Ben Wheatley directs Neil Maskell, Michael Smiley and MyAnna Buring in this horror tinged British thriller where a pair of hitmen take on a contract that pulls them towards an otherworldly darkness.
Low budget, talky, abrasive, nasty… one of the finest movies of the 21st century. To list Kill List’s most obvious influences would be to give away the biggest revelation. But it’s fair to say even before the folk horror route starts to dominate the atmosphere, this is a very grim, very compelling work of genre. We are introduced to our protagonists in an extended Mike Leigh / Ken Loach style domestic setting. Falling outs have a recognisable reality, jokes land with a sitcom brevity within the slanging matches, domestic violence and reconciliations. Creepy characters start to steal focus. Jovial Michael Smiley’s slightly off-key dinner date is up to something cunning, the dead looking man who assigns them their hits feels like the devil himself. All pre-existing relationships seem strange and strained, all new interactions feel alien. Yet it all takes place in the mundane world of suburban back gardens, two star chain hotels and every car park in Yorkshire seemingly. Then the killings begin. Everything is off key aside from the extreme violence. Initially reluctant Jay (Maskell – excellent) seems to regain his mojo, leans into the deadly work a little too enthusiastically. And now they can’t get out. We see a pagan ritual at a slight remove through a sniper sight, get lost in a sewer system, chased by a swarm of nude true believers. A stand-out set piece that is claustrophobic and relentlessly fervid. The purposefully disorientating out-of-sync editing style of all this is exemplary, fascinating, really pulls you in. A riddle of image matches and hints that suggests some nightmarish bigger picture we never fully comprehend, even once it is far too late. The moment Kill List closes up shop, I want to watch it straight away again. Black hearted, perfect.
Robert Siodmak directs Dorothy McGuire, George Brent and Ethel Barrymore in this thriller where a mute carer is stalked by a killer who preys upon girls with disabilities.
More murder mystery than slasher, but with plenty of chills. Oscillates from creaky to creepy, Siodmak plays with darkness fabulously. Is the eventual killer guessable?… a little… Does Elsa Lanchester have a neat comic relief role as a tipsy cook?… yes, indeedy…
Robert Eggers directs Alexander Skarsgård, Nicole Kidman and Anya Taylor-Joy in this Viking revenge saga epic.
I am going to confess to being a little overwhelmed by this. I was in and out of the movie, in and in and out my of my headspace a little too much to fully savour everything. Eggers goes for a full method approach when it comes to historical detail and it can feel like a genuine culture shock. You marvel at the tactile verisimilitude, but the emotional connection can feel a little distant. Even with the very familiar narrative throughline of revenge. The battle sequences are pounding. I know something has got its extreme violence absolutely spot on when I’m laughing at just how excessive and nasty it is at least once a set-piece. Yet then Eggers slaps us with a bit of conscience, showing us how the weak and the civilised fare after we get our action fix in these alien times. The guilt trip feels well played. Listen, I loved the gore. Loved the beserking. Loved the folklore. Loved Anya Taylor-Joy. Loved the big operatic fantasy swings. Loved Bjork. I’ll see it again on the big screen. It is an instant Blu-Ray purchase in a few months time. But a week later and I still feel exhausted by it all!
Paul Verhoeven directs Virginie Efira, Charlotte Rampling and Daphne Patakia in this period nunsploitation movie where, in 17th century Tuscany, a good girl nun starts receiving visions of Christ just as plague, comets and a hot new cell mate turn up in her town.
Exactly what you’d instantly expect from Verhoeven if you heard he was going to direct the true story of a lesbian nun making a power play. That predictability is a little disappointing, all the shock seems quite wholesome in context. It is very well acted and handsomely shot. More prestige than cheap exploitation, more playful than transgressive. Benedetta shares a lot of plot and character DNA with Showgirls but where that was bruisingly lurid and camp, this feels quite accessible. Wimples replace rhinestones, critics can feel vindicated. Yet it isn’t quite the bad taste treat I personally craved.
Jay Chandrasekhar directs himself and the rest of the Broken Lizard troupe, Jürgen Prochnow, and Cloris Leachman in this comedy where a group of Americans practice to represent their country in an underground Munich beer downing contest.
Laughed loads during this – it is very frat boy-ish but that’s not the stuff that lands. It nearly matches the hit rate of Super Troopers but the opening act features only the two boring expendable members for an extended length of time and the finale outstays its welcome. What happens to Kevin Heffernan’s Landfill character at the midway point makes up for any structural quibbles though.
Sergio Corbucci directs Jean-Louis Trintignant, Klaus Kinski and Vonetta McGee in this spaghetti western where a silent avenger hunts down some nasty bounty hunters who are killing off outlaws before an amnesty ends their cruel profession.
Bleak, snowy western. Full of risky surprises. The cast is pretty striking, though only Frank Wolff’s jovial sheriff really gets to do any acting. Possibly the best of its cycle not directed by Leone. An obvious influence on Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. Was banned in the UK and buried in the US for over twenty years.
Patrice Leconte directs Charles Berling, Jean Rochefort and Fanny Ardant in this French costume drama where acceptance into the court of Louis XVI is based on one’s ability to wittily insult one’s company.
Lush and funny, cruel yet sexy. This is a brilliant slice of French cinema. The period detail is immaculate. The pull between decadence and progress has never been better essayed. Like any US high school movie this is essentially about giving up your soul to fit in with the “in” crowd, though a lot more horny and urgent. Occasionally the French bon mots that motor the plotting are a little lost in translation but Judith Godrèche’s spectacular heaving cleavage is on hand to keep us entertained. Fanny Ardant has never been better as the manipulative widow who offers patronage to only the sexiest wits.
Richard Attenborough directs Michael Douglas, Tony Fields and Alyson Reed in this film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize winning musical about a brutal audition process for a background slot in a Broadway show.
One…singular sensation! The great forgotten musical, one of my favourites from childhood since my sister used to play it on a loop. A gripping process movie. Years ago there was an early reality TV show called Popstars and it inadvertently revealed just how much ambition, sacrifice and skill was needed even to make it into a short lived, manufactured, mediocre pop band. This cynical thumper engagingly boils down an entire series of that into just a 100 minutes. You don’t expect this level of intensity or sexuality from Dickie Attenborough. Through his ensemble he really nails the talent, desperation and drive of his performers. Turning the nameless numbers on a call sheet into personalities we care for and then, in a cruel but fitting trick, losing them again into a big glittering Busby Berkley finale that is as nightmarish as it is shimmering.
Jack Arnold directs Richard Carlson, Julia Adams and Richard Denning in this Universal monster movie where scientists try to capture an amphibian beast in South America.
One of Howard Hughes’ most watched movies in his seclusion. Given the billionaire’s predilection for raven haired, buxom starlets it is easy to fathom why! Julia Adams voluptuous good girl goes through at least 20 costume changes, each tighter and more revealing than the next. Given the action takes place over a day and a half on a small boat in the middle of nowhere that’s an impressive wardrobe churn. Jack Arnold clearly has bigger ambitions but he never takes his eye off delivering a taut little genre flick first and foremost. One of those movies with a pure concept that gets better and better as it goes along.