Retro Night

Retro Night

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posted by JP at 12:40 am  

Edinburgh – Short Story

Back in 2006 I travelled to Edinburgh from London to shoot a short film.

It was a weekend of fun, where I felt I was doing what I should have always been doing with my life.

I laughed hard with new friends, exhausted and exhilarated after two back-to-back twelve-hour days of production.

During my stay in Edinburgh, the crew crashed at the apartment of the girlfriend of the director. It added to the in the trenches attitude that had helped us bond quickly.

I returned to London, renewed with a sense of purpose that helped balance the grind of my then day job.

The film was entered into a competition. It didn’t win. It hit the director pretty hard.

The crew swapped contact details but I’ve never heard from any of them.

Six years later I’m back in Edinburgh. I’m now selling insurance and in town for a convention. During a break in the day I find myself walking by the old flat. New owners, now.

My heart remembers the good times and the warmth the apartment contained. But my eyes, grounded in the present, can’t see the people that made the flat what it was.

I want to see my friends again.

I will my eyes to project their images onto the apartment.

I see Richard setting up the lighting rig.

Sue’s doing make-up.

I see myself, clocking the script and checking that we don’t overrun. Even then I was worried about time.

The inability of my eyes to perform such a reasonable function leaves me feeling feeble.

I’m conscious that I’ve been standing in the street a long time. Someone might think I’m casing the joint.

I walk on.

I don’t know what material ghosts are made of.

Regret? Perhaps.

The unresolved? Maybe.

But I reason that to have ghosts you must have first lived.

I walk away from the apartment in Edinburgh still haunted by the memories of good friends, knowing that I’ve lived.

(c) John-Paul Kamath 29/08/2012

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posted by JP at 12:41 pm  

State of Horror Movies – FrightFest 2012

Just finished this year’s FrightFest and figured I’d do a couple of lines on the state of horror flicks.

The festival is a useful barometer of what’s happening in horror movies at a given point in the year. I can remember viewing the steady crop of films from Korea and Asia when they were innovating like crazy.

Exciting times.

The schedule of films this year had a few gems, but there was nothing of the calibre of say, The Orphanage, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon or Jeepers Creepers that kicked you square in the pants and reminded you of what the game was about.

The bulk of American films (which are more than likely to find their way into your local Cineworld) were formed of reheated leftovers from the plot lines of other films, with the usual thirty minutes of character development.

The exceptions would be American Mary: well-directed given the subject matter and with a great performance by Katherine Isabelle, but let down by having really nothing to say about the frailty of the body or mind. V/H/S was a gem of a film, breathing new life into the found footage sub-genre, but whether it will get the widespread release it deserves is another thing.

UK films seemed to have stumbled out of the dark ages while no-one was looking with firecrackers such as Cockneys Vs Zombies and Tower Block leading the charge. Subtle pieces like Berberian Sound Studio showed we could still be measured and thoughtful and unnerving.

Spain’s Rec3 provided universal appeasement with comedy and horror and Italian entry Tulpa was a standard whodunit that looked great.

Contrasting the horror films at the festival with the ones that have made it onto my shelf and the big difference seems to be the lack of a central idea or conviction held by the film-maker.

By idea or conviction, I don’t mean stories about race relations or pollution, but something that leads me to think the story I’m seeing is about more than going boo and delivering a witty one (or two) liner.

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posted by JP at 9:27 pm  

Sinister Review FrightFest 2012

Writer-director Scott Derrickson mixes found footage, haunted house and boogeyman lore in Sinister.

A writer played by Ethan Hawke moves into a new house (the scene from a murder) with his family and begins piecing together a series of related murders which have occurred over 40 years.

Piecing together the found footage showcasing the murders he soon uncovers a sinister (sic) presence which has played a part in the executions.

There are some genuinely creepy moments in Sinister. The rough grainy nature of the found footage Hawke reviews is more disturbing than the “stumble in the dark and turn the volume up loud, ooh there’s a face” scares the film serves up.

