Tag Archives: Horror

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 158 – Border

Pickings are slim at the cinema at the moment, so it’s MUBI to the rescue. We chose Border almost at random, our criteria being only something that looked interesting and would still be on rotation by the time we released the podcast. And what a fascinating film we picked.

Border is a Swedish art film that reeks of mud, pain and isolation, but with a sense of fantasy and irony that render it a curious, surprisingly light affair, despite some gruesome imagery and dark plot developments. It gives us a lot to talk about: the interstices of ideas of gender, place, what it is to be human, how we categorise ourselves, what makes us behave towards others as we do. The film takes a figure of fairy tale, fantasy, and horror, placing it in a contemporary setting. It supports all kinds of interesting interpretations: as a racial narrative, as a trans narrative, as an exploration of nature vs. nature, as a dramatisation of the fluidity of ‘the self’. It opens up beautifully as we discuss it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 154 – Ma

A horror movie that cleverly inverts one or two tropes of the genre, we ultimately feel Ma is less than the sum of its parts, but worth a look nonetheless.

Director Tate Taylor is clearly very good with actors, and every performance here is pitched well, but he doesn’t have such an aptitude for building tension or developing psychological creepiness. The writing doesn’t help him – while Mike insists that the film’s premise is full of potential, it’s not built upon very successfully. But Octavia Spencer is brilliant as the central villain, eliciting laughs and jumps at will, and her Ma is an engrossing character, if a bit reliant on cliché.

José points out the film’s concentration on women, male characters being secondary, and its interesting inversions of gender tropes, in particular a very male gaze: the objects of desire, men are disrobed and splayed out for Ma’s pleasure, and the camera doesn’t shy away from displaying them. Unfortunately, the film seems to have aimed for its 15 rating, sometimes appearing to edit around gore and explicit imagery rather than indulge in it, resulting in a somewhat disappointing feeling that it wants to be more graphic than it’s willing to be, to its detriment. One can’t shake the feeling that, for all Ma‘s boldness, there’s still a more visually expressive, confident film in here, itching to get out.

So it’s worth a look for the interesting way it deploys gender representation, and some wonderfully entertaining performances. Just don’t be disappointed if you’re a bit disappointed.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 144 – Us

Mirrors and doppelgangers and dual meanings and symmetries abound in Jordan Peele’s Us, in which a family of four is terrorised one evening by a family of four identical copies. Like Get Out, Peele’s 2017 debut, Us is hyper-aware of its genre’s ability to make use of bold metaphor to offer coded commentary on social issues.

We find more room for a variety of interpretations in Us than in Get Out, and our conversation ranges from talk of race and its importance or lack thereof, consumer culture and materialism, cultural items and icons, including and especially Michael Jackson, someone who embodies duality better than perhaps anybody, the 1986 charity event Hands Across America and the competing ideas conveyed by its imagery, and far more. We also find the time to discuss and praise Lupita Nyong’o’s incredible pair of central performances, creating two fully embodied characters, the technicality of her physical acting always perfectly evident but never distracting. She’s extraordinary.

We have our problems with it, including its structure, lack of scares, and some imagery that we find lacking in meaning or clarity, and it’s a less tight and cogent film than Get Out, which we ultimately agree is superior. But it’s ambitious, intelligent, witty, original and rewarding. See it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 101 – The Little Stranger

You find us in contemplative mood, picking apart a film described by José as “genuinely puzzling” and Mike as “The House with a Doc in Its Walls”. The Little Stranger builds light gothic horror around class and ambition in 1940s Warwickshire, a stately home providing the setting of the action and focus of Domhnall Gleeson’s town doctor.

With some difficulty, we attempt to grasp the film’s themes and intentions, never quite feeling we get the full measure of it. It doesn’t help that it basks, to some extent, in ambiguity, and also that half the lines are mumbled so as to be rendered truly unintelligible. There are things we like, particularly its sure sense of era and class, and its rich production design, but we can’t overall say we recommend it.

