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The ABCs of Death: Horror and Horror-Comedy anthology consisting of 26 short films from different directors, including some of the best and most notorious in the genre. The brief is simple; small budget, unlimited imagination, and be as anarchic, ambitious and outrageous as you can. Although there are a couple of stinkers, on-the-whole there are a lot of interesting, fun, and exciting segments in here; and hopefully it will be a gateway into world cinema, as the ‘foreign’ shorts are generally a cut above in terms of story and execution.

Score: 7.5/10

ABCs of Death Youngbuck Pedophile Archery Hunting Antlers Deer

Apocalypse (Nacho Vigalondo): Some great use of black humour and physical effects. Great opener. 8/10

Bigfoot (Adrian Garcia Bogliano): Babysitting done right. Bogyman style Mexican ‘Snowman’. 8/10

Cycle (Ernesto Diaz Espinoza): Mini Triangle/Timecrimes style horror. Garden hoez! 7/10

Dogfight (Marcel Sarmiento): Best animal acting I’ve ever seen. Good mini plot & twist. 8/10

Exterminate (Angela Bettis): A campaign of terror from a spider. Too CGI reliant, but good fapping humour. 5/10

Fart (Noboru Iguchi): Some classic Japanese madness; schoolgirl lesbians overdosing on their teacher’s farts. 7/10

ABCs of Death Toilet Claymation Killer Toilet

Gravity (Andrew Traucki): POV death by drowning. First stinker on the reel. 2/10

Hydro-Electric Diffusion (Thomas Malling): Steampunk Nazi Stripper Cat in XXX Loony Toons. 5/10

Ingrown (Jorge Michel Grau): Bathtubs, needles, scratching, vomit. Proper nasty & hard-hitting. 9/10

Jidai-geki (Yûdai Yamaguchi): Seppuku gone wrong. Very funny and awesome gore / FX. 8/10

Klutz (Anders Morgenthaler): Animation of a poop that just wont flush. One of the tamer segments. 6/10

Libido (Timo Tjahjanto): Very dark Mortal Kombat style masturbation competition. Unsettling and provocative. 9/10

Miscarriage (Ti West): Not scary, not well made, one cheap shock. Worst thing on the reel. 1/10

ABCs of Death Ingrown Bathtub Scratching Needle Murder

Nuptials (Banjong Pisanthanakun): Laugh out loud marriage proposal with a parrot. Charming and witty. 9/10

Orgasm (Bruno Forzani / Héléne Cattet): Feels more experimental and artistic-based than horror/gore. 4/10

Pressure (Simon Rumley): A prostitute doing a ‘crush film’ to pay the bills. Poignant and harrowing. 8/10

Quack (Adam Wingard / Simon Barrett): Too meta! A segment featuring the directors talking about their segment. Zzzzz 5/10

Removed (Srđan Spasojević): Surreal skit about a man being hacked to bits for his celluloid skin. Gross FX, potty mouth! 6/10

Speed (Jake West): Babes in the Desert trying to avoid death. Attitude, sass, style and striking visuals. 8/10

Toilet (Lee Hardcastle): A kid’s irrational fear of toilet training. Claymation madness! 9/10

ABCs of Death Libido Jacking it pedophilia impalement

Unearthed (Ben Wheatley): POV Vampire Vs Angry Mob. One of the slicker and better made efforts. 8/10

Vagitus (Kaare Andrews): Big action featuring a baby-eating robot and fertility. Slick CGI. 9/10

WTF! (Jon Schnepp): Another Meta segment, but genuinely WTF. Zombie clowns, pervy animation, hippy visuals & bloody babes. 6/10

XXL (Xavier Gens): Plight of a fat woman in today’s image-obsessed world. Repulsive SFX, hard-hitting story. 8/10

Youngbuck (Jason Eisener): a paedophile teaches a kid to hunt. 1980s montage style, mental, absurd, and great fun. 9/10

Zetsumetsu (Yoshihiro Nishimura): most outrageous segment; a topless Nazi babe with a big penis fights a girl firing veg from her lady garden. 9/11 depicted on tits; 3/11 (Fukushima disaster) on buttocks. Sex, violence, lesbians, and a fittingly OTT finale. 7/10

AVERAGE SCORE: 6.8/10

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Having just booked a trip to Japan for this summer I’ve decided to use  it as the perfect opportunity to watch the huge pile of Japanese movies I’ve been slinging into my cupboard for the past 10 years.

