Wednesday, 30 March 2016


eureka tells the story of gold prospector jack mccann who strikes it rich and retires to a life of luxury only to fear that his daughter and her husband have their eyes on his fortune. however, the real threat comes from the gangsters intent on taking mccann's wealth by any means necessary.

the story is based on the real life unsolved murder of sir harry oakes in 1943, a case that was notorious for the high profiles of the people involved and the brutal fashion in which oakes was killed. there are several books about the oakes murder and subsequently a number of films, but eureka was the first adaptation of the story for the screen. notably, writer paul mayersberg and director nicolas roeg take some interesting liberties with the story.

the film opens with a sequence of events that show how mccann found his gold, including a particularly shocking encounter with a fellow prospector. he later enlists the help of a fortune teller, which does indeed lead him to his fortune. it's these surreal, shocking and mysterious elements that elevate the story from a sordid true crime tale to something profound and fascinating.

one of the most striking elements of the film now is the amazing cast, most of whom went on to forge legendary careers themselves. gene hackman does his best to make you dislike him with his fiery performance as mccann, but manages to include just enough humanity to make you empathise with him. theresa russell and rutger hauer are great as mccann's daughter and her husband, portraying an incredibly complex emotional relationship that seems to thrive either entirely on love or entirely on sex, varying from scene to scene. hauer in particular does a fantastic job of playing a character whom you never know whether to like or despise. there are also great supporting roles from mickey rourke, joe pesci and en lauter, and even a typically creepy appearence from joe spinell.

as expected of roeg there are moments of surreal beauty in the most unlikely of scenes, particularly in the brutal murder scene which ends with fireworks and a shower of feathers falling like snow.  the fireworks in particular are an important image and one that roeg uses a couple of times. there is a sense that mccann is essentially a bomb waiting to go off, and that his increasing anger, frustration and paranoia about his money is a flame moving closer and closer to the fuse.

when the hackman bomb does explode the film takes another turn and the final act is an unexpected courtroom drama. interestingly, roeg shows us exactly what happens to mccann so the unsolved element is removed. however, roeg being the filmmaker that he is this is no ordinary courtroom scene and by the end the court are forced to watch without interruption as russell and hauer work out the intimate problems of their relationship in front of the jury.

it has to be said that eureka can be a tough watch at times. none of the characters are particularly likable, and though all the actors add a little something to keep us interested and to see their characters as human, it is for the most part a story of greed, selfishness and paranoia. there is no light side to this story, but then given the subject matter it's easy to see why.

that said, if you stick with it this is a fascinating study of wealth and what happens to the rich when they grow older and begin to see what little they really have. worth watching for the cast alone, it's certainly an interesting film and one that deserves a place among the more recognised classics.

eureka is out now on blu-ray as part of eureka entertainment's masters of cinema series

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

batman v superman: dawn of justice

i saw batman v superman and overall there was a lot i liked, particularly the way batman handled himself in the fights and the odd moments of magic realism that gave the whole piece a hallucinatory feel. there was a lot i didn't like, all of which has been discussed elsewhere so i'm not going to cover it again here. mostly i was really confused and i think that's the point. i'm going to try to explain. there may be spoilers.

first of all, i'm going to write this from the perspective of someone who knows nothing about batman or superman. i actually think the film takes some liberties with the fact that the audience already knows who all the characters are, and why not? but i'm going to take only what we see on screen, and what we see on screen is this.

billionaire bruce wayne is going about his business when two aliens have a fight in the sky and destroy his building, killing a bunch of employees. however, the alien messed with the wrong dude because this billionaire happens to also be a vigilante. lex luthor is another billionaire who also doesn't like the fact that there are aliens blowing shit up so tries to work with the government to develop a weapon to kill said alien, who happens to be superman. when the government won't help lex he kills a bunch of people and takes matters into his own hands. however, despite essentially wanting the same thing batman steals the weapon from lex so he can kill superman himself. superman, meanwhile, is dealing with the fact that stepping in to save his girlfriend (lois lane does a lot of being saved in this film) has massive global and political implications that he hadn't really considered. at the end there's a big monster and wonder woman turns up. the question i took from all this and that i kept asking myself throughout the film is, whose side am I supposed to be on?

