Thursday, 30 August 2012

Review - Severance (2006 - Dir. Christopher Smith)

This was a real surprise. I'd bought it as the third option in a three for a fiver deal from the cheapo DVD emporium in town and had limited expectations about its quality. For starters it's got the much maligned Danny Dyer in it and the tag line 'The Office meets Deliverance' is hardly inspiring. But somewhat unexpectedly, this is a clever, funny and at times disturbing piece of British cinema.

Let's tackle the Danny Dyer issue straight away. I'd only ever seen Dyer in the Football Factory, another film I really enjoyed, where he plays a cheeky little cockney wide-boy in a tale of football hooligan related mayhem. Danny doesn't exactly expand his repertoire in Severance as he plays a cheeky little cockney wide-boy, but this time in a bizarre tale of comedy horror related mayhem. I've got to say that I liked him in this too, but if you want classically trained actors then he's possibly not the man for you.

The film centres on an office team building trip to Eastern Europe which soon goes pear-shaped as our heroes are confronted by a whole range of Baltic horrors with psychopathic tendencies. The seven main actors are all excellent and provide a sense of realism and unforced comedy. For anyone who has worked in an office environment the characters will be familiar enough and are generally well observed and suitably fleshed out. As the trip gradually descends into darkness and despair we can really empathise with the characters and see them change and develop as they encounter the various horrific situations.

It's a comic film, but if it is a comedy it's a very dark one. The villains are too close to real life for comfort and the characters are way too close to you and me for this to be a comfortable watch, but having said that, it's a hugely entertaining and enjoyable experience. The pick of the actors are the excellent Toby Stephens (Perfect Strangers), Tim McInnerny (Percy from Black Adder) and best of all the strong female lead of  Laura Harris. She's tough and alluring in the film, but annoying and American in the extras; maybe she was acting in the movie. Maybe she should act that way all the time.

It's strangely multi-layered for a comedy-slasher and has more in common with Shaun of the Dead than either The Office or Deliverance. It's bloody, violent and creepy, but at the same time it's trashy and fun. I doubt it's for everyone, but I'd definitely recommend it if your expectations are not too high.

If you like this you could also try:

Wrong Turn, Triangle, Tucker & Dale vs. Evil.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Review - Hans Christian Andersen (1952 - Dir. Charles Vidor)

And so we enter the disturbing, murky depths of musicals. I don't know whether I've mentioned it before, but I hate musicals: all that singing, dancing and being happy malarkey. Eating a family-size pack of razor blades, then drinking a pint of salt water to throw them back up would be preferable to watching a musical. I'd even gargle with TCP afterwards. Then chop off my legs with a blunt, rusty butter knife that's had Jamie Oliver dribblings all over it. And finally cauterise the wounds with an electric cattle prod set to maximum electrical proddage. I hate them.

Hans Christian Andersen kicks off our Musical Season, the lucky little fellow.

Worryingly, I'm going to start with a positive; this film could feasibly (very feasibly) happen. There are no scenes where people start singing, then suddenly everyone else knows the words and a huge choreographed dance is born. Yes, people sing, but they sing on their own. The only times when there are simultaneous dance manoeuvres are during the ballet sequences. I'll come back to them later. I was amazed at how many of the songs I knew. Admittedly, I have seen this film before but many, many years ago. I can't say that I liked any of the songs, but I knew them. One musical sequence is fairly bizarre, only just following the above rule. During a market scene the traders repeatedly sing what they are selling. My two highlights were: 'Fish. Fresh Fish.' in a lovely low voice and 'Sausages.'. Shame no-one was selling Ginster's pasties, that would have made a nice little tune.

The big, no, huge problem is that times have changed, and I really tried to put my brain into a 1950s mode when watching this film. It's no reflection on Danny Kaye or the film-makers, but it is a sad reflection on society now that when Hans is telling stories and talking to children, he comes across as a bit of a... well, I'll let you decide for yourself. I feel too mean to actually write the one word that sprang to mind. It is a shame that the connotations are so different now.

This is not actually a biography of Hans Christian Andersen but, as the opening scene helpfully describes, a fairy tale about his stories. It is successful in creating this atmosphere; the cinematography, sets and costumes certainly help. 

Now to the ballet. There are some ballet sequences early on. Okay, all well and good, although I can't say that I particularly like ballet (there is a see-through wedding dress in one scene though). In fact, I can't really say that I like dancers. Dancing, is fine. Top fun really. Dancers, with their excessive overacting: not so fine. I better not get into another rant. Back to the ballet. The first scenes are mercifully brief. But then the final ballet version of 'The Little Mermaid' lasts for about seventeen thousand hours, without any cuts to any other action. I completely switched off and the film lost it for me. To add insult to injury the ending of the film contains a medley of the previous songs in a Jive Bunny style. It finished me off.

