There has been something of a resurgence of horror in recent years. As a genre that for decades has been riddled with cliche and repetition of the same archetypal characters and cookie-cutter plot lines, it’s just in time. These modern horror movies are characterised by the fact they are uncategorisable — they defy the conventions of the genre within which they reside and bring each bring something new to the table, whilst integrating plenty of the tropes of the horror genre.
In the stillness of a Norwegian winter, a father and child go hunting. They walk across a frozen lake, towards the woods. The child, a little girl, perhaps four years old, stops on the ice and looks down. She can see fish swimming, below the frozen surface, under her feet. What happens next is disquieting, dark, and unexplained. Much later, the full horror becomes clear.
Favourite ten horror movies of the last ten years?
Ah, the good old days: younger, more afraid, less jaded; staying up to participate in the pleasure mum took in those vintage horror classics once purveyed by Hammer and RKO pictures. Knowing who Bela, Boris, Christopher, Lon, Peter and Vincent were, by the age of ten.
Often disappointed with how un-scary some films turned out to be; wanting to be spooked witless. Titles that promised so much, but in execution seemed tame. Not much in the way of cowering behind the sofa at that age; plenty of, “Is that it?” And yet there was enough intrigue to ensure that I would remain a horror devotee into adulthood; a true believer.
In Joseph L Mankiewicz’s All About Eve, the character Addison de Witt describes a moment in the theatre – the arrival of a great star – for which all true believers wait and pray. Year by year, waiting patiently for the next great horror. A rare thing these days when taste-makers are less convinced that they can get bums on seats with the supernatural; viewing monstrous violence and vulgar CGI as better box office guarantors. On occasion, it behoves horror fans to be more creative in their thinking.
These movies enthralled me on first viewing, and did the same on subsequent viewings.
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event on Sat 23 Oct, director Damien Leone talks about the ’Art’ of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience.
Art The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow’s Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?
DAMIEN: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art’s potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows’ Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who’s done so little, he seems to really resonate with horror fans. After all of the positive feedback, a full length film that focused solely on Art was inevitable.
In 1977, William Friedkin was riding high from the critical and commercial success of The French Connection and The Exorcist, two of the biggest hits of The Hollywood New Wave. He was about to release Sorcerer, his remake/remodel of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1953 thriller, The Wages of Fear, shot on four continents for $22 million. Then Star Wars happened, and George Lucas’ sur-prise blockbuster almost obliterated the taste for brooding films with conflicted anti-heroes. Sorcerer was a flop as was Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron and John Boorman’s eccentric sequel to Fiendkin’s original, Exorcist II: The Heretic.
It is both enlightening and disconcerting to watch a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the metaphysical presence of evil. This observational film follows the Sicilian parish of an internationally sought after exorcist, Father Cataldo, and his flock, who are especially prone to demonic possession. It immerses the viewer in a community of parishioners as each week during mass they writhe in pain and speak in tongues, overtaken by the demonic messengers of Satan in their universal battle with Jesus’ forces of light and goodness.
Malena (Barbara Lennie), a doctor from Buenos Aires, travels to a remote village to complete an illegal adoption arranged through the seemingly benevolent Dr. Costas. The adoption falls apart when the family of the biological parent asks for more money due to an accident affecting one of its chief wage earners. With the aid of a reluctant, but still supportive common law husband, Malena tries to meet this new demand, but the ground rules continue to shift, and desperate measures seem her only logical response.
Diego Lerman and co-writer Maria Meira have crafted a seamless mix of docudrama, character study and thriller that transcends the usual limitations of social realism. We see most of the action through the sympathetic, but middle-class eyes of Malena, who struggles with both her near inexpressible desire for a child and liberal good intentions. The poverty and corruption of life in rural Argentina, the film implies, is part of the same system that allows Malena and her husband to enjoy the good life in the city.
Thor: Ragnarok is different in tone to most other movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (a mere 27 of these now, if you include slated 2018 releases.) Writers Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, and Eric Pearson have taken the Avengers canon and somehow wrangled it to sit squarely in a Zucker Abrahams Zucker version of the Norse universe – there is an authentic tone to the gods and demigods despite the absurdity. The dialogue and the screenplay both feel like 90s team-written comedy, from before Friends got lazy, and the sight gags and cartoon comedy are straight out of Naked Gun. (None of this writing team were involved in the Guardians films, which have the tone but deliberate B-movie B-grade authenticity.) There are even jokes in the film about mixing canon from Thor and Avengers.
It is relentlessly entertaining – director Taika Waititi has paced it perfectly, and 130 minutes flies by. The onslaught begins almost immediately with a brilliant example of physical comedy, where Thor (Chris Hemsworth) attempts a serious Confrontation With Evil whilst dangling in mid-air chained up and slowly rotating, as if Inspector Clouseau had achieved the godhead.
Let The Sunshine In is an unapologetic meditation on the philosophy of love; the kind of film that French filmmakers seem to be able to do in their sleep. Inspired by rather than adapted from Roland Barthes’ influential A Lover’s Discourse, the free-floating plot tracks the messy love life of Isabelle, an attractive, single artist in her forties, played with an effortless blend of intelligence and sensuality by Juliette Binoche. As is often the case in real life, Isabelle seems so much better than the men in her romantic orbit. Yet her passion, idealism and loneliness yield to the gravitational pull of a group of suitors that run the gamut from harmless fantasists to indecisive or emotionally disconnected jerks. The most egregious offender is Vincent, who bears a strong resemblance to a recently disgraced studio head. When Isabelle eventually tunes this narcissistic banker with artistic pretensions out, most members of the audience will cheer.