Eating Miss Campbell is the second feature film from subversive, Yorkshire-born director Liam Regan. Regan has already made quite an impact in the Indie Horror community with his debut feature ‘My Bloody Banjo’ which was unleashed upon unsuspecting audiences at Cannes in 2017.
If you have already seen ‘Banjo then you likely understand that Regan is a director who feels extremely comfortable in making people feel uncomfortable.
EMC opens on Beth Conner: a seventeen-year-old Vegan Goth who is doomed to relive high school as she embarks on the next stage of her Purgatory following a previous suicide.
You see, Beth is trapped living out her existence as the main character in an Indie Horror movie *wink wink* and her opening monologue confirms the Meta, self-awareness which the movie weaponizes to full effect.
Beth addresses the camera during her monologue, and remarks ‘’Let’s shoot this straight-to-dvd piece of shit, already!’’ and Regan responds offscreen with ‘’Physical media is dead!’’
This segment genuinely made me ugly-laugh, and it also explicitly sets the tone: this is satire, and it does not care if you are offended.
EMC deals with what some may perceive as ‘heavy’ themes: school shootings, self-harm, teenage suicide, cannibalism, the grooming of children in our school systems, and even the Weinstein’s.
This type of content is fair game for a Troma production, and they double as gag devices and as a searing social commentary on how Hollywood uses, consumes, and spits out people in the movie business.
Our social media, and news feeds are filled with real world horrors flooding our screens every day, and the desire to discuss these sensitive issues is often stifled by the fear of being cancelled.
These themes mock the idolisation which we often assign to high school shooters, mass murderers, and garden variety sex pests.
Regan is hyper-aware of this; watching his movies is an invitation to stop taking ourselves so seriously, and to laugh at the absurdity of everything life has thrown at us.
The way in which EMC portrays these risqué themes is pure Schlock, and the tone, exaggerated dialogue, and midnight-black humour reflects this.
In Beth’s most recent incarnation she must navigate the pitfalls of school life which include avoiding date-raping Frat Boys, and the elite group of popular girls whose behaviour would make the teens of ‘Heathers’ and ‘Mean Girls’ blush.
Beth’s guardians aren’t any more supportive of her: they are too pre-occupied with eating each other’s faces to notice the abuses which their daughter is being subjected to.
This is another clever dig at absentee parents, and the effect this can have upon the mental health of children and young adults.
There is a nice synchronicity here between the themes of cannibalism and sex: the urge to consume what we most covet acts as a nice parallel to the idea of cannibalism.
All is not hopeless for our ever-suffering Beth because she learns to fall in love… albeit with her English teacher.
Beth’s teacher Miss Campbell is portrayed by Lala Barlow who infuses the role with her audacious, kinetic energy.
Barlow is an utter force of nature: her theatre background shines through as she imbues every scene with her fiery presence.
Her voice rises and dips with the delivery of an operatic singer; her body contorts as she leaps from furniture with feline precision, and her ability to act using facial expressions alone makes her a rising star to watch out for.
Lyndsey Craine absolutely slays as Beth Conner.
Craine’s venomous delivery of dialogue is believable and funny; her exaggerated eyerolls, sarcastic head tilts and repulsed facial expressions belong to an actor who can convey emotions using her entire body.
Alongside Beth and Miss Campbell are a plethora of other bizarre characters who are straight outta Tromaville including a few notable cameos from Lloyd Kaufman, Laurence R. Harvey, Blade Braxton, Symren Gharial, Paris Rivers, Ria Fend, Unquiet Dead, and Dani Thompson.
Every single actor gives a standout performance as Troma caricatures- everyone has their own unique style which adds to the cartoonish charm of EMC.
A good friend of mine has a hilarious cameo during a dinner scene in which he delivers a one-liner in his thick Scottish accent.
Regan’s decision to add subtitles solidifies the joke from the perspective of an Englishman trying to navigate just what the hell us Scottish folk are actually saying.
A performance which stood out to me was of Blade Braxton who played The Midnight Rose.
Braxton’s booming voice, and showbiz presence elevates the penultimate final scenes of the movie.
Blade commands your attention with his large-than-life personality: his vocation as a professional wrestler is lovingly written into the script, and his Ringleader energy cements him as a scene-stealing star.
Tragically, Blade passed away in march 2021 and his passing left a massive hole in the hearts of everyone he touched including his Troma family, and his brother in crime Liam Regan.
I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been to continue this production following such a monumental loss but somehow Regan pulled it off, and EMC serves as a beautiful tribute to Blade of which he would be so proud.
In terms of production the stylisation of the movie also begs to be discussed.
The garish palette is reminiscent of a ‘Cartoon Network’ animation; the pastels of the mean girl gang beautifully clash with the buckets of claret which splatter across the screen.
The wardrobe department deserve a mention also: Beth’s black and white Goth wardrobe contrasts Miss Campbell’s mustard and red outfit (I see what you did there, Liam).
These clashing wardrobes are the perfect symbolism of how we view Vegan food (drab, grey) versus the fast food consumption culture (Miss Campbell is literally wearing Ronald McDonald’s colours).
The sound production is also fantastic: the revolting squelching noises during the gory cannibal scenes add to the hyper-real vibe of the movie.
There is also some fun world-building which includes characters from Regan’s debut ‘My Bloody Banjo’ for audiences to spot.
Eating Miss Campbell showcases a special FX team at their peak: everything is practical with absolute minimal CG, and the gore prosthetics are convincing whilst still adhering to that Troma look.
Laden with late 90’s/ early 00’s dialogue, kitschy characters, Splatter Punk aesthetics, and Meta awareness, Eating Miss Campbell cements Liam Regan as a unique rising voice in the Horror genre.
With the Godfather of Troma, Lloyd Kaufman in the Producer’s chair you may think you know what to expect however, Regan’s whiplash-fast script coupled with his ability to find the humour in Horror elevates the production above its Indie sensibilities.
Hilarious, gory, and featuring powerhouse performances with an utterly unpredictable script, Eating Miss Campbell asks you to leave your good taste behind as you gorge upon the visual feasts which lie in wait.
If you find yourself in Horror movie purgatory of late why not check out this powder keg of a movie- it will make you smile quicker than you can shriek ‘’WOOPSY-FUCKING-DAISY!’’ 4.5/5
The Five Fingers Of A Dog is a Giallo short from filmmaking duo Charlie Compton, and Justin Landsman.
To describe this short as merely a ‘throwback’ would be a disservice to its passionate creators.
This film IS Giallo, and its themes, iconography, stylisation, and storyline reflect this.
The plot centres around an obsessive detective whose latest case involves a masked serial killer who hunts using the cycles of the moon.
Qingshi Meng gives an impressive performance as the detective who is harbouring a dark secret, and forbidden tastes.
Meng truly takes it like a champ as he mimics auto erotic asphyxiation, quaff’s vials of fake blood, and indulges in forbidden perversions.
Joe Nalieth dons the iconic wardrobe of the killer; an impossibly tall, imposing figure hidden beneath the veil of a wide-brim hat and mask, complete with black gloves, clawed fingers, and an ornamental blade reminiscent of Argento’s early works.
These pastiche elements pay respect to a genre which is clearly adored by the filmmakers however, the creative team manage to conjure a new nightmarish vision in their own unique style.
There is an undercurrent of self-aware humour permeating The Five Fingers Of A Dog which is utterly charming.
The cliche Buddy Cop dialogue is intentionally dubbed badly, and the ADR often does not match the actor’s mouths moving; this is a subtle homage to 80’s Italian cinema where Italian language productions were often dubbed with audio from foreign actors.
A cop with a strong Boston accent (played by Calvin Kertzman) despairs as he tries to keep up with Meng’s increasingly erratic detective; this juxtaposition of the dialect we expect to hear in a Giallo genuinely had me ugly-laughing.
