Now those who are regular readers of my reviews know I’m not big on horror, however the more I heard about Get Out (2017) I knew it was probably something I should check out. Being more than the regular run of the mill horror film, with the formulaic jumps and build-ups to the next time you jump out of your seat. Here there’s something more subversive going on which is bringing an audience who may have stayed away. There’s also the non-controversey by raised by Samuel L. Jackson who said that Daniel Kaluuya being an English actor should not have been chosen for the lead as he would not understand the struggle of other brothers in America. Forgetting that unfortunately that racism is universal. There’s also the argument that as we have seen with other Black leading actors, British actors are classically trained so maybe more qualified for the roles they are getting. Ultimately they are acting, if they convey the emotions and ideas of the character that develops the narrative then it doesn’t matter as long as they have been cast right for the role. So Mr Jackson, on this one – pipe down and look at the bigger picture, the lack of fair and more honest representation of African-Americans, whoever plays them, American or British, or even South African, as long as they can relate to the role and give at least a competent performance, then and only then are you improving the image of black life in the world.
Staying with the racism theme which underlies what the film is about, added the increased tensions in America with the Trump administration Get Out is a very pertinent film. With Obama now part of modern history we are seeing a darker side we had hoped was no longer present come to the fore. The underbelly of racism has been given a voice to speak up during last years election, Trump feeding on the hate and resentment that has been created in the last few decades due to globalisation, increasing equality (which still has a way to go) tensions are high to uneasy.
These tensions are felt by Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) whose about to meet his girlfriends parents. To be fair who wouldn’t be. Wanting to make a good impression on them, hoping they will accept you as a part of your partners life. Add to that he’s black, which will make him the elephant in the room of White family in suburbia, so what he is feeling is normal with the addition of his heritage. Here’s hoping it goes well, even with reassurances from girlfriend Rose Armitage (Allison Williams), her parents loved Obama, they would have voted for him a third time, maybe laying it on a little too thick, its enough to calm him for the ride over Rose’s home.
The ride over isn’t as straight forward as you’d think it would be, the audience is not allowed to be too relaxed when it comes to this film. A deer running out in the road invites a racist cop who asks Chris for ID even though he wasn’t driving, reflecting the black prejudice towards Black people. It’s like we’ve entered a world of heightened prejudice, oh wait this is America through a very sharp lens. Then the fun begins when the couple arrive at the family home, it all looks a little too good to be true, a Black grounds keeper who is anything but normal, you could say his personality has been sucked out of him. I was reminded early on of The Stepford Wives (1975), as wives return home, after a brief period away, the same yet so very different. We only get glimpses of the groundskeeper and house-maid (Marcus Henderson and Betty Gabriel) who as we see show no signs of even being – human, they appear to be more white in attitude and personality.
Onto meeting the family, which goes smoothly enough, if only a little too smoothly, we can see it like a sales pitch which is being repeated and delivering the product a little to well, there must be some cracks to this family façade. It’s on the first night when Chris is restless he falls foul to hypnotherapy by the mother Missy Armitage (Catherine Keener) who we already know has a great cure for quitting smoking. Leading him into a session of hypnotherapy that is only the beginning of how creep things are going to get.
It’s only with the annual family gathering do things start to get really questionable, all white guests who bend over backwards to be polite to Chris whose really uncomfortable by all the guests. Making overly nice comments about Black people, it’s either desperate or plain creepy. When his phone camera goes off when he talks to the only other black guest Andrew Logan King (Lakeith Stanfield) who snaps out of his ultra-friendly personality to reveal a more human and terrified side to him. The cracks are starting to show in this façade of a gathering. There’s something sinister involving brain-washing going on at least. Or as comic relief suggest, Rod Williams (LilRel Howery)
“…Their probably abducting black people, brain washing them and making them slaves. Or sex slaves. not just regular slaves, but sex slaves and sh_t. See? I don’t know if it’s the hypnosis that’s making em slaves or wot not, but all I know is they already got two brothas we know and there could be a whole bunch of brothas they got already…”
The final act reveals what’s really going on, a white cult who lure in Black people to harvest them for superior body parts, leaving them practically lobotomized, without personality, unless your camera flash goes off the suppressions diffused to reveal the true horrors. You could say they are White supremacists who acknowledge that Black people maybe superior but will not allow this to get out, ensure social control, white at the top, blacks in their place. Is this the future for Trumps America or a prediction of what it is to come. Are we over-reacting to what is going on? Only African-Americans and the makers of the film truly know what is going on for them. I can be presented with all the racially motivated police shootings, demonstrations that the news presents me. Get Out is a suburban take on how to present this real anxiety that has not gone away. With a nice dose of humour to lighten the mood or we would come out of the film shaken by the images. Instead I came away relieved to the resolution, justice is served yet leaves you thinking could this really be going on, can people operate like this. I know I won’t be going to the Armitage’s.
