London Film Festival Review: After The Screaming Stops

 The boys of Bros embrace through the pain in After The Screaming Stops

The boys of Bros embrace through the pain in After The Screaming Stops

Taking its title from a Terry Wogan interview, music documentary After The Screaming Stops is not some sort of existential crisis about a horror killer getting bored post-bloodletting but is instead a thoughtful, funny though somewhat artificial look at the reunion of 80’s boyband Bros.

Matt and Luke Goss are two very different men, Matt lives his life singing in expensive casinos in Las Vegas, Luke indulges what he says is his real passion, Film. These two very separate lives come together when they decide to reform for a reunion tour, the reasons for which are frustratingly never revealed, and a fair amount of uncomfortable chaos commences.

At first, the film breezes by on. charm and goofiness. Luke seems to be a very well-adjusted, nice guy who lives life on his own terms and Matt… is a charming idiot. Right from the off, his proclamations about his obsession with his Bandana and his annoyance about kids not being able to play with conkers of all things paints the picture of a man who isn’t very self-aware but does appear genuine.

As the film goes on, these rather two-dimensional views start to be fleshed out as very real sibling grievances come to the fore, what starts as casual sniping at each other becomes rather more hostile, the passive-aggressive nature never becoming physical but hurtful things are said and at moments, it feels genuinely uncomfortable to be watching.

Despite this, the film never quite convinces you that it’s enough to make things fall off the tracks completely. An on-screen countdown to their gig pops up every now and then but there’s a sense that things are being healed off-camera which isn’t shown to try to amp tension. The film seems to think the show is in worse shape than it actually is and rather conveniently, the guys seem to make up just in the nick of time.

That’s not to say that the on-screen drama feels faked, these guys who have been used to cameras following them, and who do seem to subtly love the attention, aren’t acting. They are brothers who have been thrust together and feel nervous about it, it’s just that the story of the film isn't captured as well as the emotion.

This feels like a film very much made for now. In an age where people seem to be famous for increasingly vacuous things, these are men who have been through the wringer, and have come out the other side, still smiling through it all, for their fans. It’s a cathartic exercise in seeing two different people come to terms with each other and even if you have no affinity for Bros whatsoever, by the end of this, it would take a hard heart to not like men behind the band.

LFF Showtimes:

Wednesday 17 October 2018 18:15

BFI Southbank, NFT1

Thursday 18 October 2018 15:30

Odeon Tottenham Court Road, Screen 3

Saturday 20 October 2018 13:00

Prince Charles Cinema, Downstairs Screen

London Film Festival Review: The Cannibal Club

 Taking the Date Night principle to a rather extreme place in The Cannibal Club.

Taking the Date Night principle to a rather extreme place in The Cannibal Club.

Horror being the socially conscious genre it is has seen a great many films look at a battle of wills between the powerful and the powerless, from as diverse a line up as Battle Royale to The People Under The Stairs, there’s something that just works about this kind of tale connected to blood, guts and pushing things to the extreme. Tito Parente’s The Cannibal Club snugly fits into this sub-genre, a Brazillian set look at what happens when the 1% literally feed off of those below them.

Beginning in startling fashion with a kill in the throes of passion, Parente knows exactly what someone seeing a film called The Cannibal Club is likely to be watching it for and makes sure to insert something shocking almost like clockwork. Sex and violence is in full force here but what its also of interest is the depiction of the leads played by Tavinho Teixeira and Ana Luiza Rios, two of the Cannibals of the title, who are ostensibly the leads and at times are played as being sympathetic. Caught up in trouble very much not of their own making and targeted by another member of the Club, they have to try and find their way out of it with Teixeira in particular playing an impressive line in being an asshole but also someone who in some moments is empathetically fed up with the situation unravelling before his eyes.

Ultimately however, the film suffers from just not explaining itself well enough. There are standout moments about how these rich, powerful characters hate those who live around them but those they are commenting about barely get a voice in the film. Zé Maria’s Jonas is the closest we get but even with a rather substantial role in the second half, he’s almost wordless, the film instead relying on our own sense of right and wrong to characterise how we should feel. This is rather problematic as on the face of proceedings, he isn’t an angel himself, instead the rich/poor divide is literally the only narrative we have, one that’s just not played well enough.

