Friday, 26 October 2018


After Day One's mixture of Cage rage and Michael Myers mayhem, what did Day Two have in store for the Celluloid Screams crowd? Read on...


Loved-up couple Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson) and Jules (Brittany Allen) head out to a remote woodland location to celebrate their first wedding anniversary and all is going swimmingly until a visitor unwittingly lets slip a piece of information about Jackie which will have Jules questioning everything she knows - or thinks she knows - about her wife...

I've been careful to say as little as I can about the plot because the less you know going into What Keeps You Alive the more you'll enjoy it. Just over 20 minutes in there's a breathtaking surprise in store (I think most of the Celluloid Screams audience had the same "WTF?" reaction I had) and from there on it's fun to just roll with the story to see exactly where it heads next.

Strong performances from Anderson and Allen (both excellent in very different ways, but I can't tell you what those ways are) anchor the somewhat outlandish cirumstances to a bedrock of chilling plausibility, not to mention keeping the tension simmering nicely. There's also plenty of cracking, darkly comic dialogue to be savoured. I just can't tell you what that is for fear of giving something, anything away.

Writer/director Colin Minihan piles on the twists and turns to such an extent that by the end you might feel it's possibly taken one or two too many plot swerves but that's a very minor gripe about a film which confidently raises the suspense stakes time after time. See it and be thoroughly entertained by all of the things I can't tell you about in this mini-review, then you'll know exactly why I'm being so frustratingly light on detail here.

You're getting no more from me on this subject. Go watch.


Gay porn film producer Anne (Vanessa Paradis) is having relationship trouble with her editor/lover Loïs (Kate Moran) but that's nothing compared to trouble she's about to face when one of her actors is brutally murdered. Using the ongoing police investigation as the inspiration to make a more ambitious adult movie, Anne is fully aware that everyone is a potential suspect or victim as the masked murderer sets about making their own cuts to those involved...

Knife+Heart's refreshingly different setting provides the perfect backdrop to a stylish, giallo-inflected treat, packed with extravagant characters and lurid killings, all sumptuously filmed in gorgeous 35mm, its musical heart driven by a pounding M83 synth score. Paradis is excellent in a complex role and the film-within-a-film's cast are brought to flamboyant life, particularly Nicolas Maury as the sympathetic but no-nonsense Archibald.

The third act, true to the classic examples of the subgenre, dials up the weirdness even more as the killer's background and motives are slowly revealed, culiminating in their attempt to complete their peculiar plan at a cinema where Anne is watching one of her previous productions.

To say I'm a giallo fan is something of an understatement so Un Couteau Dans Le Coeur (to use its French title) was high on my list of must-sees at the festival and it did not disappoint in the slightest. All the elements are present and correct - psychological horror, dreamy interludes, graphic bloodshed and sexploitation - and these seem to be more at home than ever in the close-knit community portrayed here.

The sexuality of the characters is not a big deal here, thank goodness. Yes, I did notice a comment on social media referring to the number of blowjobs in this film but a) they're tastefully framed, b) they're filming an adult movie, that kind of thing is going to happen and c) they're so incidental to the story that I'm not sure why anyone would focus on them. This is a deftly crafted, naturalistic portrayal of the dynamics between a group of LGBT people who just happen to be making porn. Some of us need to grow the fuck up and appreciate the view from elsewhere.

Okay, lecture over. Knife+Heart is beautiful, bloody and brilliant. It has the brutal murders and all of the strangeness you'd expect but it also possesses real warmth and heart plus a welcome dash of intentional comedy. How could you not embrace something that has a character called the Mouth Of Gold?


Five people (well, six to be totally accurate as one segment features a couple) wander into a spooky theatre and, once inside, they're each treated to a short movie they probably weren't expecting. The film they're watching features themselves in a tale of terror and chances are it's not going to be "the feelgood movie of the year"...

As a fan of portmanteau movies - especially the Amicus ones such as Asylum and Tales From The Crypt - and with knowledge of the remarkable directorial talent involved I have to admit that I went into this one secretly hoping that it would be great. Unfortunately, I came out of it feeling more than a little deflated.

As with any example of this type, the individual segments should take different approaches (which they do) which means they'll land in different ways (which they do) and as long as the hit-to-miss ratio is acceptably high I don't see how that's an issue. I really didn't expect five classics and nor should I have. Here, out of the five stories, I really enjoyed one, liked one, tried hard to like one but couldn't quite manage to and didn't really care about the other two.

