Thursday, 28 May 2015


As we head towards June, here is a brief run-down of the Top 5 films Twistedwing watched in May. The five films reviewed are either available now on DVD and Blu-ray or coming very soon. Enjoy.

1/ It Follows

Original horror movies don't come around very often, which makes David Robert Mitchell's second feature all the more appealing. It Follows is blessed with such a simple concept, it makes you wonder why we haven't seen it before. Sex kills. We all know that. Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven have been telling us that since 1996, but the combination of sex and death has never been used as effectively as it is here.

After having sex, a young woman is followed by an unknown supernatural force. That's pretty much it. The only way to avoid premature death is to have sex with another person, the 'curse' (if you will) is then passed on to the person you're bumping uglies with. Should they meet an unfortunate end, the curse then passes back to you and so on. Basically, you're screwed in more ways than one. Mitchell offers no explanation as to why this happens - the films kicks in halfway through another deadly encounter - but the rest of the movie is spent with Jay (The Guest's breakout star, Maika Monroe) and her friends, as they attempt to outrun the deadliest STD ever to grace our TV screens.

Mitchell doesn't rest on his laurels, not once, and what follows is both incredibly creepy and consistently surprising. A lot of suspense is drawn from the idea that only the victims can see their foe, even the ones that live to tell the tale. Which means Jay's friends are in the dark at all times, offering up some ingenious scares along the way. With a sublime, fully-pumped Carpenter-esque score, and a small town that gives the deserted streets of Haddonfield a run for its money, Mitchell has crafted an eerie and suspenseful thriller that feels fresh by today's standards. The young cast is, for once, a pleasure to be around and Monroe proves that The Guest was no fluke. 

The slow, deliberate style might bemuse some factions, as might the lack of true resolution, but in a world besieged by horror clones, It Follows is an original, refreshing and quietly creepy horror movie soon to be cheapened by inferior knock-offs. Enjoy it while you can. 

2/ The Long Good Friday

Bob plays Harold, a prosperous English gangster, about to close a lucrative new deal with his American backers (the Mafia to you and me) when bombs start blowing up in inconvenient places. A car bomb almost kills his Mum, another bomb blows up his pub, and all around him friends are being stabbed and murdered. A mysterious syndicate is trying to muscle in on his action and Harold wants to know who they are. "You don't crucify people! Not on Good Friday!" He finds out soon enough, after chewing on some delicious dialogue, and The Long Good Friday talks its way into cinematic legend.

The score is strangely alluring, blending creepy Carpenter-esque electronic symphonies with belting saxophone beats. The cast is on top of its game, with stand-out performances from Hoskins (naturally), Mirren and Derek Thompson (the most recognisable face from Casualty) as one of Harold's most trusted associates. The dialogue is mint, especially when it comes from the mouth of Hoskins. Lines like, "There's a lot of dignity in that, isn't there? Going out like a raspberry ripple," sound so much better when they come from Bob. 

This new release from Arrow Video includes audio commentary by director John Mackenzie, 'Bloody Business', a documentary about the making of The Long Good Friday, including interviews with John Mackenzie, stars Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Pierce Brosnan, producer Barry Hanson and Phil Meheux. Brand new interviews with Barry Hanson, Phil Méheux and writer Barrie Keeffe, as well as 'Hands Across the Ocean', a comparison of the differences between the UK and US soundtracks.

"Nothing unusual, he says! Eric's been blown to smithereens, Colin's been carved up, and I've got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual?" The Long Good Friday is a true 80s gem; without a doubt one of the greatest British gangster films of all time. Hoskins has never been better, London is the perfect backdrop and the dialogue is as sharp as a tack. On Blu-ray, sourced from the original negative for the very first time, The Long Good Friday shines brighter still. 

3/ Kingsman: The Secret Service

I'm not sure why I had doubts about this. The lukewarm trailer didn't help - suggesting that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman (kick-Ass) had learnt to conform. Perhaps it was the opening hour itself, which lacked the pumped-up violence and cutting edge humour of their most successful collaboration. There are moments to savour of course, not least the introduction of deadly henchwoman, Gazelle (Sofia Boutella), who has blades for feet and brings a whiff of Ichi the Killer to proceedings. For a good hour though, Kingsman is as mainstream as it gets - with the occasional F-bomb thrown in for good measure.

Eggsy (Taron Egerton), a young kid with too much time on his hands, finds himself recruited by Harry Hart (Colin Firth) - a smooth spy for a covert agency called Kingsman - after the death of a fellow agent. Kingsman swims in fish-out-of-water territory for a good hour, as Gary 'Eggsy' Unwin is trained as both super-spy and gentleman. Pretty Woman and My Fair Lady shared similar themes, with a little more romance and a lot less explosions, admittedly. Meanwhile, an eccentric billionaire threatens to wipe out most of the world’s population. That would be Samuel L. Jackson then.