The third act also feels like it Parente just didn’t quite know what to do to finish proceedings off. despite setting up a rather interesting chain of events beforehand Events play out exactly how you’ll expect them to and given some of the on-screen deaths before hand, there’s an odd lack of satisfaction by the time the credits role with violence which just feels like a repeat of what happens before. You feel the film straining to go for the jugular and it doesn’t quite get there.

Very much fitting into the “Cult” thread of this year’s LFF programming, The Cannibal Club is an entertaining but disappointing attempt to talk about the evils of the “1%” but gets bogged down in its commitment to its more base genre instincts, something that wouldn’t be a problem if it didn’t feel like it also wanted to do something with more intelligence too.

LFF Showtimes:

Wednesday 17 October 2018 18:30

Vue Leicester Sq, Screen 5

Friday 19 October 2018 21:00

Rich Mix Cinema, Screen 1

Review: BlacKkKlansman

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A lot of things have been said of Spike Lee but one which could never be accurately attributed would be a lack of passion. From the iconic such as Do The Right Thing, through the mainstream entertainment such as Inside Man to the questionable choices, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (for which I participated in the Kickstarter) being a notable low, he approaches all his material at full tilt, ready to wear his heart and message on his sleeve while almost always doing so with style. After recent critical bashings, he is back with the Cannes Grand Prix winning BLACKkKLANSMAN, a film which the marketing points out is produced by arguably the hottest filmmaker in Hollywood Jordan Peele but feels emphatically the Spike Lee Joint it is.

A story which remarkably Lee had not heard of before Peele brought him the material is brought to the screen in both entertaining and caustic ways. This is an angry film but also one which doesn’t feel didactic, it has points to make but also has nuance, most notably in its depiction of the film’s lead Ron, charismatically played by John David Washington. The first Black cop in Colorado Springs and wholly dedicated to the force, he becomes involved with the Black Power movement but never has trouble with squaring the circle of being both a “pig” while also being friends with the revolutionaries he initially works undercover within. This has caused controversy with Sorry To Bother You filmmaker Boots Riley criticising Lee for this aspect of the film but Lee’s purpose is not to tell that story, and instead it allows you to focus in on the wider tale he is telling. Racism within the force is encountered, frankly it would be an utter fairy tale if it weren’t, but this is a lower level aspect. Washington squares this circle with aplomb feeling like he fits well in these very opposing worlds, it takes a great actor to achieve something like this and that he does.

Instead, we are treated to a story stranger than fiction, where a Black man and a Jewish detective become one and the same person and infiltrate the KKK, going so far as to become friendly with “Grand Wizard” David Duke. Washington’s driven rookie and Adam Driver are fantastic as the two halves of this strange coin, Driver’s character obviously in great emotional pain throughout but also committed to his job, a less pantomime Kylo Ren (that’s not a criticism) if you will. Topher Grace is also bizarrely magnetic as David Duke, a man who keeps his seething resentment of anything none White Christian under the surface, never exploding in anger, instead displaying an utterly out of place righteous indignation when things don’t quite go his way (a surprised laugh and evil glint in his eyes when he is touched at one point is just fantastic acting/directing at work). He is a figure of fun in many moments but his performance is anything but. Grace has been on record saying how hard it was to take on this role, hopefully he’s aware of how worth the effort it was.

This by turns hilarious and affecting drama is then rendered into something more profound in its closing moments. Lee is not a filmmaker known for subtlety and at times he has been rightly criticised for such but with films like this with a purpose and drive such as it has, made in the cultural moment we are in, it’s certainly warranted. Some may be turned off by it however the linkage between the period setting and contemporary society which is referenced at times through the runtime is laid bare and if some could say it’s cinematically eating your vegetables, you should be eating those fucking vegetables.

BLACKkKLANSMAN will be one of the films of the year, one which one hopes is seen by as wide an audience as possible. It’s a film which younger film fans should also see, one which is unblinking but also knows it’s a film and does a damn good job in entertaining too.

Review: The Endless

The films of Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead are somewhat unique in the field of low-budget genre cinema in their prioritising of ideas over the more visceral excesses which while often-times satisfying, also feel like pandering or maybe even spoon-feeding. Their films have stood out due to a bizarre sense of low-key apocalypse, of things not being right all that far below the surface and the use of character and emotion to explore them instead of gore and extreme imagery.

 Don't worry, it's not a secret remake of The Ring.

