Summer Vigil

The sound of silence in my life is often cause to celebrate. For now it means that my son is watching a feature length Postman Pat (yes, that exists) and I’m not at work. I’m not at work for six weeks and I had intended to spend the vast unholy bulk of that writing, some of which would appear on this neglected blog, once a day if possible. Well I have been writing but all of my efforts have been poured into paid work, which I’m going to have to start collecting together at some point. A chunky piece of freelance just popped up this very day at OPM. A mark of some success as getting paid to write was the reason behind setting up this blog in the first place.

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Folk Horror: Witchfinder General

<img class="size-full wp-image-837" title="conqueror_worm_poster_02" src="http://www remplacer” alt=”” width=”585″ height=”455″ />
T’was re-named The Conqueror Worm in America.


Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, 1968)

Brutal, sadistic, bloody and very very cheap, Witchfinder General was the fourth and final film made by the young and exciting Michael Reeves. The film concerns a fictional account of the activities of Matthew Hopkins, authorised in the film by Cromwell to smoke out any witches that may be operating in the country. Along with his brutal aide, John Stearne, he travels from village to village accusing people of witchcraft before having his assistant ‘extract’ a confession. It’s an interestingly cruel presentation of violence and misogyny and Vincent Price as Hopkins is inspired casting. As his lip curls and that tell-tale voice slithers out proclaiming that he is ‘Here to do God’s work my child’ there’s nothing camp here. Instead we get only the sinister look into the sadistic and perverted eyes of man with a mandate for cruelty. Continue reading “Folk Horror: Witchfinder General”

Folk Horror: Blood on Satan’s Claw

Blood on Satan’s Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971)

I’ve become a bit obsessed with ‘folk horror’ recently, especially since I wrote about it in my recent post. So I thought I might watch and review some of it, looking specifically to dig out the signifiers of folk horror (flowers, masks, blood rituals etc) and look at some of the crucial themes of the genre like the religious frictions, the use of ruins and ancient stones as places of worship/sacrifice and an obsession with the land. I’ll be doing some reviews of the main films in the movement as well as some of the TV stuff too. Continue reading “Folk Horror: Blood on Satan’s Claw”

Nowt as Queer as Folk

Last year Mark Gatiss made a wonderful 3 part documentary about his love of horror films called ‘A History of Horror’. Interestingly I think it would probably be better served if it was called ‘My History…’ because it is such a personal series of programs exploring his fascination with the macabre and murderous world of the horror film. At one point Gatiss explores the theory that there is a curious sub-genre of British horror film, comprising only three films and featuring something layered deep within the British psyche. Calling this crop of films ‘folk horror’ he picked out The Wicker Man, Blood on Satan’s Claw and Witchfinder General and proceeded to explain how their engagement with the nature of paganism and a kind of earthen ancient spirituality seemed to dredge up something unique for our isles, a special kind of fear. Gatiss highlights the scarcely seen Blood on Satan’s Claw (the extract is here on YouTube) and in his exploration with director Piers Haggard he focuses on the notion of something being innate in our soil – in the land itself. The notion that buried somewhere in the earth beneath our feet is a portion of our blood-soaked history is a powerful one indeed and one that might go further than these three films and occur in certain other parts of our sparkling horror history. Continue reading “Nowt as Queer as Folk”

The Remake Manifesto: Part 2 – On foreign lands and fading memories

Welcome to part two of my needlessly lengthy attempt to tell you why you shouldn’t be so angry about the remakes.

