Along with the likes of ‘Killer Joe’ and ‘Lone Star’, it’s good films like this exist. It means when I talk approvingly of Matthew McConaughey, and people respond with an expression so quizzical their eyes are pulled out of their skulls I can go, ‘Nah, go look at ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. He can do it. He can do it really well. It’s just…’ and here I start to cry a little bit, ‘…It’s just that no one gives him a chance, you know? It’s not his fault he did all those shitty rom-coms… Ok, maybe it is his fault, but everyone’s entitled to a few dozen mistakes, aren’t they? Aren’t they? There must be room for some compassion in this world. Somewhere. Maybe here…’ And I turn to look mistily back at my companion, only to find they’re making a wanking gesture. With both hands. I lunge across the worktop, crushingly grab their pain au chocolat, and smash it into their now bready face. ‘Leave him the fuck alone!’ I yell. Hot and angry, I wipe my snotty lip on my wrist, getting only a petulant look in return. Clumsily batting their magazine pile to the floor, I stomp out, sad about how much of an emotional mirror image this is of that time we had a chat about Carly Rae Jepsen.
THE AMERICAN SCREAM 
Little Joshua, now all grown up, made a really great documentary with ‘Best Worst Movie’, detailing the cult response to beautifully fuckawful pile of wank ‘Troll 2’, which he had non-acted in as a child non-star. In his real-life identity of Michael Stephenson, he showed a real talent in crafting a narrative from fellow cast member George Hardy’s journey through D-list celebrity adventures.
This time around, Michael is absent from the screen, turning things over to a collection of Massachusetts households, all devoted to the loving creation of Halloween-time haunted houses. The months running up to the end of October are spent building, painting and crafting their homes into fright-filled attractions for all the neighbourhood families to enjoy. He has found some truly likeable and engaging people to document, and following them through their creative and familial triumphs and stresses is a constant pleasure. The three houses come at their task with differing aesthetics and skillsets, but whatever their approach, a touching picture is created of each, ending up with a film which is both sweetly heart-warming and entirely in keeping with the rest of FrightFest.
Nope. There’s a few laughs scattered about, but the lead character’s an overly repellent presence, the whole thing’s pretty laboured, and ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere.
Cutting back between Civil War-era Catalonia and the present day, a story builds of what happened to a bunch of kids committed back then to a sinister medical/asylum institution. As we’re shown pretty clearly, what they all have in common is the inability to feel pain. So as well as inadvertently inviting comparisons with ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ because I haven’t seen that many Spanish films, I sat there remembering that Harry Hill joke about people who have no ability to cry. What happens is, the doctor breaks the news to them, and then wonders why they don’t seem more upset. And then Harry goes on how he’s personally been motivated to become a tear donor, where clinicians guide him into a private room to tell him a sad story. The tears he produces are taken away from him - he doesn’t see those again - but he takes comfort that his sacrifice is able to bring some sadness to the lives of others.
But I snapped out of that and got on with paying attention to the film. The flashback stuff with the children is the more interesting thread, as those making some contemporary investigations are led further into their timeline. And although the first half was definitely the stronger, I’m glad to have seen it. It’s the kind of film I probably wouldn’t have went for outside the confines of a film festival, which is one of the nicest things about being here. Although it did just mean I also saw ‘Dementamania’. Which was shit.
V/H/S 2 
Before the screening, it was widely reported by those with the knowledge that this was way better than the original. Considering how low a judgment I’d had of ‘V/H/S’, I realised this could still mean it wasn’t worth the time. Wrap-around story ‘Tape 49’ didn’t do too much, and I’d have been very happy to completely lose the final segment of ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’. I was later surprised to find this was directed by ‘Hobo with a Shotgun’’s Jason Eisener, which I’d really enjoyed.
Handheld-shot films often get the criticism of being hard to follow and prompting motion sickness, and I’d always snortingly dismissed these complaints as the irrelevant moaning of the cinematically illiterate. But if anything’s worthy of this whinge, it’s ‘Slumber Party Alien Abduction’. Amateurish in its aping of amateurism, this monotonous story of a load of cunts in a house had all the problems found in ‘V/H/S’, and then a few more. Opening film ‘Phase I Clinical Trials’ wasn’t all that special either, being pretty routine both in its telling of an eye implant gone spooky weird, and also its genre handling of gender. Thank everything, then, for the other shorts.
I’d liked the super-low-budget ‘Colin’, which managed to find a rare angle for a zombie film by having a zombie take the leading role. A faster-paced, perversely-POV variant on this idea, ‘A Ride in the Park’ added a huge amount of quality to ‘V/H/S 2′, where a cyclist’s helmet cam lets us see his day of being attacked by the shambling horrors, dying, and then being hungrily reanimated to kill and kill again. Nice entrails.