This is where the humour ends, and the horror begins to seep in amidst sets dripping with magenta lighting, coalescing shadows, and grisly gore.
The stylisation of the carnage presents an idiosyncratic spin on Splatter Punk aesthetics; claret bodily fluids shimmer beneath the glare of neon lights making blood, guts, and gristle appear a garish pink.
The camera zooms into sickly wet wounds at dizzying angles creating the claustrophobic sensation of having one’s own face being pushed into open wounds.
This film feels sticky and forbidden like an XXX video store display which taunts you into stepping aside.
The sound production is solid, and the violent scenes are complimented by absolutely revolting, wet, squelching sounds which elevate the depictions of murder.
The editing really impressed me- lingering shots of steeples, and church towers give way to shadow figures stalking dark passageways with a fluidity usually reserved for larger budget studio efforts.
Talking Heads give their police statements in perpetual darkness, and angular figures bite, tear, and filet beneath the glaring eye of the full moon.
As I understand it the production was entirely funded by a Go Fund Me which just surpassed its $1,500 goal.
This is seriously impressive considering the consistent quality of the director’s vision which is perfectly encapsulated onscreen.
I do not wish to spoil anything for wider audiences however, I will say that this film may subvert your expectations regarding who or, what the killer may be.
The unveiling of the killer is so bizarre, and unexpected; throughout the film we are fed breadcrumbs alluding to the killer’s identity, but we are simply not prepared for what is finally unveiled to us during the film’s shocking conclusion.
Themes of possession, Lunacy, addiction, perversion, and Americanised serial killer tropes are weaponised against the audience resulting in a very satisfactory, albeit disgusting finale.
I loved this movie, and I am deeply thankful to Justin Landsman for gracing me with a screener.
With a running time of twenty four minutes, The Five Fingers Of A Dog hits the ground running at a neck-breaking pace.
I found that the time passed too quickly, and I was left salivating for more of this Cosmic Neo-Giallo which has a distinctive Eldritchian flavour. 5/5 🖤’s
Titane is a Genre splicing Auto-Body Horror film from the beautifully grotesque mind of French filmmaker Julia Ducournau.
There is much talk amongst film critics, journalists and casual Horror fans describing this film as ‘’shocking’’, ’’triggering’’ and ‘’controversial’’… this film simply was not made for them.
Ducournau herself recently stated that her ‘’…intention is never to shock’’- she simply grabs the viewer by the throat and does not loosen her throttle.
The first three minutes alone feature a cataclysmic event in our young narrator’s life and, the first thirty minutes of this film WILL leave your jaw hanging.
‘Titane’ gives us what ‘Crash’ merely teased and features fetishized scenes showcasing sexual encounters with…cars… which are sure to make Cronenberg himself blush.
I would highly recommend going into this one blind; avoid the sensationalist spoilers and enter this neon-lit, chromatic, ruthless world alone much like our Protagonist Alexia does and you will fully appreciate the immersive experience which this cinematic art has to offer.
The film stars Alexia, a dancer who defies the word ‘exotic’ and relishes in her own art form which veers into the extreme spectrum of Alternative-Burlesque.
Agathe Rousselle debuts her acting skills here as Alexia, an outsider living with bodily Trauma as well as an undiagnosed mental illness in a world where she must constantly flee unwanted male attention while seeking out kinship in a soul who will accept her ‘otherness’.
There is no heavy-handed social commentary here; Ducournau presents a deeply flawed female with no cliché, cool affectations but instead alludes to themes of female trauma, women’s bodily autonomy, toxic masculinity, Gender Dysphoria, the Male Gaze, abuse, parental wounds and, society’s obsession with celebrity in both tender and brutal ways- this is not a Horror movie, this is Greek Tragedy encapsulated onscreen so that we may collectively share Alexia’s trauma.
When Rousselle is onscreen it is akin to witnessing a wild animal within her natural element.
She is physical and unpredictable- her feral sex appeal and unflinching stare are so naturalistic that it emotes an uncomfortable feeling within while holding our undivided attention.
Ducournau does not shy away from showcasing female sexuality and sensuality but does so in a way which defies the male gaze- Alexia dances for herself, for her beloved car and we are merely uninvited spectators.
One memorable scene which involves Alexia dancing atop her coveted muscle car is performed entirely in one take which defies the norms and restrictions of modern cinema.
It is dizzying, sensuous and features awe-inspiring dance sequences against a backdrop of neon lighting, V8 engines and the female form while never descending into gratuity.
Many will adore this film such as I did however, I absolutely needed time to process what I had just experienced and, I can see this element being divisive for some movie-goers.
There are tonal shifts throughout the story which may serve as a disappointment to those seeking a linear, gory Horror ride- this is not it.
The violence, gore and Body Horror are disturbing yes but they feel earned; there are lulls in the action which occur throughout different points in the story.
This film feels more like a Beethoven symphony- ebbing, flowing, speeding up and slowing it’s route; lulling us into false security before assaulting us once again.
The film’s reveal will subvert your expectations and its beauty lies within Ducournau’s ability to convince you that you are complicit in a cruel nightmare.
However, the finale belies the darker elements and, instead leaves us with an uplifting message: learn to love in a loveless world even when you have never been shown this yourself.
Titane will divide audiences but if you take the time to process everything which this film has to offer then, you may find that you love it afterall.
Olivia Wilde’s second feature film is based upon a story by Carey Can Dyke, Shane Van Dyke, and Katie Silberman.
It stars Florence Pugh in the leading role as Alice; a 1950’s Housewife living a charmed life in a Desert town with her high-ranking businessman husband Jack, who is played by Harry Styles.
Alice and Jack’s idealised community is home to other businessman/housewife pairings who spend their days working hard and, playing even harder.
The town of Victory is encompassed of Pastel-drenched Googie homes coupled with azure swimming pools which serve as the cartoonesque backdrop to ‘Darling’s surreal, dreamlike setting.
The films aesthetics are stunning in their 1950’s glory; first generation Chevy Bel Air’s hulk within every sun-bleached driveway as beautiful women in tight pencil skirts, and billowing Swing dresses float from party to party in neighbour’s homes which are uniformly coloured in daffodil-yellow, mint green and cherry-red, with contrasting wooden beams.
Women drip off sharply dressed men as cocktails are stirred and sexual tensions are shaken against a musical backdrop of Rockabilly/ Swing music.
Within the first ten minutes of the film is a lingering feeling of dread bubbling just below the surface; I found myself yearning for the lifestyle depicted within this universe however, this feeling was quickly replaced with a sense of hollowness.
All the characters in Don’t Worry Darling evoke a sense of falseness, and the undercurrent of unease stems from the notion that this party cannot last forever.
Once you strip away the alcohol, the plastic acquaintances, and the chronic sunshine you are left to ponder: what else is there?
What remains is a very clever plot device; the unease which is only exhibited by one or, two isolated characters is shared with the audience, making us feel privy to some dark secret which is hidden behind a veneer of projected perfection.
Alice’s friend and neighbour Margaret, played by Kiki Layne has started to show signs of mania and paranoia; she maintains that all is not as it seems in Victory’s paradise, and the moment she voices her concerns, she is gaslit, hushed and treated as a Pariah.
The fact that Margaret is black adds another perturbing layer to how her entire community choose to silence and exile her.
In real life, Kiki Layne has voiced her disappointment in having had so many of her scenes cut from the final production; this was apparent to me during my viewing as, Layne’s portrayal of Margaret felt like the catalyst for the entire plot, yet her scenes felt rushed, cut, and ultimately left me yearning for more of her.
