Looking Back: Kill List (2011)

(Warning: Nudity pictures)

To celebrate the release of Free Fire, we’re looking back at the work of Ben Wheatley! First of is the much celebrated but Dan Bowers panned Kill List!

The best horror movies are those that leave the audience in the dark, for the most part. Only giving them snippets and clues as a puzzle to piece together until the grand reveal, a horror or thriller maker truly succeeds by making the audience as clueless as the characters. No one enjoys cinema when within the first five minutes, they have already sussed out the ending. It makes the suspense leave the movie, making it dry and lifeless. Kill List, however, is one of those movies that places a mask over the audiences eyes and tells them to run….

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Director Ben Wheatly, alongside writer Amy Jump, invites you into the twisted world of Kill List. Life for Jay isn’t sweet when he comes back home from the military. Mentally and physically scarred, after eight months he finds his money is running out and his relationship is strained with his wife, Shel. However, when his friend Gal offers him a job as a hitman, Shel encourages him to take it. But all is not as it seems in this gripping and tense thriller.

Kill List is a brilliantly bleak and troubled movie that is uplifted from the usual horror fare due to the intricate plot. Never revealing itself too early or indeed never revealing completely the true nature of the story, Kill List is wonderfully disturbing. As more scenes feed our curiosity, so does the unravelling story feed our confusion. And just when the audience feels as though it has a handle on the situation, Kill List turns into complete darkness, shrouding itself with questions that have no entirely complete answer. We are just as lost as Jay and Gal and Wheatly, using a mixture of unhurried lingering shots to fast paced cuts, manipulates this terrifying abandoned emotion.

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Upheld by some powerful performances by Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley, Kill List never wavers into the overdramatic or overdone. In fact, despite following hitmen as they kill different figureheads, there is a large pull towards them because effectively, we are them, feeling every beat of distraught feeling that they do. It is bitterly realistic and that is upheld by the fantastic writing of Jump and Wheatly and the astonishingly orchestrated terror that Kill List is.  Wheatly has planned every ounce of fear right down the movies mood and texture. It is a slick and controlled experiment of the mangled and disturbed.

Akin to the psychological fare of The Wicker Man, Kill List is perhaps one of the best British Horror movies in history. It will take a very long time to shake away the cold feeling it leaves with you at the end. Still not completing the movie full circle, the dangling and unrequited finale is one that you keep with you. Bitterly outstanding, no other movie reaches the levels of perplexing dismay that Kill List does. It doesn’t opt for just the jumps; it opts for the gore, the surreal, the violent and the atmospheric. It is a formula of excellence that digs beneath the skin and bellows in your bones.

In conclusion, Kill List is very very frightening.


Free Fire is out in cinemas now! 

Looking Back: Sightseers (2013)

To celebrate the release of Free Fire, we’re taking a look back at one of Alice Lowe’s break out cinematic roles in Sightseers.

It was my mother who phoned me up to suggest this movie. My mother. Or “Mrs Poppers Penguin’s” as I like to call her. That should be a hint at the kind of movies my mother enjoys watching. So when she phoned me up, giddy, after watching the trailer and in between fits of laughter told me “you have to watch this movie, it’s about this couple who go on a holiday and start killing people,” I was intrigued. My own mother had piqued my interest in this black comedy British killing spree caper and I have to say that I have never been so proud to be her daughter. Because she was absolutely right. I fucking loved it.

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Sightseers, written by and starring Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, is about a couple who go on a holiday and start killing people. Ok, so that may be the absolutely basic gist of the movie. Sightseers is about a new couple, Chris and Tina, who embark on an around the country caravan trip seeing all the fabulous sights such as the Pencil Museum.  After “accidentally” running over an annoying tourist at the transport museum, their trip takes a rocky start. And it’s soon teeters over the edge when Tina discovers Chris’ murderous side. But why let a few killings ruin a perfectly good holiday?

This off-beat and particularly dark comedy is written so well by our lead actors that you can’t help enjoy the hilarity when it comes. Tina and Chris are people on the edge of society. Middle aged, jobless, and put down by many, the couple are the kind of people you’d make fun of or overlook. Oram and Lowe had met seven years and spent that time developing the movie. This is clear because there is an intense chemistry between the two extremely developed characters with murky pasts and murkier intentions. Lowe and Oram have created two off kilter leads that are completely realistic, if not, just a murderous.