if we look at the characters individually that question becomes much more complicated than it first seems. batman is ostensibly the hero because the film opens with him and superman trashing his building is a thing that happens to his character. it also kind of sets up superman as the villain. in storytelling terms, the thing that kicks off the whole story overall is an event that affects his character, and his character alone (and scoot mcnairy, but i'm skipping that part). batman also has the biggest story arc in the film and goes through the biggest changes. what this says to me is that in a narrative sense the film is telling me to care about batman, but i struggle with that because batman is essentially a representation of extreme right-wing politics.

stick with me on this, it will make some kind of sense, i promise.

bruce wayne was born into privilege. sure, his parents were killed and that sucks, but what makes him able to be batman is the fact that he has money. he can do whatever he wants with his time, he can buy all the cool crime-fighting shit he wants, and yeah he's had to work to be batman by hitting tyres with sledgehammers and stuff but he's not had to balance that with a day-job. the reason he is batman is so that he can find criminals and punch them in the face, because as far as he's concerned the law enforcement and judicial system that exists are insufficient. except this batman doesn't only punch criminals in the face, he brands them so they are singled out and killed in prison. he also, in one scene, blows them up with big guns on his bat plane thing, merrily massacring dozens of people most of whom he can't even see from where he's sitting. he is judge, jury and executioner. the appeal of that, of what batman is selling is not dissimilar to the appeal of the extreme right (and i'm not saying the extreme right is appealing, i'm talking about the appeal of the extreme right to its supporters). batman represents the idea that certain people in society are probably bad because ... reasons, so let's punch them all in the face and then we don't have to worry about it. batman is essentially donald trump, that's what i'm getting at here.

then something bigger than your average criminal turns up; something that can level a building without any thought of the people inside as part of some kind of crusade we don't understand. what's batman's solution? punch it in its stupid alien face!

it is impossible to watch bruce wayne's building fall to the ground without thinking of 9/11, which means that in bruce wayne's head superman represents extremism - a huge, incomprehensible threat that cannot be punched in the face as easily as your average child molester, but he is going to find a way to do that just the same. he doesn't care about the facts, he doesn't care about the consequences, he just knows that this guy destroyed a building, people died and now he's going to find a way to punch him in the face so hard that he dies. that's our protagonist.

there is also something else going on. batman takes everything personally. there is an argument to say that he's not acting in the interests of the people who died because of superman at all. there's a kind of man vs god subplot here too, which is far too complicated to fully explore so i'll stick with my political analogy for now. what's important is that for all his moral outrage batman has only ever acted in his own interests, and while he may say he's punching criminals in the face to help the rest of us, really he's punching the guy who killed his parents over and over again because he's motivated by revenge, batman is overall a self-serving superhero.

superman, meanwhile, is not actually a terrorist threat but a representation of extreme left-wing politics. yes, he was born with superpowers so there's an argument that says he too was born into privilege, except he grew up on a farm with normal, working-class people. it's this upbringing that essentially makes him superman. there is some complicated dad stuff going on here too - superman has two dads in man of steel, but here he just has the one benevolent kevin costner dad. batman, on the other hand, has no parents at all so there is a suggestion that had batman's dad lived he and superman would probably get along much better. again, there's too much else going on here to really get into their parents but it is kind of important later on.

back to the politics - superman comes from a working-class background, he has to balance being a superhero with a low paid job and most of all he cares about humanity, all of humanity. that's where this becomes left versus right, because you have one side who cares about the individual and another who cares about everyone. there is also a superman/obama comparison - someone who has the best intentions but doesn't have the support of his government or, to some degree, his people. note, i'm using american politics as a reference because it's an american film and it doesn't quite work with uk politics. i think there is a superman/corbyn comparison but i don't think you can compare cameron to batman. cameron is more like ultron, and that's a whole other blog post.

also, i don't want to digress too much but it's interesting to compare the politics of this film to the politics of the 1989 tim burton batman movie. in that film, the joker is quite clearly a caricature of the extreme right, most obviously in the parade scene where the gives out free money to the people on the streets whilst simultaneously gassing them. it's a direct reference to the way the right will appeal to the hopes and fears of the poor and disenfranchised whilst secretly stabbing them in the back for their own gain. meanwhile, keaton's batman has a much more altruistic approach to his work and despite being motivated by revenge in that film too he comes across as much more of a batman of the people. although it's fair to say his bat plane has big guns too.

