A boy dies in an awful, nightmarish accident – likely caused by his mother, Gemma (Jasmine Hyde); his parents struggle with the aftermath, each in their own way. The father, Will (Richard Flood) mourns openly, while Gemma becomes almost blank, and overly pragmatic. She hastens to move on, but suddenly develops a disconcerting condition: at times of heightened emotion, her vision blurs and she becomes temporarily blind. A stranger, Paul (Simon Cotton), presumably a neighbour, takes her to hospital, when she has her first attack. Paul, from a distance, looks like Gemma’s husband – similar build, hair, clothes. Even more so at times when Gemma’s vision blurs. The camera, at those times, shows what Gemma sees; a hallucinatory view of the world which then cuts to black.
The good feeling and box office success generated by the first Paddington film, released in 2014, will likely continue thanks to Paul King’s return to the director’s chair. King co-writes the script with actor/comedian, Simon Farnaby, who he worked with on The Mighty Boosh TV series and his indie debut, Bunny and The Bull. Together, King and Farnaby maintain the balance between visual invention and comic dialogue that made the first film a welcome surprise. Michael Bond’s beloved children’s books about the accident prone, but kind-hearted talking bear from Peru have not lost their gentle humour in the two films to date and King’s sympathetic film transformation uses action and special effects with rare precision and wit.
Setting a movie on a train is a brave move – films in claustrophobic settings are hard work for a screenwriter. Often claustrophobia works because of the focus on the dynamics of a small group, but Murder On The Orient Express does not have this option either, as Michael Green has elected to include everybody from a complex book. Director Kenneth Branagh made it clear from the outset that he was going to rely on cast and production to jump these hurdles, and chose to shoot on 65mm film for bonus marks.
Joan Didion, the subject of this moving documentary now available on Netflix, is one of America’s greatest living writers. Her unsentimental, yet lyric vision surfaced in the essay “On Respect”, when she was a young sub-editor at American Vogue in the early 60s. Her voice was shaped by a child-hood spent in her birthplace, Sacramento, California, with its ethos of small c-conservatism, a West conquered by heroic pioneers and a distrust of self-pity. Yet Didion also took that bedrock of values and made a fascinating political shift – from the kind of eccentric Barry Goldwater supporter who would take down JD Salinger and Kerouac for The National Review to blossoming into the one of the Republican Party’s fiercest critics in legendary think pieces for The New York Review of Books. By the mid-70s, she became arguably the only woman who could justly claim, along with Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, Tom Wolfe, Terry Southern and others – that she invented a new kind of journalism.
Trendy is the directorial debut from Louis Lagayette and successfully channels American Psycho into hip East London. Immigrants, hipsters, and cockneys meet gentrification, big-city loneliness, and violence in this psychological thriller.
The film follows Richard, a 30-year-old maths teacher who moves to East London. Richard is meticulous, drawing diagrams of the pokey flats he’s shown around by estate agents, donned in an extremely uncool waterproof jacket and walking shoes. He soon finds himself getting to know the locals, heading to underground parties with booming techno music with an art-gallery manager and making friends with the owner of the kebab shop across the street from his apartment. This all soon changes when his new acquaintances find out about his past.
One of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history receives a thorough examination and analysis in Alexandre O. Philippe’s intriguing yet overlong documentary 78/52. The film’s title refers to the 78 camera set-ups and 52 cuts which Alfred Hitchcock used to capture the infamous shower scene in Psycho. Assigning a full 7-days of a 30-day schedule to filming the short sequence, Janet Leigh’s brutal murder in the shower at Bates Motel is renowned as one of the most bold, shocking and influential scenes dedicated to film. 78/52 extensively explores every aspect of the sequence from its context, construction, and impact.
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.