Showing posts with label toronto film festival 2013. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toronto film festival 2013. Show all posts

4 October 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Almost Human

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Rating:
18
Release Date:
10,11,13th September 2013(TIFF)
Director:
Joe Begos
Cast:
Graham Skipper, Vanessa Leigh, Josh Ethier

The main problem with Almost Human is that its poster is almost cooler and more grabbing than the film itself. The feel of the film exudes a kind of B-movie charm and cult excellence that has crept its way into vogue over the past decade, thanks to a general boredom with the shiny glaze Hollywood seems to trail over any horror/sci-fi project it touches. Ignore the professional allure of the marketing, scrape away any preconceived notions and there’s still enjoyment to be had.

Joe Begos and his team are obviously passionate about their project and the genre it occupies, their love gushes, as do the 70’s references until Almost Human feels like a high school ode to the work of John Carpenter. The story of an abductee returned to convert the people of a small sleepy town is canon to say the least. Seth (Graham Skipper), who watched his friend get abducted,  thinks something is up when townsfolk turn up murdered and goes on the hunt for his possibly half-alien friend. The cult feel isn’t just spawning from a sci-fi narrative, but in effects conception and sound too. The retro vibe of the film is appreciable and charming at points, but overall its execution is lazy. For a film set in the 70’s there are a few glaring errors that could either rupture your investment in the vibe or strike a point for the charming lunacy of the underdog horror film.

Almost Human seems to spend all of its 80 minute run-time dodging between an impressive, original, low-budget, first-time feature to dopey indie flick lacking in the IQ dept. For every stupid line of dialogue or woeful bit of acting there’s a contrasting sequence of genius effects and zany queasiness.  Make no mistake; the most proficient parts of the film are its highly bogging effects which have the accomplished Cronenberg ability to turn your stomach.

Even for all its faults, the general direction of Almost Human proves a last point that Joe Begos is a young director to look out for. The many low points are in return awarded with moments of humour and well-shot violence that leave the viewer unsure as to whether they just saw something awfully good or just plain bad.

A bizarre venture into 70’s and 80’s sci-fi horror that can bore with its lowest points, but thrill with its best, Almost Human is for the most part dismissible. Bad acting, awful dialogue, and dodgy narrative are at points unburdened with impressive effects, well-edited action, and terrific direction.

★★☆☆☆

Scott Clark


TIFF 2013 Review - Cannibal (Caníbal)

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
6,7,14th September 2013 (TIFF)
Director:
Manuel Martín Cuenca
Cast:
Antonio de la Torre, María Alfonsa Rosso, Olimpia Melinte

Considering its title, it may be hard to accept that Manuel Martin Cuenca’s Cannibal was one of the most subtle and endearing features at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

The first twenty minutes are a stunning Noir-esque example of raw grotesque violence in coordination with stunning visuals, subtle but powerful. These scenes, like all scenes of macabre nature in the film, are done in such tasteful ways they remove the surface layer of cheap shock and cut straight to the heart of an often sickening but sad affair. After this opening the film constantly battles with its own particular style, wanting to maintain its tame direction whilst maximising the brutality of its core themes. Basically sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t it can start to get dull.

Cuenca’s latest feature is, like the rest of his films, seeped in Spanish culture, though here in a very different way. The powerful colour palette and mad energy found so abundantly in other Spanish features are here transmuted to a much more sedate affair in the story of how a respected Granada tailor’s murderous intent draws him into the life of a young woman whose sister he murdered. The pace is slower, the narrative a little barer, characters are rarely above-board; instead the feature operates like a Hitchcock thriller wrapped beautifully in the charming monotony of a Granada tailor’s life. The focus here is rarely the grotesque devices of actual cannibalism, and more the realistic portrayal of the lonely perpetrator.

Like Norman Bates and Mark Lewis, Carlos is a man leading a perfectly “normal” life bar the one bizarre feature that has made him film-worthy. Antonio De La Torre gives a masterful account of Cannibal’s deranged bachelor; his performance oozes unstrained charisma and confidence whilst maintaining the shadowy nature of a hunter. though undeniably a formidable force, Carlos is lacking in the conventional behaviours we tie to all screen killers, what I mean by that is that we never once see the rage and terror of a murderer boil to the surface in a Patrick Bateman rush of violence. Cuenca keeps all the cards flush against his chest, allowing slight flurries of movement that peak our interest, but overall there’s nothing flashy about Carlos’ behaviour.   This is another important point in Cannibal, the tragic portrayal of Carlos as a man, victim to his own murderous intent. This intent sees him kill not for thrill, but habit.

