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The Halloween Movie Marathon Lineup!

Here in New Zealand tonight it is October 31, and just as sure as there will be annoying kids trekking up the streets looking for food to make them even more overweight, people around the world will also be indulging themselves with an (un?)healthy dose of horror films.

I’ll admit: last year, I did not watch any horror movies just because it was Halloween; I continued doing what I would normally do, as if it wasn’t October 31.

But this year, I’ve just found it impossible to resist the charm of those bloody, gory horror movies. And so, I’ve decided to make up for missing last Wednesday’s movie marathon night by moving it to this Monday, and focusing on my favourite horror films. I’m gonna have to start early if I hope to fit all these in, but, here’s what I’ve got planned:

Funny Games (1997)

A film that still scares the shit out of me every viewing and convinced my girlfriend not to lend any eggs to anyone, Funny Games is a terrifying classic.

Suspiria (1977)

Visually stunning and bizarrely photographed, Dario Argento’s Suspiria is a frightening, gripping horror classic. While the plot isn’t original and the ending is disappointing, Argento more than makes up for it with the unique and terrifying way he crafted the film’s look and design. And of course there’s the music.

Antichrist (2009)

Lars Von Trier’s “failed attempt” at crafting a horror film turned into a dark experiment, which examines the way women have been treated throughout history by channelling their mistreatment into the grief of a couple who have lost their child. Bizarre, explicit, shocking and brilliant.

Audition (1999)

“Kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri kiri!” These chilling words alone should send a shiver down the spine of anyone who has seen Audition, the horrifying Takashi Miike masterpiece, with a final half hour so shocking and gruesome it even caused one viewer to have a heart attack. See it now!

The Hour of the Wolf (1968)

The closest thing to a horror film Ingmar Bergman ever made, The Hour of the Wolf is an incredibly disturbing, frightening nightmare which examines a clan of people on an island and their attempts to drive a visiting couple insane. Creepy stuff and a perfect way to close my night.

That’s what I’m watching. Now tell me, what horror movies have you been watching recently, and what do you think of the ones I’ve listed?

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Ten Great Movies That Aren’t Afraid To Push the Boundaries!

10 Movies That Are Extremely Uncomfortable to Watch with Family

Every fortnight, me and a group of friends have a Movie Night. We go to my friend Stephen’s house. He has a large study which he has converted into a “theatre room” over a long period of time. He is also an avid collector of Criterion Collection DVDs (He has 60-something. I have 5.) We’ve been doing this thing for about six months now, going through all his Criterion movies, and last night we watched the Lars von Trier “horror” movie Antichrist.

Stephen and I were the only two present who had seen the film before. Also in attendance was my girlfriend Ashley, and four other mutual friends who had not seen it and had very little idea of what to expect. I told Ashley (who dealt with the on-screen “happenings” rather well, considering…) that it was a sexually-explicit, often mistaken as misogynistic festival of violence and gore. She was at first optimistic, saying she hadn’t seen a good horror movie in ages. The optimism didn’t last once the film reached the third act. She was unable to watch some parts, and I can well understand why.

Antichrist is not the sort of film you want to watch with someone you hold close or even respect. And I can imagine watching it with actual family would be even worse (my mother would vomit, my dad would laugh). So, without further ado, here are ten movies that (I imagine) would be extremely uncomfortable to watch with family, and since I don’t often actually rank lists, I’m going to make this one a count down from ten.

10: Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Darren Aronofsky’s hellish drug drama turns downright terrifying in its drawn-out, brutally punctuated third act. Scenes of Ellen Burstyn being incessantly electrocuted and Jennifer Connelly losing all dignity at a drug-fuelled sex party are enough to make anyone squirm in their seat.

9: Funny Games (1997)

Who really wants to see two men mercilessly break all conventional horror movie rules to draw out torture and eventual murder upon a young couple and their son during the long 100 minutes of this typical Haneke thriller? I know I don’t, and certainly not with family.

8: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1990)

In a horrific home-invasion scene brutally replayed on a home video camera, we see two psychopathic killers at their worst, most disgustingly inhumane attitude. And as if that weren’t enough, an overly depressing, nihilistic ending combined with countless scenes of unmotivated violence punctuate a brilliant reality.

7: Man Bites Dog (1992)

In one of the most unconventional horror films ever made (and one of my personal favourites, he-he-hee), a camera crew follow a serial killer around, documenting his rapes and murders (including the sickeningly slow death of an elderly woman from cardiac arrest) and eventually getting involved in them. A horror film which comically delights in some of the most disgusting acts, Man Bites Dog is grotesque but brilliant.