Don't worry, it's not a secret remake of The Ring.

The Endless continues this in ambitious fashion although it is maybe not quite the smack in the mouth that Spring was, though the Before Sunrise with a Monster narrative is so unique that beating it would be a challenge. The set-up, that of two brothers reuniting with the "UFO Death Cult" they fled years before, and finding that the people literally don't seem to have changed is a fascinating one but it is the relationship between the two which really pulls you through. Benson and Moorhead in the lead roles acquit themselves nicely with the innocent/wordly dichotomy between them well played and the tension inherent in such a relationship never once slipping. Tate Ellington also deserves mention as Hal, the lead member of the cult, who plays a fantastic line in "Is he a bad guy or not?" and seems to relish in the soft-spoken, somewhat too-nice persona.

The actual events of the film however are also very much worth noting. The concept at play here is absolutely chilling once everything is revealed in the third act. Horror is a rather subjective thing but the existential dread which infects the story is something which you may not want to think on too much. The way it directly feeds off the directing pair's earlier work also manages to work, it's a conceit which could have proven potentially film breaking but the referencing is vague enough that even if you came to this film fresh, you'd feel it were a pretty natural part of this story, fitting in with the random dark humour of much of the rest of the runtime.

After Resolution and Spring, Benson & Moorhead had shown themselves to be two very smart, but not wearing it like a badge of honour, filmmakers who have some great potential. The Endless weirdly enough feels like a goodbye, a film which has fully explored what they can say with the budget they have to say it, I very much look forward to seeing what they can do with a larger canvas.

The Sartorial Superiority of Armie Hammer

Listeners to our podcast will know that I can appreciate the hell out of a good looking man. I'm comfortable enough with my sexuality to say that if I were so inclined I'd have a crack at quite a few leading men but this isn't really about that. Armie Hammer is a good looking dude but he wouldn't be super high on any "dudes I'd bang" list. Having watched a few things with him in lately though, one thing has become clear: that motherfucker can wear the ever living shit out of his clothes, this piece is a celebration of that.

Exhibit 1: Final Portrait

 

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Available on Netflix UK now, Stanley Tucci's film of the painting sessions between a Swiss artist and American author is an entertaining if somewhat slight piece but it does contain Hammer wearing this FINE suit throughout the whole thing. It helps to tell the story of his character, a prim and proper gent juxtaposed against the dingy but charming environs of the artist's workplace. Look at this suit though. Bloody lovely.

Exhibit 2: The Man From UNCLE

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A film which has been oft-discussed on the podcast and the one which brought to light the fact that Hammer can do a hell of a lot more than he was maybe given credit for. And just look at this, This shit is timeless, wearing the fuck out of a polo neck takes a very specific shape and he's got it. Those glasses could look idiotic on a lot of folks but damn look at that. AND THE JACKET? Christ. He's presented as an imposing, emotionless giant for much of the film but its made clear throughout that he knows how to dress and this still from the end of the film shows him as his most casual, and likely best look.

Exhibit 3: Free Fire

 

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Well, this is different.

Ben Wheatley's chaotic, flawed but very entertaining warehouse based shoot 'em up see Hammer on fairly causal form despite the violence complete with wide breasted jacket, quite frankly mental beard and a huge turtleneck. And yet, it works.

How? Frankly, its a kind of magic us mere mortals cannot hope to replicate. ANYONE else who dresses like this will look like a prick. But he doesn't.

Why?

Because he's motherfucking Armie Hammer.

Why you should watch Black Christmas in the next couple of weeks

 You don't want to live in this house

You don't want to live in this house

Trying to fit Christmas films into your end of year schedule can be tough but its made harder when you have to be in a specific mood for them. Saying this however, when its also a film I personally do not think is given its due in conversations about Horror cinema, and indeed when discussing the realm of the Christmas film, its something I try to make more of an effort for. This is the case with Bob Clark’s seminal 1974 effort Black Christmas.

It seems to me that when talking about Slasher films, two entries are seen as the key building blocks for the sub-genre, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and John Carpenter’s Halloween, however Black Christmas is just as important if not more so. Psycho is essentially a proto-Slasher, a film which contains many of the ingredients but is very much its own beast, the highest class B-movie you could possibly imagine, and Halloween brought in the iconic look to the killer and was the more important early example of the “final girl” but Black Christmas introduces a series of elements which have been aped for decades after.