It wasn't quite as bad as I was expecting, but the final ballet sequence/medley combo definitely lowered the rating by a couple of points. Another four musicals to go; I am going to need so much vodka to get through this...

If you like this you could also try:
Court Jester, The Five Pennies, The Inspector General.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

News - The Obscure World

Exciting news.

In a similar move to 2000AD's take over of Starlord, 'The Obscure World' is being merged with 'obscurendure' and 'into the valley of the obscure'. 

Books, comics and games will be covered by 'obscurendure'. Food, drink and ornaments will be featured in 'into the valley of the obscure'. Don't think for one minute that this will dilute our regular film coverage. Roughly 1 in 10 posts will be 'The Obscure World' based, to give you a little break from all of the film related goods.

We will be posting some classic reviews and features to get you up to speed on what has already been discussed, then we will get on to the new stuff. Regular updates will be made on facebook and Twitter to keep you informed of what is happening in 'The Obscure World'

Exciting news indeed.


Monday, 20 August 2012

Review - Donkey Punch (2008 - Dir. Oliver Blackburn)

It's not very often I want to turn a film off and go and do something better instead. (Sounds a bit like 'Why Don't You?') Donkey Punch is one, if not the most, irritating film I've seen in a long while. Not since the similar Very Bad Things have I seen a film where I haven't cared for a single character and every one of them has been severely annoying. I really, really hate this film.

Three young ladies are having a holiday in Spain. Pop and crisps are involved. They meet up with three cheeky fellows who take them to the yacht that they work on. There we meet a further fella, the brother of one of the others, who seems to be the only one with any sense. More pop and crisps are consumed. They discuss the pleasant act of 'Donkey Punching': whilst engaging in doggy-style rumpy-pumpy the gentlemen punches the lady on the back of the neck causing her to clench. Lucky lady. Five of them retire for a game of tiddlywinks. (The orgy is filmed in spectacular BBC-o-vision, one kissing incident in particular brought forth a major rant from my delicate mouth.) The king of irritatingness, Bluey (Tom Burke), eggs on Josh (Julian Morris), to Donkey Punch his lady friend (even though later he claims he was joking.) You can guess where this is going...

The first problem is that this event that kicks off the rest of the film happens about half an hour into the running time. Half an hour of not really much happening. I'd got who the characters were, what their situation was, within the first five minutes so why bother with half an hour of tedium. It's not as if the extra twenty five minutes endeared the characters to me. I just wanted them all to die.

The acting is shocking. Soap opera level. I cringed at so many moments. Bluey makes one of the most ridiculously inappropriate noises at one point. If you've seen it you'll know what I mean. Nicola Burley, playing the lead, Tessa, is really bad. I've realised that I haven't had a Ray Winstone rant in these very pages. Suffice to say, I'm not that keen on his acting abilities. But I thought I've give his daughter Jaime Winstone a chance. I'm not that keen on her either. The only actor who can claim the slightest amount of self respect is Robert Boulter.

The script doesn't help the actors with some severely flat dialogue. Also, I'm fairly used to characters in horror films behaving in, let's say, slightly quirky ways but these clowns are so stupid. Imagine it's night and you've escaped from your captors on their yacht, in a small dinghy. You're about a hundred yards from the yacht and they're travelling in the other direction. What do you do? Keep quiet? Hide? Make sure that you don't light anything up to give away your position? Obviously not. They shout at each other and start lighting flares. Then they're surprised that they've been seen. 

I really have nothing positive to say about Donkey Punch. Okay they've made a film, which I can understand is loads of hard work and a bit of a battle at times. But everything about it is so unlikeable. It's not very often that I say I wish I hadn't watched a film, (even Bare Behind Bars is better than this) but if there is one character that I want to forever extract from my memory, it's Bluey. I'd rather spend some quality time with the final version of Bobby from The Divide. As luck would have it I sold my Blu-ray version for £2 at a local car boot. So it only cost me 50p in the end (believe me, it's dear at that). I couldn't help feeling sorry for the person who bought it...

If you like this you could also try:
Very Bad Things, Eden Lake.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Review - Paranoid Park (2007 - Dir. Gus Van Sant)

Paranoid Park starts promisingly enough. Some cool slow-motion footage of skateboarders doing their tricky tricks and an intriguing murder mystery kick off the proceedings. Skateboarding and murder: I'll go with that.

The story is told in a disjointed fashion through flashbacks (and flashbacks within flashbacks) and skateboarder Alex's writing (Gabe Nevins). It all sounds quite interesting doesn't it? Then there is some more cool slow-motion footage of skateboarders doing their tricky tricks. 

