and novel that I really love reading. I can’t get enough of haughty young women in drop waists motoring around with unsuitable young men who will be packed off to World War Two in a few years’ time. See also Atonement, The Great Gatsby and House at Riverton.

Day 18 – Your Favourite Comedy Film

I saw Who Framed Roger Rabbit recently, which was brilliant though whether strictly a comedy film I don’t know. Well I can’t think of anything else so that’s going to have to be it.

Day 19 – Your Favourite Action Film

ramboHas to be Rambo First Blood, because despite the fact that Stallone can be generally summed up in films as somebody who shoots other people, he’s different from Schwartzenegger because Arnie is the American Hero type, whilst Stallone is more of a plucky outsider. I also think in this, his performance is really good. Watch him at the end when he’s recounting his friends all dying – he’s got nobody. He’s been brainwashed into becoming a killing machine to fight for the US and then when he gets back after the Vietnam war he’s shunned and there’s nowhere for him to go. It’s a heartbreaking performance, and a great film all round because despite him being an extremely dangerous man who could run around the entire police force and murder all of them before any of them knew what was happening, he doesn’t intentionally try and kill anybody. And he also whips out the iconic bandana, though the poncho made of oilskin I feel is a far overlooked fashion statement. Just look at that photo – isn’t that the face of somebody who really has been through hell and back?

Day 20 – Your Favorite Romantic Film

I like 10 Things I Hate About You because it’s got Heath Ledger in it and Before Sunrise and Before Sunset are an interesting pair of films. However, the boyfriend’s taking me to see A Good Day to Die Hard for Valentine’s Day so you can tell by that how many romantic films I watch.

The Hobbit

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEYCritics have been mostly sniffy about The Hobbit, or as I should say, the first film of the three film extravaganza of The Hobbit, and the problem when you boil it down mostly lies in the fact that it’s very, very long, whereas the book is quite short. Also, it’s been done before, ten years ago, when LOTR was adapted, which is a far better, longer and more interesting book. There’s the frame rate thing as well, which I can’t really comment on as I saw it in 2D rather than 3D because I don’t like 3D films. This is partly because I already wear one pair of glasses and I don’t particularly wish to perch another one on my nose, and I don’t need dwarves and wargs and rocks being flung by giants flying out at me constantly in order for me to enjoy the film, because I’m not eight. I did notice at the beginning that the pan shots seemed to be out of focus, which was disconcerting, but this seemed to abate once the film got going. However, I never thought that it looked like a made for TV film, which is what I’ve heard other people say.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Hobbit, but that’s because I love the Jackson-Tolkein formula of long, lush pan shots of New Zealand scenery, THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEYa main character who is a broody man/dwarf who is a burdened leader of his people who has to risk his life and those around him in order to regain the kingdom which is rightfully his because a family tree says so, and lots of battles with swords and horses and goblins dying. The Baggins clan is a kind of sideline to this as far as I’m concerned and I’m still not sure why Bilbo Baggins was dragged into the battle for the dwarves’ gold and homeland. The film doesn’t really explain this, even though we spend ages in Hobbiton watching dwarves ransack Bilbo’s house. Why him? Because hobbits are good at sneaking around and Bilbo used to be interested in elves seems to be the length and breadth of it. With LOTR you’ve got even the most pure-hearted of people being seduced by the power of the ring, but The Hobbit is ostensibly an adventure story.

The Hobbit ThorinThe idea of having three films says Jackson is so that extra material from the appendixes of LOTR and the Silmarillion etc can be woven in, and part of me wants to applaud the effort because I’m not with the cynics with this one, the people who only think he’s in it for the money, but I do think after the huge success of LOTR, Jackson clearly wants to make as good a job of The Hobbit, and once he restarted the process of making the film I imagine it was easy to slip into trying to stuff other Tolkein in there as well because the book’s quite short and there’s such a bulk of history that comes with Middle Earth.

