random review: Santa Clarita Diet [season 1]

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For me, Drew Barrymore‘s presence can always be relied upon to make a dull project bearable. It brings me great glee, then, to see her in something that is not only smile-inducing but is also a Netflix Original – properties that have continued to surprise in their diversity and willingness to take risks.

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I watched Train to Busan on an actual train to Busan

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(Oh, like you wouldn’t.)

So, I just got back from a trip to Korea. Knowing it was possible to make a day trip from Seoul (2h 25m by express train), I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I angled my tablet towards the window to avoid the mortification of looking like the cringeworthy tourist I was.

This is a better post than ‘sorry for not posting for forever’.  At least one person must have known what I was doing, especially as I was wearing a pretty ostentatious Frankenstein hoodie. So here is a badly-edited post containing some utterly pointless photos of an actual KTX train, as used in the movie!

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random review: All Through the House (2015)

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dat creepy opening shot.

dat creepy opening shot.

The presents are wrapped; everyone’s asleep. Is there a better way to celebrate the embers of Christmas Eve than a mince pie, a weird black forest gateaux-flavoured liqueur, and an ’80s throwback titspoitation slasher? If there is, fuck you, because it’s too late to come up with an alternative.

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random review: The Eyes of My Mother (2016)

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I’ve never fully trusted people. And, over the past year, I’ve learned to trust the ones around me a lot less.  It’s why it’s now so hard to surprise me unless you do something nice.

It’s also why a key early scene of Nicolas Pesce‘s The Eyes of My Mother holds little suspense but much discomfort for me. A young girl Francisca (Olivia Bond, later Kika Magalhaes) is present at the murder of her mother (Diane Agostini), a former eye-surgeon from Portugal. When she asks her killer Charlie (Will Brill) “Why us?”, he replies, “You let me in.”

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31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 31: The Stomach (2014)

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It’s it! I did it! The final film of this year’s marathon!

[I’ve a feeling you’ll likely see more horror posts from me before next year]

I cheated again this year – another short! And what a short. Writer-director Ben Steiner‘s The Stomach is equal parts bleak family fable, gritty neo-noir and grisly body horror. Packing two hours’ worth of backstories and interpersonal relationships into just 15 minutes, it’s no surprise that a feature-length is in the works – yet it never feels rushed or overcrowded.

the stomach 2014 horror short

Unlike Frank (Simon Meacock)’s stomach. The poor man, a medium who literally goes with his gut to talk to those in the afterlife, is ready to give up his gift. The work has taken its toll – physically and mentally – but his brother Tom (Ben Bishop) begs him to finish the day’s sessions before they agree to get Frank an operation that will replace his stomach. But back comes Mr. Pope (Peter Marinker), a recent client who’s not pleased with his service…

the stomach 2014 short horror

For such a short film, I genuinely cared about what happened to these characters. It’s a bittersweet fraternal story: the brothers have such chemistry and Frank looks so close to death, it’s hard not to feel for them both. It’s also a tension twofer, between the rough and grimy threat of Mr. Pope and the unpredictable forces of the ghostly beyond. Which, given that the tension starts straightaway, it’s probably a relief that it only lasts a quarter of an hour.

4.4/5

And that’s it for this year’s horror-a-thon. See you next year!

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 30: The Undertaker and His Pals (1966)

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Things I learnt from watching The Undertaker and His Pals:

  1. An opening trippy, wavy-visualled montage does not mean you’re getting a surreal film.
  2. Women look incredibly sexy when being knifed. But to avoid tastelessness, just expose their bra (make sure it’s a push-up; they’ll be lying down)
  3. Any victim will scream and shriek with uninterrupted rhythm and pitch when being pinned down and literally having their intestines poked by a number of gloved hands.
  4. Despite spending their day with unengaging corpses, undertakers can be stylish, too.
  5. There’s always a market for gourmet meat but, as always, the younger the better.
  6. Grinding a meat grinder is as easy as flipping a needle on a record.
  7. Beatnik music never gets old.
  8. Motorcyclists make the most durable serial killers because they always wear a helmet.
  9. Male can shriek just as good – if not better – than their female counterparts, if only to cause others to drolly utter the line ‘He made quite a noise.’
  10. T.L.P. Swicegood is a wonderful film director’s name.
  11. Some statues just had it coming.
  12. The humble rooftop plus a serial killer’s apparent dyspraxia can save a Final Girl’s life.
  13. If a movie is bad in most other respects, if the players themselves are having believable, chemistry-ridden fun, then on balance there’s enough enjoyment to have it on in the background of a Hallowe’en party.

3.6/5

31 Days of Hallowe’en, Day 29: I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in The House (2016)

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i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

What a pretty little bit of visual poetry. Like a visual novel. It’s honestly not what I would have expected, given that, from writer-director Oz Perkins, I’ve only seen a botched version of his script for mediocre slasher The Girl in the Photographs. But this – Netflix’s I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives in the House…is something different entirely.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

Lily (Ruth Wilson) is a live-in nurse caring for an elderly, retired horror novelist Iris (Paula Prentiss). Soon after she moves into the house, she begins to suspect that one of Iris’s most famous stories is based on a real murder that occurred in the house.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s not a slasher. Neither is it a creature feature, psychological thriller or a possession melodrama. It’s a simple, impeccably shot and gracefully acted one-woman show from an always-compelling Wilson. Narrated by her (with a shaky American accent) as the titular pretty thing, the story is a bare-bones peek behind a series of increasingly creepy doors, book-covers and stairwells.

i am the pretty thing that lives in the house netflix 2016

It’s all very highbrow atmosphere, with a flurry of beautiful frames and crisp, clear audio melancholy, but there isn’t much else. I can see why some have been disappointed; this is Netflix’s first original horror production, and it’s a deliberately muted, skeletal sketch of a ghost story. Given its length and repetitively gothic minimalism, the pace drags; it would have been far more chilling as (even a longer) short film, but it’s a quietly elegant viewing experience if you know what style to expect.

3.6/5