Japan’s culture has always been absolutely fascinating to me, particularly their cinematic output – or at least what we can get our hands on in the West. Many of the Japanese films I’ve seen are easily among the most eclectic I’ve seen when it comes to both style and subject matter, and it’s probably the only country where Yakuza, Ninjas, Robots, Monsters, Samurai and Martial Artists appear to be fairly ‘mainstream’ movies.

For the next 6 months I’ll be consuming and reviewing all of the major genres and themes that have defined Japanese cinema on the world stage: 1950s Samurai Epics, J-Horror of the 2000s, 80s/90s Sci-Fi & Cyberpunk, 4 decades of Yakuza flicks, Monster Movies and some of the most bizarre and unique one-off films the country has to offer. The viewing list is fairly big, but a list as varied as: Branded to Kill, Wild Zero, Zatochi, Babycart (Lone Wolf and Cub), Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Ichi the Killer, Seven Samurai, Tokyo Story, Tetsuo: Iron Man, Tokyo Gore Police, Tokyo Decadence, Lady Snowblood, Godzilla – to name but a few.

I’ll also take a look at how Japan (and East Asia) has been portrayed in Western movies over the years, which hasn’t always been positive; bringing to mind things like the fairly racist stereotypes like Mr Yunioshi from Breakfast at Tiffany’s (played by a caucasian – not uncommon), everyone as a Yakuza (Black Rain), student nerds (almost every high-school film), exotic and erotic females and so on. I can barely think of a single Japanese character in a major Hollywood film that wasn’t nerdy / socially inept / over-disciplined / tech savvy / submissive etc.

As always, I’m happy to take on any film suggestions providing I can get my hands on it easily enough. Also happy to team up with other bloggers, publish some guest reviews, collaborations etc – so please get in touch if you’re interested!

Cheers, and I hope you enjoy it.

/Paul

Current reading: Battle Royale13 AssassinsSukiyaki Western DjangoGozuThe Machine GirlSurvive Style 5+Tokyo Zombie20th Century BoysHana-BiVersus

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Film reviewer (don’t mention the word critic!) Danny Leigh has been writing about movies since the early 90s, in everything from indie-zines to nationwide newspapers like The Guardian. He has also published two novels, with a third in the pipeline, and more recently, became the co-host of the BBCs institution: The FIlm Programme.

Danny Leigh Interview The FIlm ProgrammePFR: Danny, thanks for taking some time out to do this interview, it’s much appreciated. First off, what’s it like being a reviewer on the country’s most cherished film show, and how do you cope with the added pressure of being broadcast live?

Danny: It’s always been a privilege to do the show – it still has heft, the audience is smart and curious, and most importantly we’ve never been less than honest and independent of the distributors and PRs. I’m pretty ambivalent about being involved with film criticism, but if you’re going to do it, do it on the Film Programme. The experience of TV has been an interesting one because I don’t belong in that world, so hopefully I’ve been able to stand outside it a little rather than it swallowing me whole. I find doing the show live exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure. 

Personality-wise, you and Claudia are appear to be polar opposites but the chemistry and chat works surprisingly well. Were you initially surprised? and did you have any reservations about working alongside such a large, ‘marmite’, personality?

Claudia is a performer, which is just as well because one of us has to be. If it works between us it’s probably because I’m always intrigued by what she makes of things, and off air I think we have similar priorities and both know TV is deeply transitory. A lot of people in the media are monsters – she isn’t.

Danny Leigh and Claudia Winkleman The FIlm Programme

Claudia Winkleman and Danny Leigh

Are you ever tempted to Google yourself, or read reviews of the Show?

