Children of the Damned

‘Children of the Damned’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The last full length review written for Montage Film, published during November 2008.

The Other (1972) is a psychological horror adapted from a novel of the same name by its author Tom Tryon, and directed by Robert Mulligan, better known for his sterling work on To Kill a Mockingbird (1962). The film follows the story of a set of boy twins in 1930s Connecticut, whose increasingly unsettling relationship and supernatural games come under suspicion, as accidents, death and destruction begins to unfold around them. Akin to many other classic horror films of the time, such as The Omen (Donner, 1976) and The Exorcist (Friedkin, 1973) it makes much of the relationship between children and the supernatural and the uncanny. That the story has at its centre a set of identical twins, themselves subject to a great deal of folk belief and superstition, only serves to emphasise the thematic link, and it is these aspects of the film that will form the basis of this examination.
Continue reading “Children of the Damned”

Found In Translation

‘Found In Translation’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

A second full length review written for Montage Film and published during September 2008.

The Liar/Valehtelija (1981) is the first film from one of Finland’s best known directors, Mika Kaurismäki, better known to English speaking audiences as the director of LA Without A Map (1998). Co-written and starring Kaurismäki’s brother Aki, the film follows the tragic-comic antics of a charming, intellectual, pathological liar, as he drifts around Helsinki in search of love, enlightenment and a free ride. At just over fifty minutes in duration, this long short film was Kaurismäki’s film school graduation piece, and is a remarkably accomplished piece despite having a cast and crew of amateurs. This does in fact work in the film’s favour, fitting well with the nouvelle vague sensibilities that permeate the production. The cast and crew of the film going on to form the ‘Villealfa’ production family which would kick start a whole new era in Finnish film production. As part of a national cinema mainly ignored by the rest of the world, The Liar is an effective portrait of why Finnish cinema can be every bit as powerful as that produced by its Scandinavian neighbours.
Continue reading “Found In Translation”

Bleed Like Me

 

‘Bleed Like Me’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

A full length review written for Montage Film and published during September 2008.

The third feature film by brothers Jeff and Josh Crook, Gruesome (Crook, 2006), earned considerable industry attention when it premiered at a midnight screening during the Sundance Film Festival. There are, broadly speaking, two main types of modern horror film. On one hand there’s the kind that knows all about the last thirty years of horror film theory and criticism and uses it to do something interesting, and there are those that cheerfully ignore three decades of theory and criticism, carrying on exploitively as though the seventies had never ended. Gruesome, happily, falls into the former category. Watching the film it becomes clear why it drew so much attention, for although it begins like a typical teen slasher movie, after the first ten minutes it becomes clear that there’s something altogether more complex and sinister going on. This is a film that takes the identification between audience, monster and victim and turns our perception of that relationship on its head.

Continue reading “Bleed Like Me”

Dead Sexy

‘Dead Sexy’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The third of three full length reviews written for Montage Film and published during August 2008.

To describe Flesh for Frankenstein (1973) as one of the most comprehensible and coherent of the filmic offerings to emerge from the Factory, when some of its stable mates included Sleep (1963) (five and half hours of John Giorno asleep) and Empire (1964) (seven and a half hours of the Empire State building – a cloud passing overhead is the height of excitement in the film), does not in any way take away from how truly strange the film actually is. Directed by Paul Morrissey and made back to back with the equally bizarre Blood For Dracula (1973) it retains the ultra-low budget underground production values of the majority of the films that Andy Warhol involved himself in, despite having decidedly decadent settings.
Continue reading “Dead Sexy”

A Matter Of Taste

‘A Matter Of Taste’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The second of three full length reviews written for Montage Film and published during August 2008.

The Horror Of Frankenstein (1970) is the second last of Hammer’s cycle of Frankenstein films and should serve as a lesson and a warning to modern horror filmmakers against the temptation to maintain a successful franchise through endless sequels and ‘re-imaginings’. Touching on all the ‘issues’ and themes popular in contemporary horror cinema, yet never quite manages to become, akin to the title character’s monstrous creation, more than a sum of its parts.
Continue reading “A Matter Of Taste”

Abject Failures

‘Abject Failures’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The first of three full length reviews written for Montage Film and published during August 2008.