“Well what about foreign films?” I hear you demanding like the voices in my mind that scream in the night. People always get very angry about remakes of foreign films, especially recent foreign films (and by foreign I’m referring to foreign language for the purposes of this article). During the release of Matt Reeves’ Let Me In I mounted a defence of remaking foreign films on my, sadly defunct, podcast and it prompted someone to leave the following scathing review on iTunes…

“Since the podcast where they defended Hollywood movie remakes I’ve lost respect for them. There is no reason to remake a film ever!! Learn to read and watch the original in it’s own language. Retards.” Continue reading “The Remake Manifesto: Part 2 – On foreign lands and fading memories”

The Remake Manifesto: Part 1

You know the drill, news comes in of a remake that is occurring in Hollywoodland and someone is talking about it and they start to get angry. They will undoubtedly say the something along the lines of the following…

‘Why are they doing another remake? What is the point? This will ruin the other one. Why can’t people just watch the original? Haven’t they got any original ideas?’

If it’s a foreign film you can usually tack on the classic ‘Why don’t people just learn to read subtitles? Why don’t people watch foreign films?’

What you’ll probably notice is that people get absolutely furious about remakes. I once witnessed a co-worker explode in fury when she learnt that The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three was being remade with John Travolta and Denzel Washington. It did her mood no good at all when I tried to calm her down by telling her it had already been remade before with Donnie Wahlberg.  Never mind eh? Continue reading “The Remake Manifesto: Part 1”

Southern Fried Cinema

Way back in the mists of time, August 2005 to be precise, I went to the local multiplex to catch a couple of films. An odd pair they were with very little in common between them, until I started to think about them a bit more.  Recently I have been rolling the two films over in my head and trying to make some sense of the similarities and differences I could see and what they might mean, if anything.

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The Proposition and Fences in Australian Film

A couple of weeks ago I stayed with a friend of inestimable hospitality (@MGElliott) in the picturesque spa town (City, apparently) of Bath. He asked if I minded watching The Proposition, a film I reviewed on here some time ago.  We sat down alongside Matt’s equally generous girlfriend Kim (@nanosounds) to settle into the sweat soaked Australian outback, peopled with all manner of parched violent degenerates and desperate ex-pats (how little has changed).  It was whilst watching that I was struck by the use of fencing in the film (shut up), and the way I’d seen fences and land demarcation used in other Australian cinema before. You see, land and land ownership is a terrifically important and evocative subject in Australian life, it is in danger of becoming the very thing that defines them as a people. If you fancy finding out why then have a read up on the Mabo case and you might want to understand what ‘terra nullius’ means too. Continue reading “The Proposition and Fences in Australian Film”

Back to the Scene of the Shock

The Shock Doctrine (Mat Whitecross & Michael Winterbottom, 2009)

Last year I reviewed The Shock Doctrine, a documentary I found fascinating and moving as well as extremely saddening in parts.  It is now available legally on Youtube.  I recommend it unconditionally to anyone and everone.  Watch it with an open and critical mind, decide for yourself if you agree.  It is a brilliant thesis or a dreadful misappropriation of the truth depending on your point of view.  I may lean to the former but I implore you to look for yourself and see if you agree.

Watch it HERE.

(I can’t embed it because 4OD won’t let me)


24. The Crazies (Breck Eisner, 2010)

A remake of the little known George A. Romero film from the early 70s, this is a pretty entertaining slice of small-town America gone awry.  Ogden Marsh is the town in question and it is, all of a sudden, subject to some very strange goings on.  People are starting to act very in very strange, violent and dangerous ways and it is up to the town Sheriff to see if he can figure it out.  That would ordinarily be the set up and resolution for a film of this kind but credit where it is due because this film moves at breakneck speed.  There’s no bedding in period for this small town, you get all the information within five minutes and there is a simple and highly effective scene on the local baseball field which kicks off the action.  Everything proceeds with some hast from that point on and that’s what allows the film to take several turns I wasn’t expecting.  I won’t spoil it but after about half an hour the film has rattled through the story that a regular small town horror film would take for its duration.  The Crazies doesn’t do much wrong, but it doesn’t really do anything spectacular it is just a really solid piece of entertainment that is well filmed and well worth 90 minutes of your Friday night.  Special mention to English actor Joe Anderson as the deputy, upstaging his American counterparts with a damn good performance.