I don’t Google myself, I’m not sure that road leads anywhere good, though a few times during each series of the show I’ve followed the programme’s hashtag on Twitter. It would be silly of me to object to people passing judgement on us given that the show itself is based on exactly that process, you just have to filter it a little when you’re on the receiving end. It’s always nice to hear praise and it’s always unpleasant to be slagged off, but what’s been helpful is that I’ve experienced both of them before – I’ve written novels and had them reviewed very favourably and pretty badly.

Most importantly, are there any freebies or other perks that come with the national exposure?

Not really, other than the gold sedan chair and staff of license-payer funded footmen. I get asked to do more stuff for free than I used to.

Film 2012 aside, you’re clearly very cine-literate, with a huge background knowledge to pull from – did you ever study cinema academically?

Thank you. I didn’t, but film has been a significant chunk of my life since I was very young, I’ve written about it professionally for a long time, and I think if you’re fortunate enough to be able to discuss cinema with any kind of audience, and still more to get paid to do it, then the least you can do is treat the subject with the reverence it deserves. Also, my personality lends itself to sitting and sifting through film history more than it does badgering actors on a red carpet.

Is there a particular author or book ‘on cinema’ – or even a film – that really opened your eyes?

The first film book that spun around the way I thought about movies was William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade – dry, impeccably-written, doubling as a beginner’s guide to scriptwriting and a pulling back of the curtain on the studio system. For illuminating the art and mechanics of cinema both at once, David Bordwell’s Film Art is pretty much unimprovable. On screen La Jetée made me think more seriously than I’d ever done before about what film actually was, and Stalker gave me the purest moment of hardcore, gaping-jaw transcendence.

Danny Leigh - The Greatest Gift - First Book

Danny’s first book: The Greatest Gift AMAZON

Could you briefly describe the difference between a press screening and a regular one? And which experience do you prefer?

I’m not so much of an ingrate that I’m going to complain about being able to see films for free ahead of their release, but I’ve never been a fan of press screenings. They’re generally quieter and less prone to anti-social behaviour from the attendees, but the atmosphere can be a little self-congratulatory and they’re not something I look forward to. In a perfect world I’d just go to see movies with my wife and kid.

A quick Google hit informs us that Mulholland Drive is your favourite film ever – are you able to balance out this by revealing a couple of your favourites that most Lynch fans wouldn’t usually go for?

I couldn’t narrow down a favourite film to one, but Mulholland Drive would be among them. Films I love that don’t get enough adoration from the world, Lynch fans or otherwise, would include John Frankenheimer’s Seconds and Henri Georges Clouzot’s Quai des Orfèvres. Even Lynch fans don’t often give enough kudos to Lost Highway

South Korea is our favourite country for film talent at the moment as the calibre of Actors, Writers and Directors has been superb for well over a decade now, do you have one?

I’ve liked a lot of Argentine and Greek cinema in the last few years – not sure if there’s a correlation with economic crises, but I was also just about to say that oddly, Britain is having one of its purplest patches in my lifetime too…

And are there any individual up-and-coming talents in the film industry that you have high hopes for?

Is Peter Strickland still up-and-coming, or has he upped already? Mahalia Belo if so.

And do you have any movie heroes from in front of, or behind, the camera?

Always has been Buster Keaton, always will be Buster Keaton. 

Also, could you reveal something that nobody knows about you?

I’ve never wanted to be on television. 

Finally, some quick-fire questions, What does your A/V setup at home look like?

Comically primitive. 

Danny Leigh - The Monsters of Gramercy Park - Second Book

Book number two: The Monsters of Gramercy Park. AMAZON

What’s the breakdown of films you watch in an average week (i.e. For reviewing / personal / research?)

When the Film programme is on air, I’ll watch four or five new releases a week, and a couple of older movies as a treat. I’ll watch a lot more old stuff when the programme is off, and then other projects generate clusters of films I need to see or revisit – I’ve been working on a documentary for BBC4 about boxing films for the last couple of months, so I’ve been re-acquainting myself with movies like Body and Soul and The Set Up, both of which are glorious.

