Gothic

Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)

Last year, the BBC graced upon us the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen in lieu of a full length feature ever appearing. Last time it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and then last year, it was regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in the series 8 opening, Deep Breath.

Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appeared to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.

After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that had been the previous Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffatt wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that managed to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era.

Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties, which certainly gave the whole thing a bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It doesn’t sound much on paper, but revisiting the scene still gives chills.

Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.

This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during The Twin Dilemma. Of course, as the series progressed, there would be further examples of her being left out to dry, but Clara managed to scrabble back her dignity and eventually became The Doctor. If only for a short time.

Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi has certainly become one of the more iconic interpretations. He’s rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples. In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (i.e. us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.

Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Of course, we all know what happened to her. Or do we? Deep Breath was bursting with fun and was the perfect jumping on point for those who still hadn’t dabbled in Nu-Who over the last ten years.

Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up as the ninth season approaches.

Here’s hoping.

Deep breath everyone.

 

Advertisements

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook is masterpiece. There, we said it. ‘Pull-quote baiting hyperbole,’ we here you cry, but we honestly mean it.

Directed and written by Jennifer Kent, The Bababdook focuses on a widowed mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Sam is a troubled soul who is need of constant attention from Amelia. He fears the monsters who live under his bed and closet, constructing gadgets to ward off the evil creatures. To Amelia and us, they are simply products of an overactive imagination. Amelia, meanwhile, struggles from horrifically losing her husband in a car accident. She daydreams through life, moving from home to work to home again. When Sam is removed from his school, Amelia struggles to cope with his demands and in an effort to appease him one night, she allows him to choose a book for bedtime. He chooses The Babadook, a pop-up book that warns of a creature that stalks the night. Once you know of its existence, it refuses to go away. And from there things, as to be expected, go awry.

Kent’s film is a beautifully played ghost story that in part is also a gut-wrenching allegory about loss and depression. Essie Davis gives a nuanced performance that believably intensifies as The Babadook seeks to take control of their lives. In her hands, Amelia is fragile, not because movie conventions dictate that women must be so when they face the boogedyman, but because her life has made her so. She is someone very close to the edge and the slightest wind will push her into the abyss.

The Babadook didn’t get the greatest of releases in Australia so it’s good to see the response it’s getting outside of its home country. Halloween might have gone for the year, but there is no excuse not to see this great piece of art. Simply fantastic.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)

Warning: The following contains spoilers.

Once again, the BBC have graced us with the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen. Last time, it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and now it’s regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in this, the series 8 opening.

Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appears to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.

After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that was last year’s Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffat has wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala.’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that still manages to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era. Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties in this season opener, which certainly gave the whole bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It’s great to see Doctor Who experimenting with people at the helm, and it’ll be fascinating to see what Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) does with her pieces later this year.

Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman has had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.

This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during the Twin Dilemma.

Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi looks set to be one of the more iconic interpretations. He was rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples (or did he?). In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (ie us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.

Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Deep Breath was bursting with fun. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up. Here’s hoping.

Deep breath everyone.

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

Eve (Tilda Swinton) lives in Tangier. Her husband, Adam (Tom Hiddleston), in Detroit. Eve lives vibrantly from day to day, surrounded by her books. Adam, a musician, is disillusioned with life, hiding away from the world and his fans. At first introductions, they don’t seem to have much in common. However, they love each other passionately and unashamedly. They also happen to be vampires. After Adam hints at ending his life, Eve rushes to his side.

Despite the potential for bloodletting and, god forbid, sparkling in the sunlight, Jim Jarmusch’s latest puts the vampirism on the back burner to a certain extent. Like Trainspotting with its cast of tweekers and junkies, the couple’s cravings are merely an extension of their characters, rather than the complete picture. After all, their thirst for the red stuff is sated through their contacts. For Adam, it’s a trip to a hospital’s bloodbank, whilst Eve gets her supplies from fellow vampire, and previously 16th century poet, Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt).