The crank calls, the idea of the killer calling from inside the house, the suspicion on the boyfriend of the lead, the boozy comic relief side characters, the multiple uses of the killer’s POV and other aspects all meet in this film, one which isn’t afraid to be funny but also isn’t afraid to be absolutely bloody bone chilling when it wants to be.

The first half of the film has much more in the way of comedy than the rest but it shows a creeping dread. The crank calls are all intensely disturbing, both in the mania of “Billy” on the other end of the line but also in his odd more lucid state (try forgetting his simply stated “I’m going to kill you” to Margot Kidder in a hurry). The recurring image of his tragic first victim, suffocated in cellophane and placed on a rocking chair is also a profoundly upsetting one, made more so by the presence of her father through the film, a character who is the butt of jokes at times but also feels very human, a man out of his depth who loves his daughter very much, one we as an audience knows is dead.

All of this slips away later on however. Margot Kidder’s initially funny drunk becomes a more melancholy presence later on as she starts to blame herself and by the end this depression essentially leads to her death, one which she is powerless to stop both physically and mentally.

Olivia Hussey’s character also undergoes a torrid time throughout. Her initially virginal seeming character is painted as anything but and the fact she’s pregnant drives her boyfriend into intense rages, though because she wants to abort it rather than keep it, an interesting twist on the usual way films portray that particular dillema. Keir Dullea is nicely intense as Peter, seeming convivial but never all that far away from lashing out and by the end, you can certainly see why John Saxon’s Detective suspects him as much as he does. This thread is full of despair and even a brief respite Hussey has, watching Carolers at her door, is cut between this and Margot Kidder’s death. Clark’s vision here is viscous even though he also gets some fine comedy in at points as well.

Black Christmas is a film which aims to leave you freaked out and my word does it. On this umpteenth viewing of mine I saw a shadow moving in the background of one scene which I’d never noticed before and it terrified me over again. This along with an absolutely perfect, drawn out but just plain horrible ending marks it as an effort which practically demands attention if you’re looking for a bit of darkness amongst your lighter fare over the next couple of weeks.

Rooney Mara: Pie Eater is one of the year's best films

 No, you were supposed to put the sheet on the floor. There's dirt all over the place now. Idiot. - Casey Affleck in A Ghost Story

No, you were supposed to put the sheet on the floor. There's dirt all over the place now. Idiot. - Casey Affleck in A Ghost Story

After the Malickian gentleness of his debut Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and the Disney team up, mature family adventure Pete’s Dragon, David Lowry continues his run of delivering an intensely personal view of an oft-used genre with the profound, ceaselessly melancholy A Ghost Story.

 

Most known on the internet for being the film where Casey Affleck wears a kid’s Halloween costume, or the film where Rooney Mara eats an entire pie (though it looks more like a chocolatey pudding to me), the actual product is a film which seeks to show us that what matters is what you do within the confines of your own lifetime, that it is not your legacy which is important but what you do for your loved ones and yourself in the here and now. It’s not an especially new message but it is one which is presented in unflinching, frank and disturbing ways where your sense of time is questioned often, the helpless circling the drain of existence constantly biting at our protagonist’s heels.

 

The use of Affleck’s bed sheeted character may well be partly to attract attention for the film but it is quite surprising how much you barely notice him at points. It is a stark look but he almost becomes part of the furniture of the house. The framing often has him to the side but you concentrate on what is going on “in the moment”, be it Mara’s pie eating (I genuinely didn’t notice him for a good few minutes here), a family around their Christmas tree or a house party where what is surely going to be 2017’s best monologue is performed. It is not to say that Affleck is bad, you feel the weight of his silent emotion throughout, a physical performance from him (or his stand-in) which adds what is needed.

 

It is Interstellar by way of The Tree of Life with the odd horror film moment added as is likely expected. It never feels derivative however, it is a brave, uncompromising and daring film which has visuals which will remain with you after along with a pitch perfect ending which leaves you with a question you don’t mind being answered. If you give it time, which 2 walkouts in my screening suggest not all will, you will be rewarded with one of the year’s best films.

 

Oh and there’s a SOLID Production Company credit at the end. Bravo.

Should you watch trailers?