After the stunning introductory murder, Cannibal strolls even deeper into the realm of – dare I say – the mundane, focusing far too much of its run time on surplus scenery which, though pretty, falls in its ability to successfully hook.  Still, a magnetic lead performance, great supporting cast, and some incredibly tasteful macabre leave the film in a fairly laudable stead.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark


28 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Gerontophilia

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
9,11,13th September (TIFF)
Director:
Bruce Labruce
Cast:
Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Borden, Katie Boland, Marie-Hélène Thibault,

The Oxford dictionary of Psychology defines the rather ominous term Gerontophilia thus: ‘A paraphilia characterized by recurrent, intense sexual fantasies, urges, or behaviour involving sexual activity with old people’. Bruce La Bruce’s feature film makes certain attempts at uncovering the nature of this particular affliction and in-so-doing unveils a bizarre fusion of love, obsession, and impulse.

Lake (Pier-Gabriel Lajoie
) is a young attractive man with a beautiful girlfriend. However, after taking a job at a nursing home, he develops a romantic and sexual attraction towards senior citizen Mr Peabody (Walter Borden), which soon sees him at ends with a society that frowns upon such controversial relations.

La Bruce is no stranger to the subject of transgression from accepted behaviours, his repertoire flaunts a keen interest in the subject and continual exploration. Gerontophilia, whilst still engaging with transgression, is La Bruce’s tamer more palatable attempt at addressing taboo. The key to his success here lies in the beautifully reserved performances of Lajoie and Borden, particularly Borden who exudes a kind of charisma and class that makes the film charismatic to say the least. Though Mr Peabody’s reasoning never quite gets addressed, Lake’s is chopped and mixed so that the line between obsession and love is truly blurred. You’re never sure whether this is a faulted love story in the vein of Lost in Translation/Harold and Maude, or a darker story of incontestable carnal desire.

La Bruce spends far too much time wandering around Lake’s life, letting us live his bizarre fantasies and see his disgust at the retirement home’s desire to keep patients consistently catatonic. Attention meanders until finally Lake makes a definitive decision that opens the door to a hasty third act. Its this last act which plots the difficult covert relationship between the Peabody and Lake.

The issue is that there is much to be explored, too many things to see and so many questions about how this coupling works in, not physical but, emotional terms. The answer is a book too-soon closed once it is opened.  The tender heartfelt chemistry between the two is laced with a wry sense of humour, but just as we get into it, the door is slammed in our faces. La Bruce has perhaps best encapsulated the heart of such a relationship in this simple structuring; either that or he rushed the most enjoyable part of his film.

Arguably La Bruce has forsaken his usual outré stunts to get a shot at the big audience, but I would probably put this down to a tasteful regard of a personal choice deserved of as much compassion as the usual boy meets girl tripe dragged out of mainstream cinema year after year. That’s another point in Gerontophilia’s favour: its unpredictable as a romance or drama because it simply isn’t like anything you’ve ever seen.

Brave in an entirely different way, but far from perfect. La Bruce may have ditched the shock tactics of sexual coercion in favour of a more subdued character study, but here is a film suffering from long stretches of tedium, bad acting, and dull dialogue until its last half hour. However, good sound-tracking, Nicolas Canniccioni’s passive shooting, and a great performance from Walter Borden make this an ultimately charming venture.


★★★☆☆

Scott Clark



TIFF 2013 Review - Under the Skin

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
9,10&15th September 2013 (TIFF) 13, 14th October (LIFF)
Director:
Jonathan Grazer
Cast:
Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Jessica Mance

Directed by Jonathan Glazer (Sexy Beast) and filmed entirely on location across Scotland Under the Skin is a film flaunting incredible cinematography strung together by a predominantly performance-orientated narrative. Based on the Novel by Michael Faber, Under the Skin follows Laura (Scarlett Johansson), an alien from another world, as she travels across Scotland kidnapping young men.