The comedy interplay between Hawke and his police officer provide welcomed moments of relief, but too often these are overplayed and detract of the mood of the piece as a whole.

Sinister is a well-observed film as it blends influences and genre conventions from across the board. But too often it’s the blend between elements that work against each other.

When the main character sites reasons for remaining in the house in an argument with his wife, it’s negated by a comedic conversation Hawke’s character has with a police officer who says he should be getting the hell out of there in no uncertain terms.

Had Sinister been a horror flick with a smaller amount of humor, it would have provided a fresh take on the well-worn haunted house sub-genre. In the end, you’re not left feeling as scared as you could have been.

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posted by JP at 8:22 pm  

American Mary Review FrightFest 2012

Horror films are typified by being produced, written and directed by males and for the most part play to a majority male audience.

It’s therefore refreshing when a horror film comes along where the root idea and execution is driven by females; we see a different perspective.

Note that by “different” I don’t mean “less violent”, ladies can go just as dark as men in the field of horror.

American Mary charts the progression of events that lead Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) from aspiring surgical student to lucrative alleyway body modification specialist.

If that sounds too heavy, it shouldn’t. The horror in the film is balanced with a wry sense of humour delivered with expert comedy timing from Isabelle and deftly directed mixing both subtle and graphic visuals.

My problem with the film is that while it delivers scares and laughs, the journey that Mary goes on is emotionally shallow. Her transformation from cash-strapped student to hard-nosed “look out for number one” surgeon happens a bit to quickly. At points in the film where she exacts revenge, little consideration is giving to the consequences of her actions or of the lifestyle she has chosen.

The last fifteen to twenty minutes of the film highlight this as it rushes to conclude the plot, but not the story of the film.

Had this been a story about how Mary was able to physically alter others but not herself emotionally, it would have elevated the film from good to great.

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posted by JP at 7:51 pm  

Berberian Sound Studio Review FrightFest 2012

This was the one film of the festival that I was keen on seeing just by reading the short description in the programme guide.

The watchwords for me were weird and British, and I’m down with that.

The plot concerns a sound engineer from rural Dorking who gets sent to work in Italy to produce the audio mix on a horror film. Away from home and immersing himself deeper into the picture as production conflicts arise, things gradually begin to take their toll on his mind.

The graphic violence is kept off screen and the horrors Toby Jones’ character finds himself exposed to are represented only through the sound effects he has to provide in successive takes.

Peter Strickland’s direction of the film is measured and deliberate: slow zooms in and out, tilts and contemplative anchored shots. The performances are deliberately narrowed and allow the soundscape of the film (both of the film and the film-within-a-film) to create much of the tension that bubbles throughout, leaving the viewer with a sense of unease both from what he sees and what he hears.

The film is ultimately a comment about how horror films take their toll on those who work on them and implicates the audience as well as sleazy producers who are well-known to operate in the genre; were it not for the ongoing demand of gore without conscience, sensitive and hard-working film crews would not find themselves wrecked and unpaid at the end of many a shoot.

Unnerving, thought-provoking and a film you have to work for, Berberian Sound Studio deserves your attention when it opens later this week.

A festival highlight.

Berberian Sound Studio

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posted by JP at 7:04 pm  

FrightFest 2012 Pictures Part 2

Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska and Katherine Isabelle for American Mary.

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posted by JP at 5:46 pm  

VIDEO: American Mary Directors Jen and Sylvia Soska at FrightFest 2012

American Mary Directors Jen Soska and Sylvia Soska speak at FrightFest 2012

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posted by JP at 12:53 am  

Berberian Sound Studio’s Peter Strickland interviewed at FrightFest 2012

Berberian Sound Studio’s Peter Strickland interviewed at FrightFest 2012

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posted by JP at 6:35 am  

FrightFest 2012 Pictures

Assorted pictures from FrightFest 2012 featuring cast and crew of Cockneys vs Zombies, The Seasoning House, Tulpa and
Berberian Sound Studio.

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posted by JP at 6:32 am  
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