Berberian Sound Studio: A mild-mannered sound designer / foley artist is hired to work on an Italian Giallo (B-move slasher) film – and goes a bit mad in the process. The director is clearly fixated on the mechanics of period cinema: there’s a lot of shots of spinning reels, needles, gauges, readings, dials, etc. This is interesting for about 2 minutes. Then there’s the foley work where you see how everyday objects make unlikely sounds. This is interesting for about 10 minutes (tops!). If only the director had been so fascinated by things like plot, dialogue, editing, and entertainment – all of which are categorically absent from this. It feels like a 10 minute short stuffed to breaking point with so much pointless filler. It keeps cutting to a ‘Silence!’ sign – for no reason. There are lingering close ups of rotten vegetables – for no reason. There’s a tantalisingly sexy Italian receptionist – for no reason. Finally, for a movie about movie sound, the sound mix is laughable – quiet LOUD quiet LOUD and some generically eerie scratching / screetching for dramatic effect. This 100% feels more like an art/pet project than a legitimate movie. Schmerschmerian Schmoud Schmudio. Bleurgh.
Blow Out: a sound effects artist records a car accident, but finds himself in danger as he tries to blow the top on a cover-up. This film is nothing short of a directorial masterclass: the visuals are filthy rich, with dozens of brilliantly filmed & striking scenes. De Palma is truly a master of ‘the shot’ as he effortlessly throws in a barrage of intricate, flashy, techniques: 360 spinning, dolly shots, split-screens, dual-focus, playing with depth of field & perspective… he has technical flare and style to burn here. Travolta matches this with an intense portrayal of an investigative man-on-the-edge. The music and sound effects are great, until the end when a cheesy score dominates the picture. The plot is good, and backstory perfectly stitched through the movie, My favourite aspect is the horror movie tropes being poked fun at through the sub-plot, particularly at the start: the opening film-in-a-film scene, and his previous movies named ‘Bloodbath’, ‘Bloodbath 2’, ‘Bad day at Blood Beach’, ‘Bordello of Blood’… Blow Out is a rare example of directorial technique, story, action, and acting being massaged together perfectly to create something powerful, dramatic and iconic – it’s enviable how good this movie is. I can’t wait to re-visit this already.
Scream: looking back, this film is totally bizarre. A horror movie about ‘teens’ being aware that they’re living out a stereotypical slasher scenario. Aimed at fans of the genre it’s full of clichés and a classic horror references; both explicitly and through visual homage. Although it’s very gory the humor and self-referencing irony ruins the potential scariness of the film. The high level of ‘borrowed’ content also detracts from how unique the concept of scream was. Ultimately, it became the phenomenon that kick-started a new wave of horror films (& parodies) and although it’s a bit self-indulgent, I take my hat off to Craven for continually pushing the envelope. It also left me wondering what ever happened to the perky Neve Campbell and Rose McGowan? An instant classic that’s entertaining, original, quotable and is ingrained in so many peoples brains all these years on. There’s word on Scream 4 coming out next year, better dig out your box set! Do you like scary movies?