Glazer’s latest is a sci-fi film akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey in that one of the film’s main components is its striking tone and total control over the presented image. Daniel Landin’s exquisite palette of subdued tones creates a grim atmospheric back-drop for the film’s often macabre visual style. The same gorgeous control over image translates the Scottish landscape into a strange muggy alien territory, foreboding and stirring in equal measure. Hundreds of directors have only seen fit to make such land a charming tourist spot, whilst Glazer has here crafted an environment that is as much a character as Laura herself.

  Under the Skin is a road movie of sorts, shot in a near-documentary style of lingering shots and snappy disjointed editing, which again expand on the notions of “alien” culture. We are presented time and time again with bizarre social situations; the crowds of Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, Neds rampant in the night, masses of colour-coordinated football fans, all of them overpowering and vast, a sensory overload. But even these shots can tire on the viewer in a film with little dialogue and even less narrative explanation. As a companion to the novel, the film is possibly at its best, but still entirely able as a stand-alone project. For true intrigue: Glazer executes some of the most haunting, striking, and unsettling images of extra-terrestrial life ever put to film.

Glazer keeps the mystery of his alien culture tightly wrapped and that pays off big time, rewarding the audience with a kind of abstract macabre that strays into the realm of the horrific. The aesthetic of this alien technology is the definition of minimalism ensuring nothing can be deduced until the last moment, and though the use of contrast lighting is indeed perfect thinking , it at times crowds scenes with far too much shadow, erasing any finer details. In the same setting Mica Levi’s jarring and genius screech-synth scoring is at its best in Laura’s black widow sequences where it plays out like some bizarre striptease music done in pulse-like percussion. The young Londoner is proving a major talent in sound engineering and someone to keep your eye on.

Apart from the stunning cinematography, the most enrapturing thing about this film is Johansson’s turn as alien provocateur-cum-abductor. Relying less on her lines - which she drones in an awful regional accent - the starlet exhibits an accomplished and often intimidating portrayal of the alien amongst us. This is Johansson’s best performance to date. Johansson, as per, is stunning, and her beauty plays an important part in the alien’s role both during the alien’s predatory ventures, and in the film’s powerful lingering and poignant climax.

Incredibly beautiful piece of sci-fi horror with a stellar performance from Johansson and a soundtrack to compliment, Under the Skin is not the gripping sort of hunter/hunted thriller some may expect. If you can look past its relatively reserved lack of narrative you’ll find a powerful and considerate meander through the life of an alien in an alien land.

★★★★

Scott Clark


24 September 2013

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon - TIFF 2013 Review

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
7,8,14th September 2013 (TIFF)
Director:
Mike Myers
Cast:
Shep Gordon,Alice Cooper, Michael Douglas,Tom Arnold, Anne Murray, Sylvester Stallone

Mike Myers’ directorial debut is proof not only that he’s a skilled director and impressive documenter, but the subject of his film is probably one of the coolest men to ever live. Shep Gordon, manager extraordinaire, is a power house of productivity, a messiah of good times, and an all-round nice guy. He’s managed Alice Cooper since the beginning of his career, practically invented the concept of the celebrity chef, and has managed to intertwine his existence with the mint of Hollywood and rock royalty by being one of the world’s greatest hosts. So says Supermensch; The Legend of Shep Gordon.

The key to Myers’ film is that he has a genuine respect for Gordon, like the rest of the stars who pop up through this charming - often hilarious - exploration of Gordon’s career. Michael Douglas, Sylvester Stallone, Myers himself, Alice Cooper, Willie Nelson, to name a few, all jump at the opportunity to give candid tales of Gordon’s frankly mindboggling life. From his humble, drug fuelled beginnings hanging out with the likes of Hendrix and Joplin, onwards through his fast-paced career in music and film. His legendary appetite for good times and women are here exceeded only by his love for seemingly everyone he meets.

Myers is an incredibly gifted filmmaker, fusing his zany wit and comic timing with Gordon’s own barmy life. His editing is sharp and gripping; snippets from movies and a great soundtrack make Supermensch nothing short of fascinating viewing. Perhaps Myers gets a bit caught up in his own love for the father-figure, at points making his documentary a kind of advertisement, but a keen sense of ‘the man’ Gordon as opposed to just ‘the legend’ maintains a suitably grounded and heartfelt film. The Alice Cooper chapter goes on a bit but Gordon’s input into Cooper’s vaudevillian act is vast and thus arguably important. Sure, near-ridiculous amount of good praise for Gordon gets silly at points, but only a cynical kind of tabloid gossip-craving would render this an actual fault. Take a page out of Gordon’s book and cheer the hell up.

