It Follows: after sleeping with her new boyfriend a teen picks up a curse where a shape-shifting demon will always follow her, at walking pace, until it kills her or she bangs the curse in to someone else (an STD – Sexually Transmitted Demon – if you will). It sounds like an average idea for a horror film, but the execution is outstanding: taking this one simple (but powerful) idea and drawing tension, scares, and thrills from it. Like all of the best horror pictures it also works as a thinking film, steeped in subtext and wide open to interpretation and analysis. It lets the audience consider how they would handle It – would you try to outrun it, or it pass on, or just kill yourself?!?! Shunning almost everything that makes modern horrors lazy, it boasts a nostalgic ‘classic’ suburban horror setting where people used landlines, CRT TVs, Polaroids, and eerie synth dominated the score (although they could just be modern hipsters?) Other than a couple of early ‘cattle prod’ moments, the thrills come from the atmosphere and suspense of ‘It’ – and the zombie-like relentless shuffle towards the camera. In saying that, the film could have done with a few more ‘chase’ scenes or false demons walking around; if only to capitalise on the eerie vibe sustained by the director. Also, “It” is not always following, which is weird – it’s apparently scared of water & hospitals, or just hangs around on rooftops or at the back of cinemas when it can’t be assed pursuing. The direction is very strong: solid camerawork, paired with the perfectly captured suburban and run-down areas of Detroit – which all come together to give the film an authenticity. If it wasn’t for a few flashes of gore and gratui-tits this could be the scariest PG movie ever made. IT Follows is nothing short of a miracle given the state of modern horror – Insidious 9, Paranormal Inactivity 13, Texas Chainsaw 17 – it’s genuinely atmospheric & scary, avoids cheap shocks, and lingers with you long after.
My solution: fly to another country, bang a young hooker, she passes it on almost immediately, and the curse will keep going back to said prostitute every time the unlucky john dies.
Searching for Sugarman: two South African super-fans document their search for information on their illusive musical hero – Rodriguez. As a narrative, the documentary plays it’s hand perfectly – the first half is low-key, indie, explaining (and perhaps slightly exaggerating) the legend: second half is uplifting and fascinating. Rumours of Sugar Man’s on-stage suicide: self-immolation, gunshot, overdose… quite the bizarre list. Naturally, the film is crammed with the music of Rodriguez, which has a timeless quality – no references, all universal themes, feelings and descriptions – also helps that they’re decent tunes. Up until the halfway point I was having some suspicions as it mainly consisted of a few fans and label bigwigs talking about his talent; name-dropping comparisons of popularity and talent with Dylan, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Elvis etc etc. In the second-half however, you can’t help but smile when you see the footage of his ‘Anvil Moment‘ and realise that he’s a genuine star in S Africa, it’s electrifying. The majority of the footage is well-shot, with some lovely animations and city-scape footage – although there’s several strange shots of him struggling through Detroit weather while the crew film him from a car crawling alongside. Where the film falls down, and prevents it being great (like the aforementioned Anvil) is that it focuses far more on the legend and backstory of Rodriguez, rather than spending quality on-screen time with him. Searching for Sugar Man is a very good documentary: especially as an eye-opening look at the music industry before the digital age, Wikipedia and so forth.
Found him, LOL!!!
The Way Back: book-to-film epic about a group of escaped convicts and their unbelievable journey – a 4,000 mile walk from a Siberian Gulag prison to safety in India. The biggest selling point is the fantastic cast, and nobody drops the ball here. Farrell‘s great as the tough inmate and Harris is superb as Mr Smith the American – Ronan as the girl and Sturgess as the lead are also enjoyable to watch. Furthermore, for having such a variation of accents there’s only one real lapse! In saying the above, the characters and drama are both pretty much by-the-numbers. Because of the scale of the journey the film’s quite long (133 mins) and the decision to railroad the entire Himalayan trek through in a few minutes of montage equally saved the film from being ridiculously long, but deducts from the size of that task (having spent the best part of an hour in Siberia and an hour in the desert). It also does particularly well to avoid laying it on thick with cheesy human adversity, resulting in a successful balancing act between a Historical Epic and keeping it firmly on the ground – there’s nothing glamorous about this journey. Watching the characters come out of their shell and bond throughout journey, coupled with the survival techniques makes for inspired viewing and saves this from being just lots and lots of boring walking. The Way Back reminded me of old-fashioned adventure films, pitting tiny humans against landscapes so monumental and beautiful, yet brutal. Seeing such stunning scenery, photographed this well is just begging for a great Blu Ray release. You know what you’re getting with this, and with the opening title letting you know how many people survive the trip; emphasis isn’t on the destination, but how you get there.
Ryan: Chris Landreth’s short (14 minutes) on Ryan Larkin: a ground-breaking Canadian animator. Most of this GCI other than the original Larkin drawings that captured the movement of human bodies (Walking and Street Musique). The surroundings are good and the characters are impressive & very original. It’s a great short film, that tells an emotional story in a light-hearted but effective way.