The Classics of Horror #5 – Psycho (1960)

As I previously mentioned in my Rosemary’s Baby review, I have a ‘special’ chapter of The Classics of Horror dedicated to Psycho.

My girlfriend and I, in fact, went to watch the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece at Grosvenor Park – a quiet oasis in the middle of the chaotic Londoner nightlife on a summer Friday night.

The location itself – which my girlfriend will talk about shortly on her blog – was worth the price of the ticket (22£ each, including a glass of fine wine) and created a mystical atmosphere that added to the quality of the film.

If you’re interested in Nomad Cinema initiatives and want to catch a glimpse of our day at the outdoor screening, check their website and enjoy the photo gallery at the end of this post.

In regards to Psycho itself, I thought to write about what makes it so iconic and inspirational to these days, since its plot, cinematography and general features have been discussed quite a lot within the last… well, 57 years!

Considered as the first slasher flick ever – although the origins of this sub-genre may find their roots back in Maurice Tourneur’s The Lunatics (1912) and countless giallo novels in the late 1880s – Psycho is much more than that.

Its influence spread through various cinema genres, such as psychological thriller, mystery and, of course, horror. Putting aside various attempts on imitations of sorts and a shot-by-shot shameless – and soulless – remake (Psycho, 1998), Hitchcock’s movie has inspired, deliberately or unconsciously, an endless number of directors and filmmakers.

Needless to say, the iconic stabbing in the shower has had tons of reenactments in probably half of the modern horror movies. That specific sequence has been received as shocking and gut-wrenching for the 60s audience but, in all fairness, experiencing it before a big screen and surrounded by an excellent sound system… well, it’s striking enough even today.

Again, the sudden change of main character – typical Hitchcock’s signature – has pushed brilliant directors to try unconventional story-telling patterns.

As if atmosphere, cinematography and music (damn, that score!) weren’t enough, the abrupt switch from one protagonist to the other puts the viewer in an uneasy condition, where the audience feels abandoned within a film universe where there is no one left to rely on.

However, what keeps me – and, I guess, all the cinema lovers – going back to Psycho and re-watch it any time with the same attitude is the character of Norman Bates (masterfully portrayed by Anthony Perkins, in the role that made him immortal). First great horror villain, Bates’ personality and psychology are compelling and captivating to these days. His character, despite the psychiatrist’s exposition scene towards the end of the film, is still a mystery for viewers and critics.

Even though the direction of Psycho is nearly immaculate, in my opinion the success of the movie – as well as its effectiveness – massively rely on Norman’s bony shoulders. Bates is an unsolvable enigma, portrayed in a various range of emotions that make him more and more unpredictable as the movie progresses. He’s also such a quotable villain, whose statements will remain impressed in people’s memories, similarly to Darth Vader’s and Heath Ledger’s Joker’s.

No antagonist in slasher flicks history has ever reached such a complexed and all-rounded characterisation. The invincibility of Myers and Voorhees, the sarcasm of Krueger, the cruelty of Leatherface, the intelligence of Vernon, the pure evil of Pinehead can’t rival with the ‘regular madness’ of Norman Bates.

Hitchcock, similarly to a few directors in cinema history, had also a strong faith in audience’s intelligence and pleasure in challenging it. There aren’t many films, in cinema history, that feature nearly no exposition as Psycho did. Here, the story-telling develops through the characters’ actions and the actions, whereas the dialogues serve as creation of compelling protagonists.

Nonetheless, there is a huge exposition scene towards the end of Psycho, which makes it a bit less timeless than it could have been, although it doesn’t affect the perfection of the film itself.

Needless to say, I strongly recommend this film. If you can, try to find a cinema nearby where they show old classics, so that you can enjoy Psycho to its finest. Cheers!

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Eat LocalS – movie review

Sebastian Crockett – a delivery guy with little education – is brought by Vanessa, a middle-age woman, to a remote farmhouse in Essex (England), where he thinks he will make out with her.

Eat LocalS 2Sabastian will soon discover that he’s the main course in a vampire gathering which takes place every 50 years.

The villa he’s brought to is surrounded by soldiers who tracked the vampires and aim to tear them apart.

This is the basic plot to a British horror-comedy filled with good actors and nice locations.

Unfortunately, though, Eat LocalS doesn’t fulfil the premises and resolves into a mixed-bag that could (and should) have been better than how it actually is.

Directed by Jason Flemyng, a quite fair actor at his debut behind the camera, this film is indubitably a comedy more than a horror. And the comedic aspect is definitely the best part of it.