There's nothing wrong with the first hour, which combines fast-paced thrills, great action sequences, winning performances (particularly from Firth) and a sense of fun severely lacking from hard-edged spy thrillers of late. However, nothing prepared me for the final act, which takes a demented turn for the better and brings back the loopy extremities of Kick-Ass with style to spare. One scene is particular, where Harry Hart cuts loose (quite literally) in a crowded church, is exhilarating to the extreme. It was at this point that I knew I was wrong to suspect Vaughn of losing his bite. The shift in tone won't surprise long-term fans, but between them Vaughn and Goldman have given mainstream cinema a right royal kick up the ass. 

Fresh, fun and ferociously entertaining, Kingsman: The Secret Service takes well-worn spy themes and sets them on fire. Think you know what you're letting yourself in for? Think again.

4/ Wild Tales

Making its debut at Cannes 2014, Argentina's Damian Szifron welcomes UK audiences to the critically acclaimed anthology thriller, Wild Tales. Without putting too fine a point on it, Wild Tales is not the kind of film you would usually associate with the words 'Oscar' and 'nomination'. Having said that, if more films like this were rewarded at the prestigious ceremony we would probably pay closer attention.

Inequality, injustice and the demands of the world we live in cause stress and depression for many people. Most face them on bended knee, but some of them explode. This is a film about those people. Revenge has rarely been sweeter. If the opening was designed to grab your attention then so be it, Wild Tales kicks off with a zippy, unapologetic short that takes several prisoners - not least the audience. The second movie, of which there are six, is short and sweet but pales in comparison to other instalments. It doesn't do anything wrong, and whets the appetite for sure, but upon reflection, chapter two feels like the one story that could have made way for a leaner, meaner cut.

Damian Szifron doesn't attempt to connect his stories in any way. Six short stories that focus on revenge, that's all there is to it. Part three, in which a moment of road rage explodes into Looney Tune farce, was for me the defining chapter. Wild Tales really finds its groove here. Nasty, offbeat and irresistibly comical, you won't know who to root for as events take a turn for the worse (meaning better). It's here that Wild Tales quite literally dumps on the competition. Part four builds to an explosive climax and the penultimate chapter - concerning the cover up of a hit-and-run incident that doesn't go to plan - hammers its message home, even if the end result is somewhat predictable. 

Don't let the Oscar nomination fool you, Wild Tales deserves a place in your collection. Darkly comic, wickedly twisted and unapologetically absurd, Damian Szifron paints a beautiful portrait of revenge. Check it out.

5/ Wolf Creek 2

Wolf Creek 2 has been sat on my shelf for weeks, probably because I thought it was going to be another pointless sequel feeding off the success of the original movie. Crazed, serial-killing pig-hunter Mick Taylor is back, cleaning up The Outback with his trusty blade and quick-fire wit. He still hates foreigners, now more so than ever, which is pretty much all the plot you need for a killer sequel. It's easy to criticise Wolf Creek 2 for falling prey to sequelitis. Like a lot of films before it, particularly in the horror genre, Greg McLean has taken his potty-mouth bogeyman and made him the star. The same thing happened with Freddy, Jason and Chucky, and we all know what happened next. Fortunately for us, it's been eight years since we last saw Mick, so his return to the big screen is more than welcome. It's like having an old friend for dinner.

With Mick taking centre stage it would be easy for McLean to forget the cardinal rule of horror films; give the audience somebody to root for. Horror films lose their grip if the audience doesn't care for the good guy, and more often than not the film becomes a mindless exercise in body counts and bloodshed. While it would be fair to say the first few victims fall foul of this, the introduction of British backpacker Paul Hammersmith (Ryan Corr) changes the dynamic completely. First of all, he's a man. Which is still pretty rare in the slasher sub-genre. Secondly, he's pretty damn smart. Again, not the most common occurrence in the world of horror. 

John Jarratt clearly has a lot of love for his psychotic creation, even if he does push credibility to the limit at times, but he gets away with it because Mick Taylor is such a pleasure to be around. Wolf Creek 2 comes into its own when the game of cat and mouse begins, with both characters upping the ante at every turn. McLean may have dispensed with the drip feed of terror that made the original so appealing, but the Looney Tune escapades of part two are difficult to fault. With any other franchise I would probably criticise the change of direction Wolf Creek has made, but in all honesty, I was having too much fun to care.

Wolf Creek 2 is a blast from start to finish. I would love to see Mick go up against an even bigger psycho in part three, but we might have to wait another eight years for that. Bigger, bolder and funnier than the original, Wolf Creek 2 really shouldn't be this entertaining. What's more, the final scene is spot on. Definitely worth a look.

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