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But what is more compelling about Sightseers isn’t the sly humour and embarrassing moments, it is that the movie is sliced with these stark and cold deaths. They stick out as brutal as they are meant to be. That is part of the brilliance of Wheatly’s direction. Admitting himself that you are not supposed to enjoy these killings, Wheatly makes them as bleak as possible causing you to squirm. He wants to make you feel responsible and you do because the realistic gore isn’t to be lapped up, it’s supposed to condemn our own judgement of characters such as Tina and Chris.

Sightseers may seem funny and witty, but there are layers of brooding malice underneath. It is a fantastic exploration onto the twisted psyche of people you wouldn’t even consider being killers before. It’s a judgement and it is a warning, an adventure into the darker side of humanity. Sightseers is a marvellous attraction with a realistic and malice vein.


Free Fire is out now! 

High Rise – DVD & Blu-Ray Review

Surrealism is by far one of the most interesting film genres, if not the most accessible or enjoyable. It aims to shock and confuse, to create an eventful experience that usually makes zero sense. Problem is, as well crafted as they may be, it’s hard to appeal to most audiences in this case, as most surrealist films alienate those who watch. Well, it’s still a wild ride, but High Rise is one of the most accessible surrealist films in recent years.

Now, it’s accessibility comes from not being strictly surreal; the narrative isn’t linear, but there’s definitely one there. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) is a physiology doctor who moves into a high rise apartment complex, where the rich live at the top and the poor live at the bottom. With Laing’s arrival, the barriers start to get broken, and before long, chaos ensues. High Rise is enthralling for it’s first two acts; it’s so wonderfully weird and random.

A lot of the time, it’s hard to tell what’s going on, but that almost doesn’t matter. In fact, that actually helps. The way it delves deep into these inexplicable oddities yet maintains an overarching message of class war is deliriously entertaining to watch, and that’s in large part due to the cast. Tom Hiddleston is as charming as ever, offering one of the best acts of his career yet. Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons and Elisabeth Moss all do a fine job of their characters, but the real show stealer is by far Luke Evans as documentary filmmaker Richard Wilder. Evans completely loses himself in the role. There isn’t a single shade of the real man left, he is 100% the character. Wilder is rambunctious, angry and an absolute delight to watch. Evans deserves as many awards as he can get for what is definitely the finest performance he’s ever given.

Adding to the unbelievable atmosphere is the stunning use of camera; Whatever the occassion, Ben Wheatley knows exactly what he’s doing to keep his films engaging and interesting visually, and High Rise is truly a sight to behold. The cinematography is beyond stunning, the colours vibrant, the editing quick when it needs to be and slow when it doesn’t, and a soundtrack that is to die for. It is by far one of the most exceptionally crafted films of the year, and further proof that Wheatley is one of the best directors working.

Where this film falls apart is in it’s third act; the first two are chaotic and random, and it’s a rather nice serving to eat up fast. However, it gets very tired after a while. Without spoiling it, the film finds itself in a certain state towards the end, and that state just isn’t anywhere near as interesting as it was before. It does frankly get quite boring, though had the film been a tad shorter, it might not have felt this way.

Still, it’s not enough to tarnish what is otherwise an enthralling big ball of madness. High Rise is tantalizingly weird, expertly performed, and phenomenally crafted. It’s an often confusing but deliriously fun experience that holds up as one of the best films of the year so far.


Free Fire is out in cinemas now! 

Legion: “Chapter 8” – Finale Review

(Spoilers Ahoy)

Legion has produced some of the most (and literal) mind-bending episodes that have ever graced superhero TV. Nay, usual TV. Creator Noah Hawley has melded mental eccentricity with power drama and intriguing character development whilst also producing memorable scenes in the shows unusual set-design and scene exploration. Legion blazed through it’s season with wit, originality, and terror; unique against the backdrop of mutant and superhero fatigue, offering a new spin on the genres that we know.

With it’s finale, it certainly showcased power – though not with the force we’ve known.

Chapter 8 of this fantastic show may play out with the usual garb you’d expect from power-led series. There’s a baddie to defeat, there’s a twist in the fold, there are lovers trying to get back together. The episode picks off where we were left: The Investigator from Chapter 1 has returned and is determined to get David under his fold, regardless of collateral damage. Meanwhile, the parasite inhibiting David is threatening to come out of their electric halo cage and it soon becomes a battle to get The Shadow King burnt out of David’s subconscious.