back to this film and the thing that complicates matters even more is lex luthor. lex essentially represents the interests of  the corporations, meaning he represents money. he has the money and resources to do whatever he wants so he takes an interest in politics because if he can control politicians he can control the world. unlike batman who wants to punch the extreme left in the face, lex just wants to ensure it's all under control and he can make more money to exert even more control. unlike batman who takes the law into his own hands, lex attempts to use the existing system to get what he wants. when the system fails him, that's when he starts blowing stuff up, but until that point lex is actually the most sympathetic character in the film. out of context, he's absolutely right to be concerned about superman and offering to help his government introduce a method of control seems perfectly reasonable. he also, notably, talks about his dad a lot.

so lex is money, which is complicated because bruce wayne is also money, but lex's money represents support and it's support that both sides need (bruce's money represents being able to hit people in the face with a robot suit, or something). lex, as a representation of big corporations, understands his value and so sets about playing the left and the right off against each other for his own gain. what becomes apparent, however, is that his interests and even his methodology are more in line with the right than the left. he wants batman to win, because ultimately he can control batman much easily than he can control superman. money is better served by the right.

then there's the subplot that there's an even greater threat on its way and that there are other superhuman folks out there who may be able to stop it. so there's a fourth party which is more extreme and more terrifying than anything else and that we see batman fighting in a desert, and as we all know because of what the news tells us, all extremists come from the desert (before batman nerds start yelling 'it's not terrorists, it's darkseid!!!', calm down, i know that, i am one of you, go back and read my second paragraph again).

so as well as the right and left, the money and the extremists, there is another vital element i need to mention, and it's the most neglected element and also the most important. it's us. where are we in this film? all these hugely important people are supposedly fighting for us and yet we are barely represented at all. the main three, lex, clark and bruce, are certainly not presented as human. the closest we have to a relate-able character is lois lane and she spends most of the film being rescued (and while i don't want to bring up all the same criticisms as everyone else i thought for a film with four potentially interesting female characters the treatment of lois is infuriatingly, almost offensively backwards). actually the only one i could really relate to was martha kent because she has a crappy job, but then her son is an alien so she hardly represents the people. however, it's through the parents that we are expected to see the main characters as human. that's why all three of them are so dad obsessed, because everyone can relate to having a dad, right? and mothers are even more important, so important in fact that when you are beating your enemy to death and he randomly mutters the name of his, not going to go there...

so where does that leave us? what's my point other than you can crudely map the characters in this film onto current world politics?

the point is i'm still confused and i don't know what to think and i actually believe that this makes it interesting. the point is the fact that i don't care and that the filmmakers make it almost impossible for me to care is what makes the film interesting i.e. the fact that i don't care is what makes me care. the point is my disillusionment and disengagement with current world politics is exactly mirrored by my disillusionment and disengagement with the batman v superman conflict. the point is that the conflict is so extreme that people like me and you are no longer represented. it's not about us anymore. it's not about voters and it's not about audiences. there are four big interconnected concepts battling it out in the world right now - right, left, money and extremism. i feel as helpless in affecting the outcome of that as i did watching batman and superman hit each other. all we can do is watch it play out, minute by minute, not caring who wins but hoping whoever does leaves the rest of us alone.

batman v superman isn't the superhero film we wanted, but it is the superhero film we deserve right now. this is a film made for the people who have stopped caring about who wins.

p.s. if you enjoyed my take on batman v superman, you may also be interested in my video about the dark knight rises - 

Thursday, 17 March 2016


based on the short stories by h.p. lovecraft, re-animator follows a brilliant medical student, herbert west (jeffrey combs), who has discovered a way to bring the dead back to life. west finds the perfect accomplice in fellow student dan cain (bruce abbott) but things soon spiral out of control when the two of them decide to perfect west's serum via the use of increasingly more ambitious test subjects.