Unfortunately, even though I did enjoy the film, I don’t think the elongation has been a The Hobbit smaugbenefit. I’ve read The Hobbit, but it was a few years ago and the route they take and things gets hazy, but it isn’t cleared up at all by the film. There are basically about seven or eight set pieces strung together like beads and these could have come in any order. There are chases by orcs, a board meeting in Rivendell, a random bit where Radagast the Brown gets carted around by rabbits and freaks out in an abandoned castle, the underground goblin city, fighting rock giants, an evil white orc, and a final showdown which barely gets us half way there. There isn’t the progression of a journey that you get with Fellowship of the Ring where the company is gradually brought together and then is split up as different people/etc. go their own ways, it’s basically a bunch of interchangeable dwarves plus James Nesbit and Richard Armitage, followed by Martin Freeman who complains a lot and led by a pointless Gandalf who run around from one scrape into another on their way to a big mountain way off in the distance. It tries to be as epic as LOTR, but there are far too few members of whatever races in it. Who are these dwarves? Why them in particular? You get Thorin Oakenshield’s story which is expanded further by having a very briefly mentioned enemy in the book bulked out into the main villain of the film – a white giant orc called Azog, who chases them across the plains – but the others you can barely remember their names let alone get a sense of their characters.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEYI think in the end it comes down to how much you like the LOTR films and Jackon’s style of filming rather than how much you like the book. If you go in ready to see an expansive action film that reminds you of the good old days when LOTR first came out, I think you’ll be happy enough, but the plot is saggy and overwrought and the goblin king voiced by Barry Humphries is just downright wrong. The trolls which are pictured here also look like something out of a game’s cutscene but if you just go with it, I think it’s an occasionally funny and action packed film which serves as a good piece of nostalgia.

Movie Challenge Days 1-10

This is a reply to Northernfool’s posts from a while back, where you work through a 30 day challenge answering various questions about films. Why there are 30 rather than 31 when there are more months with 31 days rather than 30 I’m not sure so I might add an extra bonus question for myself on the end so I can show off even more about how many films I’ve seen. So, here are the first four:

Day 1 – Your favourite film

My favourite film is probably The Shining, and not because I think it holds the answers to conspiracy theories about the moon landing, as exhaustive as the arguments may well be, but because so much atmosphere is generated with little more than a typewriter and a set of twin girls. The film’s driving force is obviously Jack Nicholson in what I think is his finest role as the unhinged Jack Torrance; a man plagued with past demons who is desperately trying to improve life for his family, but who ended up choosing the worst possible place to be.

The Shining is also one of those films where the direction and cinematography is just as The Shiningkey as the acting, and Kubric’s quite minimalist style I think fits the art deco surroundings of the hotel and its faded grandeur. It has been many years since the Overlook Hotel was in its heyday and it has been left to fester, with strange things lurking and drawing Jack in. The book focuses more heavily on the supernatural, with topiary animals from the maze chasing Danny for example, but this is cut back by Kubric, so you’re never sure whether it’s all in Jack’s mind – his alcoholism, calling him back.

Finally, it’s the kind of film where you can watch it again and again and always get creeped out by the sound of the tricycle rolling across the carpet, or the blood pouring out of the elevator, or even the most famous scene where Jack’s smashing his way through the door with the axe. An absolute must see.

Day 2 – Your least favourite film

I’ve seen so many terrible B movies that it’s difficult to come up with an all out winner, The Darkthough Basket Case is something that was so incomprehensible it defied belief and I managed ten minutes before deciding I’d rather go and clean the fridge with a toothbrush than watch it. So, I’m going to choose the worst film I saw in the cinema. Nope, not Catwoman, and not even Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, it’s a far more obscure film called The Dark where a dead girl takes over the body of Sean Bean’s daughter on a Welsh beach and her mother tries to get her daughter back. It’s pretty much the same plot as Silent Hill, which also has Sean Bean as the father of a girl who goes missing. It was just one of those situations that appear now and again where you’re sat there thinking ‘why am I watching people run off a cliff, and why have those sheep got red eyes?’

