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FrightFest: Interview With Damien Leone

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. 

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Film Review: Sorcerer (Reissue)

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.

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Film Review: Deliver Us (Liberami)

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.

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LFF 2017: A Sort of Family

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.

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Film Review: Thor: Ragnarok

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.

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LFF 2017: Let The Sunshine In

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.

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LFF 2017: Nico 1988

In her 60s prime, Nico was the formidably beautiful Wagnerian queen of avant-garde rock, breaking not only the hearts of her fellow Velvet Underground bandmates, John Cale and Lou Reed, but inspiring Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen to write some of their best songs. Alas by the 80s, she was barely a cult survivor – addicted to heroin, trying to reconnect with her son by Alain Delon and touring with a motley crew of young musicians in dives across Europe.

Italian director, Susanna Nicciarelli, largely sets Nico’s life story in these final days before her accidental death in Ibiza, but we catch glimpses of the heady glamour of the Velvets and Andy Warhol’s Factory through archive footage. Despite a charismatic performance by Danish actress, Trine Dyrholm, in the title role, this film never quite solves the problem of making Nico’s aimless life dramatically compelling. While Dyrholm is supported by a strong cast of supporting players including John Gordon Sinclair as Nico’s long-suffering manager and Annamarina Marinca as the band’s vio-linist, their efforts are not rewarded by a script that largely consists of grim vignettes of life on the road.

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LFF 2017: Grain

In Grain, cinematographer Giles Nuttgens provides a stunning visualisation of director Kaplanoglu’s dystopian vision, using black and white film shot on three continents, blended seamlessly into bold, harsh landscapes which immediately suggest an odyssey. The City is also a composite of Detroit, industrial German (e.g. Essen), and Konya, Anatolia (This is a Turkish production). These are perfectly assembled into an urban version of a colony ship. The city is now the only civilisation, with the individual nation-states long since abandoned in order to deal with a much bigger crisis – a total lack of food.

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LFF 2017: Call Me By Your Name

Attempting to identify what makes certain films into instant classics is never easy, and no matter how hard one tries, it is near impossible to second-guess how people would react to a movie, especially in these days of instant social media gratification and throwaway commentary. In the case of Call Me By Your Name, it is frankly hard to see how anyone could possibly find fault with this genuinely stunning production. Adapted by Luca Guadagnino from Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, the film offers one of the most beautifully told stories of the last decade. With a masterful score and some genuinely impressive direction techniques, Call Me By Your Name manages to immerse its audience in its gently melancholic world from the get go, and when it’s over you’ll find wishing you could go back and watch to all over again. 

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