Seth Holt’s final film Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb (1971) is better known for the disasters and traumas that befell its production than as a film in its own right. Possibly the only Mummy movie to lack an actual mummified corpse, though it does manage a creepily active dismembered hand to compensate for its ‘monster’s’ strange inertia, lush cinematography, strange sound design and clever lighting somehow disguising quite how small the budget really was. Unusually for a film of its type, the setting is roughly contemporary to its production and the issues that it touches upon are very much of their time. From feminist debates, to theories of abjection, to mistreatment of patients in asylums, to disillusion in the hippie dream, the film bears the, whether conscious or unconscious, marks of the time in which it was made.
Continue reading “Abject Failures”

Guilty Secrets, Guilty Pleasures

‘Guilty Secrets, Guilty Pleasures’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The third of three full length reviews written for Montage Films and published during May 2008.

The Reptile (1966) is part of a duo of films that are the best-known work of director John Gilling, one of Hammer horror’s most sophisticated directors. Both films feature a tiny Cornish community being threatened by a sinister force brought back from the corners of the Empire and together form a varied dissection of the problems of colonialism, imperialism and the inevitable corruption brought from power. However, while its sister film The Plague of the Zombies wears its politics on its sleeve among a tradition of zombie apocalypse as filmic critique of society, The Reptile, is an altogether less clear cut proposition.
Continue reading “Guilty Secrets, Guilty Pleasures”

A Very British Invasion

‘A Very British Invasion’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The second of three full length reviews written for Montage Films and published during May 2008.

When the classics of the zombie sub-genre come to mind, they invariably come with a distinctly American accent. Whether we think of Bruce Campbell’s chainsaw arm in the Evil Dead (Raimi, 1987) films, or the survivors taking pot shots at the zombies from the top of the mall in Day of the Dead, iconic imagery of zombies and those that battle them are, in spite some sterling work by the makers of Shaun of the Dead (Wright, 2004), nearly all from across the pond. However, Simon Pegg’s cricket bat and pool cue wielding loser is not the first to take a thoroughly British shot at dealing with a zombie invasion. Made in the mid-sixties but set in the Edwardian era in a tiny Cornish village, The Plague of the Zombies (Gilling, 1966) is classic Hammer horror B-movie fare. Originally intended as an accompaniment to Christopher Lee’s iconic scenery chewing turn as Dracula, the tiny budget doesn’t get in the way of it being a creepy, subtext laden little film.
Continue reading “A Very British Invasion”

Nouvelle Visage, Nouvelle Femme

‘Nouvelle Visage, Nouvelle Femme’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

The first of three full length reviews written for Montage Film and published during May 2008.

Eyes Without A Face (1960) is a French language, black and white horror film. A beautifully shot, dark psychological thriller, where gender, identity and motivation is a constantly shifting landscape, this film somehow manages to contain nearly everything I love in good horror cinema. The horror is not one of screams, jumps and sudden reveals, but of slow burning unease building through revulsion to a fitting climax. In Apocalypse Now Marlon Brando’s character insists that horror has both a name and a face, the anonymous narrator of Chris Marker’s Sans Solei, agrees but posits that if this is true, then beauty also has a name and a face. In Eyes Without A Face, the pivotal character of Christiane embodies both of these roles, playing as she does the princess locked in the tower and the monster lurking in the basement. Encapsulating the contradictory nature of female portrayal in horror cinema in her dual role of monster and victim.

Continue reading “Nouvelle Visage, Nouvelle Femme”

Birth Of A Genre

‘Birth Of A Genre’ – 2008 by Wendy McCredie

Another full length article written for Montage Film and published in March 2008

Fritz Lang’s science fiction epic Metropolis (1927) with its Manhattan skyline inspired utopian cityscape, iconic characters and epic score is a film better known for its imagery and for what it represents than as a film in its own right.

Looking back on the film from a point in time further forward than the film’s own ‘futuristic’ setting, everything about it can seem dated and cliché ridden. Every twist, turn, conceit and character familiar to the point of distaste. (See the mad scientist, ranting in his lair. Watch the hero, battling his daddy issues which pursuing his noble goal. Marvel at the score and the scale of the world created. Gasp at the angelic heroine and the evil doppelganger.) But look a little closer and it becomes clear that this is not merely a classic genre piece, but in fact the archetypal genre piece. Metropolis was the first truly epic science fiction film. Even viewed today in its incomplete state the film runs for almost two hours.

Continue reading “Birth Of A Genre”