Eat-Locals feature imageComic-wise, Eat LocalS is a good amalgamation between British humour, references to vampire flicks, spoofs and parodies. I honestly chuckled and giggled throughout the majority of the film, with a couple of scenes where I even laughed out loud in my room by myself (look out for the sequence with the “flying chicken”).

The action scenes are pretty cool as well. Dynamically crafted, the fights between soldiers and vampire benefit from a well-directed camera-work and convincing stunts.

Other than that, the movie is a bit of a mess.

Firstly, there are too many subplots thrown in the mix which appear unnecessary and, at times, rather confusing. There are so many things that don’t need to be in the film, namely the psycho-couple that owns the house where the vampire gathering – besides a couple of laughs, their presence is not required in the movie and doesn’t serve any purpose.

Eat LocalS 1Also, there is so much wasted potential in regards to the cast. Eat LocalS has Charlie Cox, Freema Agyeman and Mackenzie Crook – among the others – in it, and doesn’t know what to do with them. Their performance is okay, middle-of-the-road, but the characters they portray are hollow and uninteresting.

Yet, the military side of the story is filled with mannequins that are there just to be killed and carry the plot along.

I understand that their presence in the movie is somewhat necessary – otherwise it will look like a British version of the Australian What We Do In The Shadows (brilliant film, by the way) – but I would have liked to see them developed better and more in-depth.

Again, the lack of a clear – and distinguishable – main character makes it harder to have someone to root for in the film, which depersonalise the story and lowers the level of care within the audience.

To sum it up, Eat LocalS is far from being a bad movie, but at the same time is very difficult for me to recommend it, partly because horror-comedy tastes are very much depending on the singular person; partly because the potential wasted in the film might make it look worse than it, in fact, is.

So, give it a chance if you are not looking for the next chapter of the Cornetto Trilogy. In other words, watch it only if you want to have some basic entertainment but don’t expect anything mind-bowing. Cheers!

Cannibalism meets coming-of-age story in the latest French success. Raw – movie review

Raw is a French-Belgium film written and directed by Julia Ducournau, at her debut behind the camera in a feature-length film.

Substantially marketed as the new Martyrs (2009), according to the legend that people fainted and puked in the earliest screenings, audiences went into Raw expecting an extremely violent, gruesome horror film filled with stomach-turning scenes and I-can’t-watch-this moments.

Instead, Ducournau’s film is a coming-of-age tale with cannibalism elements thrown in the mix.

Raw 2Raw tells the story of rookie student and lifelong vegetarian Justine, who arrives at a veterinary school to start college. A college that looks more like a prison, where the rookies are bullied and obligated to go through different and messed-up challenges. One of those consists of eating a raw rabbit kidney, which Justine refuses to do, at first, and then reluctantly accepts pushed by her older sister Alexia.

From that moment on, Justine develops an insane passion for raw meat that definitely goes too far…

Despite Raw was mis-marketed and the trailers made it look a restless run throughout violence and blood, it’s been acclaimed by audience and critics as one of the best horror movies in recent years.

In all honesty, I struggle to understand why.

Extremely slow-paced, the plot drags from scene to scene, with elongated shots, slow – and quite unrealistic – dialogues, nauseous sequences of rave parties where stroboscopic lightening and delirious music that will give you nothing but migraine.

Raw 3Also, the acting is quite slow and somewhat frustrating; whether it’s because of the script or the cast’s skills, every character in this movie is unlikable. Although, to be fair, Garance Marillier (who portrays Justine) conveys a wide range of emotions and carries the plot along fairly well.

However, my biggest issues with Raw consist of more than that.

Raw GIF.gifFirst of all, everything looks highly implausible. I know, I know: it’s a horror-drama about cannibalism, I shouldn’t expect everything to make sense. Nonetheless, as I stated previously in other reviews, each and every single element should be realistic within the universe of a film. And, in this regard, Raw fails on every level: the unexplained absence of adults, the rampant craziness of the students – who do drugs, destroy facilities, throw food to each other without being stopped by any form of security, the constant lack of explanations make for a very unreliable story.

Don’t get me wrong, though. I understand that the director went for the dream-like, somewhat oneiric route. Nevertheless, this premise might work in a movie like It Follows (2014), set in a timeless and undefined world, but it doesn’t in Raw, where the audience is supposed to believe the plot is taking place in contemporary times.

Which is my second biggest issue with this film. Its atmosphere, backed up by cinematography and photography, makes for an artsy film that is artsy-fartsy for the pure sake of it. In other words, it looks frustratingly pretentious and tries too hard to set itself apart from the other horror flicks.

