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Snip (2008)
one of the most effective shorts I've ever seen
18 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Allow me to set the stage: The first film of the Night of the Dead Horror Festival has just finished, me and my friend have been on the go for over a day now and keeping ourselves going through a concoction of (legal) drugs. The spokesman for the night comes on stage and introduces the next short - Snip. He simply says 'yeh....this one's really nasty, enjoy!' Onto the screen comes a bubbling stream of almost surreal banality.

A man sits in his room flicking though channels, glued to the gratuitous violence and sex that he sees being portrayed. After a few minutes I feel myself getting nervous, wandering where this is going. Then the man switches the set off, strips, sets up a camera and takes out a small work blade. The rest I will not say, other than it is one of the most realistic gore effects I have EVER seen (at least it felt like it that night.) Despite being less than 15 minutes long, the film covers a lot more than simple shock through extremity. The message is loud and clear, another attack on the constant barrage of sex and violence seen on TV all the time without consequence. It has a darkly surreal edge to it, one that is fit with the ominous silence that accompanies the harsh, gritty sound effects of knife and skin. Snip is brutal. I love my gore films (we see Tokyo gore police later that evening) but on the big screen, on a sleep deprived and unsettled stomach, this nearly became my undoing - brilliant stuff.

If you're interested in seeing it, I think you can buy the DVD off their official site which you can easily search for.
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Deadgirl (2008)
A powerful probe into the human psyche
18 November 2008
I have a longer review of this, but unfortunately it breaches the 1k word limit of IMDb, so I will be rather succinct.

I had the pleasure of watching this at the Leeds Film Festival as part of Night of the Dead. At first I was apprehensive, expecting perhaps another 'torture-porn' indie film.

Instead, I got a powerful probe into the human psyche and the limits of human capability and barbarity.

The two main characters are enthralling and thoroughly explored, it is this subtle psychological study juxtaposed with the stark brutality of the films heavier moments that make this so powerful. Gritty, grainy, and teetering between realism, fantasy, and science-fiction, deadgirl is a horror that raises the bar on context, delivery, and emotional impact. It is probably the best US horror I have seen in recent memory, and its rating here on IMDb seems to reflect people taking it on at a superficial value only.

However, the film also knows is limits, it does not plunge into the sea of self indulgent artistic pretence. Instead, it stays afloat and allows you to glimpse down and take what you want from it, to empathise with who you deem worthy, and cast the sinister question of just what would YOU do in a room where society's laws are locked away in the background, your own state of nature in the metallic underbelly of an abandoned mental asylum. Would you return to the banality of suburban school life? Would you act on feral urge or try and do what you perceive to be the right thing.

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low budget rubbish, mixed with hilarity.
23 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
ninja vixens is a film that does not take itself seriously. From the corny storyline to the gratuitous nudity, this short 'ninja' film somehow manages to make us believe that a total of three four people were attempting, and succeeding at overtaking the entirety of Japan.

However, despite the pointless first half of the film, there are some truly hilarious, Pokemon inspired moments such as the legendary 'boob needle' attack, another excuse just to put some breasts on screen.

Along with the final 'flame of seduction' which for some reason renders our hero completely naked for no apparent reason, we are left with the 'Lion King' in the middle of a terrible special effect, screaming 'I'm on fire'.

Truly Genius.

With names like 'Master Dragon', 'Dark Mist', and 'Lion King' you really can't go wrong.

But seriously, only watch if you want a couple of laughs, and to see Japanese cleavage, as this film has no acting skills, no budget, no point, and no redeeming camera work at all.


EDIT: Despite this scathing review, me and my flatmate had a good laugh watching it. Clocking in at a modest 70 minutes, it stays around just enough to enjoy itself, and then proceeds to end before it outstays its welcome. Trashy, but fun stuff
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Eden Lake (2008)
A Stark extremity with horrifying plausibility.
14 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely does a film manage to anger me in such a myriad of ways as Eden Lake did.

The film's premise is that of a couple spending a romantic weekend at a disused quarry before it is built over for apartments. Whilst enjoying the sites of the beautiful Eden Lake, they run into a gang of loutish youths. What begins as thuggish behaviour, slowly escalates into the couple being more and more pushed by the kids until the crescendo is reached and the couples car is stolen (by the kids, as seen in a later scene.) Our 'protagonist' asks for his keys back as the kids, amused, profess innocence. As the intensity increases, knifes are suddenly pulled out and during a struggle, the groups dog is killed. Thus starts an extreme, horrific, and infuriating ride that is Eden Lake.