Yes, there's gore aplenty and although there are a number of intriguing ideas bubbling under the surface these take flight very rarely, which means that a particular story ends up going absolutely nowhere, another stops pretty much dead with little revelation while another falls back on having a lot of people meeting bloody ends.

Also, the overarching device - involving Mickey Rourke as the projectionist of the titular theatre - is frustratingly underdeveloped and I would have liked his character to have been fleshed out a little more. Well, make that fleshed out at all. The potential to showcase a great character is pretty much thrown away as all he really ends up doing is pointing out to each unfortunate cinemagoer just how screwed they are.

I wanted to love this so much and it's incredibly frustrating to me that I didn't (judging by the chatter after the screening I'm sure many people rated it highly). I still think there's mileage in the concept though and despite the fact that this missed the mark for me I'm not averse to a Nightmare Cinema 2 with new stories and directors.

Thursday, 25 October 2018


Celebrating its 10th Edition with a four-day fest instead of the usual three, Celluloid Screams took up its usual residence at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield with some bold programming choices in its varied slate of films, the showcasing of a hilarious new TV series and an after party which literally refused to quit. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind all the way back to Day One which featured two eagerly anticipated movies...


Lumberjack Red (Nicolas Cage) is living the quiet life in the wilderness with his bookish, rock chick partner Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) when their idyll is shattered by the arrival of a crazed hippie cult led by the creepy Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). Suffice to say some very bad things happen, leading Red down a path of bloody, surreal vengeance...

Re-tooling the revenge flick as a vivid, trippy, retina-scorching nightmare, Panos Cosmatos' debut feature will no doubt alienate as many as it impresses. The deliberately slow build of a first half gives way to a gore-splattered, unfettered riot of a second as Cage takes on LSD-addled bikers from Hell and eventually the cult itself.

It would be easy to focus on Nic going full Cage here but that would be to detract from what is essentially a, ahem, knowing (sorry) and enjoyable performance. Riseborough is, as always, terrific as the bookish, rock chick title character and although Roache's villain has shades of the pantomime baddie he also manages to unnerve and disturb, his performance matching perfectly with the quite frankly batshit crazy things going on here.

The film also looks beautiful, full of wonderfully conceived visions of tranquillity and purgatory. It seems something of a cliché to call this an assault on the senses but that's exactly what it is and some viewers may not stay the distance because of the unrelenting visual and auditory pounding it dishes out. This is an immersive, impressive headf**k, it's off-kilter off the scale and I loved it to bits.


Retconning the Halloween tale so that the story picks up 40 years on from the events of the original movie, Michael Myers escapes during a patient transfer between psychiatric facilities and, after bumping off a few unfortunates who happen to cross his path, he dons the Shatner mask once more and heads back to Haddonfield to confront old foe Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis - I'm pretty sure you didn't need me to point this out).

So, as one of the most anticipated horror sequels for some time, does the 2018 incarnation of Halloween measure up? Well, yes and no. There are some lovely touches, such as the use of the classic theme and a smattering of neatly deployed, pleasing callbacks to the original. Even the opening titles are smart as the pumpkin is quite literally resurrected.

The suspense is competently cranked up too, resisting the temptation to throw in too many fake jump scares (although there are a couple just to keep you on your toes). Michael Myers is a scary enough character to generate tension just by the fact that he's lurking in the background somewhere and the makers of H2018 know this.

The kills are plentiful and surprisingly brutal but this isn't an enterprise which wallows in its gore. It earns its 18 certificate, don't get me wrong, but it isn't a movie which is keen to rub its viewers faces in bloodied viscera and the on- and off-screen murders are balanced rather well.

Unsurprisingly, Jamie Lee Curtis is great and the movie lights up whenever she's on screen. Even a few tired character developments - including the fact that Laurie Strode is now something of a recluse and also has an alcohol problem - don't get in the way as much as they could because Curtis has the presence and the skill as an actress to transcend all of that. It's testament to her performance that, when she's sidelined for a while - to allow new characters to be woven in the plot - you can't wait for her to show up again.

Where the film is less successful is in its introduction of those new characters such as Laurie's daughter Karen, played by Judy Greer. This isn't Greer's fault at all - she's saddled with an underwritten character whose chief role is to be exasperated at the "survive at all costs" mentality of Laurie. There's also a "new Loomis" played by Haluk Bilginer who's actually referred to as "the new Loomis" and who provides the film with an especially clunky left-turn towards the end.

