Monthly Archives: October 2010

Horrific Crimes: Jake West Interview


“The wonderful irony of the Video Recordings Act of 1984 was that the government published a list of horror movies that were banned, and unwittingly created a must-see list for horror fans everywhere!”

It also provided Jake West with the inspiration for his new documentary. Video Nasties: Mental Panic, Censorship and Videotape explores the Video Nasties phenomenon of the 1980s, when horror films became the target of a sensationalist campaign launched by the English government, strongly supported by that balanced voice of moralistic reason, The Daily Mail. Under the Video Recordings Act, 72 horror movies such as The Evil Dead, Cannibal Holocaust and I Spit On Your Grave were declared so depraved and corrupt that they posed a threat to society, and were banned.

“It was a very carefully constructed campaign,” says West. “The government had an agenda, and were using this outrage over horror films as a smokescreen for government acts. This was the era of vast unemployment, the Faulkland Islands, the Brixton riots – they needed to provide the public with a unifying enemy other than the government themselves, and horror movies were it.”

The moral panic that surrounded the campaign reached unbelievable heights, as typically objective headlines from The Daily Mail proclaimed that horror movies were responsible for the “rape of our children’s minds!” and were inspiring copycat acts of violence. Similarly, Sir Graham Bright, the MP who succeeded in legislating the Video Recordings Act, terrified parents and pet-owners everywhere by declaring that “research is taking place and it will show that these films not only affect young people, but, I believe, they affect dogs as well.” (Rumour has it that Bright’s next campaign is a move to ban the film Cujo on the basis that it affects cats, and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds on the basis that affects worms. Research is taking place…)

“There was also a man called Pete Kruger who was part of the Obscene Publications Squad,” West chuckles, “who was actually responsible for the burning of offensive videos. There’s footage of this huge basement furnace, controlled by a man called Kruger…I don’t think he ever realized the irony! The whole thing was sheer madness, it was genuinely like a Monty Python sketch.”

Though it wasn’t funny for distributors found guilty of breaching the Video Recordings Act. In 1984, David Hamilton Grant was sentenced to 18 months in jail for distributing Romanao Scavolini’s Nightmare in a Damaged Brain. “The version he distributed had less than a minute of extra footage than the approved version, and this was deemed enough for him to serve jail time. It’s insane. Nightmare isn’t even a particularly extreme film!” exclaims West. “But the anti-horror wave just spread like a pandemic. No critic would stand up for the films and say they had merit, because they were scared it would seem weird, or evil. And when Martin Barker finally convinced the Guardian critic Derek Malcolm to attest in court that some of the banned films were worthy films and were well executed, and the judge’s infamous reply was ‘Well executed? Well executed? The German invasion of Belgium was executed, that doesn’t mean it was any good!’ You couldn’t make this stuff up.”

The shameful period of Britain’s history explored in Video Nasties is one that younger film fans may not be aware of, but West is adamant that the effects of the era can still be felt. “We haven’t learned our lesson, which means it could happen again. In a way, it already has. In the 90s there was another scare, when the fairly mainstream Chuckie films were accused of inspiring crimes like the Jamie Bulger murder, and even now the original I Spit On Your Grave has just been banned in Ireland.”

The 1978 low-budget rape-revenge thriller was indeed banned by the Irish Film Classification Office last month for its depiction of “acts of gross violence and cruelty” – a euphemism for a brutal 20 minute gang rape scene followed by the victim’s vengeful disembowelment and castration of her attackers. The remake, however, has escaped such a harsh fate, and is premiering in Ireland at IFI’s Horrorthon this month. Like West, Horrorthon’s director Ed King has defended its inclusion.

“Personally, violation in films isn’t my thing, but the remake is very different to the original, and makes a completely different impact, and that’s what makes it interesting. And don’t forget, the original had a lot of support. Lots of people claimed it was exploitative, but then academics like Carol J. Clover viewed it as a feminist film. It has its critics, and these arguments are understandable, but both versions have made audiences cheer as the woman in the film wreaks her revenge. And that’s the point, really – if a film is open for interpretation and debate, then it’s worth making and worth seeing, which is why we’re showing it at the festival. People need to be free to make up their own minds.”

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Horrorthon takes place in the IFI from October 21 to 25. Video Nasties: Mental Panic, Censorship and Videotape will be shown on October 25 at 2.15pm and I Spit On Your Grave is on October 23 at 9pm. Tickets are available from

EXTRA, EXTRA: October 21

* Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain) is rumoured to be directing the sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Sounds like a vaguely good idea, but then so did the first one. (Two hours of Hugh Jackman without his shirt, Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston. Seriously, how did they screw that up??) Hopefully Aronofsky will do the right thing and direct us back to the comics again, leaving his dignity and our childhood heroes intact.