I said at the start that this film enraged me, and to begin with it was for all the wrong reasons. Yet again, I thought I was about to endure a stereotypical classification of young chavs as poor, stupid, and one track minded - thugs of society that have no respect for anything. And to begin with this is what we get, a classic case of the good vs evil, an innocent couple plagued by a younger generation with no morals.

And then the film flips itself around with a monumental scene following the aftermath of the dogs death. Before, the group were all enraged by this act against them during the night, but then as the camera follows the girlfriend towards noise in the coming day, we see Steve tied up, beaten severely and bleeding profusely. The scene that follows is impeccably done, just enough realistic, cold barbarity with reason as the leader forces the doubters into cutting the man so that they are all 'in on it' - a horrifying extremity of the weapon that is peer pressure, all whilst being videoed by the girl of the group. It is here that the characters come to life, the ones that follow the larger, goaded in by acceptance into a group, ones that do not mind laughing when nothing is at stake but humiliation. However, once the reality of excessive force is shoved in their face, and the situation is starting to unfold into an all too real nightmare, their morality comes calling and the plead to take it no further, here we see the main thug (played very well by the young actor) for what he is, a 'headcase' as one of his friends puts it.

Yet, this glimmer of rationality dissipates, and they fold to fear and act, cutting the innocent man that lies before them where the others have done so before them. Then starts the chase of the girlfriend. The cinematography is stunning, the level of grime upon the character of Jenny growing as the darkness of the film broods.

Up until this point, we still had the good vs evil, the plagued woman trying to escape her brutal assailants, and this is where the genius of the film escalates with a simple yet harrowing scene. She breaks the glass of a nature reserve stand in order to retrieve a map, sees the glass and, after hesitating, rips some of her dress off to wrap around the slither of glass - a weapon has been made. On comes one of the younger boys that was so hesitant before. He approaches cautiously, and with the look in his eyes it is apparent he wishes her to escape so the nightmare can be over for him just as much her. She whips round and stabs him straight in the neck, a shocking scene as she has become the feral monsters she tried to escape from, eye for an eye, revenge being the only driving factor. Slowly it dawns on her what she done to the young boy and he slowly dies in her arms as she screams in horror of what she has become, what she feels she was pushed to do.

THIS is where the real conflict and message of the films is placed for me. Do we act on revenge? Is an eye for an eye a motto to live by, and is that acceptable? She aimed for the neck, she aimed to kill, and in the aftermath, we find ourselves feeling sympathy for the dead child, an innocent victim of youth culture. Or is he? Along with another child that dies later on, are these children truly innocent? They did wish it to escalate yet they did nothing, they protested meekly but did not stand up as a group. Later, the girl who videoed everything runs away, she has had enough. Jenny sees her in the road, hit the accelerator and mows her down with no sympathy.

This is a film that highlights and is commenting on the worrying state of today's troubled British youth, and how often it only takes one to start off a chain of events which escalates out of control. Yes, this situation is an extremity, but it is not too far-fetched, you only need to take a glance at the amount of youth stabbings in the last year to realise this.

We only need to pick up a paper to hear about yet another stabbing or act of warrant destruction. This film gives depth to those characters and does not display them as simply mindless dregs. Yes it is extreme, but that is the point, to highlight a stark extremity with horrifying plausibility.

Perhaps the film is so powerful because of its stark reality. There is no boogeyman, alien, or ghost here - these are children, children tainted by those with troubles (end of the film hints at why, brilliant) and it is in that horrific plausibility, that we find the truly gripping and infuriating anger at the injustice of it all.
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Bombay (1995)
A powerful message indeed
28 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
When you mention the words 'Indian cinema' to most people, (and disturbingly, a large proportion of film fans) often the first reaction will be that of a smirk intrinsically linked with a conjuring thought of the 'Bollywood' industry.

Most people do not realise that Indian cinema as an industry is the second largest grossing cinema industry in the world, second only to the American giant that is Hollywood. Ever since the early days of the multiplex, Indian cinema has been dominating the cinematic machine, early films often dealt with social and economic strikes (mostly the 50's and before) with the Indian cinema moving more towards the romantic feature which most people associate in the mid 60's. As the decades passed by, the Indian film industry moved, as a whole, through several topics and thought provoking genres (of course a LOT of crap was released as well; this is the typical all singing all dancing 5 hour epic which most people associate Indian cinema with) until in the 90's, film makers finally started focusing on terrorism as a genre, and in particular the strife and violence engaged between Hindus and Muslims within the Tamil speaking area of India.

Bombay begins as your typical Indian romance; the protagonist male and female fall in love yet are separated by different religions and families. After a moving Eden like opening song number, the two work hard to stay together through their families approval, eventually moving away form their small villages and into the city of Bombay.