6: Audition (1999)

This one actually happened. I saw Audition at a young age with my Dad, and the next day we decided to play a prank on my mum. We told her it was a romantic comedy about a man who tries to audition the perfect girlfriend. We completely left out the brutal amputation and torture in the third act, and let her discover that herself…

5: A Serbian Film (2009)

One of the most gratuitously graphic films I have ever seen, A Serbian Film has it all. Kids watching porn, graphic oral sex, rape, paedophilia, facial cumshots, implied rape of an infant, and the gouging of eyes with an erect penis, among many other atrocities. Just perfect for a night in with the family, right?

4: Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Two years ago, I broke up with a girlfriend who was a vegetarian when she told me she was in another relationship. I was very angry and immature at the time. I contemplated sending her a downloaded DVD of this disgusting animal snuff film in the mail at one point, though thankfully I refrained from doing so. It’s notorious, repulsive, excessive and bloody. Not for the faint of heart, or anyone with an emotional attachment to turtles.

3: Irreversible (2002)

Gaspar Noe’s 2002 masterpiece may be controversial and filled to the brim with excessive, gratuitous violence but it is nevertheless a serious work of art, as demonstrated in the horrifyingly beautiful final scene. However, that is no reason to watch this with anyone you value in any way.

2: Salo, or: The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s almost unendurable, 2-hour festival of disturbing violence, rape, sex, and general mistreatment of human beings may be a hateful metaphor for fascism, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier to watch whatsoever.

1: Happiness (1998)

Some will debate this film at the position of number one, but I put it here because, a) it is the most honest of the films on the list, which makes it scarier, and b) it is a disturbing film about family, perfect for a list of movies that are uncomfortable to watch with family. Who wants to see their mum peering curiously at their dad while watching Dylan Baker masturbate to pictures of kids? It’s an awkward, paranoid moment no-one wants to encounter, and makes the movie all the more uncomfortable.

So, those’re my picks. Let me know, was there anything I missed out?

Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

Five “Bad” Movies That I Think Are Actually Quite Good

As perhaps a “sequel” to my earlier post 5 Really Bad Good Movies, here are five movies that the general public (but certainly not everyone) have declared to be really awful movies, that I think have artistic merit as a film and are well within the range of that ambiguous defining categorization of “good.”

1: Gerry (2002)

The first instalment in a trilogy by Gus van Sant is perhaps the best. It’s plot is simple, and some will say unoriginal, but the way Van Sant does it makes it different from all the other rubbish. It’s about two men, both named Gerry (played by Casey Affleck and Matt Damon), who go on a hiking trip in Death Valley and get mindlessly, hopelessly lost. Van Sant relishes in showing countless beautiful shots of the Valley, and likes to linger these shots for quite a long time. In fact, the film contains exactly 100 shots, no more no less, whereas a normal film of its length contains thousands. Many have criticised it for being boring, slow-paced and uneventful, but I see it as a beautiful work of art that sucks you in with its raw, subtle power. Gerry is, for better or worse, the most accurate and precise description of getting lost.

2: The Brown Bunny (2003)

Perhaps the movie with the worst reputation on this list, and one which I will continue to persevere with and try to understand is Vincent Gallo’s seminal, brutally subtle but hugely affecting drama which deals with the raw hurt and heartbreak of a man whose past is so bitterly latching onto him and eating away at him, that in every single frame we see the enormous toll it has taken on him. I wrote a review of the film not too long ago, and hopefully that’s enough to convince people who couldn’t see the sense in this movie to revisit it like I did. When I first saw it, I despised it. But in time, and by rewatching it, I soon began to see what Gallo was trying (albeit inconsiderately) to get across, and it blew my mind.

3: Funny Games (1997)

Okay, maybe this isn’t a hated film, but I’ve read more bad reviews than good and I seem to be the only person I know who really liked it. This is the first in a trilogy of 3 movies which I refer to as the Mid-Career Passageway, in which Haneke directed his three best movies, this, The Piano Teacher and Cachè. Funny Games is both a condemnation and tribute to cinematic violence. There is no real plot here; just mindless, senseless violence and a menial excercise in the pointlessness of it all.

4: Vanilla Sky (2001)

While certainly paling in comparison to its highly superior original, Abre Los Ojos, Cameron Crowe’s 2001 remake is nevertheless, not crap. It manages to retain at least some of the feel of the original, and is every bit as provocative and original as Abre Los Ojos seemed to its target audience at the time. How this got 40% on Rotten Tomatoes is beyond me.

5: Pink Flamingos (1972)

Okay, this is more of a so-fun-even-though-its-disgusting-Divine-makes-me-laugh-so-fucking-hard-with-her-accent-and-oh-my-god-just-look-at-the-shitty-cinematography-of-this-ugly-underground-film-is-that-no-no-no-she-isn’t-o-m-g-she’s-eating-a-dog-turd-oh-my-god-that-must-taste-awful-I-feel-kinda-dirty-for-watching-this-it’s-really-bad movie. It’s bad, sure, we know it’s bad, but we’re compelled to watch anyway.