Layne’s cut scenes contribute to a myriad of dramas which have plagued the production however, I would recommend going in blind without having wasted any time indulging in all the internet gossip surrounding the movie.
Admittedly, I did figure out the plot’s twist within the opening fifteen minutes however, this did not affect my overall enjoyment.
This film truly is a ride; it lulls you into a false sense of security with its opening party vibe, which is interspersed with bizarre, hypnotic visuals spliced into Alice’s dream sequences.
I genuinely cared where Alice’s arc took her, and I felt emotionally invested in the fates of both her and Margaret.
What I did not care for was Harry Styles’ performance; the man is a charisma vacuum and witnessing him trying to hold his own against the phenomenal Pugh was squirm-inducing.
Styles greatly impacted my overall enjoyment of the experience, which is a shame because all the other performances were excellent.
Chris Pine as the nefarious yet seductive Frank felt like a much better choice for leading man, yet he still oozed threat and intrigue during his limited screen time.
Florence Pugh stuns as Alice; meandering between agreeable, zombified housewife and outspoken Rebel whose mental state is teetering on the brink, Pugh slips in and out of extreme emotional states with unnerving ease.
Don’t Worry Darling may not present any wholly original ideas however, it gradually feeds us breadcrumbs which lead us down an insidious yellow brick road of otherworldly visuals, ensuring that our attention is captivated throughout.
If you have read any of the works of Aldous Huxley then you likely know where Wilde’s plot may be leading however, there are enough hypnotic, repetitive, Lynchian visuals on display to throw you off track, and to mess with your head in the gloom of the theatre.
This film excels in subliminally grooming us with its use of trippy imagery; pulsing, kaleidoscopic collages of 1950’s dancing girls coalesce in clinical-looking backdrops whilst thrumming base notes reverberate beneath.
Life imitates art as ‘Darling aims to subliminally influence its audience, mirroring how the fictional town of Victory hypnotises and seduces its subordinate women into living a life of servitude; the men work whilst the women remain home caring for them and their behemoth-sized homes.
I deeply enjoyed the feminine message which this movie has woven throughout its thrilling storyline.
The idea that a woman’s place is in the home may seem archaic to many young women and girls today however, I am old enough to remember this very expectation being instilled in me from a young age… An expectation which I rebelled against vehemently.
The women in Victory ascribe to this very ideal; they willingly ignore the red flags, warnings, and coercive control which their men are exhibiting simply because they are terrified of losing the security of their idyllic lives.
Wilde’s film became the UK and Ireland’s widest-ever opener by a female director debuting across 694 locations during its first weekend of release, mirroring the Feminist themes woven into the plot.
At times meandering, there are enough elements of Sci-Fi, Psychological dread, and surreal imagery to keep the audience invested in where the story is leading us.
Towards the movie’s finale I felt like I had spent enough time in the fictitious town of Victory which further added to the film’s claustrophobic atmosphere.
The pacing of felt like a piece of Classical music, lulling us with sweet notes, building to a crescendo, and swiftly dipping before rewarding us with its thrilling conclusion.
After an overstated exposition dump, the script rewards its audience with an ending so intensely satisfying and so cinematic that I felt like cheering once the end credits began to roll.
Although flawed in its pacing, muddled in its casting choices, and perhaps rather derivative in terms of its payoff, ‘Darling succeeds in presenting an interesting vision in the Dystopian Thriller genre.
Wilde dares her audience to question the status quo, to challenge gender narratives and to ask ourselves; is paradise a truth or, is it simply a mirage which has been manufactured to us as we sleepwalk our way through society?
Nope is the third film from visionary director Jordan Peele and, solidifies his position as a Genre filmmaker.
Nope centres around horse trainer/wrangler OJ (played by Daniel Kaluuya) and, his sister Emerald (played by Keke Palmer) who are left with the responsibility of running their father Otis’ ranch (played by the legendary Keith David) after he dies under bizarre circumstances.
OJ is brooding, and silent with the weight of the world resting upon his shoulders whereas, Emerald is sassy, confident, and full of chatty energy. OJ has a special bond with his horses, and doesn’t appear to have a social life or, any social connections outside of the ranch, and his family.
After their father dies, Emerald inserts herself into her brother’s life, his affairs, and his mounting debt.
A competitor ranch owner Jupa (played by Steven Yeun) who hosts grandiose, spectacle-chasing shows offers to buy some of OJ’s horses with the intention of using them in a new show he is planning.
Jupe’s actions may have directly triggered a series of dangerous, disturbing events which befall the neighbouring ranches.
Nope opens with OJ giving safety training to a group of filmmakers, and actors who have hired him to feature one of his personal horses in their production.
The crew show zero respect for OJ’s warnings around horse safety, and less respect still for his beloved horse. OJ is different; he carries the burden of trauma in his face, upon his shoulders, and within his speech mannerisms- the crew do not react positively to his mono symbolic talk but instead, light up with laughter and acceptance the moment Emerald enters the room.
Emerald emanates gusto, personality, and infectious laughter: the juxtaposition between the two siblings is never as apparent as when we witness how differently they respond to their environments, and the people therein.
I empathised deeply with OJ, and I immediately understood his sad frustration around feeling invisible, unheard, and unseen.
This ability of blending into the background may be the very quality which saves OJ’s life as the plot progresses.
Back at their ranch, OJ and Emerald fall into a rhythm and thrum of routine; OJ is single-minded in his desire to care for his horses and he’s determined to keep things ticking over while Emerald indulges in laughter, dancing, and persistent chatter trying to fill the void of their absent father.
During their first night together at the Haywood family ranch, the siblings notice a disturbing onslaught of noise spilling from the night sky.
I promise that this sound will haunt your dreams; it is the distorted sound of dozens of screams, both human and animal which appears to stalk OJ as he wanders around in the dark.
OJ looks up to catch a glimpse of a flying disc shape, moving away from him unnaturally fast which he later recounts to Emerald as ‘’Moving too fast. It’s BIG.’’
I feel like the first Slow-burn segment of Nope worked incredibly well for me; the initial glimpses we catch of a speeding UFO, coupled with the otherworldly screams which signal its arrival creeped me out far more than I was expecting.
Now, onto spoilers…
I understand that the underlying theme of Nope is the theme of Spectacle or, rather the human drive for Spectacle.
Peele’s decision to reveal his villain in all its foul glory in the final segment makes sense, after all, each of our main characters earn a living from Spectacle but I do feel that showcasing a terrifying creature in full daylight cannot help but detract from the initial feeling of unease and uncertainty which plagues Nope.
Perhaps, this is also part of Peele’s game; we spend the entirety of the movie guessing what this terrifying villain could be and, in true Lovecraftian terror, our preconceptions are crushed by the cold-blooded reality of it simply being a predator that lives to hunt, and to eat us.
I loved the unique way in which Peele subverted our cultural expectations; we live in a world fascinated with the idea of UFO’s or, UAP’s: Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon as cheekily described by Nope’s comic relief Angel Torres (played by Brandon Perea).
Angel works at Fry’s Electronics (a real-life electronics store which went out of business) and meets OJ & Emerald when they shop at Fry’s for surveillance cameras.
Collectively, we were all expecting the reveal to be what the creatures inhabiting the UFO look like when, in fact, the UFO ship was a Red Herring; the ship itself IS the creature.
OJ was the first to figure out this revelation; he warned that ‘’It’s not a SHIP’’ early on, and many did not interpret this clue at first.
There are many people online who are describing the most disturbing chapter of this film as being the infamous Gordy The Chimp incident however, the scene which curdled my blood is when we see Jupe’s loyal fanbase of customers who are unwittingly made part of his bloody spectacle.
The Gordy segment was inspired by the real-life story of Charla Nash who was horrifically mauled by her friend’s Chimpanzee Travis; a television and film actor who even appeared in advertisements for Coca Cola.