If everything in the ‘V/H/S’ films were as good as ‘Safe Haven’, they would be really good. That’s how good it is. Arguably sidestepping any concerns about its treatment of race and maternity by being beyond fucking ridiculous, we are treated to an exposé of suicidal, demonic-childbirth-enabling Indonesian cultists, as a news crew makes the terrible choice of investigating their activities. The final framing of drool and snot strands, caked-on blood, maniacal laughter and a tenacious goatlike monster wanting to be with its daddy was nothing short of beautiful.
WAKE IN FRIGHT 
A pissed-up Donald Pleasance in Australia. Now there’s a concept for a film, and there’s nothing disappointing about its execution. A special late-night screening of this little-seen weirdity, it suggests Australia during the ‘Mad Max’ years was actually a progressive step forward for society rather than a collapse into dystopia.
John Grant gets trapped in an isolated vat of madness and alcohol masquerading as a town, encouraged by all around to leap as quickly as possible into the abyss. This ugly, violent, misogynist and eternally drunken community is hauntingly realised as somewhere all too easy to be swept along with. The portrayal of intoxication manages to be both highly stylised and sweatily realistic, added to by the mind-frying heat and grime of the outback locations. It’s also hard to imagine a film like this being made today. Free of the genre trappings dominating most of the offerings here, ‘Wake in Fright’ succeeds in out-horroring Horror itself.
Yeah, Ben Wheatley knows what he’s doing, shown well enough in his ‘The ABCs of Death’ contribution. I saw that ‘Kill List’ he made when it screened at FrightFest, and it was a beauty. Persistently downbeat, the gruesome scenes mixed with edgy working class domesticity, it built up to an extended crowd-splitting climax where things went a bit all ‘The Wicker Man’. But I don’t know if I’m making that connection more because of the violent occultism, or that some people had a bit of wicker on their face.
Knowing very little going in, I feared the British film/hit men combination would be some kind of Guy Ritchie variant. Seriously though, oh my god, ‘Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ was such a pile of shit I never went near any of his other stuff, not even that Sherlock Holmes one he did with Robert Downey Jr. And that was supposed to be alright.
On stage for the ‘Kill List’ Q&A, Ben was such a jolly bear of a man, when ‘Sightseers’ came out I wanted to see it based on personal fondness alone. Although this trailer helped.
Although both feature a high body count – ‘Kill List’ surely has more thanks to the screechingly suicidal and gunny ending – ‘Sightseers’ is much lighter in its darkness, and possibly more unsettling because of that. Some comparisons could be made to ‘Natural Born Killers’, but it avoids the heavy-handedness and overt sense of purpose which made Oliver Stone’s work fall sadly short of its intentions.
Both of the ‘Sightseers’ leads turn out to be monsters with motivation. When it gets to the point where disagreements arise over who needs to be expired, and they progress to the killing of actual characters rather than just outlines of characters, their honeymoon period of murder has to come to a close. Even more so than ‘Kill List’, the ending is stunningly abrupt, such that it may as well have had a ‘That’s it. Fuck off.’ caption flash up on screen. Again, though, I felt this was pretty cute.
The only letdown for ‘A Field in England’ was how little Julian Barratt is in it, never returning after his brief appearance at the opening. ‘The Mighty Boosh’ may have got all the attention, but his role as Dan Ashcroft in ‘Nathan Barley’ will surely forever make my top ten characters in any media list. I showed it to K, and she never got past the first episode. After all this time, I only have to say ‘Do you remember the interview scene?’ to prompt some post-traumatic weeping. What a marvellous artistic achievement.
In ‘A Field in England’, the budget is low, the plotting is unnerving, and the atmosphere is high. Equally filthy and magical, the mixture of horror and comedy found in his other works blends better than ever. That’s it. Fuck off.
Once again, Amy Adams makes a film considerably better than it really is, but can’t completely fix it. Her and Christian Bale do a load of hustly scams on people who we’re either supposed to consider as being acceptable to victimise, or else not think too carefully about who our sympathies should be with. Bradley Cooper, agent of the state, catches them in their naughtiness, and soon they’re all working together to expose corruption at the highest level, because he’ll send them off to prison if they don’t. Jennifer Lawrence is also in the poster, and it turns out she’s in the film as well. So, so predictable, Hollywood.
‘American Hustle’ is most successful when it’s being funny, which sadly is not enough of the time. A revising of this as more of a crazy comic caper could have made a better film. It still holds the attention, and the performances are good, with Jennifer Lawrence bringing the most laughs. Some of the scenes cross into ‘lol weren’t the ‘70s funny looking’ in a way that ‘Boogie Nights’ sort of didn’t, and the epic sweeping of the camera feels mismatched against the actual story, being a smaller film than it seems to think it is. In connection with this, the repeated line ‘from the feet up’, with accompanying floor-to-face camera tilt, is a bit visually heavy-handed. And the climax, while neat, is a little underwhelming. All of this results in a quite good film which is oddly getting a considerable amount of consideration for major film awards. And it’s this kind of thing which cinema often does less well than television.
