Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Feature - evlkeith's Top Ten Films of 2013

It's the time of year where we inevitably look back over the previous year. We have our New Year Honours list available now to view, with three new members admitted to the obscurendure Hall of Fame (just click on the link to find out who). 

Our second piece of business is the obligatory chart of lovely films I've seen for the first time this year. Despite having watched some cracking films this year, The Beyond for example, I can't include them due to the fact that I've seen them before (many times in some cases). I've also seen some completely dire films, but they won't be in the chart for obvious reasons. So here we go, starting with the customary number 10:

10. Painless - even though Big Bad Wolves was my favourite film at Celluloid Screams 2013, this is the one that's stuck in my mind and I may even give it a little purchase.

9. Hard Candy - a fairly harsh film starring Ellen Page and some bloke. It caused some moderate to strong leg crossage combined with wincing.

8. Kill Zombie! - I had very low hopes for this but it managed to be a fair amount of fun and contained some likeable characters. One of the best new zombie films I've had to sit through through this year.

7. Tokyo Zombie - a slow moving grappling based zombie film that I couldn't help but like. 

6. Loups=Garous - nobody else likes this anti-mobile phone anime on Letterboxd, but I do. I had to watch it a few times to be fair, so it's maybe worth persevering with. (Especially if you're a lover of the gibbous moon.)

5. Footsteps in the Fog - It's got Stewart Granger in it. As a villain. With his lovely grey side hair pieces. Job done.

4. Dial M for Murder - a Hitchcock film that I'd never got round to seeing. It's actually pretty good. It does contain the gorgeous Grace Kelly after all.

3. Random Harvest - one of my gran's favourite films and could well become one of mine too.

2. Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror - a complete mish-mash of virtually every PS2 game melded together into film form. Shallow but loads of fun. A bit like a saucer of napalm.

1. Safety Last! - another film in the top ten that's so great it needs an exclamation mark. Last year I had The Avengers in the top spot, a state of the art superhero fest. This year it's a silent black and white film. Who would have guessed? 


Monday, 30 December 2013

Post Mortem - Year of the Dead

It's been a hard year watching a zombie film every week (and reviewing it). But it has been worth it. Possibly. So here we go with a run down of some of my findings:
  • Best zombie film: The Beyond

  • Most iconic actress: Catriona MacColl
  • Most abused actress: Daniela Doria
  • Most iconic actor: Ken Foree
  • The zombie film where I didn't even make it past the first five minutes due to lowness of quality: Dead Genesis
  • The zombie film that I couldn't watch because the DVD was so badly scratched: Shatter Dead (I don't think that I missed much)
  • Worst people to be involved in a zombie film: Bruno Mattei and Claudio Fragasso

  • Best director: this was always going to be between two directors, but for me Romero just gets pipped by Lucio Fulci

I've done some statistical research to find the best decade for zombie films. Here are the average ratings for the zombie films I've reviewed from each decade:

1960s - 6.3
1970s - 6.4
1980s - 5.9
1990s - 4.8
2000s - 5.2
2010s - 4

Mmm, not much between them really, apart from the 2010s looking really useless. Let's try looking at the percentage of films that I rated 8 or more from each decade:

1960s - 0%

1970s - 40%

1980s - 35%

1990s - 0%
2000s - 8%
2010s - 0%

So there you go, if you had to choose a random zombie film you're best bet is one from the 70s or 80s. (Many apologies if you got Zombie Flesh Eaters 2 though.)

When the inevitable zombie apocalypse happens what have I actually learnt that will stand me in good stead? Oh, so many things, but here's my main tip. If anyone gets injured, let's say a really harsh break where the bone juts out, or a severe zombie bite on an arm, administer first aid by dabbing the wound with a bit of cotton wool. For extra healing power, have a slightly wincing "that looks nasty" look on your face. The wound will be sorted in no time.

Before we leave the Year of the Dead season for good, I must thank - in no particular order - Kev D. (http://www.zombiehall.com), King Uke (http://theukuleleblog.blogspot.co.uk/) and Karl Kaefer (http://xsmarkthespot.squarespace.com/blog/) for their comments and quality suggestions. It's made the pain easier to bear.

Next year we're going to have something new for you: The FA Cup of Actors. Sixteen actors will be battling it out (to the death obviously) through the medium of me and Doccortex reviewing a random selection of their films and seeing which are best. More information will be forthcoming in the new year.

Have a great New Year and thanks for reading.


Feature - Battle of the Seasons Update

The Year of the Dead been a massively long season but let's see how well it's done against our other seasons.

11. The Luc Besson Season = 2 (Average rating for the entire season)

10. The Musical Season = 3.2

9. The Sword and Sorcery Season = 4.4

8. The 80s Prison Season = 4.6

7. Year of the Dead = 5.3

6. The Gritty Season = 6.4

4. The Buddy Movie Season = 7

3. The Mark Dacascos Season = 7 

2. The Christmas Season = 7.3

1. The Fog Season = 8

(The Mark Dacascos Season is placed above The Buddy Movie Season due to it having five films in it, compared to The Buddy's three.)

No great shakes then for our zombie season with an average score of, well, just above average (at least it didn't worry Luc Besson, although some of the individual films would, Zombie 108 anyone?). Just remember that there are some cracking films within the season (mainly the first three by Romero and the four classic Fulci films). Coming soon will be a Doccortex season. And it's got its own theme tune.