Travis belonged to Nash’s friend Sandra Herold who was rumoured to be in an inappropriate relationship with Travis; the pair even shared a marital bed.
When Charla visited Sandra and Travis one day, the chimp became aggressive towards her.
Travis was known to be protective of Sandra, and it is believed that when Charla made direct eye contact with Travis, he became very aggressive and proceeded to maul and mutilate her, resulting in extensive surgery and both face and hand transplants for Charla. Travis was shot dead at the scene by responding officers.
It is said that making direct eye contact with an unsociable animal is a signal of danger, or an aggressive display: the animal will interpret this as either a threat or, a challenge.
It is revealed early on that Jupe, a former child actor was present during Nope’s infamous chimp attack flashback where his life was spared when Gordy rampaged his way around a television studio, killing all cast and crew except for Jupe, who he left unharmed and, his co-star whom Gordy proceeded to savage, beat and, feast upon her face before the police shot him on sight.
When Jupe recalls these events, he presents himself as warmly recounting the memory; he smiles, laughs, pauses, but as an audience we are privy to his horrifying flashbacks and the lingering Trauma which these have left upon his psyche.
Jupe is somewhat Egotistical and, we get the impression that he believes that Gordy spared his life out of mutual respect and understanding; this narcissistic misconception that he has a special bond with ‘the other’ or, wild animals is what leads Jupe to his death.
What saves Jupe as a child is a ‘Bad Miracle’- because he is transfixed upon a bloodied shoe which is standing perfectly upright in his line of vision as he hides from Gordy, he inadvertently avoids making eye contact with the animal.
In present day, Jupe is desperately trying to wrangle in new customers to his ranch/ Western amusement park in which he capitalises upon the novelty of his business being smack in the middle of UFO Country.
It is during this segment that we are privy to Jupe’s reason for buying so many horses from OJ; he is using them as bait to draw in the UFO which he has tried to incorporate into his live show.
Jupe welcomes his fans and asks that they patiently remain in their seats for the upcoming spectacle with a firm warning to not use flash photography or, to point their phone cameras at the alien ship.
They do not listen.
What transpires next genuinely made my blood run cold.
It is pure Lovecraftian Horror which also triggered my irrational fear: Casadastraphobia- the fear of falling into or being sucked into the sky.
Peele has a knack for using subversive themes, irrational fears, and the language of Trauma to utilise his World-Building, and Nope is no exception.
When OJ’s UFO creature flies low to Jupe’s excitable crowd, everyone proceeds to stare, to point their cameras and to maintain eye contact with what is essentially a large predator which has a huge all-seeing eye.
As the crowd are sucked up into a vortex emanating from the creature’s mouth, we hear the distorted, dying screams of people and animals residing within its belly chamber.
The crowd are forced to listen to the dying as they are claustrophobically pulled into its gullet; limbs tangle with other limbs, people look upwards to see the digesting bodies of former victims, the fleshy folds envelope the suffering as they are pulled deeper into the gastric recesses to be slowly digested and consumed alive.
Both my Claustrophobia and my Casadastraphobia were triggered, and the idea of people being slowly, excruciatingly digested alive for hours and days is pure nightmare juice. Back at the Haywood Ranch, Peele gifts us another nightmare scene in which the UAP which OJ has nicknamed Jeanjacket after the first horse he tames hovers over the family ranch.
Its otherworldly screams heighten as it proceeds to ‘rain’ metal objects such as coins, keys, jewellery and scraps down before culminating in a scene of Biblical proportions.
The UAP literally rains blood down on the house, and I realised that this was in fact, the creature defecating what it could not consume of its poor victims.
This notion of Jeanjacket holding its victims in its stomach as it slowly digests them alive must be the worst movie fate of the past decade- I still think about it.
This Biblical scene echoes the undertones of religious terror felt throughout Nope; Jeanjacket even resembles the Seraphim- a flying genus of Angels made entirely of wings and one large eye.
Early in the movie, OJ ask his sister: ‘’What’s a Bad Miracle?’’ and we are left pondering whether we are meant to witness these at all; our morbid curiosity and, our pull towards grim spectacle may very well spell our doom as a species.
Peele employs his usual cunning foreshadowing in Nope; Gordy’s vicious attack is triggered by balloons popping- this scene literally echoes the solution for destroying Jeanjacket in the film’s penultimate moments.
OJ’s ability to speak an animal’s language is what allows him to tame and train them; a skill which he utilises to lead the creature to its death at the hands of his sister.
What I enjoyed about Nope were its Lovecraftian Horror, its religious euphemisms for humankind’s Ego and dominion over animals which will eventually lead to our downfall as a species and, its never-before-seen version of a UAP which, like nature is both beautiful and horrifying.
The idea being that, if we can name an animal, we can tame an animal belies our own respect for wild creatures; OJ understands our otherness to predators and how best to live alongside them.
I enjoyed Peele’s iconic use of music; the scene where Angel’s van stalls as his stereo blares ‘Sunglasses At Night’ is particularly clever, and equally haunting.
The song’s lyrics: ”I wear my sunglasses at night So I can, so I can Watch you weave then breathe your story lines
And I wear my sunglasses at night So I can, so I can Keep track of the visions in my eyes” foreshadows the solution for surviving Jeanjacket- cover your eyes, and do not stare directly at it.
Jeanjacket first hides from humans, hiding its form behind a cloud yet always monitoring us much like how we monitor wild animals behind glass cages, and the lives of strangers through the internet.
Nope also boasts an impressive soundscape/ sound design, using Sonics DDP and DTS-X.
The nightmarish, distorted Screams follow you around in the theatre, and you can feel Jeanjacket’s sky- piercing sonic booms in the speakers underneath your seat.
The sound quality adds to the bizarre, immersive feel which Nope has, planting you firmly amongst the action.
For the most part I enjoyed Nope and its ability to camouflage itself as a Sci-fi movie was impressive considering the depths of Horror which it slowly reveals to us however, I felt that the Slow-burn approach was wasted in its inflated, big screen epic finale.
Nope meanders between familial Drama, Horror, Sci-fi and social commentary which lends it a disjointed feel, and bleeds it of any real tension.
After the initial shock of what Jeanjacket really is wears off, we are left confusingly waiting for the conclusion or, simply the point.
Yes, the message focuses on our obsession with spectacle, from pointing cameras in the faces of wild creatures, or clamouring after fame at the risk of our own safety but overall, Nope was leading up to its own conclusion of showing its audience what a large studio budget can provide in the way of…spectacle.
Peele includes homages and nods of the head to other Genre films such as Close Encounters, Jaws, Fire In The Sky, Westerns, Tremors and even Akira with an impressive bike slide from Emerald but it does not respect the human need for mystery, the anticipation of a slow reveal, and importantly, not showing your movie monster up close and in daylight.
Michael Wincott plays Antlers Holst who is Nope’s White Hunter character: a wildlife director with an obsession to find the ultimate predator.
I found Holst to be a last minute addage to the roster of lovable characters
His inclusion is solely to make sense of the movie’s narrative: he is the white man obsessed with hunting the untamable predator, and he’s the only person who can catch Jeanjacket on film.
This is a shame given his abilities as a character actor.
I loved every single character and, Angel quickly became my favourite with his wry, nihilistic humour and, way of effortlessly befriending people, however, Nope ultimately cannot decide if it’s a character study or, a study in filmmaking.
Although disjointed, Nope packs enough humour, upbeat dialogue and sun-soaked daylight scenes to juxtapose the night-time horrors which it presents, resulting in a dolly mixture of genres.