i have always been a little bit in love with jeffrey combs. he's such a striking presence onscreen, particularly in this film, and he manages to make west seem intelligent and brilliant simply from the expression on his face and the way he moves. at the same time, he portrays west like an alien, curious about human behaviour but not understanding it himself. i always thought he would make a great sherlock holmes. it's a fantastic, understated performance and one of the finest in horror movie history. in a way it's a shame that the film isn't really about herbert west.

this is a story about dan cain and his frustration with the limits of human capability, as well as his girlfriend, megan (barbara crampton) who acts as his conscience. it's kind of like dr. frankenstein has been split into three people, west, cain and megan, but really it's cain's story. he's the character who goes from someone who has a problem to stepping into a strange new world with herbert west, and in the end we see exactly how it has changed him.

re-animator also works as a kind of splatter slap-stick comedy. in the making-of documentary on the blu-ray director stuart gordon and producer brian yuzna both talk about how the opening scene was added later to set the tone of the film and it really works. the gore is so over-the-top it's hilarious, but still manages to be disgusting at the same time. there's some great physical humour from the actors too, particularly in the scene in which west and cain are trying to catch a re-animated cat. the final sequence is a wonderful mix of extreme gore and chaotic silliness that strikes the balance between horror and comedy just right. there are also some more subtle jokes, like the fact that cain has a huge 'stop making sense' poster above his bed and later has to contend with a villainous talking head.

for a film from 1985 re-animator still holds up and for me the only part that is really dated is the rather uncomfortable sexual assault in the final scenes in the movie. gordon and yuzna set out to push boundaries and the fact that they did so is party why the film remains so fondly remembered today, but that one scene is pretty distasteful, not because of what we're watching but because it's played for laughs. it's hard to imagine that it would be approached in the same way today, and part of what makes it stand out so badly is that the rest of the film gets the tone so right.

i've owned several versions of re-animator over the years, but the blu-ray is definitely worth picking up. the film looks better than it ever has, plus as well as the unrated version there's the 'integral' cut of the film which includes all the deleted scenes. to be honest, as with most deleted scenes they were clearly cut for good reason, but it is interesting to see the full cut of the film with these scenes included. overall, this is a fantastic release of a horror classic that for the most part improves with age.

second sight released re-animator on blu-ray on 14 march 2016.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

basket case 3

basket case 3 opens with the last ten minutes of the second movie and then just gets crazier from there. so belial's girlfriend, eve, is now pregnant and because no one really understands her anatomy granny ruth decides to take her family on a road trip to see uncle hal, a small town doctor who specialises in abnormal patients. however, not long after they arrive at hal's place eve is murdered and belial, granny ruth and duane find themselves at war with an entire town.

while the first film often felt more like a straight horror film than a horror-comedy, the second film was most certainly more of a comedy, although it still had a strong narrative and an emotional heart. the third and final film of the series is so much more comedy than horror that it plays like an old-fashioned farce at times. many of the laughs come from henenlotter pushing things that one step further, like in the moment when belial takes down an entire police station with each death being more extreme than the last. the scene in which eve gives birth is one of the more comedic moments too, aided by the bizarre, over-excited commentary from uncle hal's son, little hal.

however, what the comedy and insanity detract from is any real story. sure, there is a story here, but it doesn't feel as genuine or heartfelt as those of the previous two films. duane, previously our emotional entry point to the story as the character most easy to identify with, is here reduced to a kind of caricature of an insane person. what we're left with is a series of scenes and set-pieces that may as well be standalone sketches.

that said, there are moments of pure genius in basket case 3, like the scene in which granny ruth bursts into a musical number on the bus, or the moment you realise all the cops randomly have names beginning with 'b'. there is also a compelling chaos and energy to every scene, with these incredibly designed 'creatures' just wandering in and out of the background of scenes as if doctor hal's mansion is situated in mos eisley rather than middle america.

of the three films. basket case 3 is the least consistent and at times feels like an unnecessary coda to the second film. that said, there are some incredible and memorable moments and i did have to keep reminding myself that it's amazing that this film was even produced because it is truly insane.

second sight released the basket case trilogy on blu-ray on 14 march 2016.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

basket case 2

basket case 2 picks up immediately after the ending of the first film, with duane and belial escaping from hospital to join a retreat for people with physical deformities run by a psychiatrist, granny ruth. belial feels at home at the retreat almost immediately and forms a relationship with another resident, eve, who bears some similar physical characteristics. duane, meanwhile, begins to feel like he should really be out in the real world living with normal folks. at the same time, the retreat is under threat from a curious reporter, intent on finding belial and duane so she can tell their story to the world.