Saturday, 28 December 2013

Review - The Beyond (1981 - Dir. Lucio Fulci)

And so we reach the end of this mammoth zombie watching spree and what a film to finish with. This seems to have come at a perfect time after my review of Hell's Ground, a film that had lots of weaknesses, yet I couldn't help but like it. The Beyond takes that idea to the extreme.

Liza (Catriona MacColl) inherits an old hotel that funnily enough stands on one of the seven doors to hell. She teams up with Dr John McCabe (David Warbeck) and they investigate the mysterious occurrences. What follows can only be described as a disjointed nightmare that throws logic straight out of the window to its blood soaked death.

I could write a review completely slating this film. It has so many problems. In the excellent book Beyond Terror, Stephen Thrower manages to justify pretty much every aspect in a very convincing and academic manner. (Beyond Terror is well worth tracking down if you're a Fulci fan although it is a tad expensive: £175.98 for a used copy, and for a brand spanking one - £7,708.30.) I think the justification only works if you already love The Beyond though. If you don't it must be fairly easy to brush aside everything he says.

We come back to the all important special ingredients I mentioned in the Hell's Ground review. There is one moment that stands out as slightly nasty, when our hero shoots a girl in the head without thinking about it, (whereas the rest of the time he has a right ponder before killing anything). I think Fulci filmed it that way purely for the shock value of the effect. But apart from that the atmosphere and tone are nigh on perfect. The film gradually descends from having a lovely drink in a New Orleans bar into the fog shrouded bleakness of hell as it reaches its climax. 

The ending is my favourite of any film (just pipping The Wicker Man). I doubt many other people will, but I shed a tear without fail. Maybe it's the fact that David Warbeck is not with us any more that makes it all the more poignant. In this scene Fulci has created a stunning version of hell that is far worse than the usual fieriness and Satan sticking his red hot poker up sinners' backsides. Supposedly the corpses were all homeless people that Fulci talked into acting for him. The visuals are only half of the story though.

The music that kicks in at the end is stunning. Little snippets are heard at various points in the film, but just as the music in City of the Living Dead signifies the beginning of the final act, the soundtrack starts in full force as the zombies prepare themselves for an onslaught. When the music is revealed in all its glory, it always has a massive impact on me. I have to listen to it at a very loud volume, but goosebumps and prickly arm hair ensue on every listening. It fits the on-screen action perfectly and it's also one of the only times when I will sit through the credits just to get the full musical experience. 

Here are some of the things that I love about The Beyond, in no particular order:

  • The casting of Veronica Lazar (Mater Tenebrarum in Argento's Inferno) and all of the expectations that go along with that. Her conversation with Joe the plumber is a pure slice of red herring (and it's really funny).
  • The stilted dialogue (see the above conversation as a prime example).
  • The lighting in the scene between Liza and Emily. Beautifully shot and if it doesn't make a plot point completely obvious the next sequence where Emily runs out hammers it home. The first time I watched this I thought there was something wrong with the sound, but a minute later it all became clear. Clever stuff.
  • The baffling spider attack, complete with those shiftily moving pipe clean spiders in the background.
  • John McCabe sticking to his rational beliefs for virtually the whole film. Despite the fact that he can see that shooting them in the head is the only way to take the zombies down, he perseveres by shooting them in the torso, refusing to believe in anything supernatural.
  • The moment in the lift where David Warbeck tries to load his gun by sticking a bullet down the barrel end accompanied by a couple of frames of Catriona MacColl laughing at him.
  • The bloke in the book shop who can't stop giggling.
  • The fairly rank pile of matted hair that Martha pulls out of the bath.
  • The gorgeous shot of a very straight road with a car bombing along directly towards the viewer.
  • The way that Fulci lingers over inconsequential moments, for example, the characters walking up to Emily's house is dragged out for ages.
  • "Dicky attack!" Any film that contains a dog called Dicky can't be all bad.
  • The creepy piano soundtrack playing in the background only for it be revealed that Emily is actually playing it for her guest, Liza. (Most people put on a bit of Kings of Leon for their guests but not Emily.)
  • The gore.

Yep, the gore. The Beyond starts with a black and white scene that involves some rather nasty chain whipping. As usual, Fulci makes us watch this in intimate detail for a good long while. The film then never lets up. There's more of the trademark Fulci eye trauma, acid attacks and gushing neck wounds. Saying all that, it's not your usual zombie flesh munching spectacle. The zombies' mouths are pretty much unused (maybe this is due to the fact that zombies weren't originally going to be in it, but the German financiers insisted) even so, they are still very much a threat. The scenes in the hospital have to be my favourite scenes of zombie action. I don't think the Blu-ray format does The Beyond many favours as the gore probably looks better on old pirated VHS copies. Don't get me wrong, it still looks great, but that grainy distressed look suits the style far more.

If you've never seen this, don't get your hopes up. My rating is definitely a personal thing, although I know of other people who also hold this film in an equally high regard (and still other people who think it's rubbish). Watch it with the knowledge that it may well be a film that you'll come to love. 

Well that's it for our Year of the Dead (hooray!) and very soon we'll have some more information about the FA Cup of Actors. Happy New Year to you dear reader.


If you like this you could also try:
Zombie Flesh Eaters, The House by the Cemetery, City of the Living Dead.