What haunted me long after the credits rolled was Emerald’s speech early on; she states that the first moving images which would serve as a prototype for film featured her Great, Great, Great (another Great!) Grandfather as the first black stuntman/ horse wrangler/ actor ever featured in moving pictures- yet nobody remembers his name-they instead only remember the white director behind the camera.
Nope climaxes with the Haywood’s and Angel defeating Jeanjacket; Emerald has just enough time to photograph the creature which sherefers to as her ‘Oprah Shot’.
However, as Emerald lies exhausted in the dirt, proud of everything she and her POC brother and friend Angel have achieved, the camera pans over to a greedy mob of white journalists descending upon her victory- will the Haywood’s be remembered as the family who helped save the planet from aliens or, will people simply forget the poor black family who happened to live upon the UAP’s territory?
Will the media once again, edit history to suit their own narrative, THEIR version of events… their own unique spectacle?
X is Ti West’s return to Genre filmmaking and stars Mia Goth as Maxine Minx, an exotic Burlesque dancer turned aspiring Porn actor who believes that she is destined for stardom.
Maxine is joined by her smut-loving cohorts played by Brittany Snow, Jenny Ortega, Kid Cudi, Martin Henderson and, Owen Campbell who all travel to rural Texas to shoot a Pornographic home video.
When the free-love, Bohemian Hipsters arrive at the Texan ranch they are met by an aggressive old man with a shotgun demanding that they vacate his property promptly.
The old man named Howard, initially agreed to rent out his farmhouse solely to Wayne, played by Henderson and his confusion belies a darker edge despite his mature years.
From this point forth there is a creeping undercurrent of tension hanging in the air as Howard demands that the crew act respectively so as not to disturb his elderly wife whom he shares the property with.
However, the friends do not act respectively and make themselves at home sauntering around partially or, fully naked while a white, frail Voyeur watches from behind dark trees.
At first merely a blurry, white, feminine figure lurking in the background and, peering in through stained windows, the figure creeps closer and closer into the forefront of scenes bringing to mind a technique once infamously used in the BBC’s adaptation of The Woman In Black.
The woman in white reveals herself to be the elderly wife and, much like her husband has an air of menace smouldering behind her façade of friendly Grandma persona.
X subverts the expectations of both the audience and, of its main characters; at first we share their belief that the elderly couple are odd yet overall, harmless.
And, we are so very, very wrong.
The atmosphere veers into 70’s Shlock with its use of Funk music, gratuitous nudity and sex luring the viewer into a false sense of comfort; this story structure reminded me of A Serbian Film.
What starts out as sexy, alluring and, playful quickly descends into depravity the likes of which you will wish you could unsee.
I have come to expect the creeping tension and, the Polanski-esque subtleties often adopted by West having followed his film career for over a decade.
These subtle clues and, hints are certainly present in X- from the opening mural which depicts a blonde being chased by an Alligator, the televised sermons of an Evangelical Cult leader and, the unforgettable roadkill embellishing the crew’s truck which foreshadows an exceptionally grotesque fate to befall a main character.
However, where a younger West would relish in taking his time in building up to a horrifying reveal, today’s West has embraced excessiveness in all its Technicolor glory.
Admittedly, I felt a slight disappointment in realising that X was less Hitchcock in nature and more Fulci however, once I accepted this realisation, I was then able to enjoy the ride in all of it’s what-the-fuck glory.
West pays homage to Hitchcock in his storyline which begins as one genre of movie before violently veering into more Lowbrow territory much like the famous Sucker-punch gear shift in Psycho.
West’s inclusion of Easter Eggs and homages to his favourite directors include a Fulci eye Trauma scene, and th the use of shadows to depict suggested violence: once infamously utilised in Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
The overall opening tone is Pornographic B-movie Shlock a la Dolemite.
AJ, our ever-suffering cameraman comments ‘’just because it’s Smut, doesn’t mean that it can’t be a good movie’’ and, this message gives X a Meta, self-aware voice in its portrayal of how both Horror and, Porno movies are uneasy Genre twins regarding how society views them even to this day.
The films standout performance is Mia Goth who effortlessly veers between doe-eyed, sexy starlet, Trauma-riddled Blow Head and, eventually as the unstoppable force fighting her way out of a living nightmare.
Many people are going to find this film offensive; its depiction of casual Porn reveals more than most other mainstream movies are willing to showcase and, its impressive practical gore effects will have you wishing that your viewing came complete with a Barf Bag.
This isn’t even the most controversial side of the film but instead: it’s the portrayal of the Elderly which will leave some viewers feeling deeply uncomfortable and shocked.
We are so used to viewing the Elderly as harmless, sexless beings but what happens when our Ageism is met with scenes of old people committing unthinkable acts?
The elderly wife, Pearl begins her journey in the movie as a pathetic, sad old creature whom we feel sorry for until we simply cannot accept the bizarre, dangerous behaviours which we see her relishing in onscreen.
Pearl is also played by Mia Goth and, I was dumbfounded to discover this upon writing this review.
Maxine is described by her cheating boyfriend Wayne as ‘’having that X Factor’’; a clever nod to the films self-aware title and overlapping themes.
Pearl has a disturbing fascination with young Maxine and her once sympathetic demeanour quickly crosses serious boundaries through her attempted molestation of the young Starlet.
As an audience we wince and, shudder alongside Maxine who recoils in disgust at the old woman’s touch demanding to know why she would do this.
Maxine’s reaction made me feel that this was an underlying Trauma response; she self-soothes after storming away in anger, by snorting cocaine and, muttering positive affirmations to herself.
Later when Pearl’s subtle, invasive behaviours escalate we are thrust into a scene which is so intense, so grotesque and, so deeply emotionally disturbing because we simply do not expect this type of behaviour from the Elderly.
And therein lies our societal judgments and, prejudices; why do we presume that old equals harmless?
Why do we assume that the old are innocent when simply, they are just people with the capacity for both kindness and, menace in equal measure?
It is this worldwide belief that the aged can do no wrong which befalls our main characters in X and thus, seals their fate.
In one extremely tense scene we see Maxine skinny-dipping in a vast, muddied lake while unbeknownst to her, an Alligator stalks her every move and is mere seconds away from attacking.
Maxine’s lack of sense regarding danger approaching succinctly aligns with how she also shrugs off Pearl’s invasive, inappropriate behaviour after she seductively touches her when the two are alone together.
Pearl is also stalking her, drinking her in with ravenous eyes while simply waiting for her moment to strike; her camouflage is her flowing nightgown and her brittle frame.
West lends his knack for subtle foreshadowing in other plot points: during an emotive scene where Brittany Snow’s character Bobby-Lynne sings along to Stevie Nick’s ‘Landslide’ on acoustic guitar.
Nicks claimed that Landslide’s lyrics revolve around her world crashing down around her while she scrabbled to hold onto her youthful dreams before old age set in; clearly this juxtaposes Pearl’s frustrations she feels towards the young Maxine’s blossoming sexuality.
The Mise En Score of the film is very reminiscent of 1970’s Exploitation cinema in its use of camera angles, saturated colours, and shots which include an opening camera angle fitting the same aspect ratio as seen in VHS movies before zooming into a sprawling, desolate landscape.
The fantastic OST also includes effective use of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t Fear The Reaper’ which perfectly echoes Pearl’s fear of dying while also serving as a sick joke denoting the grisly fate of another character.
While cameraman RJ is a Voyeur on his Porn set, he recoils at the idea of his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega) partaking in lewd acts on camera herself just as he recoils at Pearl’s unwanted advances towards him.
In a particularly heart-wrenching scene, we see RJ crying uncontrollably in the shower after witnessing his prude girlfriend having sex with another man on camera.
Here, West plays with our expectations around sex, masculinity, and the types of behaviours we have been conditioned to expect from men and women.