Day 3 – A film you watch to make you feel good

Errr. I’ve had a look over my shelves to see if there’s anything that pops out as a feel-good film and after passing over Snakes On A Plane, Alien 4 and Barbarella I had to come to The-Rocky-Horror-Picture-Showterms with the fact that I rarely do normal ‘feel good’ films, and aim more for the ‘so shit it’s hilarious’ genre. However, saying that, I’m going to choose The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which if you’re amenable to basically a musical about alien transvestism is pretty brilliant. It’s peculiar and gory, but it does have some good lines and men running around in fishnets. It’s the kind of film that you watch in college with a group of friends or dress up and go to the theatre to watch it live and join in shouting things at the stage, and it’s definitely the kind of film that people get obsessed about. I know one girl with four different box sets of the thing. Why? Tim Curry’s camp as Christmas Dr Frank-N-Furter is mostly it I imagine, there’s nobody quite like him in film.

Day 4 – A film you watch to feel down

I hate films that make me feel depressed so I never watch them, and I certainly would never watch a miserable film on purpose unless it’s got Viggo Mortensen in it so this is a difficult one. I suppose The Pianist was pretty miserable, but it’s been a good few years house-on-haunted-hillsince I saw it and that’s the kind of unavoidable misery because it’s one of those films that you’re supposed to watch and appreciate how miserable it all was. How about angry? I love shouting at the TV so if I wanted an evening of getting a bit pissed on Pinot Gregio and shouting ‘what the fuck are you doing you complete moron?! Yeah, definitely go down there, that’s exactly what I’d do, no, no need for a torch, love, just go and have a wander. Yep, by yourself, you’ll be fine, definitely no maniacs down there, just go and have a look to see if you can find the generator though if you know what to do with it once you find it I’ll eat my wine glass’, I’d choose House on a Haunted Hill. The remake.

Day 5 – A film that reminds you of someone

AragornI’m going to lump together the LOTR films here because my friend and I way back at the beginning of the 2000s were massive LOTR fan girls. I’ve probably still got scrapbooks of cuttings of LOTR I took from newspapers and magazines somewhere, and we wrote LOTR fanfiction before Fifty Shades of Grey made it mainstream. Yes, we were that cool. So, Louise Langton, these films remind me of you. Specifically us on Wednesday afternoons when we had free periods in college going down to Prestwich’s Warner Brothers cinema, always completely deserted, and having palpitations over Aragorn. Whilst eating a blue slushy.

Day 6 – A film that reminds you of somewhere

Jurassic Park always reminds me of eating mint Matchmakers at what must have been my friend’s 10th birthday party and being scared when the velociraptors chase the kids around the kitchen.

Day 7 – A film that reminds you of your past

Robin HoodThe films I grew up watching on tape were mostly Disney classics so I’m going to go with the double bill of 1959’s Sleeping Beauty and 1973’s Robin Hood, both by Disney. My parents had recorded them on one tape so they always went together and are really good films that I should watch again. Beauty and the Beast was always my favourite Disney film though.

Day 8 – The film you can quote best

monty python holy grailI’m going with Northernfool with this one and saying Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It’s a never ending smorgasbord of absurd comedy, blatantly ridiculous situations and crazy animation. Favourite bits? Far too many to choose from – the Knights Who Say Nee who demand a shrubbery is built before they allow passage, the song of the Knights of the Round Table who dance when e’re they’re able, the black knight who is still up for a fights despite having his arms and legs removed, the holy hand grenade – the list is endless. I’ve always been disappointed by the ending though, it just looks like they ran out of ideas.

Day 9 – A film with your favourite actor (male)

Have I mentioned LOTR? Because they’ve got the double whammy (partly at least) of A History of ViolenceViggo Mortensen and Sean Bean looking grubby, hairy and ready to do some damage with a broadsword. A lot of people think a guitar works wonders for sex appeal, but trust me, try armour and twelve days of stubble. I’m going to have to go with Mortensen as my favourite male actor but rather than Eastern Promises which is what Northernfool chose, I’m going with A History of Violence, because of one scene (SPOILER!) where Mortensen’s character has to shoot a past acquaintance and without saying a word or even moving he changes completely from being a nice small town bloke with a family who works in the diner to a cold blooded killer. It’s incredible, all in one look with his son.