No matter where your interests lie, Gordon’s life is at worst intriguing and at best mad. This is a highly impressive debut and a thrilling story of a loving friend, hedonist, innovator, and showman. The fifteen year old me wants another Austin Powers, whilst now I can’t help but hope Myers has another go in the director’s chair.

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon is entirely watchable, vivid, and compulsive filmmaking punctuated by a host of celebrity guests, a great soundtrack, and some psychedelic editing. Myers’ debut film is an impressive exploration of a life well-lived: heart-warming, hilarious, but above all highly recommendable.

★★★★½


Scott Clark

Man of Tai Chi - TIFF 2013 Review

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Rating:
18
Release Date:
10th & 11th September 2013 (TIFF)
Director:
Keanu Reeves
Cast:
Keanu Reeves, Tiger Chen, Karen Mok, Simon Yam, Iko Uwais

At one point in time many of us owed our teenage years to Keanu Reeves. Not only did the guy become a global star overnight thanks to The Matrix but he also put Kung-Fu back in vogue. Perhaps because of his affinity with martial arts Reeves has decided to make his directorial debut in Man of Tai Chi; a film based on the life and exploits of Tiger Chen, his coach on The Matrix.

Chen stars as himself, a devout Tai Chi student struggling to make ends meet. His achievements at national championships attract the attentions of Dakata Mark (Reeves) a mysterious businessman who organises secret underground fights. Soon Chen’s control over his honourable craft gives way to a dark and violent nature, pushing him to the brink of self-control in Mark’s shadowy games.

Man of Tai Chi is a strange film. It dodges between great action adventure and corny throw-away trash with all the rapidity of its lead’s martial arts. At times the jet-setting and glorious backdrops look like Tekken cast-offs and at others it seems to be going for Fight Club by way of Fast and Furious. The inconsistency will be the most irritating feature for most people.

The fight sequences are great, well-shot and obviously well under Reeves’ control. But CGI effects and an unfortunate stroll into Kung-Fu magic really send the film wobbling on its axis. This is a shame when moments of dark genius punctuate this near-camp affair. The heart of a thriller erupts at moments to accentuate what the film could have been, leaving Reeve’s debut- for the most part- floating in anonymity

Chen makes a great leading man, mysterious and strong, wilful yet troubled, his drives and actions however get lost in translation leaving the audience bewildered at his often unfound actions. On the subject of unfound actions Reeves’ own performance is in keeping with his repertoire: a wee bit silly. Playing the omnipresent leader of the underground fight club, Dakata Mark, Reeves is partial to a bit of over-acting, under-acting, and utterly ludicrous dialogue. Most of the time you won’t know whether to laugh but there’s no denying the magnetism of his screen presence - in a Nicholas Cage way. That is in no way a negative comment by the way. There is however an unattractive masturbatory quality to his fast cars, big persona, and finely tailored suits. A kind of quality that salt-wraps his watchable manoeuvres.

For some people this could be the oddball-exploitation-action runaway of the year, for most it will be exploitation of the audience; a mess of different ideas with its head half screwed on. But there’s enough fun action to keep you distracted from the fact this is just a tad off-mark.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark

21 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Devil's Knot

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devilsknot-reece-witherspoon
Rating:
15
Release Date (TIFF):
8th & 9th September 2013
Director:
Atom Eyogan
Cast:
Colin Firth, Reese Witherspoon, Dane DeHaan, Mireille Enos, Bruce Greenwood, Elias Koteas, Stephen Moyer,

Back in 1993, 3 boys wandered into the woods of a small Arkansas town and never came out alive, their bodies were found hog-tied and dumped in the river, apparent victims to a satanic murder. Quickly, but with little actual evidence, the crimes were pinned on three teens aptly labelled ‘The West Memphis Three’.  The media circus that erupted around this small-town murder escalated to a witch hunt which called for the boys to be charged and punished as quickly as possible. Suitable doubt has been raised in recent years as to the validity of the prosecution and a frankly unsettling question as to who the real murderers are. The case has been the subject of numerous documentaries and novels, Atom Egoyan’s feature Devil's Knot  is in fact based on one such novel of the same title by Mara Leveritt and partly adapted by Scott Derrickson (Sinister) and Paul Harris Boardman (The Exorcism of Emily Rose).