Pearl’s narrative largely encompasses the frustrations of feeling sexy on the inside while her body decays on the outside; it is an alternate mirror view of impotency which we are so used to hearing in relation to older men.
Her frustrations which once simmered below the surface are now spilling out, and her envy of the sexualised young people surrounding her prompt her into increasingly horrendous, unspeakable acts.
Admittedly, I found two scenes in X particularly disturbing.
West toys with his audience like the proverbial cat playing with its tortured mouse.
He presents depictions of sexual assault as well as one lurid sexual act so gratuitously; so unflinchingly that I guarantee you will not have seen anything similar in film.
And you will feel guilty for it just as you may have felt guilty when witnessing a particular scene in A Serbian Film for the first time.
Ti West successfully brings another convincingly Throwback vision to fruition, laden with cool music composed by frequent collaborator Tyler Bates as well as the swinging sounds of the 70’s.
Garnished with West’s repetitive imagery which features so prominently in his work, expect full moons, stained glass window panels, creepy old ladies, basements and old school motors.
Apparently, the audiences at the SXSW screening were treated to a post-credits scene which promises a prequel to X called ‘Pearl’.
X was conceived during quarantine with production taking place in rural New Zealand and, the fears of diseased flesh, of the Other, of losing one’s sex life are reflected onscreen.
Considering the current state of the world I can only shudder in anticipation at what phobias and revulsions play out in ‘Pearl’ which is due out later this year.
A24 is not shy of taking risks with the content it distributes, nor is Ti West.
I look forward to seeing his latest foray into possible Trilogy territory with X’s prequel/ sequels.
I can only hope that ‘Pearl’ doesn’t leave us all sobbing uncontrollably in the shower following its premiere. 3.5/5 🖤’s
Mad God is special FX guru Phil Tippett’s Magnus Opus and, is the culmination of thirty years of relentless work, creativity and, nervous breakdowns.
Beautiful, horrific and, filled to the brim with Goyaesque wartime imagery; Mad God is not a journey for the faint of heart but one which will reward you for your perseverance throughout the many hellscapes and, abominations showcased in Tippet’s legendary vision.
Tippett himself is quoted as saying that Mad God is best enjoyed with an edible… I tried this.
It certainly was a more fulfilling and, immersive experience albeit an emotionally unpleasant one.
Mad God is genius alchemized into the Hero’s Journey framed by Miltonesque hellscapes.
Truly unique and, unforgettable.
2. V/H/S 94; Screenplay: David Bruckner
Dir: Simon Barrett, Timo Tjahjanto, Jennifer Reeder, Ryan Prows, Steven Kotanski, Chloe Okuno
Anthology movie V/H/S 94 gave 2021 the penultimate mascot which we had all been waiting for: Ratma’a.
The Storm Drain segment featuring Ratma’a or, Ratman is the most fucked up fun I’ve had while watching a movie in a long time.
V/H/S 94’s other stories brought forth a myriad of Lovecraftian nightmare creatures, Body Horror and 80’s style Schlock all stitched together by some of the most creative Indie directors in the business.
V/H/S 94 has enough unique monsters, creepy premises and, new Urban Legends to have you fast-forwarding the tape beyond the scary parts.
3. Hunter Hunter: Shawn Linden
Technically, Hunter Hunter is a 2020 release however, we never received a UK-wide release until 2021 so, I’m includng it!
Hunter Hunter is a barren, wintry Slow Burn with enough tension, shocks and, WTF moments to satisfy even the most weathered Horror fan.
The story may begin as a Survivalist Drama however, it slowly morphs into an Extreme Horror film complete with the most shocking ending of 2021.
This film will break your heart, extinguish your hope and, will leave you wishing that you didn’t believe the hype.
4. Titane: Julia Ducournau
Titane has reignited French New Wave or, French Extreme Cinema.
From the visionary director who brought us Raw, Ducournau presents us with her own warped love story about a girl and her… Car.
Titane promises what Cronenberg’s Crash merely flirted with: the sexual union of woman and, car.
This film is not purely shock value, and the director herself states that her “intention is never to shock…” but rather to run with the sentiment that love can overcome even the most violent and, broken of hearts.
Titane encompasses cinema’s obsession with ‘The Male Gaze’, its fascination with Heteronormative gender stereotypes, with women’s bodily autonomy and, instead filters these subject matters through a Body Horror lense.
Agathe Rousselle’s feature debut as complicated Protagonist Alexia will surely cement her as a star: she stuns, subverts expectations and, shocks with her incredibly physical yet feral performance.
5. The Boy Behind The Door; Dir: David Charbonier, Justin Powell
Taut, Indie Thriller The Boy Behind The Door was a Shudder-Exlusive hidden gem in 2021.
The story alludes to the very delicate yet harrowing subject matter of child abuse without ever falling into gratuity.
The films weapon lies within its ability to provoke tension while showing very little.
Because the story is mostly set in one location and, features a cast of only a few main characters, this adds to the atmosphere of anxiety and, anticipation which seeps from the screen.
I genuinely cannot remember the last time I felt so immersed in a work of fiction.
Captivating, emotional, and, anxiety- inducing, this film offers a satisfying payoff as reward for holding your breath for 80 minutes.
6. Antlers; Dir: Scott Cooper
In an isolated Oregon town surrounded by acres of woodland and Mines, Antlers offers a modern spin on a classic Cryptid Folktale.
A school teacher becomes preoccupied with her enigmatic yet clearly troubled young student who harbours a dark, unsettling secret.
Antlers felt a little disappointing due to the long time I had spent trying to watch it amidst multiple lockdowns coupled with the hype buzzing around this film.
The film still presents a tragic, Grimm Fairytale take on very real Traumas such as child neglect, drug abuse and, classism which are still rife in more impoverished areas.
The Cryptid or, monster in Antlers is genuinely frightening if somewhat underused: the special FX team really surpassed themselves.
Guillermo Del Toro produced this Native American Fable and, this may explain the overall tale of hope and, the perseverance of love amidst nightmares.
7. Coming Home In The Dark; Dir: James Ashcroft, Screenplay: James Ashcroft, Eli Kent
This New Zealand Psychological Thriller very much feels like a journey.
I watched this film with my partner one night and, we were both utterly enthralled.
Coming Home In The Dark feels heavily inspired by Sleepers with hints of Martyrs: a true story of heinous child abuse at the hands of authority figures.
The pace grabs you by the scalp and, forces you to both witness and, share the terror as experienced by the lead characters.
Coming Home In The Dark WILL manipulate your empathy and, you’ll spend time sympathising with very bad people.
The film is very much a journey shared by both antagonists and, viewers alike: it will leave you questioning your own moral compass while demanding to know what would you do if faced with such real world atrocities?
8. A Quiet Place II; Dir: John Krasinski
Another box office release which fell victim to the Pandemic, A Quiet Place II’s delayed release may have actually been Kismet at play.
During a time when we were all stuck indoors, this movie served as the perfect reflection of the tumultuous times which we were collectively enduring.
Written and, directed by John Krasinski, the sequel offers a more expansive insight into the world building as presented in the first film.
Once again we join the Abbott family as they traverse the dangerous landscape bordering their home filled with alien threats who use noise to hunt.
I particularly loved the character arc of Regan: a young girl whom resents her own disability (complete deafness) yet soon learns that her being deaf is in fact, her superpower.
We get to see more of the alien creatures which remain a very unique and, frightening design.
This film is as equally tense as its predecessor yet with even more heart.
A feel good film despite all of the drama, carnage, trauma and loss depicted.
9. Le Calendrier/ The Calendar; Patrick Ridremont
The Calendar is another Shudder (UK) exclusive and showcases a Christmas Fable focusing on a Paraplegic lady who appears to be mistreated and taken advantage of by everyone in her life.
