The Devils is a 1971 British historical drama film written and directed by Ken Russell and starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. The Devils is probably one of the best socio-political commentaries, a biting satire of the excesses of religion and politics. While presented in a disturbing, visceral, sexually graphic manner that sometimes overshadows the message underneath, the power of its narrative remains undiminished almost half a century later.(more…)
Film of every kind.
Run is a psychological horror drama starring Sarah Paulson and Kiera Allen. The premise of Run is very Stephen King-inspired as it involves a protagonist being kept captive by an antagonist, that happens to be a caregiver. Quite similar to King’s Misery except that instead of author and psychotic fan, we get daughter and psychotic mother.(more…)
The Entity is a supernatural horror drama that bears all the hallmarks of classic 1970s horror though it was ultimately released in 1982/1983. The best reference point for The Entity is probably The Exorcist for its viscerally serious exploration of its subject matter and also for its connection with a real-life incident.(more…)
The Sentinel is a 1977 supernatural horror drama based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Konvitz. Directed by Michael Winner, The Sentinel is about a young model (Cristina Raines) who moves into a historic Brooklyn brownstone that has been sectioned into apartments, only to find that the building is owned by the Catholic diocese and is a gateway to Hell.(more…)
Archive is a British indie scifi drama written and directed by Gavin Rothery. Although Archive is Rothery’s debut feature, Rothery had collaborated – contributed design work – with Duncan Jones on Moon. Thus, there is a similar low budget sensibility about Archive but with the same attention to detail and first rate quality witnessed on Moon.(more…)
Immortal Beloved is a 1994 historical drama depicting the final years of classical music composer Ludwig van Beethoven (played by Gary Oldham). The story revolves around a quest by Beethoven’s secretary and biographer Anton Schindler (Jeroen Krabbé) to find out the true identity of the “Unsterbliche Geliebte” (“Immortal Beloved”) addressed in three letters found in Beethoven’s private papers.(more…)
The New Mutants is a superhero horror movie directed by Josh Boone. The final movie in the Fox X-Men franchise series, The New Mutants is loosely based on the Marvel comic book series of the same name, in particular the Demon Bear Saga that ran from #18 – #20, in the 80s.(more…)
The Duellists is a 1977 British historical drama and the first movie helmed by the renowned director Ridley Scott. The movie is an adaptation of a Joseph Conrad novel entitled The Duel and stars Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel in the lead roles.(more…)
Possessor is an indie scifi horror movie written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg. Horror buffs will of course recognise the name Cronenberg. Brandon is the son of iconic film-maker David Cronenberg, director of movies like The Fly, Dead Ringers, Scanners, Rabid et al.(more…)
The Ninth Configuration is a psychological drama written and directed by William Peter Blatty, based on his novel. The movie is an exercise in surrealism and Blatty’s treatise on religious faith. Released in 1980, The Ninth Configuration is the perfect example of seventies movie making, where serious (and original) themes were allowed to be explored without compromise or studio interference.(more…)
Jane Austen’s 1815 novel Emma has been adapted numerous times in film, TV and on stage. First time director Autumn de Wilde has done a fabulous job in presenting the latest version of this timeless story. An integral part of Emma’s success is the spot-on casting of the delightful Anya Taylor-Joy in the lead role.(more…)
Is The Exorcist the best horror movie ever made? Based on William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel and directed by William Friedkin, the 1973 movie was a smash hit when it was first released and its significance and influence on the genre has not diminished in the years since.(more…)
Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, On the Rocks is a drama cum comedy starring Bill Murray and Rashida Jones. Murray and Jones play Felix and Laura, father and daughter, caught up in a half-baked scheme to investigate Laura’s husband’s suspected infidelity.(more…)
If you are looking for no-frills, lo-fi, indie horror thrills, look no further than the excellent Rent-A-Pal. Written and directed by Jon Stevenson, Rent-A-Pal stars Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek fame) and Brian Landis Folkins, as the protagonist.(more…)
Urgh A Music War is a 1981 British film featuring performances by punk rock, new wave, and post-punk acts, filmed in 1980. For me personally, the movie holds a special place in my heart as it provided me with a gateway to the new music that was sweeping over the UK and the USA, in the wake of punk.