Again, I must reiterate that I’ve got no problem with artsy horror movies (The Eyes of my Mother – is one of my favourite films in 2017), but the style must be supported by strong and effective contents. Otherwise, the product is a flop. And, sorry to say that, Raw is a flop – at least in my opinion.

However, there are a couple of redeeming qualities, namely the first plot twist – there is also a second one at the very end, but it’s predictable and, again, unsatisfying. Also, the locations are amazing and the fact that the entire movie was shot on location is to be praised.

Furthermore, the absence of false-scares and the lack of gratuitous brutality are a pleasant surprise.

Nevertheless, the standout in Raw is the score: one of the best I’ve listened to the whole year, but unfortunately inadequate to the film. Still, I recommend everyone to download it, it’s worth listening to!

Overall, though, Raw is a quite boring film, featuring an unbalanced pace, senseless sequences, disappointing acting and an uninteresting story. Sincerely, I found it very overhyped and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, unless you want to watch it purely out of curiosity. Cheers!

Friday the 13th formula and how Jason Voorhees became a horror icon

Happy Friday the 13th to y’all horror fans.

As you might know, Friday the 13th is a franchise started off in 1980 by the director Sean S. Cunningham and revolving around Jason Voorhees, who after having drowned as a boy at Camp Crystal Lake, began to reappear decades later every Friday 13th night.

He’s one of the most iconic villain of horror cinema, who terrorized generations of children by wearing a hokey mask and brandishing a rusty machete.

It is pretty clear that the distribution company (Paramount Pictures) and the director decided to base this movie out of the Halloween success. Friday the 13th came out two years later and it amounted to the slasher genre, with a main character who resembled Michael Myers quite closely.

The plot of the first installment of this franchise is original and unexpected, though.

*spoilers from here on*

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In the first Friday the 13th the main villain is not Jason, but his mother who decides to seek revenge against a bunch of teenagers who reminds her of the guys bulling her deceased son.

Although the acting is quite amateur and the cinematography has nothing special to offer, this movie is still enjoyable for what it is – a disposable slasher flick surrounded by mystery and killings.friday-the-13th-movie-1980-i11

The grand finale, as you might know, keeps the door open for a sequel, by showing a monster-like Jason coming up from the lake to kill the last girl standing.

Eventually, in 1981 Friday the 13th II picks up five years after that first film’s conclusion. This second instalment is still pretty good: for the first time we get to see Jason Voorhees in action, five years after the events the first movie was based on.

And he is pretty damn cool. An enormous human-like apparently indestructible monster who mercilessly kills young teenagers in various ways whom is impossible not to love for a horror fan.

However, the ending with a dumb dream sequence ruins the tone and the enjoyment built throughout the film.

Unfortunately, the third Friday the 13th is where the things start to go dawn. Rapidly and disgracefully.

All the movies from the third to the ninth start to melt, carrying the same plot, the same bunch of dumbass teenagers, the inexplicable resurrections of the villain and the killings also slowly begin to get unoriginal and tiresome.

As you all know, the ‘original franchise’ is made out of ten movies. I left behind the tenth because it’s the one where even a die-hard Jason fan should throw the towel in – even though to me they could just have stopped with the third Friday the 13th, making Jason die once and forever. Anyway, the last instalment is located in space (!), 400 years in the future (!!) and stars a semi-robot version of Jason (!!!). It’s enough for me, also because the movie takes itself so serious that’s even impossible to laugh at it.

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Since, I don’t talk about TV series and videogames in this blog, let’s jump directly to the last two movies we need to talk about: Freddy vs Jason and Friday the 13th 3D – a reboot/remake of some kind.

Both of these movies are an atrocity against humanity. However, Freddy vs Jason has the redeeming quality to contain some entertaining moments and a sense of desperation descending from the concept that no place is safe – the day is haunted by Jason, while the dreamful nights are dominated by Mr. Nightmare. Still, it serves no purpose other than being a fan service for those who wanted to see the epical face-off between two of the most iconic villains of all time. Something we’ve seen in Alien Vs Predator, with the same disappointing result.

Friday the 13th 3D is pure crap instead. I’m sorry guys, but this movie – if you can call it a movie – is just a money-grabbing piece of nothingness, where everything is done poorly and effortlessly. Also the CGI and the 3D are at their worst, which configures Friday the 13th 3D as one of the worst horror flicks ever made.

These are my thoughts on the Friday the 13th franchise, and if you guys are die-hard fan of all of these movie, I hope we can still be friends, even though I’m clearly not. Cheers and tonight stay away from Crystal Lake!