The Calendar is another entry in my personal top 10 which alludes to themes of loneliness and, isolation as experienced by many disabled people…myself included.
Embellished with Faustian imagery, Jungian nightmare creatures and, carrying the timeless warning of: “be careful what you wish for”, this film is a rather unique experience.
There is one particular scene which I found difficult to watch however, it does serve a purpose: to act as the catalyst for our protagonists choices and, ultimately her Fate.
At its core, Le Calendrier is a commentary on our treatment of the disabled, of the ‘Other’ in society and, how we adapt in order to survive in the face of impossible choices.
10. Lamb; Dir: Valdimar Johannsson
A24’s latest headfuck, Lamb is the debut feature from Icelandic Poet/ Lyricist/ Writer Sjon.
In rural Iceland, an isolated couple live off the land farming sheep and, welcoming no visitors.
Noomi Rapace stars as Maria, a woman in mourning who appears to simply exist rather than live alongside her joyless husband.
When a unique newborn enters the lives of the couple, this triggers a cascade of catastrophic events as well as, a reveal which you won’t soon forget.
2021 was a real world horrorshow: why not discover/ revisit some of these titles to remind yourself that the worst is already behind you.
In episode 2 of New Blood: Storm Of Fuck, we see Jim fully slip back into his old Dexter skin as he indulges in a little post-murder clean up following his relapse involving Matt Caldwell.
Matt’s father, Kurt (played by the legendary Clancy Brown) is out for vengeance before his son’s disappearance has even officially been confirmed as a murder.
Kurts bristling anger and passive aggressive attitude towards chief of police, Angela perhaps belies his casual racism towards Native Americans as well as a lack of trust in females whom hold positions of power.
Meanwhile, Dexter’s once tranquil cabin home has been upturned by the town’s entire police force as they hunt for Matt using K9 sniffer dogs, drone equipment and, forensics.
Dexter: New Blood amuses me the most when it is aping it’s predecessors energy; seeing Dexter becoming mildly irritated following exposure of his gruesome crimes is endlessly funny to me.
Despite its title promising a shitstorm following Dexter’s disposal of Matt, episode 2 lingers within the confides of one location and feels like a halt in pacing.
There is more focus placed upon Dexter and Harrison’s strained relationship, however there also feels like a lack of any real tension or drama.
Meanwhile, a moody Harrison is licking the wounds from his past as he haunts his birth father’s home like a spirit trapped in Limbo; the push-pull of two men struggling to acknowledge their shared Traumas and, blood is indeed powerful stuff.
As the episode meanders between family melodrama and lazy CSI scenes, we are privy to darker developments rising in this sleepy community.
I am going to state the obvious here; Kurt is bad news.
Episode 3 grants us glimpses of another storyline playing out alongside the family dramatics of Dexter and Harrison’s life together.
We see a drunken girl waking up in a creepy hotel room full of surveillance cameras as a masked voyeur watches her every move.
As this plot thread progresses, so does its creep factor- this hotel room locks from the outside and the drunken girl may in fact be prey for a much stranger predator.
My main criticism here is that the ‘unknown’ assailant clearly resembles Clancy Brown; his huge frame and height fills the screen and, his striking, wide-set eyes obviously betray the big reveal of this season’s serial killer: Kurt Cauldwell.
Kurt’s motivations may be unclear at this stage although they say that children pay for the sins of their Fathers; Matt’s hunting sins may mirror the dark urges of an authoritarian Dad with a penchant for hunting another animal entirely…
Interestingly, the standout actor in this episode is the spectre of Deb; now cursed to watch over the brother who took her life while he currently sabotages his own.
Jennifer Carpenter stuns as Deb, the spectre of Dexter’s past who thrives on taunting rather than haunting her big brother.
Her aggression, anger and, unresolved Traumas flood centre stage, cementing her once again as a fan favourite albeit in a different reincarnation from the foul-mouthed cop we once knew and loved.
Storm Of Fuck climaxes in a return to familial stability for Dexter, pity then that bloody footprints in the snow may signal the route to his downfall…
Despite being the most entertaining episode thus far, ‘Smoke Signals’ made me cringe a little over the mounting coincidences which appear to let our titular serial killer off the hook.
With the pressure building and, suspicions growing among the Iron Lake police force, a simple ‘blind spot’ in wildlife surveillance cameras appears to let Dexter off the hook regarding his compliance in Matt’s disappearance.
The lacklustre police work conducted here reflects the ineptitude of Miami’s finest in previous seasons but hey, familiarity is what draws us back to televisions favourite Neighbourhood Dark Parssenger, some ten years later.
While we are discussing familiar territory, what do we think of Iron Lake’s own adorable oddball: CSI Damien?
I found myself instantly drawn to Damien despite him being an obvious substitute for C.S. Lee’s fan favourite Vince Masuka.
Damn, I miss Masuka.
However, Masuka’s risqué, overtly sexual limericks and flirtations would likely send modern audiences into an avalanche of complaints.
Meanwhile, Harrison’s story arc continues to intrigue and delight.
We see Harrison integrating into high school life like an end level boss; he surpasses his IQ test at such an advanced level that his new headmistress assumes he must be cheating.
There is a wedge driven between Harrison and Dexter when Dex fails to defend Harrison’s corner; another confirmation that Harrison isn’t truly accepted yet.
We also witness Harrison’s deep-rooted Locus Of Evaluation when he turns on his newly made classmates the moment he discovers they are bullying a fellow student.
Harrison’s extreme switch from placid bystander to Dark Avenger in under five seconds is a joy to witness; could this boy be a vehicle for vengeance, and will we ultimately witness the Trigger for his own transformation into a Killer?
Outside of school, the fate of the drunken hotel girl is finally discovered; we witness her die at the hands of a bulking figure, dressed in white army fatigues who clearly loves to toy with his victims before hunting them down.
I couldn’t help but spot similar aesthetics between New Blood’s unknown assailant and, real life Sniper: The White Death.
The White Death was a moniker given to Finnish Sniper Simo Hayha who single-handedly defended Finland against the invading Soviet Union Army.
Simo earned his nickname by lying in wait in sub-zero conditions, half buried beneath the snow in his white fatigues.
His ghostly presence remained undetectable by invading forces and, in turn enabled him to shoot and kill 500 men in 100 days amidst the most savage of winters.
Iron Lake’s killer also wears white fatigues, relishes ‘working’ in snowy conditions and, appears to be a very capable Sniper as he guns down his newly released prey.
The contrast ends here; Simo was a real life war hero whereas New Blood’s killer seems to be another formidable killer with a penchant for hunting women.
Another interestingly creepy storyline involves billionaire Edward Olson who relishes in tormenting Angela’s daughter, Audrey.
Olson appears to be yet another man hiding ulterior motives who also enjoys intimidating women and girls. I am sensing a theme of the Underdog emerging within this season.
I also found the portrayal of Native communities a nice step forward in televisions depiction of America’s original peoples.
The care and respect in depicting a Native death ceremony for the murdered white stag was handled beautifully; the camera pans away, not allowing outside eyes to witness the sacred rites of the Tribe.
The line between homage and cultural appropriation is a silken one and, I respect the showrunners decision not to depict the inner workings of how the Natives grieve their dead.
These spiritual events are not for our outside eyes; to depict these would be sacrilegious, much like the killing of a rare deer upon Native land, as witnessed in episode 1.
New Blood’s Underdog narrative isn’t exclusive to one societal group; we engage with a teenage boy with Trauma, young women and girls from broken backgrounds and, Indigenous people fighting the Occupation of their beloved homeland.
We have seen women and girls portrayed simply as ‘Prey’ in a million different Horror franchises however, the women of New Blood are strong willed, fierce and intelligent; be careful because what you hunt may not go down without a fight.