anyone who watches my youtube channel will know that freaks is my favourite movie ever and basket case 2 shares some similar themes. there is a tension between the idea of the retreat being a good thing for the freaks and the idea that separating a group of people from society can have unexpected consequences. granny ruth isn't as straightforward a character as she first appears either, and makes it clear from the start that she will do anything to protect her community. there is also something about her collecting these outcasts that really reminded me of professor x and you can almost watch basket case 2 as a kind of alternative version of x-men.

while the film looks much more polished than the first where it really excels is with the incredible make-up effects designed by gabriel bartalos (if you ever want to see a very weird and not entirely successful horror film, check out bartalos' directorial debut skinned deep). there are echoes of screaming mad george's work for brian yuzna here, and a similar aesthetic of flesh sharing the same properties as rubber. the stop-motion animation for belial has gone, which is a shame, but in it's place is a creature that feels much more real than it's predecessor. there is a particularly haunting moment in which duane declares his plan to leave the retreat and belial laughs at him. something about this creature laughing at his brother's desperation is genuinely disturbing, and most of that comes from the make-up. there is also a rather graphic sex scene featuring belial and eve, which is both grotesque and absurd at the same time but definitely has to be seen to be believed.

despite a marginally shorter running time basket case 2 does feel a little slower than the first film, perhaps because duane and belial are much less active in this story. there is no mission here, just existential angst and the odd murder in an attempt to cover up the retreat. what does keep it moving is the reporter character played by kathryn meisle who will stop at nothing to expose the brothers' location. something about this character reminded me of the wise-cracking women reporters from old movies, like glenda farrell in the original mystery of the wax museum. it was kind of cool to see that archetype being used in a more modern setting.

while the film feels a bit meandering at times the ending really pulls everything together in an incredibly satisfying way. this is again a story about identity and about how it's connected to physical appearance. ultimately, duane is still a freak even if he doesn't look like one and this is his conflict in the film.

the first film had me thinking henenlotter was horror's version of mike leigh, making grimy street films amidst the underclass. here, i think he's more like a much darker, gorier tim burton. then again, when you get to the ending it's obvious that henenlotter has his own specific brand of genius. it's impossible to imagine anyone pitching this film, let alone making it, so the fact that it exists at all is kind of amazing. it may not be as consistent as the first film, but basket case 2 is definitely worth a watch just to see what's possible when a filmmaker as imaginative as henenlotter pushes his talent to the limits.

second sight will release the basket case trilogy on blu-ray on 14 march 2016.

basket case

basket case tells the story of duane bradley, a nice young man who takes up residence in a seedy new york hotel with a large basket as his only possession. in the basket he keeps his brother, belial. we later learn that the two of them were siamese twins, separated when duane was a child. belial survived the operation and now the two of them are seeking revenge against the doctors who forced their separation.

the first striking thing about basket case is that everything looks and feels kind of filthy. there's a realism to the hotel setting and the people who live there that has a visceral, grimy quality that you can almost smell. henenlotter's cast look like real people and his locations look like real locations. it's a similar quality to that of tobe hooper's texas chainsaw massacre except rather than the wilderness of the deep south, here we're exploring the seedy underbelly of new york city.

despite the small-scale feel of the film, most of which takes place in hotel rooms and offices, there is a sense of a larger world outside that duane is only afforded access to when he is separated from his brother. similarly, basket case explores some pretty epic themes for a film that is essentially focused on two characters. this is a film about the conflict between conformity and individuality. duane and belial were content existing as one, but because their father feared society would reject them they are forced to separate. it's the same idea as people having plastic surgery to conform to how society wants them to appear, except duane and belial aren't given a choice. this theme is enhanced by the setting and the cast of characters who all seem like broken people in some way or another, hiding out in the shadows where normal members of society fear to tread.

what's interesting about this theme is that it's hard to know who to sympathise with. on one hand, duane clearly wants to live his own life and his attempts at having a normal relationship reflect that. at the same time, belial is a tragic monster figure, more quasimodo than dracula, who embarks on this quest for revenge because of a genuine injustice that has ruined his life, and we want him to succeed.