Day 10 – A film with your favourite actor (female)

RipleyWithout a shadow of a doubt it has to be Aliens. And I think it’s more that Ripley is my favourite female character in film rather than I particularly like Sigourney Weaver. If I had to choose a hero, it’d be Ripley. She isn’t particularly attractive, she doesn’t wear great clothes, she doesn’t have super powers, she’s pretty low key in many respects, but she still manages to get herself off the planet, dragging the macho marine and a kid in tow, and then blow the entire place to shit. She’s my kind of woman.

Death Trap

Death Trap, aka Eaten Alive, a 1977 film by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper, sees a reclusive hotel owner feed an assortment of visitors to the plastic very real crocodile that lives in a swamp by his hotel.

Set in a sleepy American backwood which only seems to house a bar, a brothel and this hotel, a girl running away from her family is the first to come across Neville Brand’s psychotic innkeeper, which he plays superbly in a completely unhinged, murderous fashion. A family appear, and then the missing runaway’s father and sister turn up following her trail to the town, leading to various gory episodes with a scythe, bared breasts and people running around screaming. That’s basically it – the film had three writers and that was the extent of what they could manage – but the acting actually isn’t as bad as you may expect. Nightmare on Elm Street’s Robert Englund does a turn as an obnoxious young local, whilst Janus Blythe from The Hills Have Eyes also makes an appearance, but Brand really nails the lead role as a barely coherent loner.

It’s not good, but there’s a level of creepiness to it, and a slight weirdness as well which reminded me of Twin Peaks. Supposedly normal people suddenly have a bit of an episode; at one point the father who turns up with his wife and young girl once they’re in their room suddenly starts hysterically laughing and saying his wife has stubbed out her cigarette in his eye, and his wife acts as though this isn’t unusual, and the lighting around the hotel changes completely from reds to sunlight and then back to darkness in the same scene.

You know what’s going to happen in the end, so basically if you enjoy people pretending to be eaten by a crocodile, this is the film for you.

Dead Snow

This 2009 film directed by Norwegian Tommy Wirkola, Dead Snow sees a group of Norwegian medical students head off to the remote snowy mountains of somewhere to die horrifically. The horrific deaths come courtesy of a bunch of Nazi zombie soldiers that have been lying around under the snow since the second world war. The obligatory weird guy who turns up at the cabin once all the students are settled in and drinking tells them of a force of Einsatzgruppe – an SS death squad – that terrorised the area in the Second World War before an uprising of the locals chased them off into the mountains to freeze to death. Or not quite death as it turns out as they may still be roaming around picking off anybody daft enough to ski to the cottage rather than get the car with everybody else.

The guy leaves, apparently happy to peddle the bullshit to gullible tourists, but far too wise to believe it himself, and the students shrug it off and amuse themselves braving the
-10°C temperature to have sex in the outdoor toilet. After one of them has a dream that his zombie-chomped friend
was in the house, they look under the floorboards and find a box of gold and trinkets which the Nazis had stolen from the locals before their untimely demise, but unfortunately they remove some from the box. Apparently the zombies are based on the Scandinavian folk law tale of undead draugr protecting its stolen treasure – also used in the Elder Scrolls game Skyrim.

So, the zombies close in, people start being ripped apart, and it becomes a race back down to the cars. With chainsaws.

I really enjoyed this film, despite the watery plot which didn’t make much sense anyway when there were already ‘awake’ zombies killing people before the gold had been touched, because it’s got a sense of humour, and the students have a good stab at acting, even if the plot and dialogue doesn’t really require it. Plus, there’s gore. Loads of gore. Gore fountaining all over the pristine white landscape as zombie keep erupting out of nowhere and get hacked, bashed, axed, shot, run over with snowmobiles and minced with a chainsaw, sorry, forgot to add ‘hammered into a decapitated mess’ to that – whilst the students get chunks taken out of them and their heads ripped off because they made the classic mistake of smashing one zombie to pieces, and then turning round to grin at their mates without looking behind them to see if there were any more lurking under the snowdrifts. However, it’s so over the top, it’s hilarious, and setting the hacking and slashing to a gloriously rousing song makes it even better. See:

It’s quite short, it makes a mess, and you get to see somebody machine gunning zombies on a snowmobile – what is there not to like?