Category Archives: movie review
Any film from Studio Ghibli is a treat. The Japanese anime house has put out some great movies over the years, including Hayao Miyazake’s films Princess Mononoke (1997), Spirited Away (2001), and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004). Now officially retired, Miyazake’s worked slowly but steadily, putting out a film every five years or so. His Studio Ghibli cofounder Isao Takahata is even less prolific. The director of the masterful WWII story Grave of the Fireflies (1988) has only made three films since, his last My Neighbors the Yamadas (1999) released over fourteen years ago. His return at age 78 with The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2014) shows that Takahata hasn’t missed a beat. Beautiful and moving, he delivers another anime masterpiece.
Think of the high pitched screech of metal across metal, the low guttural growl of a wild animal or the rapid plucking of violin strings again and again to illicit a sense of tension. Undoubtedly, one of the most important elements of any horror film is sound: both in music score and in effects.
Still, visceral imagery and the underlying text that a film is based upon can have an enormous affect on the mindset of a viewer.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, at the origin of the art form we call film, the black and white L’Inferno, released in 1911, silent and arresting, tested the relevance of this treatise. The result was an overwhelmingly popular and horrifying experience for all of those that viewed the film then, as well as those that view it today.
“Whatever you do… don’t fall asleep.”
Yeah. That’s gonna work. Talk about an absolute classic catchphrase. Parents of newborns, late night essay crammers and insomniacs all know how weird your head can get without enough sleep. I’m in the mad throes of a rushed move myself, packing and running around at all hours, and I am spaced. If someone said that to me right now, in a dead serious hushed whisper, I can tell you, I’d freak the fuck out. Freddie Krueger knows where we all live, at night, when our eyes are closed and we’re most vulnerable. But he’s not real, it’s okay. That horribly burnt, disfigured face isn’t real. Those razor claws aren’t real. Have another cup of coffee. We’re fine. Let’s talk about the original A Nightmare on Elm Street, I’m just going to lean back, and… did you hear something? Never mind. It’s probably… just… the wind…
Of course, innumerable amounts of people have written about their fascination with England’s most notoriously unknown murderer. We here at Biff Bam Pop! have done our part, too. Whether it’s a physical walk, book, poem, or a drawing, film has always had a fascination for the villain.
Although not a horror movie, Murder By Decree announces its intent through its opening scene: a rolling panorama of 1888 London during an October sunset, a fog rising, and the night’s first policeman whistles as Big Ben chimes in the distance.
Suspense and dread. That’s what the film offers. Oh! And a solving of the crime by fiction’s greatest detective, Sherlock Holmes!
Genre-bending is a real Korean specialty. From the family drama monster movie hybrid of Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host to the madcap martial arts western of Kim Jee-Woon’s The Good, The Bad, The Weird, films like these turn on a dime. You just never know what to expect. One big Korean film at the Toronto International Film Festival this year is Haemoo, directed by Shim Sung-bo. Relatively unknown, the first-time director co-wrote Memories of Murder in 2003 with Bong Joon-Ho, who returns the favour here producing and co-writing Haemoo. Not bad having the director of Snowpiercer in your corner. It isn’t all smooth sailing with Shim Sung-bo’s debut, though. Climb aboard, matey, and I’ll tell you the tale.
Finding new talent is a thrill, that delectable shock when you hit on something that speeds your pulse and your synapses and says, “Hey, bet you’ve never seen it done quite like this before.” Getting that thrill is what the Discovery Programme at the Toronto International Film Festival is all about. It’s a showcase of forty films featuring the best new directors from around the world. There’s a bunch of Canadian films in the Discovery Programme, cuz hey there’s nothing wrong with a homer. Two of them happen to have a lot in common. Both Bang Bang Baby and Songs She Wrote About People She Knows are musicals with a hesitant lead finding her way to her dreams. Now those dreams are pesky things, and they never quite turn out the way you expect.
Passing on the curse is a time-honoured horror tradition. Through an innocent act, the victim unwittingly brings a malevolent force down on themselves. The only chance for salvation is to make someone else the next target. That’s the plot for The Ring (2002) and its Asian originators, and it stretches back to Jacques Tourneur’s occult Night of the Demon (1957), which in turn takes literary inspiration from M.R. James’s short story Casting the Runes. (The Stephen King/Richard Bachman classic Thinner is another haunting example.) With his new film It Follows (2014) at this year’s TIFF, American indie filmmaker David Robert Mitchell turns the conceit to a sexually transmitted serial haunting. He takes that idea and runs with it, or rather, walks very… creepily… slowly. Now take a look around. We don’t have much time. But you need to know this.
Everyone loves a big canvas. Directors can hardly resist getting all that vision up there on screen, going crazy Coppola-style waxing operatic and napalming the jungle for their personal Apocalypse Now. Lately, the push for longer movies is back, with blockbusters like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Guardians of the Galaxy, and X-Men: Days of Future Past all clocking in over two hours long. Transformers: Age of Extinction is 165 minutes, fer chrissakes! But there’s another way. For the intrepid, those just starting out in film, and the craftspeople dedicated to the art of the small, short films are where it’s at. Over the next few days I’ll be posting interviews with a few of the many filmmakers in the Short Cuts Canada programme. Just like their lengthier siblings, these movies go anywhere, from comedy to horror, from surreal animation to the mundane grit of real life. So here’s to the miniaturists. Let’s get small after the jump.