What we can recommend, though, is a visit to Evesham’s Regal Cinema, where we saw the film. A multipurpose venue that hosts live shows as well as regular cinema screenings, it oozes charm and style. A leisurely Sunday drive amongst sunny A roads took us there, and what a lovely day was had by all. Even if the film was a bit disappointing.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies — 100 – Venom

Venom utterly charms the pants off us, its bizarre knockabout body horror surprising us with a great sense of humour and unexpected variations on the idea not so much Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as of masculinity at war with itself, inside and out.. From the trailer, Mike was worried about the broadness of Tom Hardy’s accent – actually, it’s tonally perfect as broadness is exactly what the film is going for in every respect, in the very best way.

Hardy is superb, giving his all to a role that demands physical dexterity and comic ability; the CGI bowls José over; the sense of Hardy’s body being shared by another physical entity, rather than being merged with it, is tactile and interesting. Mike’s also been watching the Sam Raimi Spider-Mantrilogy recently, in which Venom appears, and holds court on a trend in the villains he sees Venomas adhering to. And the dog is so funny.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 99 – Climax

A group of dancers parties the night away, but someone has spiked the sangria with LSD. There are extraordinarily long takes, sex, drugs, violence, and horror. Yes, it’s a Gaspar Noé film.

Climax is a singular cinematic escape into a vision of Hell. Boy, there’s a lot going on. We grapple with the film’s themes of sex, violence, drugs, youth, dance, sexuality, nationality, culture, and whatever else we can remember of its insane 96 minutes. We discuss what we did and didn’t like about the dancing – the pros and cons of the way it’s shot – and what value there is in extraordinary cinematic violence in a world in which footage of horrific real-life violence is commonplace. We discuss the detail of Climax‘s cinematography and editing and the effects they have on our experiences, particularly shooting upside-down and inserting almost subconsciously brief flashes of black frames in otherwise normal cuts. We’re reminded of Do the Right ThingThe Exterminating Angel, and Salò, and indeed Climax wears its influences on its sleeve. José reads it allegorically, finding reference to Europe, cultural power, and race, though so far adding it all up remains beyond us.

It fired Mike up enough to have a go at a guy who’d had his phone on during the cinema, but it enveloped José so completely that he didn’t even notice the distraction. And Mike made a film like this once! As he puts it, “Not as good as this, probably, but a lot shorter.” You can see that here if you like:

In short, Climax is certainly worth your time. There’s so much going on and we’ll be seeing it again when the mac screens it in November.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 81 – Unfriended: Dark Web

Designed entirely to simulate the desktop interface of a Macbook, Unfriended: Dark Web enthusiastically adapts modern fears of surveillance and digital stalking to the horror genre (drawing on the style of 2014’s Unfriended, to which this is a sequel). It’s a stylistic achievement that never once feels unconvincing, even if the route the plot takes is far from unpredictable.

We discuss the way the film hides its most graphic elements and is able to create tension and horror from the very opposite, and the wonderful evocation of distracted attention, with the main character jumping between Skype, Spotify, Facebook and more, that remarkably never becomes overwhelming or incomprehensible. Some of the performances aren’t the best, and we each found the film uninvolving at different points and for different reasons, but generally speaking we enjoyed the film’s experiment and found it interesting.

We also discuss the two producers, each of whose names caught our eyes, and how Dark Web fits in to the current cinema programme.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 79 – The First Purge

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Low-budget, unexceptionally made, and absolutely vital. The First Purge takes the story of the Purge series back to the beginning, with a poor community composed of people of colour being savagely experimented upon for political purposes. Mike slightly had to drag José to see it, as it was showing only in single late-night screenings, but both were glad he did, as it’s perhaps the most direct and powerful critique of white hegemony that popular cinema has offered in recent memory.

We examine the imagery of the deliberate terrorisation of black communities in the USA. It draws on real-life attacks on black churches, Ku Klux Klan members wielding guns in pick-up trucks, and the resurgence of Nazis – one image of a blackface mask being removed to reveal an Aryan stereotype is particularly poetic. Mike finds that the film protects the white audience from their own complicity in the inequality portrayed, but it’s only a nuance, and as José says, we should be so lucky to have such flaws in most films! And José explains why films of this sort come along so rarely. (It’s not about risk. It’s about power.)

