The dark sketch comedy troupe League of Gentlemen always owed much to Britain’s peculiar strains of horror fiction, and their post-League work–Jeremy Dyson’s book on English haunted houses (whose title escapes me at the moment) and Mark Gatiss’s scripts for Doctor Who, for example–shows many of the same influences. So I wasn’t surprised when early reports compared the new anthology series from Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith, Inside No. 9, to Tales of the Unexpected (along with Alfred Hitchcock Presents and, of course, The Twilight Zone.)
The Irish character actor Liam Cunningham–best known these days for playing the gruff but sensitive Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones–tackles a very different kind of role in his latest cinematic effort, Let Us Prey. In it, he plays a vagrant who survives what should be a fatal automobile accident, and later shows up at a police station with a habit of playing with matches, a tendency to shed crow feathers, a little bit of dangerous knowledge about each and every other person there, constable and prisoner alike–and a disconcerting desire to cause trouble.
I grew up in the early 80s. While I don’t feel the same enthusiasm towards the general zeitgeist of the era as many others of my generation, I do have to admit a certain amount of affection towards certain entertainments of the era.
One of the great things about being a kid in this era was the sheer amount of television programming time dedicated to cartoons. On weekdays, you could watch cartoons in the morning before you went to school and you could watch them in the afternoon when you got home. But the best day for cartoons was Saturday, when just about every network turned itself over to animation for three to four hours in the morning.
It’s funny how coincidence often links the movies I review. For example, there was the week I reviewed Frank and Nightcrawler (each starring a Gyllenhaal sibling); I didn’t mean to do that. Here’s another example: in the last couple of weeks I’ve reviewed We Are Still Here (an homage to Lucio Fulci) for this site and The Nightmare (a documentary about nightmares) for Cinema Axis. Next up on the docket: Horsehead, a horror movie about nightmares with a visual aesthetic occasionally cribbed from Italian horror, and starring a member of Fulci’s early-’80s rep.
I’ve always had a complex relationship with Lucio Fulci’s films. In theory, I should consider his œvure some of the best horror films ever made, featuring as they do beautiful imagery, existential themes, and strikingly-designed, well-executed gore sequences guaranteed to make the stomach churn. In practice, however, his screenplays tend to lack coherency, which irritates me because I’m mostly a story person. For me, the archetypal example of this is 1981’s House by the Cemetery, in which several minor characters insist the protagonist has a daughter he denies exists (and whose subplot disappears early in the film with no explanation), amongst other bizarre story elements and plot developments.
One of the things that seems to have developed hand-in-hand with the trend in “throwback” horror is an apparent desire to evoke the “glory days” of slasher films, before Scream and its successors turned the subgenre into a winking series of meta-comedies. This has resulted in a steady trickle of slashers with classic plots and setups but modern visuals and sensibilities, such as The Drownsman.
Not as many new-or-recent-release reviews this month–although, in my defense, I contributed not one but two pieces to Cinema Axis this month–but wow, Iots of other type of stuff, including three retro reviews. I think I may put the brakes on for June; there isn’t as much stuff coming out that I’m interested in and I’m feeling a bit of burnout. The last things I wrote for May–the full review of Manhunter and the capsules of Muppet Movie and Song of the Sea–were very difficult.