I decided to take a chance and catch a French horror film the other night. A carefully chosen film from Film Fear, the pop-up channel from Film Four over the Halloween week. Now being difference from the average horrors that were on during the week Les Yeux sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face (1960) stood out for me for a few reasons, one being foreign (not of the English language) there maybe something more going on here. Also released around the same time as Psycho (1960) and Peeping Tom (1960), a time when horror was starting to see a resurgence. So I sat down, excited by the foreign nature of the film, ready for the mess, the gore, the madness of the plot.
What started with so much potential, driving through the outskirts of Paris where a woman – Edna Grüber (Juliette Mayniel) is making sure that she wasn’t being followed, has she done something wrong, is the obscured figure in the back seat of her car going to attack her before we leave her. Instead this is a female corpse whose dragged into the river, dumping the evidence of a supposed murder is lost or carried away so she can’t be connected. Before cutting to a lecture by the esteemed Docteur Génessier (Pierre Brasseur) on the fight to stay useful and the use of transplantation in that eternal struggle to obtain immortality. The science is rather flawed if you think about it, draining the of all the patients blood, whose donating the organ/body part to the receiver, which should allow for a more successful acceptance of the new piece. Now this is utter nonsense for anyone with an ounce of sense. You need an exact match of blood types etc to avoid organ rejection. Here is a man who ignores the laws of science in order to succeed in his real plans which are still unknown at this point. All we know is that he’s respected in his field, he can follow his dreams with no resistance. This is our civilised mad professor, leading a double life, a trope of the horror character. Along with a string of missing young women in the capital something is definitely going on with this man and woman.
So how are these elements connected – the death of Génessier‘s daughter, whose body has just been found, complete with very distinctive disfigured features – only the eyes are left in tact. Out of pure curiosity I wanted to see the disfigured face of the girl more than anything. The build-up is enough to draw you into this world. Could all of the girl who have gone missing turn up only to be impossible to identify them. Somethings definitely going on that isn’t being explained.
Of course as soon as Génessier is at the funeral do we start to see where this is all going, with Edna Grüber at his side, she is showing signs not of grieve but horror at what is going to happen. Well at least she is. The doctor is ready get on with his life, or is that his plan to resurrect his daughter, Louise’s life. It’s not the most complex of films when you think about as we return to his home/laboratory/theatre, the reveal of the daughter on-screen is equally frustrating as the dead daughter whose identified earlier on. Her face hidden from view, either buried in a pillow or by the camera’s choice to not yet revealing that side of her. Whose more afraid the cinematographer or the audience by this forced reluctance to show her face. Again I wanted to see how badly scared she was, what actually caused this disfigurement. My attention was increasing by this withholding of information. Beautifully portrayed by Alida Valli who have to wait to see her face, hidden by a delicately crafted mask she wears for most of the film.
It’s all clear now within that scene the motives of her father, his medical research and the lengths that he will go to restore his daughter her former state, able to function in life again even if she has to take on a new identity. Her life is no longer in her hands, the young woman has fallen to depend on her father and his assistant who lock her away from the outside world. The missing girls in town all start to make sense now, with a decision that doesn’t really work for the film, having Edna lure the young women back, a decision that plays against the predatory male we usually assume in films and reality to be behind most missing persons. For me this is not as creepy, a middle-aged woman, subtlety checking out the faces of women to potentially bring back. Maybe this is as conscious decision to play against this type’s supposed to make this film more interesting and darker, a woman leading a woman is fresher than the heterosexual reading you usually have in films. However it didn’t really feel that much darker than it was intended.
What really lets the film down is the clinical take on Frankenstein’s Monster, OK this is the 1960’s science has moved on. The aim of the films is to repair/restore a woman’s face/beauty. Not to create life from lifelessness, there’s still an element of that in there, taking a face from a living person to give to another. It’s a brutal act to steal from one to restore another, a medical rape really no consent from the patient is given. The surgical scenes today are tame, especially since the first successful face transplant and even to a lesser extent Face/Off (1997) which is more revealing in the detail, some 1990’s technology and block-buster nonsense to explain what is going on.
Of course both are pure fantasy, yet the later is braver in the depiction of the surgery that is carried out on-screen. You could say that the 37 year gap between the two films is unfair to really compare them both. Maybe it was the budget that restrained what we saw, we may have been better off without seeing anything or to re-stage/edit the surgery in Les Yeux sans Visage/Eyes Without a Face so there is more horror. Its too cold and clinically restrained to be truly the horrific an experience it really is, this is a horror at the end of the day!
Lastly I felt the ending was really deserving more, as Louise fights back against all the deaths that have been carried out in her name. To ensure she has her beauty, it shows she wants a better quality of life, even if she has to go to a plastic surgeon who has to carryout numerous operations to give her some quality of life again. Instead she lashes out and rightly so against those who have held her back for so long. I came away feeling let down really on a few levels, maybe I was expecting too much from a French horror which I thought would be darker, bloodier and creepier than a possible American take on the film.