At the halfway point we get to see the actual murder; it's fairly easy to guess what happened, if not the details. Then the film dies a death. Paranoid Park is based on the novel of the same name by Blake Nelson. The book will obviously be really good at portraying Alex's thoughts. The film? Not so good. What you do get are unending shots of a teenager moping around, for scene after scene without the story advancing in the slightest. This is all probably quite true to life, but if I wanted to see a sulking teenager then I'd watch a... teenager. Then there are some more cool tricky tricks. 

As you might have gathered, there is a lot of skateboarding action. At the start it sets the tone and gives the film a pleasing atmosphere. By the end it feels like it has only been included due to a lack of actual story and it starts to grate. This also applies to the structure of the film. 

The ending made me think that Alex had been given a convenient 'Get Out of Jail Free' card, and that he didn't seem too cut up about what had happened; more that he just wants to keep it all a secret and not get caught. This fits with the theme of the film but doesn't make Alex particularly likeable. Which can be okay, as long as the protagonist is empathic. I found Paranoid Park too dull and slow-moving to build any empathy for Alex.

On a positive note the cinematography and music are both great. Whether you like Paranoid Park or not seems to hinge on what you think about the atmosphere. For me, it could possibly have worked as a short. As a feature?


If you like this you could also try:
Last Days, Brick.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Feature - The Liebster Award

This lovely award was kindly passed on to me by Chris from movies and songs 365.

Here are the rules:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
5. Go to their page and tell them.

11 things about me:
1. I have two house rabbits that choose which film I'm going to watch. I line up the DVDs and the first one they knock down is the one that I will watch. Strange how they both always choose 18 rated horrors. I've trained them well...

2. The film that gave me the worst nightmares as a child was Wait Until Dark. I saw it when I was a little evlkeith and the big jumpy scene made me soil my pants.

3. My favourite author is F. Paul Wilson. 'The Keep' and 'The Tomb' are probably the books that I have re-read the most.

4. 'Steptoe and Son' is one of my favourite comedies. 'Bottom' is probably the other. I can't say that I've seen a new comedy in years/decades that is actually funny. Peter Kay. Ricky Gervais. Prime offenders.

5. My favourite album of all time is possibly 'Frances the Mute' by The Mars Volta. Incredibly hard going for a fair while but now I completely love it. Including the extended section of bird song.

6. The actor who I would most like to have a pint with is James Garner.

7. I like to visit non-franchise dodgy greasy cafes. They always have a much better atmosphere than Starbucks etc. Plus they don't ask me if I want a Portuguese Custard Tart when I plainly ask for a pot of tea only.

8. I love Italian food.

9. If there's one thing that's better than high quality speakers then it has to be high quality speaker cables. Mmm, cables...

10. If I had to choose between chopping off my arms or legs... the legs would have to go. I could always knock up some bionic ones.

11. As well as blogging, I enjoy painting pretty pictures, photography, making music, playing board games and Warhammer, reading comics and running. As the niece of evlkeith would say, 'You're such a geek.'

Here are the 11 questions sent to me by Chris:
1. When and how did you become interested in movies?
The first film that I can remember going to see was Star Wars. That surely had to have an effect on me. I came home and immediately started drawing TIE fighters. Another factor could be that I spent a lot of time with my Granddad when I was little and he liked to watch old black and white films. That could possibly explain my love of Cary Grant and James Stewart films.

2. Who is your favourite director and why?
There are so many great directors so this is a tricky question... er.... give me a minute... right, I think it would have to be Lucio Fulci. To be able to create four classic zombie films in the space of three years is a major achievement. His work went downhill after that but this has happened to many other directors: John Carpenter and Dario Argento to name but two.

3. What is your favourite movie discovered in 2012 (old or new), and why?
I don't think that this has been the greatest year for films that I've seen, but I did really enjoy The Hindenburg. The ending, showing real footage of the Hindenburg exploding, is stunning. There are still a few months left too, so fingers crossed...

4. If you had to recommend any movie that you think everyone should watch, what would it be, and why?
The Dark Crystal. It's a film where the world and characters were brought to life practically, without the use of CGI and it is still visually stunning now. It is so immersive compared to other world building exercises. Avatar springs to mind. It is also the film that I reference and quote the most.

5. Have you been to a film festival, and how was the experience?
I've been to the Celluloid Screams horror festival at the Showroom in Sheffield for the past three years and I've got my pass booked for this year. The experience? Nothing can beat watching a sleazy euro-horror at one o'clock in the morning whilst drinking a gorgeous pint of beer.

6. Which soundtrack or score do you keep going back to?
I can't choose between my favourite two so I will list them both: Mulholland Drive and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Both bring such atmosphere and emotion to their respective films.