there's also an interesting sex subplot, because belial repeatedly stands in the way of duane having sex and yet clearly has sexual desires himself. there is a reading of the film in which belial represents duane's sexual desire, which suggests the story could be a comment on sexual violence making duane even more of a tragic character, if one who is harder to sympathise with. there is also no doubt a reading of the film in which belial is literally duane's dick; a part of him he tries to keep locked away because when it comes out bad things happen. in that sense it's more a story of sexual repression rather than aggression. this is why the film is interesting, because there are big ideas and themes here and there are different ways to interpret them.

there is also a lot to enjoy here, particularly the low-fi effects work which includes some awesome stop-motion animation sequences. belial is an incredible creation and there is something about his dead eyes and gutteral scream that is both harrowing and life-like, despite the fact that his puppet-form looks dated by today's standards. there are also a few impressive murder scenes and henenlotter likes to hold on the gorier shots until they go from disturbing to hilarious then back to disturbing again.

basket case really represents everything there is to love about low-budget horror filmmaking. there's incredible creativity and talent onscreen that shines through the limitations, and it also has the capacity to explore some big and occasionally uncomfortable themes. the blu-ray is packed full of extras including some great interviews with henenlotter who seems rather perplexed by the continued success of this weird little film he made. i can clear that up for him. this is a film for anyone who feels like a freak or feels like they're on the outside of society looking in. this is a film about outcasts for outcasts, and i think it's great.

second sight will be releasing the basket case trilogy on blu-ray on 14 march 2016

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

home video

home video is a found footage movie that combines video footage of the diaz family moving into their new home in the mountains with documentary-style interviews filmed after the family went missing. it becomes clear early on that the diaz family didn't make it through the first night in their new home and the film attempts to uncover the truth about what happened to them.

while it all sounds simple enough, co-writer/director emmanuel giorgio sandoval and his fellow writers zaidal obagi and robert a. trezza attempt something rather complex and impressive with the narrative for this film. essentially this is a murder mystery, except we don't see the murder until the end of the film. the video footage alone would not make for a particularly compelling story but the interviews add layers of intrigue to everything we see on camera. suddenly suspects begin to emerge and even the most innocent of exchanges between family members take on a air of underlying menace. the interviews essentially point the audience to the subtext, which in a narratively shot film would be a huge mistake but here it really works.

there is also a possible supernatural element, which fits in quite nicely because you can take it however you want. ultimately, the truth is left for the audience to determine and there is just enough evidence to suggest paranormal forces are responsible as there is to point to a human perpetrator. this idea of the audience as detective is another factor that really makes home video work, particularly when combined with the fact that it's not until the final minutes that we really begin to get a sense of what may have happened to the family.

performance-wise the actors are all very convincing, but special mention has to go to steve jacques who plays bruce, the dad in the family. as the character who literally drives the action in the beginning and takes charge when the family arrive at the house, jacques has to dominate every scene that he's in and he does a great job in this respect. it has to be said that commitment to realism overall in home video is very impressive, although for me it lost a little of its edge in the final minutes. there was something in the way that the deaths were filmed that felt somehow forced compared to the naturalism of the rest of the film, but that could be down to the dramatic change of pace in the third act.

overall, this is a really accomplished found footage horror movie that attempts something rather bold and different in the way it chooses to tell its story. i can see the ending dividing viewers, but if you don't mind doing a bit of your own thinking when watching a film then this is for you.

if you are interested in seeing home video, it's available right now via the streaming service at click here to go directly to the page where you can rent the film.