It seems as if a requisite part of being a film fan in today's world is that you obsess over trailers. Teasers for teaser trailers, sites getting mileage out of trailer analysis, breaking down 2 minutes of marketing for clues to stuff you shouldn't care as much about as you probably do but most importantly the formation of opinions for expectations of films based on how a marketing department has tried to sell a film are all common afflictions. 

That last one is something which in the last few weeks has really struck a chord in me. Three recent films have had me thinking about how much I wish the trailers didn't exist at all. For that purpose I won't be linking to them here but I'll damn well talk about them.

1. Baby Driver

I saw two trailers for Baby Driver, the original trailer towards the start of the year and the online only "TeKILLYah" trailer. Both of which seemed to advertise two different films. It is a rather obvious point of fact that trailers shown in cinemas usually try to appeal to as many people within that audience as possible, with this showing in the first trailer, a rather bland affair which has the occasional shot of records but is memorable only really for the halloween mask section at the end, a scene which in the film is one of the only moments of comedy in the entire runtime. This trailer depicts a rather tired narrative which say what you want about Baby Driver, that film has.

The "TeKILLYah" trailer is something different, a piece which shows off the style of the film and feels of a piece to what Wright was aiming for conceptually, however in doing so it promises a film which is frankly more satisfying than the end product was. I know I'm in a minority in not feeling like I'd die to defend Baby Driver as many seem to but I wish I hadn't seen either trailer going in. The style would have been more of a surprise and perhaps the issues I had with the film wouldn't have been as much on the forefront of my mind.

2. It Comes At Night

The only piece of marketing I had seen for It Comes At Night going in was the wonderfully evocative teaser poster:

 

I mean, look at that thing. It's great.

Going into the film, I knew its cast and a brief outline, an experience I usually only have at festival screenings or on occasion when I look at a screener for something. After seeing the film and reading up on reaction, it became obvious that the trailer had promised something different, on watching it I tried to put myself in the headspace of someone who had wanted to see the full thing with that in mind and while I'm sure I'd have still liked it, I wonder how much the sheer disconnect between trailer and final product would have clouded my judgement.

It is obvious why the folks at distributor A24 had done what they did with the trailer, it promises a much more visceral, potentially bloody experience than the intangible, very hard to advertise dread which the world of the film envelopes you in. It is a trailer which will get horror hounds in but the muted audience reaction, the film getting a rather terrible D in Cinemascore, a US based organisation which polls cinema audiences to aid in explaining the box office performance of films, seems to have a direct connection with the expectation caused by the trailer.

3. War for The Planet of the Apes

At time of writing we haven't recorded our review on the show as of yet but if you follow me on social media, you'll know I adored this film. What made this surprising personally was that for the last few months I've repeated that I've been concerned about that film based on the trailers released for it.

It looked grim, depressing and frankly just not all that fun for what should be a summer blockbuster. It is grim and depressing in parts but it's also thrilling and strangely beautiful in its depiction of a world gone to shit but with green shoots appearing in the form of the Apes' society.

The opening weekend in the US was behind the previous film by a fair margin and the box office analysis over at Deadline this weekend by Anthony D'Alessandro had this to say:

"In regards to why War was slower out of the gate, it could be argued the original trailers stalled moviegoers. Did they distinguish War enough from Dawn? You could say that War looked quite similar with its doom and gloom and angry monkeys. Director Matt Reevesshowed off a trio of clips to the press at a Fox reel day last December and billed the film as an homage to modern westerns and Apocalypse Now. It’s debatable whether that cinematic sensibility was sold."

I don't think that's even a debate. The trailers didn't show off those homages at all, it just looked like a bad time. I'm glad the film wasn't but with marketing that didn't seem particularly thrilling, it seems like Fox have maybe even harmed themselves financially. It feels like a film which could have legs, though it's a busy box office,  I wish I didn't see the trailers, it made me doubt a film I shouldn't have.

This past weekend saw the first teaser for Ava Duvernay's A Wrinkle In Time, one which with her being billed as "Visionary" had me rolling my eyes (not because of her, because of its overuse in marketing) and showcased a film which looks all over the place. But should I think that? Of course not, but a trailer tells its own story, even if its one the film doesn't follow up on. Maybe I should let the film tell me what it's about, not 2 minutes of cut together footage. A trailer will make you have an assumption however and therein lies the question, do you watch a trailer for an idea of whether you're interested in a film or let the film make your decision for you?