What are some ‘confirmed’ bad movies that you enjoy? Do you like/dislike my choices? Leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading.

10 Movies I’ll Never Be Able To Watch Again

There are a lot of really disturbing movies out there, but I’ve been able to formulate a list of ten I’ll never be able to watch again. Some of them are just because they’re bad. Others are brilliant films that are just difficult to watch. Either way, these aren’t on my queue any time soon.

In no particular order:

A Serbian Film (2010)

Though I didn’t hate this movie, it’s certainly not good. Borderline pornography with explicit sex and violence, a lot of it seems wasted and pointless. The continuous references to paedophilia is more than unnerving… it’s disgusting. I’m not the kind of person who gets angry over those sort of things being in movies, but this is really sickening. 5/10. And that’s being very kind.

Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

Again, not the kind of person who gets angry with violence, explicit sex or anything nastily gratuitous, but this is awful. I’m not an animal rights person, and I realize that the animals that died in this film will probably have died anyway at the hands of those natives, but I didn’t want to see it on camera. It was a complete waste of my time. And I usually love handheld camera movies. 3/10.

Salo, or: The 120 Days of Sodom (1975)

“All’s good if it’s excessive.” The line is scary enough, and what follows is horrifying. Pasolini’s “poem” about his hateful vision of Fascism got him killed, but despite its graphic and excessive content, it is a “beautiful” movie (don’t take that the wrong way, I mean the cinematography was beautiful) that leaves a pondering thought in my head every time it is discussed. I wish I could watch this again, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. 6/10.

Irreversible (2002)

This is a tricky one because I actually LOVE this movie. Gaspar Noé is a fantastic director. His swooping and sweeping camera will probably make you sick, and then there’s the infamous rape scene, which is the main reason it’s on this list. I might actually watch this movie again, but I think I’ll skip past the rape. 9/10. (The reason this film has such a high rating is for its final scene, so perfect it almost made me cry. Almost.)

The Idiots (1998)

I love Lars von Trier. Which makes my dislike of this movie all the more confusing to me. It’s filmed as one of his famed Dogme 95 (read my article on this fascinating genre here) but, surprisingly,  that only makes the strange effect of the film seem even more shitty. I mean, did we really need unsimulated group sex? Seriously? Von Trier has a point he wants to make, but he makes it better with movies like Dogville and Antichrist. 4/10.

Funny Games (1997)

One of Michael Haneke’s most affecting movies, this is an essay on the pointlessness and insanity of violence, and how often, a lot of it is completely unmotivated. While we’re searching for the Why?, Haneke doesn’t care and relentlessly continues to push the What in our faces. It’s a tactic that works, though it’s difficult to watch. Once is enough. 8/10.

The Human Centipede: First Sequence (2009)

The premise is disgusting enough without the movie, which is surprisingly not as graphic as you might expect. But it is shitty. Really shitty. Which makes Daniel Tosh’s spoiler even funnier. An awful movie by all respects, even if this was halfway decent, the plot itself is enough to help you to decide which crowd you are in. Torture-porn lovers, eat your heart out. No, on second thought, don’t even try. This is too awful even for you. 2/10.

Pink Flamingos (1972)

Ah, John Waters. He has to make the list somewhere. And considering this is the only film of his I’ve seen (and I think it’s the only film I need to see), I can easily say that I have no desire to see Divine eating a dog turd again. Seeing it once is one time too many. It’s a fun movie, in its own disgusting cult way, and many an absurd, awkward laugh is likely to strike a few times throughout. 5/10.

The Last House on the Left (1972)

The most disturbing of all horror master Wes Craven’s films is not only a blatant insult (don’t call it a tribute, or a remake) to Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, it’s also gratuitous, annoyingly excessive and a waste of time. I didn’t feel sorry for the victims in this movie, but The Virgin Spring… now that was a movie that affected me, in a good way. 4/10.

Audition (1999)

This is the only film on this list I have actually seen twice, and once was when I was a kid. It scared the shit out of me, and when I rewatched it four years ago, I discovered it still retained that power. A film that wouldn’t normally horrify me, this is a smart, intelligent work of horrific cinema that continues to impress, please, and disgust. 8/10.

What do you think? What are some movies you could never watch again? Have you seen any of my choices? Whaddaya think? Leave a comment below and thanks for reading.

Great Directors: Michael Haneke

Last night I watched Michael Haneke’s tremendous thriller, the mysterious and chilling The White Ribbon. It was Haneke doing what he does best, and it inspired me to write a post about this fantastic director, his lifetime and films.