What’s been your favourite advance in movie technology since your interest in the medium started?

As bland as it sounds, probably DVD – it’s easy to forget how cumbersome, glitchy and unrewarding the simple act of watching a film outside a cinema could be for most of us before the end of the 90s (with all due respect to laserdisc pioneers).

… and least favourite?

The unholy combination of torrents and everything the studios have come up with to foil them. 

Who’s been the most surprising person in the film industry that you’ve met?

I think I caught Juliette Binoche on a very bad day, and after making all manner of snotty comments about the BAFTAs down the years I winced on discovering the man in charge of them was smart, gracious and good company. 

Are you still a resident in the pro Eddie Murphy camp, and what’s it like over there these days?

Pretty much down to me and Brett Ratner these days. We just get a kebab and whack on Pluto Nash.

Any other future projects that we should be looking out for?

I’m writing a novel about a London family, and the boxing movie documentary I mentioned a couple of answers ago will be on BBC4 later this year. 

Finally, in a previous interview you noted – “start a blog, update it obsessively, and ensure every word of it is imbued with your own personality rather than mimicry of popular but often dreary and identikit film sites” – great advice; but can we expect to see a Danny Leigh blog/outlet to keep us going between the series of the Film Programme?

It’s something I’ve thought about, but it won’t happen anytime soon. One of the reasons I stopped doing the weekly piece I used to write for The Guardian because I needed to claw back the time for writing fiction, and for now I’m still committed to that. I know the world favours ever smaller nuggets of “content”, but I’m still in love with the idea of writing books. At this stage I’m more likely to stop doing film stuff and nip through a back door to be an English teacher than seek out more ways to build the brand.

– February 2013

What’s your favourite seat at the cinema, and why?

Anybody that goes to the cinema regularly will undoubtedly become a creature of habit. Whether it’s getting there just in time to miss the repetitive adverts or film-spoiling trailers, buying / bringing your favourite snack (must be a silent one), hogging your ideal parking place, hitting on unsuspecting student staff, sitting in your favourite block, row; or more specifically – that perfect seat. Even the finest critic in the country has his favourite seat, which reassures me somewhat. Here’s where my one is and why I love it.

Position: smack-bang in the middle of the back row, of the flat front section, and here’s why…

  • The high seat back blocks out most sounds from the tiered section behind, where everyone else is sitting. There’s also an aisle-length gap between you and the nearest person behind. Bliss.
  • There’s never anyone in front of you – unless the screen is unusually busy. This eliminates fidget, hat, afro, giant and mobile phone based distractions in view.
  • The screen looks enormous, like it should! What’s the point in sitting in the back row (unless you’re with a hussy!) where the screen takes up the same percentage in your field of vision as your TV would at home?!?! This is the cinema, it’s supposed to be massive!
  • You’re right next to the chest-thumping bass speakers underneath the screen, and the Dolby/THX sound design is optimized, coming from the front, sides and behind your seat. Meanwhile the hussy in the back row is only getting stereo sound.
  • As all other seats in this block are generally empty, essential toilet breaking is swift and effective, and you avoid the embarrassment of accidental lapdancing.
  • You don’t notice when the anti-piracy staff come in and do their rounds with the night-vision goggles – this always distracts and angers me more than it should – install a camera on the roof!
  • When the film ends, you’re right next to the doors and don’t have to wait for the token slow-mos to begin their epic descent from row J – swiftest exit in the screen.
  • Every wrinkle, hair, eyelash, scar, mole, shadow, surface, texture, button, background, minute detail is there… cinema screen resolution this close is absolutely unbeatable.

The only time this location doesn’t work is for 3D (it’s best to be in the middle of the screen’s height) and the only possible downside with my favourite seat is that people with bad necks or eyes may struggle to last the duration.

Feels like I’ve just given away a trade secret… which leaves me wondering, does anyone else have a preference when it comes to seating in the cinema, or is it just me being a total weirdo?! Feel free to comment, or ping back your own post.

/Paul

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