When the couple meet again in Adam’s rundown house, after the initial consolation, they do what any long term couple do. They enjoy each other’s company: going for walks, hanging out and listening to music. These moments are never made any less ordinary simply because they happen solely at night. For Adam, they are part of a reluctant acceptance that there actually are reasons to get up at night. Eve, infectiously played by Swinton, coaxes and coerces him out of his shell, blaming all his misgivings on socialising with Byron and Shelley back in the day.

It’s only when Eve’s sister turns up that things become a miss. Ava, a ginger whirlwind played by Mia Wasikowska, is passion of the immortal unkempt. A party girl without restraint, she tests the couple’s endurance of the outside world; reflecting as she does, everything Adam sees wrong with modern. It’s a superb performance, which, along with The Double, buries the misgivings of Alice in Wonderland.

At its heart, Only Lovers Left Alive is more a romance than anything else. Slow burning being its top speed, the film floats by like the thoughts one has at five in the morning after being up all night. It is an exquisite slice of nuanced filmmaking with a distant yet familiar sense of love. It is further enhanced by a soundtrack of feedback and strings provided by Jarmusch’s band SQÜRL. Put simply, Jarmusch has provided us with a suitably dark present of gothic modernism that is truly haunting.

Patrick (2013)

The general rule thumb for your everyday remake tends to go X wants to remake Y which is well loved by Z and then the internet explodes taking with it the lives of many innocents. And then there’s films like Patrick, which, upon the announcement of its remake, everyone seemed to just shrug.

Produced by the legendary, Antony Ginnane, and directed by Richard Franklin, the original Patrick is the simple tale of a coma patient with psychic powers. Patrick is Nearly Dead, cries the poster, And Still He Kills! Despite its Australian origins, it’s painted with a broad eurohorror brush. Interestingly, its Italian release would see Patrick being rescored by members of Goblin. Patrick seems to have bypassed the aforementioned online genocide simply by virtue of being so cult that it makes Meet the Feebles look mainstream.

Ginnane is back, bringing Patrick kicking and screaming into the 21st century. And this time he’s got Patrick fan and director of the wonderful Not Quite Hollywood, Mark Hartley on board. Like before,  Patrick (Jackson Gallagher) is a comatose young man who is routinely experimented on by the nihilistic Doctor Roget (Charles Dance), much to the horror of the Nurse Kathy Jacquard (Sharni Vinson); a new employee of Roget’s clinic. Patrick and Kathy begin to build a relationship. When that becomes threatened by the clinic’s Matron (Rachel Griffiths), Patrick puts his psychic powers to ill use. Like Evil Dead earlier this year, Patrick strays very little from the path of its predecessor but tries to at least come across as its own beast.

Despite the very modern setting (Patrick can surf the web with his mind now!), Hartley invokes the creaky leather and cobweb flavoured breath of the best gothic films by Hammer Horror. Whilst Kathy tries to better understand Patrick, there’s also the mystery of the basement to uncover. It’s all very Jane Eyre (sort of). In fact, one has to wonder how much better this would have worked as a 1920s period piece without all Patrick’s googling. We digress…

Hartley has a firm hand on the proceedings and manages to wring enough scares out of the premise, even if there are one too many of the quietquietquietBANG variety. Meanwhile, Justin King’s script hacks away some of the flab of the 1978 original, to leave us with a plot that’s as lean as Patrick himself. King clearly has some fun with the story; throwing in numerous references to the original (yes, the frogs are back). However, not much use is made of the coastal setting that this remake finds itself in. Again, we can’t help but wonder whether this story really should have been set in 2013 at all?

The cast is strong. Dance stands out the most, as he seemingly savours his role as the world’s biggest shit. Jackson Gallagher as Patrick is, understandably, not given much to do and whilst his Edward Cullen-esque appearance will attract the Twilight fans (we can already see the fanfiction), we kind of miss the googly eyed nature of the original Patrick, Robert Thompson.