Friday, 4 March 2016

let it be

there's a moment in let it be when carl (bertie gilbert) explains that he likes the later beatles music for its complexity, which is the opposite of martha (dodie clark) who likes the earlier music for its simplicity (for the record i don't really like any beatles music, but i get it, it's like the difference between the ramones and velvet undergound, although in that case i kind of like both ... but maybe that's the point...). that conflict between wanting complexity from our art against enjoying its simplicity is exactly how i felt watching the film, and i think it's kind of what the whole film is about. i've not really been able to think about anything else since i watched it so i thought i'd attempt to explain.

on the surface this is a film about a young couple who've broken up and before they can sort out their issues death (savannah brown) turns up and decides to hang with them for a day. it's hard to watch this without thinking of neil gaiman's death from the sandman series, particularly from 'the high cost of living', which also features death living for a day. savannah brown is more emo than gaiman's eternally happy death, but her eagerness to experiment with all the things she's heard make life worth living is definitely a similar concept. however, the film isn't really about death, but more about all three characters and the things that stand in the way of them moving on with their lives. death is having an existential crisis stemming from her job, carl needs to figure out why martha dumped him, and martha ... i can't really reveal martha's problem without spoiling things but it's up there with the big problems. ultimately all three characters learn to accept their situations; they learn to 'let it be' like the title suggests. but is that all there is? is it really just a story that's as frustratingly simple as the song from which it takes its title?

i know it's not exactly the same but my own version of 'let it be' is 'fuck it'. fuck it and fuck you and fuck them and fuck everything. that's the mantra i repeat to myself when things are going wrong; it's what gets me through the bad days. 'fuck it' has helped me walk away from relationships, it's helped me quit jobs, it's helped me give up on creative projects when they've started to make me fucking miserable due to the fact that they mostly highlight my own absence of talent and ability. it's the same principle as 'let it be'; it's saying i don't give a fuck what happens because shit will happen anyway and sometimes it's not worth worrying about it. except sometimes i wonder, have i made a mistake? would things have worked out if i had worried about it; if i'd stuck around for a bit more or persevered with that thing i was doing? just saying 'fuck it' sometimes feels like an easy way to quit something that's complicated, just like 'let it be' sometimes feels like a way of not dealing with complex things that are happening.

what i'm saying is, do we miss something in letting it be? is it an easy way out of feeling things and dealing with emotions? that's what i keep coming back to with this film. carl expresses a desire to really talk things through with martha; to deal with the issues in their relationship but ultimately this doesn't happen. are we meant to be okay with that? because it made me think that maybe we shouldn't be.

there's a glibness to the attitudes of the characters throughout this film that's frustrating at first. for example, in the scene where death arrives the characters are completely unphased by her appearance despite the fact that she's about to kill their dog. it takes you out of the reality of the story because it's a quirky film character reaction rather than a real life human reaction, except i think there's more reality to it than there first appears. there's a bigger example of this, when in the final moments of the film all three characters are standing around laughing about something really super serious. so it's all fine then. all that stuff that came up is now okay because of a beatles song. except the film doesn't necessarily say that.

for me there was another layer to this and possibly a criticism of the way we deal with complex emotional issues in contemporary society. there's an idea now that talking about issues is good for us so we all talk about issues all the time and don't suppress anything. i can't argue the principle of that, but the part we don't always get right is what we do with those issues once they're out in the open. talking about a problem doesn't necessarily solve it, and the end result can be a society in which everyone is so absorbed in and concerned with their own issues that they don't really listen to anyone else. complex emotional situations are reduced to simple puzzles, like finding the right key to open a door in a video game. at the end of the film there's a great example of this where martha gives carl the closure he needs in one sentence and that appears to make everything okay. but does it make everything okay? really?

and here we are, back to the conflict between the simple and the complex; the difference between early beatles and later beatles. let it be doesn't necessarily provide any answers in this respect but it does allow the viewer to choose between the two. you can take the film as a jolly little fable about letting the bad shit go, or you can look a little further and question whether there is more to it than that. at least that's what i did anyway, so i guess i prefer later beatles after all.

also the performances are all great and mega props to director of photography, ciaran o'brien, because the whole thing looks beautiful. you can see the film right here -

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

interview with michael steinberg, founder of

part of what originally inspired me to start the #foundfootageblogathon was discovering the website, which currently lists over 450 titles in its database.

it was through this database that i discovered many of the films i reviewed for this blog, so i thought there could be no better way to round off the #foundfootageblogathon than by interviewing the founder of, michael steinberg. michael clearly has much more knowledge on the subject than i do so it was really interesting to get his thoughts on the found footage format and hear about his favourite films. here's the interview -

when did you first become interested in found footage films?