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The whole season has been about perspective and how much it could play on our understand. What we see and know isn’t necessarily the truth. David’s point of view, due to the parasite and his drug taking, manipulates the narrative alongside The Shadow King who distorts it too. In Chapter 8, however, it’s a much more moral perspective that is twisted as we see the Investigator, played incredibly by Chris Melina, ecover from his injuries. With his husband and son, we see him rebuild his life with burn disfigurement only to have him return to his job in pursuit of David. Here is where Hawley spins a different web: Instead of a crutch wearing villain, he presents a character who quite rightly wants revenge for his injuries and the death of the men and women beside him. His perspective, then, is that mutants are all

Certainly Chapter 8 had a tricky path to follow. The last episode set an unprecedented level: A high bar where superhero television series and thriller television series collided in a spectacular display of creative ingenuity that was both gripping and horrifying. Following the penultimate episode, Chapter 8 had to topple that but ultimately fell somewhat flat within it’s presence. There are truly magnificent moments. The Shadow King transferring to Kerry who attracts almighty anger due to her despondency with Cary allows a magnificent battle sequence between David and herself, one that echoes of typical superhero finale but still stunning to watch nonetheless.

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What this episode opens is an intriguing look at Season 2 where the danger must be intensified, more so than this already phenomenal series. The thought of Jermaine Clement and Aubrey Plaza now being a tag-team villain as Oliver is newly possessed by The Shadow King is far too tantalising to wait for next year to see. There’s also the thought of David who enjoy a true brief moment of conscious freedom before being snapped away again in the mid-credits scene. This all offers new and uneasy ground for us to explore.

Legion is a show to go back and watch. Though Chapter 8 hums of a familiarity that Legion spent so long trying to differentiate from, it is still an utterly palpable and compelling show.


Come back for our overview and highlights of Legion! 

Ghost in the Shell (1995)- Review

Until recently, anime and I had a somewhat tenuous relationship. I was never that thrilled about the often overly sexualised women, nor did I enjoy the on-the-cheap animation that was used (where three frames could render an entire two minute walking sequence.)

However, as I grew older, my tastes began to mature, computers improved enough to allow more fluid animations, and I stopped letting such petty things stop me from watching some of the shows that have made their way to the UK (although the sexualisation factor is still leaves me feeling a little iffy.)

Despite my hang-ups, there has always been one anime film that I’ve held in high regard more or less from day one, the 1995 feature, Ghost in the Shell. It was released at the same time in Japan, Europe and America in an attempt to get more people watching the film and get them into anime, albeit with limited success. The film has also recently had a poorly received live-action remake starring Scarlett Johansson as the protagonist.

Ghost in the Shell is set in the year 2029 and technology has become part and parcel of everyday life, with a not insignificant number of people starting to sport cybernetic implants to improve themselves. The story itself focuses on Major Motoko Kusanagi, a police officer working for Section 9 (the unit set up to fight cyber crime.) Major and her team are tasked with hunting down and capturing an incredibly talented hacker who goes by the moniker of Puppet Master. As they get deeper into the investigation, they start to encounter a combination of shady government departments attempting to hinder their work, as well as getting taunted by the Puppet Master himself.

Despite coming out in 1995, the film is surprisingly advanced and philosophical in its themes of transhumanism, especially as the concept at the time was in its very early infancy. Ghost in the Shell continually attempts to address the line between man and machine, alongside what constitutes a soul and living. When compared to nowadays, a lot of what is discussed can come across as both misdirected and rather basic, but when considered from within its time period, it is fascinating just how similar some of the arguments are compared to nowadays.

However, not everything about this film is perfect. As I mentioned earlier in this article, the frame rate is still a little on the low side, and if you’re watching with the English voice actors, I strongly suggest you don’t, and watch the Japanese version with subtitles instead. This is because, several of the voice actors sound like they were either bored or stoned when they read their lines. It could be an affectation that comes along with voicing characters who move very little on-screen (preventing them from acting using their bodies as well as their vocal cords), or it could help sell the idea that the protagonists are less human than their “inferior” counterparts. This is a relatively minor niggle, but it can get somewhat grating during prolonged dialogues.

To make up for the voice acting, the music in the film perfectly encapsulates the look and feel of the city as it goes about its day. There is a strong techno heart to the beat that drives the story forward, and the lyrics are beautifully rendered to the track.

Ultimately, Ghost in the Shell is a cult classic that more people need to see, especially with the new film coming out. Despite the lacklustre voice acting from the English side of the cast, everything else is superb, if a little freaky now and then.

The only question left to ask is; will the remake do just as well as the original?