* Danny Boyle’s apparently planning another 28 Days Later instalment, but instead of a zombie flick, it’s going to chart the menstrual cycle of several women who start out with different ovulation schedules but after a month of living together learn the meaning of “synchronization”… Okay, maybe it is just another zombie film, this time set in Russia, but my version would definitely be scarier to the male audience members.

* George Miller’s Mad Max remake starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron has been delayed, yet again, for the least badass reason we’ve ever heard of: rain has made the barren Australian outback a glorious flower garden. But maybe it could work: if Johnny managed to saw through his ankle this time round, he could then use the hacksaw to do some nice landscaping. “And over here I’ve turned my severed limbs into a fountain, with my blood accenting these faaaaaaabulous roses, dahling!” We won’t know til October 2011.

* Hard to think that Adam Sandler’s comedic genius could possibly reach new heights after the masterful Grown Ups, isn’t it? But the maverick may just best himself in forthcoming Jack and Jill by – wait for it – dressing up as a woman! Yes, he’s going to play his own twin sister! Oh Adam, you tickle my funny bone more than Schindler’s List and a dead kitten. You know what else is funny? He somehow convinced Al Pacino and Katie Holmes to co-star. Epic LOL! (Kill me now.)

RED: More like beige, actually.

[111 mins]
Opens October 22

Helen Mirren, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss and Ernest Borgnine star in this Oscar-worthy drama about one woman’s struggle to survive in Nazi Germany. Through sheer determination, strength and bravery, she perseveres against the odds and proves that the Third Reich is no match for True Love…

Okay, fine, that’s not really what RED is about, but with a cast like that, you’d be forgiven for assuming as much – in fact, you’re encouraged to. The dignified, serious reputation of its mature cast is what the boisterous action comedy depends on, for therein lies all the humour of this explosion-filled romp: Look, it’s Morgan Freeman in an old folks’ home, checking out some girl’s ass! Ooh, Helen Mirren is hiding a machine gun behind her elegant flower arrangement! Hey, that guy just called a violent LSD-riddled John Malkovich “Old man” – Oh no he di’int! – Oh yes he did! – Oh you in trouble now, boy! (ad infinitum.)

“So who’s driving us to bingo then?”

This unexpected gang of aging assassins are forced out of their respective retirements and nursing homes and back into gun-toting action when their former CIA comrade Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) finds himself embroiled in a government conspiracy. Dragging along Frank’s doe-eyed love interest Sarah (Mary Louise Parker), the old-timing hit squad take to the road for an enjoyable but thoroughly unoriginal series of explosions, quick escapes and weaponry displays. Continue reading

EASY A: A Very Questionable Lesson

[92 MINS]
Opens October 22

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If something occurs but you don’t share it on Facebook, did it ever really happen? For a generation raised on the notion that you show your individuality by joining a group and your soul exists to be bared in a status update, Easy A could well be their profile page. It’s immature, painfully self-aware and lacking in substance, but proves that a lengthy friends’ list will be yours once you have some funny quotes, deliberately lenient privacy settings and a cute girl in your profile picture.

And what a cute girl. Emma Stone plays Olive, the most unbelievable highschool-nobody since She’s All That proffered that Rachel Leigh Cook was ugly because she wore glasses. Charming, gorgeous and sarcastic, she’s somehow ignored by her peers until a rumour spreads that she has had sex. This is enough to spark the interest of the school’s male population and the outrage of a Christian group. Embracing her new reputation, Olive embarks on a business venture, pretending to sleep with the school outcasts in exchange for money. As is the way, the boys are made legend, Olive is made slut, redemption is earned through a sincere speech and all live happily ever after. Or do they? Continue reading

CARLOS the Jackass

[330 MINS]
Opening October 22, IFI

Carlos is the sprawling fictionalized account of Carlos the Jackal, the infamous Venezuelan terrorist. Originally broadcast as a TV mini-series, the 5 and a half hour long film is acts as an in-depth portrait of the terrorist’s life and career, from his brazen kidnapping of OPEC representatives from a meeting in Vienna to his role as an arms trafficker under the Iron Curtain at the end of the Cold War.

Edgar Ramirez’s lead performance is incredible, and while the film tries to avoid glamorizing the terrorist, Assayas’ direction is no match for Ramirez’ raw magnetism. Early in the film, he casually throws a bomb into the doorway of a London bank, before returning to his flat to admire his naked body in the mirror in the most blatant display of machismo vainglory ever committed to film. In another scene, he seduces a woman by rubbing grenades and guns over her skin, proclaiming that the “weapons are extensions of my body.” Arrogant and prone to talking in clichés, his self-delusion not only brilliantly represents the single-mindedness needed to become an international terrorist, but will also introduce the audience to an irritatingly common theme of this reviewer’s life: an unwilling attraction to that intense bad boy in the sunglasses.