Halloween 2018 isn't the train wreck I feared it would be, nor is it the game changer it could have been. Let's face it, it would have had to go some in order to better Carpenter's landmark of the genre but it's an efficient, enjoyable follow-up that's likely to satisfy a large proportion of horror fans. It's also some way better than most of the sequels (which now exist in a parallel universe as a result of this follow-up).

Sunday, 14 October 2018


Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Iko Uwais, Lauren Cohan
Writer: Lea Carpenter 
Director: Peter Berg

James Silva (Wahlberg), part of an elite CIA unit called Overwatch, is tasked with locating a missing shipment of caesium before it can be weaponised and used to kill many thousands of people. Indonesian police officer LI Noor (Uwais) turns himself into the American Embassy claiming to know where the caesium is and he'll make that information known if he can be given safe passage out of the country. Of course, there are various other interested factions who want to stop this from happening...

On the face of it, Mile 22 is a complex, high-tech espionage thriller with a side order of gunfire and martial arts mayhem, marshalled by a director and star whose previous team-ups have proven their chops with both military manouevres (Lone Survivor) and steadily-wound, reality-grounded suspense (Deepwater Horizon). In actuality, however, it's a bit of a mess. No, make that a lot of a mess.

There are numerous moments in both plot and action where it's difficult to know exactly what the hell is going on. Don't get me wrong, I love not knowing where a story is going next but not actually knowing if I'd missed the previous five minutes is just confusing. I looked around the cinema, hoping to catch the gaze of someone else in the audience so I could mouth the words "Do you know what's happening?" but I had no such luck.

The action sequences are edited in such a twitchy manner that the shootouts are robbed of any tension because half of the time you're not sure where anyone is and which person is opening fire on who or what. Worst of all, the major fight in the flick which involves Iko Uwais constantly changes angles - even switching to a view from a security camera - so all you're left with is a headache rather than an adrenaline buzz.

Also, if you're going to cast Ronda Rousey in a film, I expect to be treated to at least one sequence in which she kicks someone's ass into the middle of next week. Yes, it was a surprise that this didn't happen and I accept that this played against my expectations of how her character arc played out. But she's cast as a bad ass, so would it have been so terrible to give her a moment in which she was allowed to give full vent to her undoubted badassery?

A lot of the above could be mitigated to some degree if the characters were engaging but unfortunately they're some of the grumpiest, downright unpleasant people you'll ever spend ninety minutes with. I'm fine that the CIA's top operatives aren't sweetness and light but this bunch are so aggressively horrible to both their enemies and each other that by about half an hour in I was finding it very difficult to care about them. Or anyone else for that matter.

Which brings me to Lauren Cohan. Loved her in both The Walking Dead and The Boy. Here she's handed one of the most exhaustingly depressing characters in movie history. As Silva's second in command Alex, she's usually being told how terrible her informants are and how she can't really do her job properly. Of course, this is just tough love from Silva who's only pretending to be an arsehole to give Alice extra motivation.

Except this isn't true because Silva is a total arsehole, taking a break from said arsehole behaviour only when he decides it's time to be a massive dickhead to all and sundry. Of course, this is because Silva was a gifted kid who had a rough childhood and grew up to be a tactical genius and yes, he might be on the spectrum but dammit! He's the best damned guy they've got. He's just a massive dickhead, that's all.

Anyway, not only does Alice have to contend with the tantrums of Massive Dickhead, she's also got problems with her ex and her globe-trotting job is seriously getting in the way of spending any time with her kid. Cue awkward phone conversations about access when Silva wants Alice to be leaning on Li Noor and/or thinking how about many people she might have to kill to complete the mission.

Likewise with the Indonesian security, headed by Sam Medina as yet another instantly angry and dislikeable sort. He's there to butt heads with Wahlberg and set up the series of chases and gunfights which make up the bulk of the second half. This also leads to a climactic stand-off between the two which redefines the word "disappointing".

Elsewhere, there's a team of Russians monitoring the ongoing action but they're given such scant attention by the story that it's difficult to buy into them as the nominal bad guys or understand their motivation although the story keeps returning to them just a tad too much for them to be a sideshow and a third act reveal lifts the lid on exactly why they're so interested in the mission. It's plausible enough, it ties in well with the earlier events of the plot - and closes the movie on a note that's slightly unexpected - but as with so much about this movie it's vaguely sour and leaves the viewer wondering what the point of the whole thing was.

Unfortunately, Mile 22 isn't worth the trip. The journey is frustratingly lacklustre and the destination is disappointing.