The story itself is compelling in the most disturbing way, so the film has a great base to work from; a haunting tale of savage murder and hysteria shrouded in a dense mystery wrapped in incompetence and small-town politics. Egoyan has a keen eye for tone and mood, setting both with a masterful control over colour, image, and creeping camera movements. But under its pretty thriller façade, there’s not a huge amount to bolster this as anything more than a visual representation of a well-written book.

Reece Witherspoon stars as one of the murdered boys mothers and spends all of her time doing just that; sobbing and looking panicked, whilst Colin Firth is perhaps a little more grabbing as the inquisitive George Lux, but not much more. There’s a superb supporting cast here, but not enough solid story to work from. Sure the courtroom sequences are great in their totally maddening lack of reason; the hysteria of a community demanding blood over-takes the true desire for justice. And there are a few scenes that are truly distressing, but again that’s down to the subject matter and rarely the way it’s relayed, bar a grim and cruel first twenty minutes that are deeply upsetting. The strongest element of Egoyan’s feature is its ability to present a mystery without spoon-feeding, thus allowing the audience to do a bit of the work and realise just how shoddily the case was handled.

Devil’s Knot is grim and torturous, dark and cynical. It skips the happy ending, start and middle, instead grappling with concrete mystery. At its heart it’s a court drama thriller, but the story surpasses the execution rendering this a dubious venture. If you've read the book or seen one of the documentaries, there’s little need to watch the film.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark

20 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - Cold Eyes (Gam si ja deul)

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
13th, 14th, 15th September 2013 (TIFF)
Director:
Ui-seok Jo, Byung-seo Kim
Cast:
Hyo-ju Han, Woo-sung Jung, Jun-Ho Lee

One of the most accomplished and stand-out features at Toronto International Film festival this year is the slick, fierce, and ingenious Korean thriller

A bank robbery and the induction of a fresh faced operative to a shadowy police surveillance team, I’m a sucker for a concise, fast-paced opening and Cold Eyes has a great one in the vein of Heat and The Dark Knight... Actually Cold Eyes emulates a hundred films like these in its consistently thrilling flow of events, its use of characters who are at the top of their game, and its beautifully shot sprawling urban space. The film flits from point to point pulling at the quickly unravelling thread of a ensemble of bank robbers until things explode with dangerous enthusiasm. This is a crime film with a difference though, it’s all told from the point of view of an elite surveillance squad whose sole purpose is to track and remain covert. Considering the film’s head villain is just as desperate to remain behind the scenes, this makes for tense viewing.

One of the most striking features of the film is the Holmes/Moriarty relationship that plays out between Sol Kyung-gu’s seasoned Chief Detective Wang and Jung Woo-sung’s James, the shadowy leader of the criminal gang. Whilst Wang’s powers of deduction set him in a race against time to halt the next theft, James’ meticulous planning and dangerously efficient lack of empathy keep him a step ahead of the police. Its’ a pleasure to watch two fantastic actors settle so well into two wonderfully written parts. Woo-sung makes an absorbing and unstoppable force of nature in his turn as a genuinely fantastic villain; cold, calculating, and highly dangerous- as he proves on many occasions. On the other hand, Kyung-gu displays perfect comic timing, a fierce and fascinating intellect, and a fatherly kind of support for his group of young surveillance experts, ensuring that the good guys don’t become an irritating distraction from those blessed scenes where we see the inner workings of James’ plans.

Not an out –and- out action film, Cold Eyes favours use of action only when it is required, directors Jo Ui-seok and Kim Byung-seo are as apt at relaying fight sequences as they are with the often complex workings of criminal gangs and police squads. A lesson could be learnt here in regards to action in thrillers: less is more. A Bourne-type brutality surprises and shocks in its pace and edge, ensuring violence doesn’t become filler.

With an impeccable control over pace and action, Cold Eyes is a highly impressive thriller from its explosive start to epic finale. Here is gipping viewing that’s entirely worth your time.