7. What films do you find yourself daydreaming about every so often?
There are some films that I don't like initially, or just think they are average, that seem to worm their way into my head. The Pact, Cold Sweat and, from this year, First Squad are all good examples.

8. Who do you talk movies with in real life, outside of the blogosphere?
A bloke at work is good to talk to about old war films, but the main person I talk to about films is Doccortex, mostly when we're at the football. The best thing about the majority of games is the half-time chat and cereal bar.

9. Favourite film poster?
That would have to be Alien. I can remember going to London with father of evlkeith when I was very young and Alien was just out. The poster made me imagine all kinds of horrific goings on. And I really wanted to see it. The poster for Dead and Buried had a similar effect.

10. What movie is the record holder that you have seen the most times?
That would be really hard to say but these films have all had a lot of viewings: The Beyond, The Wicker Man, The Thing, North by Northwest, To Catch a Thief, The Dark Crystal, The Beastmaster, Brotherhood of the Wolf, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Aliens. Sorry I can't be more specific, but it all depends on what kind of mood I'm in.

11. Which movie websites (not blogs) do you visit?
None. But I do read the magazines SFX and The Dark Side. Even then I take the reviews with a pinch of salt. SFX in particular is prone to reviewing films favourably on cinema release and then giving them a much lower rating when they come out on DVD after the initial hype has died down. They seem to have got better recently, with most films getting average review scores. (I once bought a copy from a small newsagent and they'd placed it on the top shelf. The bloke proceeded to wrap it in a brown paper bag and gave me a contemptuous look. I wonder why...)

11 Winners:
Here are the lucky winners. I'm not sure whether these blogs have won the award before but they deserve to win it anyway (I have tried to check but you never know...). In no particular order:

1. NZPete at
2. Peter Hall at
3. Andy Hanley at
4. Scotty, Griff and Adam at
5. Zena at
6. Dave J. Wilson at
7. Bonjour Tristesse
8. Bill D. Courtney
9. Slowdeath77 at
10. Roy Fraley at
11. Amanda at

11 Question for the Lucky Winners:
1. What really irritates you about films?
2. What has been the best film related experience that you have ever had?
3. What is the best 'undiscovered gem' that you've ever found?
4. If you were going to make a film what would it be about?
5. Desert Island Films: which three films (all from different genres) would you take?
6. CGI or practical effects?
7. Which person from behind the scenes (it can't be a director) do you admire the most?
8. If you could wipe one film from the history of film-making because it is just too disturbing (e.g. Mamma Mia) or irritating (e.g. Mamma Mia), what would it be?
9. Which film has scared you the most?
10. There have been many 'versus' films of late, e.g. Cowboys & Aliens. What would be your dream 'versus' film?
11. Yoghurt: should it have fruit bits (more commonly known as grit) in it or not?


Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Review - Rubber (2010 - Dir. Quentin Dupieux)

Robert is a tyre. Ha ha! He discovers that he likes destroying things. Ha ha! He can make small animals explode with his psychic powers. Ha ha! He can make someone's head explode with his psychic powers. Ha ha. He can make someone else's head explode. Ha. And someone else's. Mmm. And someone else's. Yeah, it's wearing a bit thin now...

Rubber should have been a short film: twenty minutes, tops. The mildly amusing idea of a tyre that can blow people's heads off with its psychic powers has been stretched way beyond its limits. A short could have packed in all the good bits and even then it wouldn't have been great. Okay, but not great. The sequence where Robert discovers his powers is oddly engaging. But from then on it goes steeply downhill. Not the tyre, the film; that would have been too exciting.

The writer/director obviously knew the script was lacking in story substance so he tacked on really irritating scenes where the characters are aware that they are characters in a film. Metafiction can be okay at times - The Cabin in the Woods is a prime example that I did actually enjoy, although I can't say that I'd want to see it again - but in Rubber it only serves to highlight the lack of any real events.

So are there any plus points? Robert is a convincing character even though he is a tyre. Scenes of him rolling through the desert bring to mind Fata Morgana by the legendary Werner Herzog. Depth of field is used effectively to create some strangely beautiful images. The effects are well done with heads exploding seamlessly. Wings Hauser (Mutant) is in it, but gets virtually nothing to do except look through binoculars.

An initial fourth wall breaking scene goes on and on about how there is 'no reason' that most things happen in films - to extend the running time this scene is replayed at the end but from a different camera angle - justifying why a tyre comes to life and blows people's heads off. I didn't need to be told this. Create the rules and I'll go with it, regardless of how stupid it is. As for why anyone would want to watch Rubber... well, there is 'no reason'. (And yes, a smug head wobble was included in that last sentence. If the marketing department are able to crack terrible jokes on the poster, surely I'm allowed one too.)

If you like this you could also try:
Hobo With a Shotgun, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, Planet Terror.