Rawhead Rex (1986)

George Pavlou directs David Dukes, Kelly Piper and Ronan Wilmot in this Irish monster movie where an ancient fertility demon tears up and possesses a backwater hamlet.

Clive Barker adapted his short story into a script and then disowned it. The titular monster looks like a gargantuan prototype for an action figure; stiff, plastic and with cheap red diode light up eyes. The director doesn’t have the common sense to hide the contemptible disappointment in the shadows or offer us only quick glimpses of the failed creation. His camera lingers on Rawhead Rex fully illuminated in all his fake, unconvincing laughable glory. A rare Irish horror, sadly one that has little going for it aside from a certain cruel streak. Runs out of steam long, long before a specteral finale featuring animated lightning FX that only happened in the mid Eighties.

3

Perfect Double Bill: Xtro (1983)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Sleeping With the Enemy (1991)

Joseph Ruben directs Julia Roberts, Patrick Bergin and Kevin Anderson in this thriller where Pretty Woman fakes her death to leave her abusive husband but he ain’t having none of it.

A diluted thriller, remarkable only for Bergin’s memorably evil, OTT obssessed villain. He likes his towels neat, his cans facing label out and Berlioz pumping on the cassette player. He’s so self aware of these calling card faults he does precisely all these things to make his presence known in the weak tea finale. Characters doing stupid things to move the plot along is the only notable constant. Features a montage of cute Julia Roberts trying on hats in place of a chase or stalk. Has been remade over a dozen times in India. Dreadful.

2

Perfect Double Bill: Mary Reilly (1996)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Jamaica Inn (1939)

Alfred Hitchcock directs Maureen O’Hara, Charles Laughton and Robert Newton in this period thriller where an Irish orphan arrives into a Cornish village where the locals lure ships to their doom and plunder their cargo – based on a Daphne Du Maurier novel.

Beautiful Maureen O’Hara’s official debut. A fun if over powering lynchpin performance from Charles Laughton. There’s a couple of decent mid level set pieces… nothing of that unique Hitchcock calibre to make their way into the history books… yet more proficient than anything in your standard period adaptation of the era. If you relax your eyes this is much like the kinda movie Tarantino seems to relish making these days; an ensemble of characters who are presenting themselves differently / falsely to each other and then seeing how these lies play out when different combinations of players are thrown together unexpectedly. Y’know like Reservoir Dogs / Inglorious Basterds / The Hateful Eight only with a lot more top hats adorned with buckles. Fine.

6

Perfect Double Bill: The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

West Side Story (1961)

Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins direct Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer and Rita Moreno in this Oscar winning musical where the Sharks and the Jets fight for dominance of their street while two star crossed lovers fall for each other.

Another movie revisited in preparation for the big Christmas blockbuster releases that are imminent. This one was just a smidge better than even I fondly remembered. The songs are fantastic, the pacing wonderful, the colours overwhelming. The weird mix of sweaty masculinity and modern ballet creates a tangy flavour. There are edits and framing included here that feel truly groundbreaking… fuck the Nouvelle Vague. There are in-camera effects that are magical… belonging more in a fantasy than a urban dance flick. Rita Moreno is a genuine powerhouse as Anita. OK… so it can seem a little creaky and dated in corners and edges but the whole epic thing has a thrust and a confidence that makes it feel ultimately timeless. Wonderful. All the finger clicks.

9

Perfect Double Bill: In the Heights (2021)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

The Matrix (1999)

Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski direct Keanu Reeves, Carrie Anne-Moss and Laurence Fishburne in the sci-fi epic where an ordinary bloke discovers he may be the chosen one in a simulated world designed to hide the true horrors of reality from an oppressed humanity.

Paul Laight of The Cinema Fix recently made a list of the movies he respected as classics but just doesn’t personally like. I completely understand. I’ve always felt really awkward about not loving 2001: A Space Odyssey considering my tastes and Kubrick fandom. To the point where I watch it more regularly than movies I know I will enjoy in the hope that one day the tumblers will click and it will unlock and allow me in. The Matrix is another one. I love all the influences it hodge podges together, it came out at exactly the time I was its bang-on target audience and yet… boring. Every time. The Matrix’s popularity somewhat baffles me.