★★★★★

Scott Clark


TIFF 2013 Review - The Sacrament

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Rating:
15
Directed By:
Ti West
Cast:
Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, AJ Bowen
Release Date:
8th, 10th & 13th September (TIFF)

New Splat Pack maestro Ti West wowed us back in 2009 with House of the Devil then again last year with Innkeepers. Whilst House of the Devil was a slow burning kind of 70’s hark-back, Innkeepers was very much a modern horror.  His latest feature, The Sacrament, played at Toronto’s International Film Festival, but is it any good?

Unfortunately West goes for the slow burning thing again and it doesn’t pull off. Any slower and you’d be catatonic. The Sacrament is a film in the spirit of The Wicker Man but way less spooky. Two reporters ( AJ Bowen and Joe Swanberg) venture into South America after a friend receives a summons from his estranged sister. The trio arrive to discover the sister is living in an idyllic but secluded religious convent lorded over by the mysterious ‘Father’ (Gene Jones). About half way through you’re going to start wondering what the point of the film is, because it certainly isn’t to scare or entertain. Sure there’s an interesting concept here, but when the final act kicks off you realise that this has been a one trick pony: a script formulated around its ending, and no film should merely be a means to its own end.

Step away from the lack of substance and look at it from a different angle, then you can see that there are plenty of great components at work. The set for one is fantastic, no arguments there. But where Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno managed to successfully convey hell in a South American paradise, West squanders a set on an uneventful plotline and flopped mounting tension. By this I mean that West orchestrates his characters into position, presents us with the stage, but then it doesn’t really go anywhere bar its predictable finale. Actually, there’s one sequence of particular merit that ignites interest in the long shadowy boredom of the feature.

The performance of Gene Jones (the only man to win a coin toss in No Country for Old Men) is a carrot on a stick, enticing us through the film. Like Michael parks in Red State, there’s something utterly watchable about religious zealots, and they have the followers to prove it. Jones’s interview sequence with AJ Bowen, is one of the few really great moments in the film, its more intense than most of the film, and shows how much shit the three guys are in. Jones is masterful in his execution of dangerous hospitality and manipulation, as is Amy Seimetz as religious nut Caroline.

Bar a few great performances, West disappoints here with a predictable escapade into religious mania, perhaps faulted by its positioning as a post-Red State feature. Even then it’s still dull as dishwater, void of previously flaunted visual flare, and lacking any real drive to develop its characters. When the inevitable set piece kicks off, you really won’t care who survives.


★½☆☆☆

Scott Clark

19 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - The Green Inferno

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Rating:
18
Release Date:
7th & 9th September (TIFF)
Director:
Eli Roth
Cast:
Lorenza Izzo, Ariel Levy, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Sky Ferreira,

I've said it before and I’ll say it again: I have a love/hate relationship with horror. I love its ingenuity and its ability to ponder the greater mysteries from behind a gory veil, but I’m realistic, I can enjoy entertainment horror when it comes pounding my way, and yet, I have little place in my heart for lazy horror. And that’s just what Eli Roth’s The Green inferno is.

A group of do-gooders rush to the amazon rainforest in order to disrupt forestry that will destroy a rarely seen tribe of natives. After a series of mishaps and an unfortunate mix-up, the group find themselves at the mercy of a vicious tribe of cannibals. This squandered ode to classic 70’s cannibal films like Cannibal Holocaust is the horror auteur’s latest and perhaps most disappointing feature to date. Taking the tried and tested formula of group of twenty-something’s + adventure = terror and brutal dispatch, Roth seems shamelessly at ease with letting his feature trundle along on the road to mediocrity.

My main issue with the film lies in the fact it seems like a glorified excuse to let legendary gore craftsmen Howard Berger and Gregory Nicotero off the leash in a gleefully gory escapade. Make no doubt about it; there are some genius moments of brutality and sedition that will turn the stomachs of the most weathered horror fans. And the scarlet-skinned cannibals of Roth’s jungle nightmare are something to behold- chilling and brutal. But that’s just the problem. Roth makes minimal attempts at backing up his visuals with narrative, style, or substance - which are all forsaken in exchange for what can only be referred to as a gore-coaster.