Back in the early 70s, the Singapore government clamped down on the arts, labelling it “yellow culture” and therefore undesirable. Live rock music was banned in 1974 and the Ministry of Culture practiced an active censorship of pop culture. When punk emerged in the mid-70s, the authorities blocked releases by punk bands in Singapore. Suffice to say there was no rock music on TV either.
Thus, when I saw in the newspapers that Urgh A Music War was playing at the Rex Cinema, a relatively small theatre, I did not hesitate. The main attraction to me back then were The Police. Sting and company were one of the first newly styled rock bands that I had latched on too, together with the likes of The Jam and The Knack in 1979/80.
The movie was about two hours long and featured bands that I mostly had no clue about and styles of music that I was unfamiliar with. The Police opened the movie with “Driven to Tears” and it was a treat to finally watch them live, even if it was only on a movie screen.
The bands that followed made little impression until Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. That performance of “Enola Gay” blew my mind. I had not yet heard of synth-pop yet and it was a mind-ending experience.
This first exposure to electronic pop was cemented by the highlight of the movie – Gary Numan’s performance of “Down in the Park” with him seated in a moving chair! Both OMD and Numan certainly opened my mind (and ears) to brand new musical possibilities.
Strangely enough, I never quite felt any affinity with the out and out punk bands in the movie – they seemed somewhat insubstantial to me. But what did get my attention were the guitar bands that demonstrated more sophistication like Echo and the Bunnymen and XTC.
Naturally, considering my obsession with The Police, I was also drawn to the reggae outfits like Steel Pulse and UB40. It would be a rich vein that I would definitely tap in the coming years.
I realise now almost 4 decades later that there were probably numerous bands that were cut out of the Singapore release – I am sure I would have remember watching Dead Kennedys and Devo. I wonder how my musical habits might have changed if both were never excised. Would I have leant more towards the American punk scene than the British in the 80s? Who knows??
In the final analysis, I owe much to Urgh A Music War – the movie changed my life! 1982 would be a big year for music discovery.
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The Swerve is a psychological drama written and directed by Dean Kapsalis. In his first feature film, Kapsalis presents a deep character study of a descent into mental insanity. It is a harrowing and disturbing film that showcases a promising debut from newcomer Kapsalis.(more…)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 is a historical drama based on real life events that took place in the late 1960s. 1968 was a tumultuous year for the USA. The assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy shook American politics. The nation was divided over the escalation of the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which led to protests and demonstrations in the streets.(more…)
The Changeling is a Canadian supernatural horror film directed by Peter Medak and starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, and Melvyn Douglas. The film uses ghosts and haunted house tropes to deliver its psychological terrors. Released in 1980, The Changeling is imbued with classic 70s horror vibes where the scares are often in the mind of the viewer. (Spoilers follow)(more…)
After viewing The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, a loose adaptation of Henry James’ Turn of the Screw and other short stories, it seemed appropriate to check out yet another Turn of the Screw adaptation – The Turning.
The Turning is an updating of James’ classic ghost story. Set in 1994, the premise is maintained, i.e. a young governess is hired to watch over two children after their parents’ deaths. Strange things ensue …
Same old story?
The cast of characters should be familiar to anyone who has read Turn of the Screw or seen its numerous adaptations. There is the unnamed governess (Kate Mandel, in this latest iteration – played by Mackensie Davis). She is of course the protagonist of the story as the plot is centred on her decisions and actions.
There are the two orphaned children, Flora (Brooklynn Prince) and Miles (Finn Wolfhard) and the housekeeper Mrs Grose (Barbara Marten). The previous governess Miss Jessel had mysteriously disappeared and there is also the deceased Mr Quint, a former employee.
In The Turning, Mandel is given a back story in the shape of her institutionalised mother. This provides a suggestion, nothing more, of mental illness within Mandel’s own psychological makeup.
Nothing new under the sun
Plot-wise, The Turning is faithful to Turn of the Screw up to a point. Miles returns to the family home after expulsion from boarding school but almost instantly takes a dislike to Mandel and terrorises her for the rest of the movie.