Showtime’s Dexter returns after a decade-long hiatus with a new isolated, winterly location and features new characters plus, a few old familiar faces.
Asides from Harrison, now a teenager, the confides of age appears to have missed both Michael C. Hall and, Jennifer Carpenter respectively.
Florida’s sun-bleached beaches, neon-lit skylines and Cubano culture have been replaced by snow-littered forest floors, winter treelines and, a sheltered hunting community.
Dexter has forged an inconspicuous life for himself among the friendly, unsuspecting people of Iron Lake, Oregon.
Iron Lake may be a fictitious town but make no mistake, the struggles reflected of living in a small community which relies on the tourism of the hunting trade are real; rich, entitled assholes can appear anywhere.
Being an Edinburgh native who grew up on the outskirts in a small mining town, I know all too well the frustrations of having life’s routines disrupted by privileged tourists when our tiny city is pimped out to big London developers for tourist attractions while the rest of us struggle on the breadline.
The first episode of New Blood features no flashy serial killers, instead the enemy is the archetypal, aggressive Frat Boy with the rich daddy who believes that his dangerous behaviours are untouchable; trust me, you will LOVE to hate on this guy.
Steve M. Robertson’s turn as the aforementioned Frat Boy, Matt Caldwell must have had a riot screwing, punching and shooting his way throughout episode 1 as, the polar opposite of Michael C. Hall’s calm, everyday good guy Jim Lindsay (Lindsay being a nice nod to Jeff Lindsay who penned the original series of novels); the alias which Dex now uses as part of his new identity.
Until Dexter simply kills him off in the final act…
Personally, I felt that this conclusion felt extremely rushed and, shoe-horned in given that Dexter has just endured through a decade of (homicidal) sobriety.
Sure, they say that an addict will always be an addict even when they are not using but for Dexter to give into his baser desires so suddenly demands a closer inspection.
Leading up to this sudden relapse, we see Matt cajoling Jim with ‘playful’ threats of violence, offers of Class B drugs, exposing himself during an interrupted sex session and, even waving an assault rifle in his face.
Jim does not, cannot, react until we see him stalking a beautiful, rare white stag through the snowy forest surrounding his peaceful log cabin home.
The primal desire for connection to this elusive creature piques Jim’s inner child; his tenderness and, innocent love of the wild peaks through the shadow of his Dark Passenger.
Then Matt kills the deer, very nearly shooting Jim in the process.
I can intuitively sense what the writers were trying to do here; Dexter’s Dark Passenger has lay dormant and, Jim now fills his driver seat with a tender empathy for animals which he refuses to hunt or, kill.
Matt represents the force of chaos which man brings down upon nature’s beautiful creatures, dimming the light on Jim’s heart- Matt kills Jim’s HOPE and, that hopelessness forces the old Dexter out of hiding, similar to an addict facing the mistakes of their past and, turning to using again as escapism.
While poetic, this story arc felt rushed and, although I cheered when Matt’s unconscious body found its way onto Dexter’s shrink-wrapped table, I can’t help but wonder how fun this dynamic of light versus dark may have been to watch unfold just a little while longer.
Dexter’s sister, Deb returns, now in the form of the ghost of the life he left behind, taking on the role of Dexter’s ‘Conscience’ replacing his father as the voice of reason, influencing his thoughts and actions like some kind of hallucinatory Jiminy Cricket.
The return of his son, Harrison signals a new chapter in his life, appearing around the same time as Dexter’s Dark Passenger makes a tragic reappearance.
Welcome home, Dexter Morgan!
Although predictable, Dexter: New Blood holds that comforting familiarity one may take from a Starbucks; the flavour may be the same in every other town, but we still crave the warm embrace of bittersweet just as Dexter craves New blood. 4/5 🖤’s
Dexter: New Blood is now airing via Showtime in the US & via Sky Atlantic in the UK.
A24’s Lamb is the debut feature from Icelandic director Valdimar Johannsson featuring a script written by Icelandic poet/ lyricist/ writer Sjon. It stars Noomi Rapace as the lead protagonist in this dark, Folklorian Drama-Thriller.
In rural Iceland, an isolated couple (Noomi Rapace as Maria, Hilmir Snaer Gudnason as Ingvar) live off the land, farming sheep and welcoming few visitors.
The film opens on a sweeping, desolate landscape straight out of Nordic Fairytale, and the childless couple go about their duties willingly but with little passion.
Before writing this review, I had not known that the script was penned by a Poet/Lyricist however, Sjon’s minimal prose, interjected with long moments of silence absolutely reflect this.
Lamb began its casting process back in February of 2019 but was not distributed until June of 2020 meaning that Kismet graced this production given the film’s core themes of isolation, feeling trapped together in a loveless situation and, fear of the Outside.
Surely Lamb should serve as the perfect accompaniment to the current climate of the world given the separation, enforced solitude and paranoia which so many of us have had to endure.
However, at its core Lamb’s message belies the rape of Mama Nature’s beautiful resources, creatures, and environments for human gain. Lockdowns gave our natural world some respite; we were witness to wild goats venturing into town centres, foxes casually stalking along urban paths and, flocks of birds coalescing against the night-time sky.
The utterly anarchistic rebellion of our once rarely seen woodland creatures held up a mirror to our invasive habits as a race; Lamb reflects this beautifully in its simple yet utterly cruel arc.
The film’s miniscule cast of only three (human) main characters adds to the claustrophobia shared by Maria and Ingvar who appear trapped in a passionless marriage, desperate for a child which they cannot have.
An immaculate conception welcomes a new family member and, the couple’s home is once again filled with laughter, affection, and hope.
The Maria and Ingvar’s duties shift, as do their overall attitudes and demeanour…until the arrival of Ingvar’s rowdy, drunken brother Petur. Petur is immediately suspicious of the new arrival, a little girl named Ava and, conflicts rise between the four family members.
Believe me when I say that this is the only synopsis you will need before viewing this achingly beautiful and heart-breaking story because this film truly is a journey and, the greatest journeys in life are best traversed with little foresight as to the destination.
As beautiful as Lamb is to view it is also an extremely tense experience; it carries the air of potential chaos brewing in the periphery and, I cannot remember the last time I physically held my breath during a film viewing.
We are privy to Maria stealing something from nature, giving nothing in return and then needlessly taking again, resulting in bloodshed, tragedy while, exposing her callous nature when things don’t entirely go her way.
Rapace is stunning as ever; her beauty appears free of the confides of time and she throws her soul into Maria holding our gaze as she descends into guttural, screaming rage.
Young Ada anchors the adult characters in the charming innocence of childhood, but adults will always find a way to screw things up through alcohol, quarrels and paranoia; traits reflected in the eyes of the innocent.
The animal actors in this production emanate what the human cast lack; a comfortability in their own skin and, a pureness which many of us lose with the Traumas of age and, of life.
The film handles Trauma largely from the viewpoint of the animals, a unique perspective in film, in a world so enamoured with human gain. What must animals think of our fighting, division, and needless cruelty?
Lamb answers this question extremely bluntly and forewarns us of what may happen if Gaia fights back. Earth is a living organism while we are merely parasites; what if we were finally expunged from her loving embrace?
Lamb’s revenge is one of Earth’s lost innocence and, its shocking finale will divide audiences who may not be able to accept its bizarre, gut-wrenching conclusion.
I am not sure if I enjoyed this film however, it did affect me emotionally and, here I am, one week later still trying to process its visceral experience.
Such is often the way with a new A24 release.
Afterall, the best Horror films tend to creep into our minds like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. 3/5 🖤’s
Lamb is available in cinemas across the UK through A24 on: 10/12.
*Apologies for omitting the Icelandic letters when referring to the filmmakers/ cast- my keyboard will not allow them!*