I first saw it at a midnight show in Times Square, New York with my friends Meena and Cath. It was in one of those massive underground dilapidated fleapits as seen in Last Action Hero. Our body clocks were out of sync after the flight over, it was pretty much the first thing we did in America after checking in. We had the cavernous thousand seater to ourselves except for an unhinged man who wandered the aisle reciting Laurence Fishburne’s speeches. It wasn’t the most comfortable viewing experience. But it was memorable.

I think I’ve tried to rewatch it a few times since. The last time before now I lasted only half an hour before accepting I still wasn’t in the mood. And I quite enjoyed the action and world building excess of the sequel Reloaded when it was released. In the main though I see a trilogy of movies obsessed with regurgitating overly verbose text as exposition… that mistake pretension for intelligence… and have visually impressive action sequences that have minimal impact as they have minimal stakes. We know Neo cannot die in The Matrix as a) it is fake and b) he’s Jesus / Superman / Olivia de Havilland in it. He bends the law to his will.

Also the shadow of the Columbine High School massacre tarnish it for me. If you present a world that is false and unforgiving, where the populace is blinded to how painful life is and compliantly capable of unacknowledged collusion and then proffer the only solution as trench coats and “Guns. Lots of guns.”… Well, my first thought isn’t “cool”. I don’t believe in censorship, I love screen violence, but do feel there is something irresponsible about The Matrix’s central message considering its core demographic is teenage boys who might be bullied or finding themselves. Why is this different from say The Wild Bunch or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, John Woo or Arnie? I cannot put my finger on it. I guess the mixture of cod philosophy and the cold advertiser’s sheen of the visuals frame the violence in a way that I find dangerous and conniving. Nothing really matters so blow them all away in a hail of bullets. My tuppence. I know most will not agree with me but its hard not tally the methods of the real life high school shootings that followed in The Matrix’s wake with what is presented in the film. I’m certainly not saying they would not have happened without this franchises existence but I can see the implications that run through this narrative as being a significant straw on a camel’s back.

I guess the neat thing about The Matrix is even though it spews out a lotta explanation as to what is going on in near endlessly dull scenes… these dumps of cod wisdom are esoteric enough to still be open to a certain degree of fluid interpretation. If we skip over the more dangerous message it might send to disturbed kids then there is still lots of chew about the nature of reality, technology and how we view the present. Twenty years on, it is hard not to look for clues about this being a coded study of being born into the wrong gender given the Wachowskis’ own later gender rebirths. That’s certainly here. There’s a fair degree of references to Neo as the classic girls who travel to fantasy world… Dorothy and Alice are frequently cited. And there’s even oblique references to Snow White. The crew of the post apocalyptic hovercraft, the Nebuchadnezzar, number seven like the dwarves. “Wake Up Neo!” And wake up in a hairless, gloopy form – sporting strange orifices that are not the norm – while you are at it! It certainly is a multi-layered text that is a patchwork of sources. Too many in my opinion but I bet the script was annotated with footnotes that outnumbered the word count of the main narrative. I can understand why people might have their minds blown by the basic density of the meta textual fabric and want to obsess over this. It is a movie eager to be picked apart and debated online. Like a Where’s Wally of Easter Eggs!

There is stuff I like. The stunts have an epic scale to them. The ‘breaking free of Morpheus’ sequence that leaps from helicopters to rooftops and back again works for me as pure action popcorn whatever the context. I’m never going to get bored of seeing the quiver of joy on Keanu’s face as he shows off his kung-fu posturings. Carrie Anne-Moss looks glorious in leather. Joey Pants has a few nice scenes as the treacherous Cypher. Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith is a fascinating villain who belongs to a far better franchise in my opinion. When we go down the rabbit hole and take the red pill, the cyberpunk nightmare of reality is horrific and well realised. It is such a shocking vision of the future yet it makes a decent amount of narrative sense.

Yet whenever we are in The Matrix listening to paragraphs of monologued fap or fighting fights that don’t really matter I power down. After all, there is no spoon. But I will say I could see past the lack of spoon just a tinsy bit better after a long break from trying to like it. This was probably my most enjoyable attempt to accept The Matrix.

5

Perfect Double Bill: Dark City (1998)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Knightriders (1981)

George A. Romero directs Ed Harris, Tom Savini and Amy Ingersoll in this action drama where the motorcycle riders of a renaissance fair stunt team try to live by their anachronistic codes of medieval honour and chivalry.

