Saturday, February 26, 2011

Some scary movies and a misfire - JDIFF continues...

The festival is still going - this week, I found myself at two horror flicks, both schlocky in their own way....

First up was Wakewood, the first Hammer Studios film in a very long time. Brendan McCarthy's arch script sees Eva Birthistle and Aidan Gillen's grieving parents move to a remote Monaghan village called Wakewood. There the villagers turn out to be able to bring your loved one back from the dead, but only for three days. The parents decide to take part in their ritual, planning to renege on the deal and escape with their daughter once she's back. Of course they find themselves pitted against the villagers (led by a scene-stealing Timothy Spall) and mayhem and scares ensue.

This is a Hammer film through and through. Hearts ripped out of chests, check. Lots of blood and guts, check. Tongue-in-cheek violence aplenty, check. I thoroughly enjoyed it - the script was smart and well-written and there were a couple of good scares every few minutes. Plus the little girl, played by Ella Connolly, was brilliant. If you're a horror fan, you'll enjoy this one.

Next up was a true classic in the B-movie horror genre, The Tingler, introduced by Bruce Goldstein from the Film Forum in New York. William Castle's 1959 scare-a-thon stars Vincent Price as a pathologist obsessed with proving that people can be killed by a spine-dwelling creature, the eponymous Tingler. If you're frightened and can't or won't scream, the sucker snaps your spine.

The acting in this film is hilarious. Price acts like he's in Macbeth, as does Judith Evelyn as a deaf-mute cinema owner's wife (can you see where she might fit in?). The rest of the cast act as if they're in a cute comedy, even while Price's doctor is doing strange experiments in his house and having unconvincing LSD trips (the first time a trip had ever been shown on film!).

Then there's The Tingler itself, which look like... I won't spoil it for you. Far and away the best thing about the movie are the stunts Castle used to put on to promote it, installing electric shockers in the backs of random cinema seats and having plants in the audience to jump up and scream at the right moment.

Modern health and safety means the shockers weren't possible at the IFI (boo, hiss!) but the festival did still manage a skeleton which dangled beside the screen as Price was trippin' and the famous blackout moment, as well as having screaming audience members and even a fake Tingler. Kudos, JDIFF, it was a scream from start to finish and the best night at the cinema I've had for ages.

Last night was one I'd been looking forward to, The Adjustment Bureau. Written and directed by George Nolfi (writer of Oceans Twelve and The Bourne Ultimatum) and based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, it stars Matt Damon and Emily Blunt. What could go wrong, right?

Well, let's just say that Blade Runner remains the only successful adaptation of a Dick story. This one just mixed too many genres for me - it was a political thriller, a romance and a sci-fi, and it didn't do any of them particularly well. There wasn't enough at stake and the tone of the piece was all over the place.

Plus, it was, as my cinema companion pointed out more than once, a tad silly. I think she meant by this that it lacked a sense of humour - say what you like about Minority Report, but I think IT knew it was a sci-fi popcorn movie.

Tomorrow is the one I've really been looking forward to, the Surprise Film. I have a shortlist of five films this could be, so I'll be doling an idea out to each of the four people I'm going with and hoping one of them is right...

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