Saying that there’s an upsetting kind of irony and humour (of the blackest kind) at work here.  There are moments, as with all Roth’s films, that will have you staggered on the peak between laughing and grimacing and that’s something few directors can orchestrate: panic-stricken girls having bouts of explosive diarrhoea in cages with their friends, hordes of cannibals with Emo Philips hair doos racing through the jungle. Tension erupts in moments when we think the more likable individuals of the bunch will be fucked up beyond all recognition, but generally dissipates in a cloud of guts and (dare I say) glory. Like Hostel Part 2 this feels like more of the same, and raises a certain question as to Roth’s actual legitimacy as a horror icon. The Green Inferno does however sport one of the most ludicrous yet hilarious and enjoyable cannabis extravaganzas committed to horror, I won’t say anything because I don’t want to ruin one of the more enjoyable aspects of the film, but its shamelessly ridiculously stupid and kind of lovable simply for that.

Maybe I’ve touched on Roth’s particular brand of genius there. Maybe if you ignore the silliness of it all, the black humour and lack of likable character, there’s a fun way to spend an hour and a bit. Then again, maybe not.

The Green Inferno is as dumb as its characters and irritating in its lack of flare. What it surrenders in story it attempts to reclaim in sheer break-neck gore-splattered tension. Though it works to some degree this is an ultimately lackluster project.

★★ 1/2☆☆

Scott Clark

18 September 2013

The Invisible Woman - TIFF 2013

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Rating:
15
Release Date:
9,10th September (TIFF) 17th& 19th October (LIFF)
Director:
Ralph Fiennes
Cast:
Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander,

In 2011 Ralph Fiennes made his brutally impressive directorial debut with Coriolanus, a raw back-to-basics modern retelling of the lesser known Shakespeare play. Fiennes second feature is a brave departure from this, a perfect opposite to Coriolanus. Essentially a love story, The Invisible Woman follows the relationship between Charles Dickens (Fiennes) and his young lover Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones), the pair had a controversial extra-marital affair that surpassed Dickens own marriage and continued on until his death at the age of 58.

Fiennes pays close attention to the roles of men and woman at the time in this, his carefully crafted essay on Victorian relationships and –more subtly- fame. The doomed role of the lover in a male writer’s life is perhaps the most heart wrenching aspect of the piece, carefully relayed in the fantastic performances of Jones and Joanna Scanlan- who personifies Victorian reserve in her often tragic portrayal of Dickens’ wife. As Nelly and Dickens draw closer and closer to the inevitable affair, the world around them sniffs scandal and forces them to take a more covert approach. Even if Dickens’ London is a man’s world, it is no place for divorce.

Fiennes is as magnetic as ever as the larger-than-life author at the height of his career. Tom Hollander deserves note for an energetic performance as the mischievous Wilkie Collins, the only grievance regarding Hollander would be his lack of screen time. The wonderful rapport between Fiennes and Hollander is electric and constitutes a large portion of the truly enjoyable scenes of the film. Bring on ‘Wilkie and Dickens: the college years’.

Here I have perhaps touched on the problem with Fiennes’ second feature: it is a period drama, and thus flirts consistently with surrendering to a certain brand of tedium. Aside from fantastic performance and Maria Djurkovic’s impressive production design-which ensures Fiennes’ Victorian London is realistic and aesthetically gorgeous, the film does lack that fine daring edge that might maintain the viewer’s absolute attention. Technicality, Fiennes is a good director, but merely good. His keen ear for diegetic sound helps pull the viewer into the world, but an as-of-yet unfound style leaves some of his frames wandering, left to be gathered by his actors. This leads us to another issue: particular scenes of magnetic performance, those between lovers and family, break the softly-spoken jib to deliver moments that surpass a large portion of the film.

The Invisible Woman is unfortunately a meandering film, beautifully realised but lacking in truly riveting subject matter. There are moments of startling clarity and splendour, a stand out performance from Felicity Jones, but by the end a point could be raised that there’s more beauty than brawn at work here.

★★★☆☆

Scott Clark

TIFF 2013 Review - Horns

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Rating:
15
TIFF Release Date:
6th & 8th September
Director:
Alexandre Aja
Cast:
Juno Temple, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Heather Graham, David Morse

Based on the bestselling novel by Joe Hill (that’s horror maestro Stephen King’s son), Horns is a spellbinding gothic fairy tale that tackles lost love and the pits of human nature to deliver one of the most enjoyable horror flicks in some time. This was one of the highlights of this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) wakes up one day to find he has grown a set of horns that grant him strange abilities. Haunted by the brutal murder of his girlfriend (Juno temple) and hounded by the people of his town who blame him, he decides to use those abilities to help exact his brtal revenge on the true killer.