Apart from Miles’ bullying behaviour, Mandel encounters various strange events, which may either be supernatural or a product of Mandel’s disturbed imagination. Basically, she discovers that Miss Jessel may have been raped and drowned by Mr Quint but that is never confirmed as a fact. Mr Quint also terrorises Mandel but once again, it’s unclear whether any of what Mandel experienced is real or not.
Making a right mess of things
That’s the whole problem with The Turning. Everything is left up in the air. The narrative is ambiguous and it’s difficult for a viewer to make head or tail of it all. The final act is the worst of all as an entire sequence is revealed to be a vision of Mandel’s, experienced by her after she looked upon artwork sent by her mother.
Then, rather abruptly, Mandel is affronted by the children as she confronts them about the ghostly presence of Mr Quint before inexplicably being trapped in her own mind. Mandel finds herself at her mother’s institution and is terrified by something the audience is not privy to.
In the final analysis …
A senseless denouement which simply falls apart. Having done quick research, it does seem that originally the project had Steven Spielberg’s involvement. The famed director pulled his participation from the project due to dissatisfaction with its development.
Subsequently, a new director was hired and new script was written but apparently with Spielberg losing interest. The result is this unsatisfying mess. Avoid.
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Sinister is a horror thriller that was released in 2012. A commercial smash at the time, Sinister grossed over $87 million against a production budget of $3 million!(more…)
Sputnik is a Russian scifi horror-thriller released this year. Set in 1983, the story revolves around a young psychiatrist’s efforts to help a cosmonaut who had bonded with an alien creature while in space. Sputnik channels a seventies scifi movie vibe and is loosely influenced by classic alien horror like Alien. Please note that this Sputnik movie review contains spoilers.
The main character in Sputnik is Dr. Tatyana Klimova (Oksana Akinshina), a young psychiatrist recruited by Colonel Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk), the officer in charge of a military base holding cosmonaut Kostantin (Pyotr Fyodorov). Klimova is tasked to find a way to separate Konstantin from the alien creature.
Nice and easy
While the plot is uncomplicated, its details are slowly revealed to the audience in a clever way so that the protagonist has to alter her decisions and behaviour to adapt to the new information.
Klimova goes from co-operating with Colonel Semiradov to conspiring against him due to his unethical methods. She also takes greater risks as the movie reaches its final act, in order, to save Konstantin, whom she has fallen in love with.
As mentioned earlier, Sputnik has a very strong seventies scifi movie vibe. A very deliberate pace and realistic tone keeps the audience guessing throughout. We are able to identify with Klimova as her emotions and motivations adjust to the evolving circumstances. Especially in the final act, when drastic action needs to be taken by Klimova and Konstantin.
The setting (Cold War era Soviet Union) is reflected in many of the character’s motivations. Konstantin sees himself as a national hero and appears to have a narcissistic tendency. Colonel Semiradov views the alien creature as a potential weapon to serve the communist cause. Klimova is above these concerns, her main goal is to help Konstantin and hopefully separate him from the alien creature.
No happy endings
The dark ending is again aligned with an early 70s movie vibe. A poignant though-provoking denouement that eschews the American penchant for positivity. Also, considered the genre trappings, the movie is clearly a standalone work, with no hints of any sequels to continue the story. Highly recommended.
… still there’s movie …
Don’t Look Now (1973) is a seminal horror movie directed by Nicolas Roeg. It has been described as a ground-breaking movie for many different reasons (like the explicit sex scene). However, perhaps its biggest distinction is pioneering what we now call the “mindfuck” movie.(more…)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) was that rare thing in the 60s and 70s – a film sequel. Something that has been so common since the 80s was totally unfashionable back then. Apart from the James Bond franchise that is.(more…)
The COVID-19 global panic has devastated the entertainment industry in 2020. This is the clearest sign – geek movie delay! After all, geek movies have been the biggest money-earners in recent times and the continued postponement is the best indication of how bad the global pandemic is.(more…)
The Glorias is a biopic of the feminist activist Gloria Steinem. Director Julie Taymor based the movie on Steinem’s book, My Life on the Road. The movie stars Julianne Moore as Steinem, with Alicia Vikander portraying a younger Steinem, from ages 20 to 40. Timothy Hutton, Lorraine Toussaint, Janelle Monáe, and Bette Midler complete the cast.(more…)