There’s simply so much food for thought and we urge you to see it.

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 70 — Hereditary

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An accomplished film, with good use of long takes that nonetheless feels visually and narratively unsatisfactory. I hated the grey look of the film and how little attention seems to have been paid to the use of colour. Our conversation includes considerations of the compositions and props, including repeated imagery of miniature models of the family’s home, and complaints that it feels that the film’s various patternings don’t add up, or at least we can’t add them up: we feel they’re meant to be expressive but we can’t figure out what layers of expression they might be adding.

The Horror genre has been the most consistent and incisive of genres in critiquing American culture recently but is this a particularly good example of it?. What are these film’s themes and what is it saying? Mike compares it to Kill List, It Follows and we digress onto a discussion of The Exorcist. We wonder if it might be part of the film’s project to go off the rails. If so, it succeed. We both love Toni Collette but we discuss also how  in its cruel and brutal treatment and imagery of women there might be a whiff of misogyny, in spite of a potentially feminist slant of Toni Collette’s character voicing things women might feel but are rarely allowed to express. Is it as clever as it thinks it is? What is it about? Mike really likes the way the camera is used, how it frames and re-frames in long-take, how that enables an appreciation of the performances and earns the trust of the viewer. Gabriel Byrne is wasted.

 

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

 

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

Eavesdropping at the Movies 56 – A Quiet Place

 

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Thrilling to be in a cinema where you can hear a pin drop. The film sets up a brilliant premise. The world has been invaded by aliens who respond to sound. Once the aliens hear the sound, the living being who originated it will be killed in a manner of minutes. Thus, endless possibilities for generating suspense; and a platform for many experimentations with style and form, including giving actors the opportunity to convey emotion with their faces, gestures, postures; without dialogue.

We talk over its performances, its ending, the way it manipulates and moves characters to generate threatening situations, the intelligence of its editing in moving between storylines, the shortcuts it takes with its internal logic in order to keep the story moving, the theme of family and whether the film can be read as a metaphor for Trumps America. We also mull over a potential for a sequel and decry one plot decision in particular.

But fundamentally, we urge everyone to see it.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Eavesdropping at the Movies 55 – Unsane

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A low-budget psychological thriller, Unsane is a less involving film than its subject matter and star deserve. Claire Foy is extraordinarily powerful as a paranoid prisoner of mental trauma inflicted on her by a stalker and bureaucratic malfeasance, distressed, knowing, sarcastic, resistant. The film fails her in other areas but is an intriguing experiment nonetheless. We find much to discuss, including its cinematography, relationship to termite art, Soderbergh’s recent efforts, potential audiences and whether the lighting of black characters in this film is inherently racist.

Recorded on 1st April 2018.

 

The podcast can be listened to in the player above or on iTunes.

We appreciate your feedback so do keep on sending it.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

Jigsaw – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 16 – 31st October 2017

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Jigsaw’s back after a seven year absence, with new traps and twists and torture. One of us is very excited about this. The other has never seen a Saw film. Guess which one felt sadistically bludgeoned? What are the pleasures on offer? How do the films in the series connect? What is the basic structure. How good a Saw film is Jigsaw? A Trumpist film or merely Old Testament Religiosity?

Recorded on 30th October 2017.

 

José Arroyo and  Michael Glass of Writing About Film

IT – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 6 – 22nd September 2017

 

What is IT? Is IT any good? Is IT scary? How much of IT did Mike watch through his fingers? Why would he agree to see IT in LieMAX? Was he right about the bit with the sink? (Spoiler: He has googled it and discovered that he was wrong.)

Recorded on 17th September 2017.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

mother! – Eavesdropping at the Movies – Ep 5 – 18th September 2017

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What is Darren Aronofsky’s latest fever dream all about? How is it allegorical? What does it mean?  How good is Jennifer Lawrence? Why we both loved it. Is the audience reaction fair and what might that mean?

Recorded on 17th September 2017.

José Arroyo and Michael Glass of Writing About Film

 

PS. You might be even more interested in this lively discussion between Aronofsky and William Friedkin: