Touch of Evil

TOE

Watching Touch of Evil is a difficult experience to describe. It is terribly dated and because we are so inundated with ‘murder mystery’, ‘bad cop/good cop’, ‘outsider/insider’, ‘alcoholic jaded cop’ ‘modern/old school’ TV shows and films I felt like I already knew most of what was going to happen. Then again TOE was released in 1958 so I’m cutting it a whole pile of slack.

First let me tell you what I didn’t like – the dreaded “black face” was in action with Charlton Heston playing a darkened up Mexican cop (literally from the wrong side of the border – note ‘outsider’ status); the women apart from Janet Leigh’s wife character were barely there and the ‘gypsy Mexican fortune teller’ in love with the alcoholic cop was a cringey stereotype and all the other women were strippers (wives or whores ladies? You choose – aah, the 50s…); the wife started out kind of tough and interesting for a 1958 flick but totally paid for her sins (of being kind of tough and interesting) by being threatened and drugged leading to a general need for being saved by Mexican Charlton H; Orson Welles’ acting was to say the least wooden (I’m not sure if this was because I was judging the acting with a 2014 viewpoint or because he was on some sort of downward spiral in terms of acting, not sure) but it wasn’t too big an issue because his character was alcoholic/insider/US cop; also there was too much exposition, there is such a thing as too much talking in a film, obviously a lesson screenwriters were yet to learn in 1958.

But, oh, the things I loved about this film!!! That opening sequence… even for 2014 this baby is a jaw dropper. We follow the progress of a car with a bomb in the boot (opening shot so no spoiler there) as it heads from south of the border down Mexico way back to the US side. The tension is amazing as we watch the car go past groups of people, children and two newlyweds we realise are probably the characters we will be getting to know, of course they separate for a while (eeep!! The TENSION!!!). Just waiting and waiting for the bomb to go off as the car slowly rolls past and the most amazing thing is that this is somehow all one shot! How the heck did Orson (also Director) do it! Seriously, so tense, so impressive.

TOE car

I also loved: the Mexican bad guy hipsters, so cool, so creepy, so good at what they do; the lesbian 50s biker hipster druggies (I know right? What’s not to like? I’m going with lesbian50s biker hipster druggies but maybe I’m doing too large a queer reading on that one. Needs to be discussed with other over-thinkers.); the use of the dry and dusty environment as reflected in the characters; the use of the border to delineate so much about the characters and their lives; Mexican = dodgy but American = boring, just look at the difference between the partying Mexican side of the border and the air-conditioned rigidity of the other; racial profiling/racism in all its 50s grandeur (not in a good way at all); 50s technology! modern Mexican Charlton H loves that stuff; and, the depiction of loyalty and how it can play out over a lifetime, within a workplace, within relationships and within families, as well as where loyalty begins, was so beautifully done.

TOE is a really clever, beautiful, stunning film. Yeah, it’s dated. Yeah, the acting wouldn’t win any awards at the 2015 Oscars (the cinematography could though). But for a film that is almost 60 years old, it holds its own. We’ve seen it done again and again since 1958 through more movies than it’s worth mentioning but have we seen it done this well with this much style? Probably yes, but I still love the original!

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Attack the Block

AtB

It’s not often that you see a movie set in London’s estates that isn’t an intense downbeat heavy drama. Don’t get me wrong this movie is still downbeat about the life the kids are leading but this time they’re fighting aliens!! Yeah, take that Brit drama!

Attack the Block is set in the familiar high rise estates so often seen as part of London’s seedy underbelly on TV and film. Filled with criminals, destitutes, single mothers and neglected teens. I’m really hoping the reality is a bit nicer than the portrayal on the screen.

We start in the criminal underbelly/neglected teen section of the estate and pretty much stay there through the whole film. These kids are finding their meaning in drug deals, robberies and brit gang culture. The two younger boys who follow our main protagonists around show us where these young men came from, idolising their elder brothers, and the drug dealers show us where these youngsters are headed.

The tough guy act doesn’t last long when they realise they are dealing with really aggressive aliens not the usual easy to intimidate residents of their block. With the help of a nurse living in the block, that they earlier held up at knife point (which lends an interesting dynamic) they are forced to use their wits and strengths, rather than relying on smart arsery, to out run the marauding aliens.

The aliens are pretty cool too, well, not the first one it looks kind of gross (it looks like a large hairless dog), but the follow ups are big old wolf types that are so black they are like that new black that science just found which is really hard for humans to see (yes, science is one conglomerate where people do science), they are blind, and have glow in the dark teeth! Yeah, aliens FTW!

I wonder if glow in the dark teeth keep you awake at night?

So, redemption. You know it’s coming, you know you want it. You’ll get it but you’ll have to wade through quite a few torn up bodies and a sea of blood to get there. Also a room full of marijuana which is locked up like Fort Knox. The story turns out to be quite clever, there aren’t any major twists but the giveaway makes the movie a lot more enjoyable and some things that hadn’t made sense before make a lot more sense.

The action is pretty constant with a couple of scenes early on that take their time to build you up to the inevitable gore with such tension that it is almost mean. The chase is on from pretty early on and it only lets up for moments of relief.

I loved this film it was just the right mix of horror, suspense and sci-fi. It was like Alien but set in London and with way more action! So more like Aliens but with the underprepared crew of the Nostromo running around rather than the soldiers toting huge guns.

The Cabin In the Woods

cabin

Now I’m not usually a horror fan, I’m too easily grossed out, freaked out, stressed out and scared up. I used to be totally immune as a teenager. I’ve seen all the Friday 13ths’s, Halloweens’s and Nightmare on Elm Streets’s but those babies are slasher classics. All over-the-top blood splatter and screaming teens. The problem is that at some point (after the 80s) mainstream horror got a bit too real for me. I just can’t handle the Saw type horror where it’s based on torture and realism. If that shit could be done by a person to another then I can’t handle it. If it’s being done by Freddy Krueger then that’s just dandy.

(An aside… after I watched Nightmare on Elm Street the first time when I was 13 I started having regular dreams I was being hunted by Freddy. He is the worst character to have hunting you in your dreams cos of that being his thing ‘n’ all – it was Nightmare on My Street. However, it all ended one dream where I grabbed a chopping knife, cut his heart out and chucked it in the fire.  I seriously never had a nightmare about him again.  I’m completely kick arse in dreamland y’know.)

So, The Cabin in the Woods… it’s a horror film but it’s a horror film written by Mr Joss Whedon who has got to be one of the cleverest wrtiter/directors out there at the moment. I’m a Buffy fan from way back so you can just correctly assume my love for Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse, The Avengers and anything else he touches. Luckily, Cabin is no exception.

If you’ve ever thought “what I’m after is an enticing mix of sci-fi, supernatural themes, comedy and horror” then this is the movie for you.

Watching Cabin is like watching a mash up of Evil Dead, Hellraiser, The Wicker Man (original not Nick Cage -way to ruin a film Nick), 2001, Solaris, 1984  and Vacation. It’s different, yet strangely familiar and every now and then you just have to laugh. It’s gory (there will be blood splatter), there are monsters, there are demons, there are teenagers, there are lots ot trees all over the place,  there is a cabin and there are folks in suits.

I like the bigger picture that’s always in play here and that you’re introduced to it straight away so the mystery is ‘why is this happening?’ more than just who’s going to die first. Although if you’re a horror aficionado or watched Scream you’ll be able to pick the order in which deaths should occur – Whedon sticks to the rules on that at least.)

Cabin is my kind of horror. I’m definitely going to watch it again for all the little storyline gems that I missed the first time because I didn’t watch it very closely (*cough*myhandwasinfrontofmyface*cough*).

If you like clever horror you should watch Cabin, if you only like realistic horror fests you shouldn’t.  Or at least watch it knowing it ain’t your usual horror film.