The first found footage film I had the privilege of seeing was Blair Witch, which I caught in the theater during its initial theatrical release. Since then, I’ve always had an affinity for the genre, gravitating towards like-minded fictional films.

how did your website found footage critic develop?

A little over a year ago I was scouring the Internet for found footage film titles and came up surprisingly short. Most of the sites that I discovered were nothing more than blog articles listing the author’s “top-10” found footage films for different categories. When it came down to it, all of the sites I came across contained the same 20 or 30 found footage films. This was the defining moment when I decided to create a definitive online resource and community for found footage film fans to learn more about the genre they love so much.

how do you find new films for the website?

When I first started this endeavor, I searched the Internet for titles and developed a master spreadsheet containing my findings. Before entering the titles into Found Footage Critic, I carefully scrutinized each film, making sure it really fell in the realm of found footage. The site contains a  concise definition for found footage which all films are measured against:

My original search for films yielded approximately 70-90 titles, and at the time I was sure there couldn’t be that many more. Over the months that followed, that list incrementally grew to over 800 films! A few hundred of those 800 titles failed to meet my criteria for “found footage,” and were excluded from the site. If we remove the 470 films currently covered by, that leaves about 150 titles remaining to be vetted and entered into the site along with new titles that surface on a weekly basis.

The popularity of Found Footage Critic has been growing rapidly within the horror film industry and global fan-base with each passing month.  The site’s evolution has reached the point where filmmakers proactively approach us on a weekly basis with new found footage titles that are in development and screeners for review – eliminating much of the need to excavate the Internet for new titles. And of course, every now and then fans come to us with new titles they’ve come across that we may have overlooked.

is there anything in particular that you like about the found footage format? e.g. is there anything that filmmakers can do more effectively in a found footage film than in a narratively shot film?

Although I know I’m watching works of fiction, for me, the draw of found footage films is the possibility that what I’m watching may have actually taken place. There’s something about that gritty realism that draws me into the story.

there are a few found footage cliches that i really can't stand, like when the characters say 'why are you still filming this?' more than once. are there any cliches that you see found footage filmmakers including over and over again?

The film reviews on Found Footage Critic are structured to measure and rate each film by the technical correctness of its found footage. The “technical” factors we examine include: found footage purity, filming reason, cinematography, and acting. These are explained in greater detail on our site.

Some of the more common tropes used by filmmakers that hurt the technical correctness of found footage include: the infinite battery life; adding extensive scenes where the characters argue amongst each other to extend the film to “feature length”; adding the camera user interface (battery icons, etc.) that don’t record into the film; inclusion of incidental music; outdoor audio that’s too clean because the character’s are equipped with personal microphones; and unrealistic cinematography.  These tropes are further defined on our site here:

what are your personal favourite found footage movies?

The McPherson Tape and Unaware are two of my favorite films, and I’m discovering “new” favorites every day. Every found footage film we come across is unique in its own right and has something special that contributes to the genre.


thanks very much to michael steinberg for agreeing to be interviewed for my blog. you should definitely check out, it's an excellent resource and a fantastic way to find new titles. in addition, michael has just recently added a streaming service to the site, as explained here -

NEW YORK, New York – February 22, 2016 – Found Footage Critic today announced the launch of a new online movie rental streaming service dedicated to feature length found footage horror films. The new service is integrated in, so visitors browsing found footage films can rent and watch films without leaving the site.

Found Footage Critic is now calling out to filmmakers to submit their feature length found footage films for inclusion in the new service, and is offering filmmakers non-exclusive licensing agreements and a share of the rental fees.

For its launch, Found Footage Critic is offering seven found footage titles from the United States, Hungary, and the United Kingdom, and is currently in negotiations with filmmakers and distributors for additional titles in the coming days/weeks.

The initial list of titles for 24-hour rental include a new found footage horror release from the United States, Home Video (2016); the acclaimed Hungarian found footage horror thriller Bodom (2014), and five films from UK director Paul TT Easter, most notably Black Shuck (2012) and U Mugs (2012).


i plan to check out some of the films available to stream on over the next few weeks and will post my thoughts here. i'll also be posting a round-up of my thoughts on the found footage format some point very soon.

the found footage blogathon is just about finished, but there's a full list of the films i watched with links to reviews here.