And yes, we’ve referenced the original numerous times. But it’s hard not to do so, when even the poster campaign invites you to think about the original before you even venture forth into the cinema: The Killer in a Coma Returns.

Patrick is solid remake (remix if you will) and will most likely appeal to those looking for a dark ninety minutes to kill the night, but whether it’s an essential horror flick is debatable.

The Whisperer in the Darkness (2011)

H.P. Lovecraft’s tale of cult and chanting in the farmlands of America is recreated with great love by the H.P. Lovecraft Appreciation Society. Like their Call of Cthulu short silent movie, the Society have once again used Mythoscope to put together a 1930’s inspired thriller that could have been directed by Hitchcock himself.

It really can’t be overemphasized the attention to detail that’s gone into making The Whisperer in the Darkness. From the grain of the film to the make up and lighting, everything about it produces the feeling on sitting in a smoky Roxy on a Saturday matinée. It’s just a shame that some CGI rendering towards the end threatens to take you out of the moment. But then the silent movie stylings of The Artist utilised real world sounds and we forgave that.

Those who know their Cthulu mythology may balk slightly at the knowledge that Whisperer fleshes out the original short beyond it’s original ending, but we feel that despite the added scenes, everything stays true to Lovecraft’s tale of the reasoned mind vs. the unthinkable.

The Woman in Black (2012)

The Woman in Black sees young solicitor, Arthur Kipp (Daniel Radcliffe), penniless and still mourning the loss of his wife, venturing to the village of Crythin Gifford to handle the estate of the recently deceased Alice Drablow. Like any weekend in the country, he’s faced with your usual grumpy locals, lukewarm pub grub, picturesque views of the marsh, oh, and a ghost that seems to be wreaking havoc and killing the village tots.

The film’s source material is a much-loved favourite amongst literature and theatre fans. There are probably volumes all over the world; spines cracked and stained with red wine waiting to be read or lent out at the nearest whiff of an excuse. At the West End, it is the longest running play after The Mousetrap. We are talking heritage here, people! So, understandably, there were probably a few people who nearly threw up their foie grais, when it was announced James Watkins would be directing. Watkins’s previous effort, Eden Lake, with its Fassbender torturing and hoodies setting fire to Asian kids, was not known for its nuances. Nasty, schlocky and with just a hint of exploitation, Eden Lake was the Daily Mail’s fears put to film… Thankfully, all concerns can be put aside.

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Furrowed brow and five o’clock shadow, Radcliffe just about manages to shake off his Harry Potter skin. Truthfully, he’s never really going to quite get rid of it, but this is less a criticism and more a celebration of how much he made that original role his own. However, his years of jumping at the sight of nothing come in strong here. And whilst he doesn’t totally convince as a grieving husband, he is perfectly capable of carrying the movie. Which is a good thing considering that he is 90% of the movie. True to the spirit of Hammer Horrors of the past, the inhabitants of Crythin Gifford do very little apart from pointing accusatory fingers and, in the case of mad housewife Elizabeth Daily (Janet McTeer), speak in hushed, frantic tones about the horror at Eel Marsh house.

When the bumps in the night start, Watkins keeps a tight rein on proceedings. Unlike Eden Lake, there is little reliance on gore and he plays with his audience, rarely giving any genuine money shots. Things are hiding and lurking in the dark and Watkins doesn’t want you to see them till it’s too late. The only major letdown is the ending which finishes about two minutes after it should have done and veers dangerously towards twee. That said, the tension is stifling and probably more akin to Watkins’s screenplay for My Little Eye; teasing out the scares for as long as possible before the final big bad.

Woman in Black purists may balk at the large chunks of liberty that have been taken with the source, but despite them, it remains true in spirit. This isn’t a reimagining with Kate Upton jiggling up the corridors filmed in shaky cam. This is a mature piece of work with the scares on the right side of ‘murmur murmur BANG!’. This is faded yellow pages containing dark secrets, shadows created by candle light, children crying at the bottom of the marsh and whispers the colour of dust. This is Hammer Horror at its finest.