In summary, we may have been better off watching ‘Cruel Intentions 2’.
From guest reviewer Milton Friedman:
I have no doubt that, given the circumstances, the bureaucratic officials of Laketown had to intervene in some way. They found the economy stripped of wealth following a most non-voluntary series of transactions with Smaug, the road to recovery now being one to travel along with most speed. But the leaden weight of protectionist policy is clearly extending the misery of the many. The only peoples seen to benefit are the monopolising powers of central government, and the opportunistic libertarians of the so-called ‘black market’. The latter are moved to meet their self-interest by a freer trade than that permitted by the bluntly liberty-averse overseers. Were barriers on the exchange of goods removed, this most gloriously democratic of frameworks could flourish to the benefit of all. Those kept under the shackling tyranny of centralised planning would finally be released. The demand for barrels full of fish is clearly there – let the supply side do its work!
A glimmer of positivity comes with the finale. Let us hope the sudden shock of fiery death promised from above will jolt the economy back to life. The rebuilding of residences, healthcare facilities, trading outposts and much more will be torn from the inefficient hands of Stephen Fry and that one who couldn’t be played by Brad Dourif because he already done that role already. From desolation arises the buoyant opportunity of private investment. I anticipate the third outing will see the glorious recreation of Laketown, as profiteers step in to shape the inevitably upward curve of this sure-fire economic miracle. I haven’t been this erect since 1973.
From redandblackrainbows’ regular reviewer:
While not quite up there with Arwen because she doesn’t do that breathy voice, this sees a big improvement on the previous film in that most important of areas: sexy elves. I haven’t been this erect since 2003.
There’s this place called Gorilla Food in Vancouver, but the menu’s all weird because there’s stuff on there I had no idea gorillas ate, like sandwiches with alfalfa sprouts and smoothies with cocoa in them. And I got one of these smoothies with cocoa in them, and I was all like ‘Tum-ti-tum, here we go, let’s try this drink’, and I took a sip and was suddenly all ‘Shut the fuck up’ down at my straw, I couldn’t believe how good the stuff coming out of it was. I looked over at the guy working the counter and went ‘Why did no one tell me about this fucking smoothie before? COME ON!’, and then we wrestled bare-chested in a ring lined with stacked-up cartons of hemp milk. What a day.
Writer, director and star Lake Bell is a Gorilla Food cocoa smoothie. Avoiding a common problem for comedies, this gets funnier and charmingerier as it goes along, rather than blowing its load early on and letting it all go with a flabbier second act. So maybe there’s no part which makes for a chair-rocking, explosive laugh, but I was just smiling like a cunt from about twenty minutes in through to the finish. The tumbly-words writing and performing style is nicely done, the characters seem like credible, flawed people, and the relationships between them all keep it funny and warm.
She lives with her dad, they both do voice work, he’s big in movie trailers (‘In a world…’, yeah?), she gets thrown out so his younger partner can move in, she goes to her sister’s, oh fuck this, just buy ‘Sight and Sound’, they always do full synopses before their reviews, it’s not like I’m getting paid or read by more than twenty people, maybe forty if I do a facebook link for it around 7.30pm on a weekday, that seems to get the most traffic, got to see these numbers go up, maybe I should click that ‘Publicize’ button on WordPress, but that seems like cheating, and I don’t even know what it even does, I’ll just rely on people accidentally finding it by typing in tangentially relevant porn terms into search engines. This film’s lovely, and Lake Bell’s fabulous.
Later on that day, I was delighted to find G had watched and enjoyed it too, and she pointed out the dad was that one who was also in ‘A Serious Man’, which I’m glad she did because I was wondering where I’d seen him. I include this because a guide to blogging I once saw gave the advice that readers like getting little insights into the writer’s life. I wasn’t sure whether the thing about the smoothie would be enough of a hook, so I thought this additional trifle would seal the deal.
Obviously any book that HMV’s selling is going to be good. Doubly so if its price has been multiply reduced down to £1.50. Plucked from between inevitable stacks of printed shit about Banksy and cheeky cockney villains, this looked to be the most likely to not disappoint. When I got it, it was at that time when it seemed the chain was going to go under. But here we are a few months later and they’re still sort of knocking about, so my consumer memento seems a bit needless.
Except it’s got werewolves in it, and I fucking love werewolves. The average quality of the twenty-five stories is, indeed, average, but I guess that’s maths, innit? The best include Kim Newman’s ‘Out of the Night, When the Full Moon is Bright…’, about a vicious werecreature possessed of a good social conscience and class warrior vitality, David Case’s ‘The Cell’, a found-journal tale with a wonderfully unreliable narrator who takes great pains to unconvincingly convince us he can mentally handle his changing nature, and Suzy McKee Charnas’ ‘Boobs’, where a school student takes messily amoral revenge on her bullies, neighbourhood pets and whoever else she feels like eating the stomach out of. What a bunch of cuties.