A genuinely one of a kind movie. If I had to nail down a comparison it would be “imagine if the makeshift family of Boogie Nights preferred riding bikes in fake armour rather than making porn.” It can be a little overly earnest at times, but Romero’s values are wholesome and somewhat ahead of their time (the irony). Savini rocks as the in-house antagonist. The jousting on two wheels set pieces are distributed just about evenly with all the talkie stuff. This sat on my “to watch” pile of blu-rays for years before I had a free morning and tore the cellophane off.

6

Perfect Double Bill: The Loveless (1981)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Keeping Up With the Joneses (2016)

Greg Mottola directs Zach Galifianakis, Isla Fisher and Gal Gadot in this uninspired action comedy where two nosy neighbours suspect the glamorous couple next door of being spies.

Now I will watch Isla Fisher in anything, and even though this has a lengthy sequence of her and Gal Gadot in lingerie, this puts that statement very much to the test. Sees what a slew of undemanding, forgotten comedies did and then aims lower.

2

Perfect Double Bill: The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Django (1966)

Sergio Corbucci directs Franco Nero, Loredana Nusciak and Ángel Álvarez in this spaghetti western where a drifter drags a coffin into a violent town.

A slightly more gimmicky cash-in on A Fistful of Dollars. If you crunch the numbers down figure by figure it doesn’t really add up. Franco Nero is handsome, almost too pretty, but not a patch on Clint. The score jostles along but lacks Ennio Morricone’s stirring spiritual choruses and demented playfulness. This only occasionally aims for Leone’s innate sense of the epic and mythic. That doesn’t mean Corbucci doesn’t hit the spot. Django can be enjoyable nasty and kinetic at times. A Lust In Mud where the beautiful leads seemingly never consider having sex.

7

Perfect Double Bill: A Bullet For the General (1966)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Movie of the Week: The Getaway (1972)

Sam Peckinpah directs Steve McQueen, Ali MacGraw and Ben Johnson in this crime action thriller where a couple go on a run for the border after a heist goes wrong.

Steve McQueen. Funeral black suit. Shotgun wrapped in a blanket. Dragging a scuffed and exhausted Ali McGraw in his wake. The epitome of cool. There’s at least five awesome hardcore crime set pieces spread all over this. The heist. The train station con. The garbage truck. The violence in the hotel (No Country For Old Men knows this section verbatim.) The race to the border. Yet the most thrilling sequence is the credit sequence; edited like a mini Nicolas Roeg flick, we experience Doc’s final straw as prison breaks him over a series of intercut repetitions. A hectoring score by Quincy Jones, a screenplay by Walter Hill based on a Jim Thompson novel… so you know we’ve got the hardboiled goods. Al Lettieri stands out as Rudy, the main antagonist. A personal all-time favourite. Every movie should be like this.

10

Perfect Double Bill: No Country For Old Men (2007)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/

Eternals (2021)

Chloé Zhao directs Angelina Jolie, Gemma Chan and Richard Madden in this Marvel superhero movie where ancient immortals protect the Earth from one particular nasty, and are not permitted to intervene otherwise.

Handsome but sophoric. Imagine if Terrence Malick had directed an early 1990s toyline advert… and I mean that in the least sarcastic way possible. Notable for MCU sex, MCU gay kissing and MCU’s continued complete and utter failure to try and get away with a standalone entry. The sad thing is 20 minutes in I’d thought gotten this one wrong, underestimated Zhao as a gun-for-hire. But then nothing happens… slowly. Out of nowhere there’s a fascinating cascade of revelations in the middle act, the world shattering ramifications of which are then never further explored. The ensemble of blank characters just hang out on their ship dragging their feet before an underwhelming finale. Has the time zig zagging structure of Watchmen but none of the brazen extreme confidence of a Snyder to pull such a storytelling coup off. Bryan Tyree Henry keeps his head admirably above the weak material.

4

Perfect Double Bill: Hulk (2003)

Check out my wife Natalie’s Point Horror blog https://cornsyrup.co.uk

We also do a podcast together called The Worst Movies We Own. It is available on Spotify or here https://letterboxd.com/bobbycarroll/list/the-worst-movies-we-own-podcast-ranking-and/