A terrorist or just a mischievous rebel who I could tame with love, hmmmmm….

Continue reading

MARY & MAX: As I write this letter, send my love to you

[90 MINS]
Opens October 22

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The most delectably offbeat and heart-warming friendship movie of recent memory involves a most unlikely pairing. Mary is a young Australian with distant, dysfunctional parents, a birthmark that provokes relentless bullying, and an unrequited love for the boy across the street. Max is a middle aged, Asperger’s sufferer from New York, with a binge disorder and violent hatred for people who litter. Through a serendipitous pen-pal request, they discover their one shared trait: the aching need for a friend.

Mary and Max’s twenty year relationship is a visual one and the noticeable lack of dialogue in the film highlights the isolation of these exquisitely rendered Claymation characters. Barry Humphries’ dryly mischievous narration is lengthy but never wears out its welcome, and the two stars’ vocal performances are impeccable. Bethany Whitmore sings her way through Mary’s innocent questions (“If a cab driver goes backwards, does he owe you money?”) and childish misunderstandings (“He’s scared of outside, which is a disease called homophobia”) while Seymore Hoffman’s gruff complexity is perfect for Max’s deadpan non-sequiturs (“ I was once a member of the Communist party. Have you ever been a Communist? Have you ever been attacked by a crow or similar large bird?”) Their individual worlds differ in palette, with Mary’s sepia toned life occasionally brightened by splashes of red, while Max’s bleak existence is emphasized by his monochrome surroundings. Both worlds are breathtakingly evoked. Continue reading

THE HUNTER: Missing the Target

[90 MINS]
Opens October 29, IFI

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Self-indulgence, thy name is Rafi Pitts. It seems the award-winning Iranian director has fallen prey to his own hype. Acting as director, producer and leading actor of The Hunter, Pitts extends what could have been an intriguing short film into a mind-numbingly dull feature.

Ali Alavi (Pitts, obviously) is a monosyllabic ex-con who works the night shift as a factory security guard and communicates in rare monosyllables. But hey, he’s still a fun guy; occasionally he goes into the woods and shoots at nothing in particular. Prepare for a riveting first hour. No, I mean it – prepare. As in, bring a book. Which you will be rudely distracted from in the film’s final thirty minutes, when Ali’s wife and daughter are killed and The Hunter jarringly launches into thematic overdrive.

In an obtuse metaphor for Iran’s silent fury with its corrupt government, Ali becomes a vigilante figure, coldly killing two policemen and trying to avoid capture by hiding in the woods. Of course, we should be rooting for this representative of the Iranian people who’s trying to outsmart Ahmadinejad’s cronies, right? And usually we would, really, but it’s just so hard to cheer while also trying to nap. Continue reading

S’all about me…

*Size may vary depending on proximity to subject &/or her shoes.

SWF seeks arrogant, leather-jacket wearing male for…Oops, sorry, wrong blurb.

Roe isn’t Roe McDermott’s real name, & we don’t know what’s up with that. It’s entirely possible that she’s a Russian spy. (In Soviet Russia, Hot Press reads YOU.)

Showing great financial prowess, Roe took a degree in English & Philosophy immediately preceeding the recession, safe in the knowledge that analyzing the Descartian undertones of Alice in Wonderland is always a big earner. She then took an M.A. in Journalism &, realizing that you can legitimately and indefinitely avoid the real world in the name of education, applied to do another M.A. (in Women’s Studies, careful there boys.)

However, her plans were foiled (dammit, Igor unt zee udder agents vill not be happy) when she took an internship in Hot Press & just couldn’t bring herself to leave (neither could security – trust us, they tried.) So she now spends her time watching movies, telling you what to think (it’s for your own good, honestly – she warps your minds because she cares), & annoying the website manager on a daily basis by telling him that technology is the root of all evil & she’s worried that she may have wiped the internet…again.

She likes brackets, ellipses & ampersands.
She does not like Pina Coladas, & getting caught in the rain makes her look like a racoon.

Welcome! Come on in, we’re all a little mad here…

Hey guys, welcome to the blog!

First thing you should know is that technology & I are not friends, so there are likely going to be stupid technical glitches. Second thing you should know is that these issues don’t render my words any less beautiful, promise. Third thing you should know is that this isn’t a Customer Care helpline: I’m not going to say that your comments are important to me, because who knows, you could be an idiot. However I’m sure they’ll be entertaining, so feel free to agree, correct or just outright abuse me at will – it makes the whole blogging thing a lot more fun. Apart from that, all you could ever want to know about me is on the post entitled “S’all about me“…. I thought it was appropriate.

You can also find me on the dreaded Twitter if you want to comment on anything or generally abuse me.

Thanks for reading! 🙂