After an interval, the film takes a much darker tone, focusing primarily on the Bombay bombings and showing how the couple (now with children) are caught up within the racial attacks. Strikingly disturbing and realistic (one scene involves radicals pouring gasoline over the two crying children as they refuse to speak which religion they belong to) the film touches on dangerous soil as it shows the riots with no remorse or sugar coating. The lead actor delivers a compelling performance and in the end delivers an incredible speech in the middle of the riots, putting himself between the warring factions screaming 'I am neither Hindu or Muslim; I am Indian, we are all Indians!' A must watch for someone interested in good Indian cinema.
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Murphy shines in a savage yet one-sided ordeal
28 June 2008
Ken Loach is well known for never transitioning to mainstream Hollywood as many of his contemporaries have, thus it was no surprise to me when I heard about the alleged controversy surrounding this film.

Set In Ireland 1920, the film deals with the unrest that stemmed between the Irish guerrillas fighting for a free Ireland against the British. The film portrays a rather sympathetic view of these fighters, although the characters are indeed well developed - Cillian Murphy is particularly excellent (a big step up from the rather banal 'Red Eye') A powerful story of two brothers journey to find freedom in a part of history that is often forgotten due to its close proximity to the end of World War I; the injustices and terror that plagued thousands of innocent Irish people as Britain tried to keep its tenure on the Empire.

I can see why many English people would find this film offensive; virtually every English character, especially the soldiers are one-dimensional monsters that beat, rape and kill without mercy and that is perhaps my only grips with the film. Yet I can see why it was done - to highlight in the rawest possible way the atrocities that were committed during this time period.

However, Loach does well in portraying the confusion that builds up within the Irish protesters, especially once the treaty which established Northern Ireland is signed, the best scenes of the film indeed exploit this confusion and what is considered traitorous acts or what is 'needed to be done'.

Overall, the film is a powerful story that is shot and told very well, the acting is solid and characters well developed. The film also won the Palme d'Or at Cannes 2006 so it is encouraging that people looked past the only negative of the film (that of the one-dimensional English apart from a select few) and saw the story for the powerful and emotional journey that it is.
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Wanted (2008)
had potential yet fell flat half way through
26 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
If you ever want to see a film that is a conglomeration of every generic 'slick' action film, then go see Wanted.

I wanted to like this film, I truly did. The first half was enjoyable, the action silly but what I expected. The protagonist's character was likable and sympathetic despite the slightly 'fight club' office feel. After a brilliant section of him being trained (not adding spoilers) I was looking forward to the rest of the film playing out.


The film suddenly spirals down into a pit of frustration with all emphasis on telling a well built up story fused with OTT action abandoned and left for dead at the side of the road. In its place is a series of choppy scenes, each one only serving to lead into the next scene so another ridiculous fight scene can take place. For the first part of the film there was also interesting cinematography choices spliced with dark humour - this all dissipates into action, action and action again.

It seems the director and script editors got together with a checklist of clichéd moments, plot devices and effects and ticked every damn one before high fiving each other and going off to spend three trillion dollars on the SFX bill. Again, I found myself subjected to gratuitous slow down and speed up moments that seemed to be learnt from the 300 school of effects (p.s i like 300).


Or is it? The first half leads you to believe they are taking themselves very seriously albeit with crazy yet satisfying impossibilities in action scenes which only films like this can be provide. It's a shame Shoot em Up already took this idea and did way better and knew it was silly. Like Smokin' Aces, this film tries to be much slicker than it is and creates scenes which range from impressive to uncomfortable to watch. And yes, I know it originates from a comic thus was expecting ridiculousness, it just got to the point where it wasn't interesting anymore. (The train scene is incredible from a visual standpoint, but it reeked of no-one cares)

I just wish this film could have improved on how it started and made up its mind on what it was going for. It was even more ridiculous than the matrix style plausibility yet that is there for a reason; shoot em up and crank are hilarious through their stupidity because that is what they are trying to be. This seems to find itself tittering between the OTT action film and the engaging thriller sprinkled with the extremely unoriginal 'cool' factor.

I won't go on about the plot in too much detail but really, the final twenty minutes made me want to kill the nearest bystander for its mindbogglingly obvious play out and bland, stereotypical twist

I feel I'm focusing on the negatives here, so here's a couple of positives.

-breathtaking effects -strong lead actor

If you're watching this as a casual action flick then fine, you will probably enjoy yourself is you set your brain to stupid mode, but for me this wasn't a typical lads film as there was a lot going on, and there was a LOT of potential. Disappointing, but not terrible- saved only by its effects and acting (in places)

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