As Ig quickly unravels the conspiracy, people can’t help confiding in him- and more often than not acting out- their most primal desires. So matter where he goes he leaves a trail of destruction, at times shamelessly depraved (see Heather Graham’s role as a sadistic waitress) at others touching. The humour is transferred seamlessly from book to screen, encapsulating the most realistic aspects of Ig’s condition and wrapping them with such charm and glee that there are more than just a few laugh-out-loud moments.

It’s not all black comedy though; Alexandre Aja (Switchblade Romance, The Hills Have Eyes 2006) understands the most important aspect of this story: at its heart, under the sharp, devilish humour and zany plot points, Horns is a romance. His attentions towards Ig and Merrin’s relationship, the heart-breaking fate of it and the superb casting of Radcliffe-Temple provides a believable base from which all other facets of the plot can grow from. Radcliffe has here stepped into full fruition as an actor, removing doubts of his post-Potter significance by seizing the down-and-out lover and relaying him with such torment and tenderness that the film often pulls at heartstrings whilst making you laugh and cower at the brutality of its more visceral scenes.

One of the few gripes with the film would be its bombastic and- at points -choppy music choice and editing which shake you out of Aja’s near-masterpiece. When the rest of the film has such a unity of vision, it’s a shame some of those soundtrack choices hit a gimmicky note, but it’s a small gripe in the face of such an enjoyable film. Similarly, the finale gets a bit stretched, but it’s difficult to talk realism on the subject of the Devil.

Consistently brilliant, horrific, and hilarious, Horns flaunts Radcliffe’s best performance to date and the claim to be one of the most touching horror films of recent years. This is a fantastic piece of filmmaking and a great addition to Aja’s repertoire.

★★★★

Scott Clark

17 September 2013

TIFF 2013 Review - All Cheerleaders Die

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Rating:
18
Release Date:
15th Sept (TIFF), 12th &14th October(LIFF)
Director:
Lucky McKee
Cast:
Caitlin Stasey, Sianoa Smit-McPhee, Brooke Butler, Tom Williamson,

Lucky Mckee has always had a bizarre sense of style I’ve never quite come to terms with. Some of his films are cult crackers (May) and others are more laid back (Red). His new film All Cheerleaders Die, co-directed with Chris Sivertson, is his most shameless step into black comedy and madcap yet.
                The film follows a rebel teen (Caitlan Stasey) as she attempts to infiltrate a group of cheerleaders in order to exact revenge on the captain of the high school football team. A supernatural occurrence throws the group of cheerleaders into a whole mess of occult violence and bitchy high school drama where cheerleading is the least of their worries.
                The film is not the self-aware horror that the title harks it might be, neither is it a particularly easy film to watch. It starts out in a fairly solid and amusing way, doing what it says on the tin. A black comedy revenge film is set in motion but very quickly unravelled with the alienating supernatural overtones. Even then its not the supernatural that causes the problem, it is the way in which its executed.
                The film slips from one genre to another in an uncomfortable and disappointing way. Perhaps it’s my fault for enjoying the grounded revenge concept too much and not wanting to follow the film into Jennifer’s Body territory. But then again if the film had managed to look less like a crap episode of Goosebumps, things could have been a whole lot better. Magic stones and swapped bodies throw the film off course, rendering it a Frankenstein feature that fires in different directions until it loses sight of its original narrative, a narrative that once regained is less cared for.
                Sure there’s fun to be had here, a group of hot cheerleaders getting pulled into a revenge scheme against the football guys who scorned them is always going to give ample opportunity for laughs and thrills. Mckee and Silverston even pull off some pretty gruelling violence that can’t be dulled by the campiest moments at work here. Even if there’s a fiendish comedy element and a good idea of how to shock audiences, it all feels - like most of its characters - dull and superficial. On that note, Stasey and Sianoa Smit-McPhee are knock-outs, as is Tom Williamson’s turn as super Jock and villain Terry. There’s ample talent and good individual components but the film is frankly grating as a whole.

Commendation is deserved for being unrelentingly mad, bad, and corny and there is a keen and consistent sense of humour at work here. However, awful effects and plain ridiculous concepts squash what might have been a solid stand-alone picture into a weird extended episode of your least favourite kiddy horror series.

★★☆☆☆

Scott Clark