Archive | April, 2012

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) or livewithfilm begs you to bear with it…

30 Apr

Grant livewithfilm itself another indulgence whilst it recuperates. Yes this blogger understands that it may be tiring for readers to be constantly bombarded with viewings from the darker side of cinema, but, with undoubtedly selfish pretentions, livewithfilm finds it hard to stop itself from delving deeper into its favoured genre.

This historic film from Piers Haggard, a director whose name suitably conjures up associations with exhaustion and decay, sees a seventeenth-century English village slowly coming under the control of a demon. A coven of children cause chaos in the idyllic countryside, watching gleefully on as the body parts of superstitious villagers transform into fiendish claws and fur. It is left to the town judge to return, spear in hand, and purge the hamlet of its union with Satan.

From a period of earthy stylised horrors that drew on folk and pagan traditions, The Blood on Satan’s Claw is undeniably similar to the more celebrated The Wicker Man (1973), but if anything creates a greater impact with its uncompromising vision of youthful moral collapse. Whilst Christopher Lee waived his fee for his performance in the aforementioned classic, both he and horror stalwart Peter Cushing were considered too expensive for Blood on Satan’s Claw and their presence is missed. The gravitas lent by both actors would not have gone amiss in a film which occasionally loses its horrific momentum. Alongside this, (spoiler alert!) the final beastly revelation in Haggard’s film would have benefitted from greater restraint and suggestion. The intrigue that is built throughout the film is somewhat lost when the downfall of all humanity emerges to be a man in a wobbly bat costume. Seeming out of place, such a final disclosure of beastliness is not dissimilar to the studio imposed creature of Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon (1957). Yet such reservations retract little from this enjoyably nasty and surprisingly shocking British gem. The discovery of a demonic skull by a ploughing farmer, staring eyeball and all, is a superbly grisly opening and the eroticised devil worshippers remain disturbing throughout. Search this one out for some bad-natured fun!

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Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985) or livewithfilm fights the bug to attend triple bill no.1

27 Apr

As any self respecting horror fan can attest, there was going to be no way that livewithfilm could miss a midnight trilogy of its favourite gore-soaked trio. Manned with energy drinks and its own bodyweight in sweet and salted popcorn (don’t knock it before you’ve tried it), livewithfilm gave itself every support needed to last the night through. Rather bizarrely, the blood drenched triple bill had been a source of motivation for livewithfilm’s recovery: a living dead health goal. And livewithfilm was not even the keenest fan there… To those who were decked out in zombie face paint, t-shirts and themed outfits, livewithfilm salutes you with a rotting hand.

‘They’re coming to get you Barbara’ mocks an understandably sceptical ‘heroic’ figure at the start of George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Such reassuringly recognisable genre elements are swiftly ended once Johnny is dashed to pieces against the nearest grave stone. Despite its age and wit, Night of the Living Dead stills shocks, subverting what is expected of it with great glee. Following Barbra (Judith O’Dea) as she flees an unexplained wave of pursuing homicidal figures, Romero’s film sees her find shelter in a seemingly abandoned house. Joined by fellow fugitive Ben (Duane Jones), the pair is forced to contend with both the amassing zombie force outside and an aggressively defensive family in the cellar. Building slowly to an unrelenting pace for the final act, Night of the Living Dead is consistently entertaining and humorously subversive. Superbly grisly in black and white to boot.

Once the grim finale of Night of the Living Dead had flickered from the screen, the instantaneously blood-drenched opening of Dawn of the Dead left livewithfilm gawping. Without respite in between, the visual disparity between Night and Dawn added to the stunning violence of Romero’s 70s outing. Society is falling apart following an onslaught of zombie attackers. Keen to escape, four companions helicopter their way to a shopping mall, setting up camp in what they believe is an impregnable fortress. Neatly expanding the world of Night, Dawn develops the zombie vision on all fronts, amping up the monsters, blood and laughs into a heady mix of scares. Never as cuttingly satirical as Night, the film points its accusing finger at American consumerism: mindless zombies recreating the shuffling shoppers. Romero clearly isn’t satisfied with his nation’s culture.

Starting in the early hours, the unrelentingly grim Day of the Dead finished the night with the most complete (satisfying is the wrong word as the film is truly anything but) vision of an apocalyptic zombie nightmare. Working from a small bunker, a group of small survivors attempt to find any surviving remnant of humanity. Overseen by a tyrannical military commander, this band of scientists also continues their research into a cure that can save the world. Yet surrounded by the living dead, the claustrophobic atmosphere proves too much for the inhabitants. Day of the Dead is a tough watch even after six hours of gore. Yet superbly, it does boast Bub – the first sympathetic zombie. Livewithfilm did not expect to end the night rooting for a walking corpse…

The Hunger Games (2012) or livewithfilm fails to remember anything that it saw whilst on hospital strength pain killers

26 Apr

Returning to the blog has not been a simple task for livewithfilm. If this cinema fan has learnt one thing about a lengthy hospital stay it is that weighty dosages of morphine do not owe themselves to movie viewing. Relishing the fact that a long period of convalescence would allow time for plenty of screenings, livewithfilm was dismayed to discover that sitting in front of the laptop, all memory of these films had disappeared. Only able to recall snippets of what it has seen, livewithfilm is left with disappointing results: with no remnant of plot in this blogger’s mind, Drive (2011) was still an incredibly fraught and intense experience probably heightened by the general psychological confusion of its only audience member; the single abiding memory of American Gangster (2007) is the appearance of Stringer Bell, ahem Idris Elba, on screen, which did guarantee a highly enjoyable experience. Thus a newly straight-headed livewithfilm happily skipped to a local multiplex, guilt tripping those who had already seen today’s film into accompanying it.

After subduing a rebellion, the powerful leaders of the Capitol force each surrounding district to provide a boy and girl for the deadly Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers for the live television show, accompanying Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) to the gladiatorial competition which will see a single surviving winner. Trained by battle hardened tutees, Katniss and Peeta learn to contend with an oncoming battle that boasts thousands of audience members.

A behemoth of a blockbuster that neatly slots in to the ‘Tweenager’ audience shortly to be faced by the après-Twilight void, livewithfilm was surprisingly gripped by the grittiness at the heart of this business venture. Neatly realising a dystopian world, The Hunger Games is an intriguing an imaginative film that only pulls the punches to guarantee it’s commercially viable 12A rating. This veneer of violence is cleverly sustained through blurring camera cuts and rapid montages that suggest the audience have seen more than they are in fact privy to. Lawrence manages to cement herself as an actress strong enough to support the weight of this ongoing franchise, building on her indie successes with Winter’s Bone (2010). Even though essentially a reboot of the brutal Battle Royale (2000), The Hunger Games is an interesting and imaginative franchise starter: an opening instalment that if sustained, will rival those lovesick vampires for originality and spark.

But what did you think? Was The Hunger Games up to the standards of the book or did it suffer from the reduction in violence?