He was born in Germany, and spent most of his life taking a keen interest in film and television. It wasn’t until middle-age that he finally began to direct feature films. His first was The Seventh Continent, based on the true story of a mass family suicide. It was the first of a trilogy of three followed by Benny’s Video and 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, two more films examining violence in modern society. It was with his next film, however, that he proved he wasn’t squeamish to presenting violence in an unsettlingly honest manner. Funny Games was released in 1997, and seemed to be a plotless film about mindless serial violence, though Haneke has said he prefers to have the violence ‘implied’ rather than seen. He was intent on getting his point through, so much so that exactly ten years later he directed a shot-for-shot American remake starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth.

The next movie, in 2000, was a character study, titled Code Unknown, starring Juliette Binoche and telling of a chain-reaction series of events. His next film, in 2001, was where he gained true fame (and notoriety). The Piano Teacher is a sexually graphic, violently suggestive and brutally stunning motion picture telling of sexual obsession and visceral self-harm. It won various awards, including Cannes Best Actor and Actress for its two leads, and sealed Haneke’s fate as a director of coldly beautiful movies with seedy underbellies.

He reteamed with the star of that film, Isabelle Huppert, for his next film, a post-apocalyptic vision called Time of the Wolf, made in France. The film was quite good, but noticeably less successful and screened at Cannes out of competition.

His next film is, in my opinion, his absolute unbeatable best. Caché (titled ‘Hidden’ in English) is his creepiest, slow-paced and most thought-provoking thriller. It tells of a couple (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) who are uneasy and frightened after receiving videotapes of their house from a hidden camera that seems to be impossibly positioned. It asks countless questions about human secrets and how we react to dangerous situations, as well as featuring cinematography and direction that are, in no exaggeration or hyperbole, a serious work of masterful art.

After the Funny Games remake came the Cannes success The White Ribbon, the film which prompted this post. Haneke shoots in black-and-white this time, and tells a gripping tale of mysterious events in a wartime village. Various characters begin relationships, and everybody is a suspect for committing the serious crimes. The film is very reminiscent of the movies of Ingmar Bergman, filmed in an eerily similar style and with an eerily similar plot. Imagine Picnic at Hanging Rock meets Fanny and Alexander.

We are now eagerly awaiting the release of his newest film, Love, which I’ll be sure to see and review.

Leave a comment and tell me which Haneke films you’ve seen, and what you thought of them. You can see, from this amazing filmography, what a talented and brilliant director Haneke is, and I hope this will prompt you to check out any of his amazing films. He is one of few directors who, in my opinion, has never made a bad film. And that is quite something, indeed.

Thanks for reading.

Ten Misleading Movie Titles

 

There are some sad people who look at a movie and judge it immediately by the title. It’s a dangerous and ignorant thing to do, but it does happen. Here are ten movie titles which, for some naive and inexperienced moviegoers can be very confusing and ambiguous, indeed.

A Clockwork Orange

There are no clocks, nor are their oranges which play any noticeable part in this film. What gives? Author Anthony Burgess says it is based on an old proverb “as queer as a clockwork orange.” However, the validity of Burgess’s statement is yet to be verified.

Sin City

This is not a film about Las Vegas, but there are sins involved. I suppose, however, it is a better title than the actual name of the city in this film: Basin City.

Naked Lunch

David Cronenberg at his weirdest, this is not the film it may sound like, and it is a generally repulsive and disgustingly ugly film. When asked what its title meant, Cronenberg replied by defining it as “a frozen moment where everybody sees what is on the end of every fork.” Now I’m hungry.

21 Grams

No, this is not a film about drugs, drug trafficking or drug use, despite the presence of Benecio Del Toro.

Funny Games

If you’re looking for a laugh… keep looking. Michael Haneke’s name itself should drive all comedy-lovers in the opposite direction immediately.

Happiness

A hilariously awful irony. The only person who is happy at the end of this film is a pre-teen boy who has learned to masturbate.

Straw Dogs

It sounds like some sort of obscure ambiguous comedy, but in reality it is a violent, explicit look at rough societies, social interaction and human repulsion. It may be only two hours, but with the horrific extended final hour, it feels much longer (in a good way).

Pink Flamingos

Of all the misleading titles, this is the one that it would be the most disastrous to predetermine. Crappy cinematography and a generally distasteful attitude toward the human freakshow and its extremes, it is nevertheless a “classic” of underground cinema.

It Happened One Night

With today’s unflinchingly graphic portrayals of sexuality, it’s easy to see how some people might misinterpret this film’s title.

Un Chien Andalou

And finally, possibly the most misleading of them all, a 16-minute surreal masterpiece which is little more than a series of jumbled, Lynchian images collided together as one whole given the seemingly senseless title which translates in English to ‘An Andalusian Dog.’

That’s my ten, now tell me in the comments some more misleading titles, if you can think of any.

Thanks for reading.