I remember the first time I saw the trailer for this film, my sides were splitting at the idiocy of the idea of a killer care tyre. I knew I had to see this film eventually. Until recently I had all but forgotten the film even existed which is bad for me. I leapt at the opportunity to catch Rubber (2010) a few weeks ago. I didn’t know anything beyond that I had to see this horror comedy, that all that really mattered. The concept behind the film is quite interesting observation of some classic film’s trying to pull them apart, the tiny pieces that are glanced over by the average viewer. However if you have a questioning mind and time to kill you can ask film-fans, or anyone who will listen in a pub about the banality within these films, the small whys, the miniscule details that really could kill a conversation if you take it too seriously. My Sister is guilty of this at times, questioning a the parent in Ponyo (2008) who drives the children through what is essentially a tidal, saying that she should be reported to social services for bad parenting. I have to remind her it’s just a film and to just go with it. I’m guilty of it too, looking at Big (1988) coming to the conclusion that the young boy Josh when he’s grown is mentally still a child, losing his virginity is practically raped, but that’s just overkill. I know that but the more you think about films, the more you question the thinking, the creative decisions behind them, which we don’t generally question. Yet it’s not just about that, it’s the little aspects in film that are glanced over such as washing hands, the boring stuff which is edited out, or written out. Of course it’s all played for comedy.
As Lieutenant Chad (Stephen Spinella) lays down for us, it’s about all of this, the no reasons, the unexplained that form the foundation of this film that critiques film. We have a live audience for the first act who are each given a pair if binoculars, acting more like spectators to this film, or the events in the middle of nowhere. As a tyre literally comes to life, find its feet. Not the standard premise for a film you would sell to a studio, or trying a get funding. This is the macguffin for all the events that follow.
I was constantly wondering how they achieved that motion of a tyre, was a rolling motor fitted discretely to the interior of the piece, well our main character that causes all the death in the film. It couldn’t be animation; as it was all too real, and probably more costly too. It’s all happening before the camera and the spectators who can somehow work out whats going on from the incredible distance they are kept at. The scene mustn’t be interrupted or broken by the fourth wall which is making this essentially live theatre that edited for mass consumption. As much as this is about the “no reasons” of film the fourth wall’s broken and resealed, placing an audience into the film, the full realisation of what they are seeing is fake.
The makers of the within the film are conscious of what they are doing, unsure if it is working. Early on the audience is all but killed off with a poisoned turkey. Playing on the turkey phrase for poor films which they fear’s being played out, this is anything but that. Leaving only one avid viewer, an older man in a wheelchair watching on. The experienced audience member is able to discern what is going before him. Has he been to one of these performances before? The police who are investigating the killer tyre are at first bemused by how wacky it actually is. Crossing over into another reality where the film loses its façade, becoming something they have to investigate.
Dropping the façade of they realise they have a killer on the loose, not the most convention two-legged, two armed kind with a motive to boot. Instead a tyre using telekinesis causes heads to explode which admittedly look poor. Its that build up to that moment that matter, the comedic climax of how gruesome it looks as a head explodes before us. All pyrotechnics that work in time with a tyre which determination (sounds like I’m a trye salesman) that vibrates with concentration, a force that cannot be stopped.
OK it’s not Hitchcock but it doesn’t want to be a master film, it simply wants to poke fun at film, showing up the “No reasons”. So why not have a killer tyre with no back-story, it makes it so much more interesting. You have the option to either read into it or just go with it. Has an unknown force taken over this car-part that has caused so much death with so much comic timing you are left either speechless or full of laughter. If you want a horror film with twists and turns that conform to the genre then don’t stop by. If you want a horror that doesn’t take itself or the medium of film seriously, up for a laugh then look no further.
My first encounter with this film was on my birthday during the install of my degree show. I was recommended to watch it by a friend who knew I would like it. That’s an understatement, I loved it. My memory of High Plains Drifter (1973) has long since faded, all I could remember was the ghoulish red town and the whipping flash-backs which stay with you long after the credits have rolled. In terms of the western genre this has more in common with its Italian cousin, the spaghetti western which strictly speaking are not westerns, they have the form of the genre but don’t really have the language of the American full-breed which if I’m honest are less violent during their greatest period. The violence was exploited and amplified. Once you get over the dubbing of all but the American star of the film (Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood et al.) you have this pumped up action film with more sex and violence than you’d have found to that point in the home of the genre. They didn’t carry the legendary status in the characters as subtly as Shane (1953), having built them up in the opening titles as these already fastest guns in the west-types such as Django (1966) where we are treated to another installment. Back home they’re stirred into action, not wanting to fight and draw their guns so easily, having more progression in the gunfighters.
Looking at Clint Eastwood’s influences his time with Sergio Leone strongly influenced him, the violence the stranger with no name, the anti-hero who you end up routing for comes out on top. His first western behind the camera he is still find his own unique voice, one he is adopting from the persona of the man with no name. The tone of Drifter is very European, its hard to sum up in a few sentences, the town looks freshly built, making it more become a backdrop that standout, it’s a newish town that is trying to sustain itself. Laying it’s foundations next to a lake that seems too close for comfort, suggesting it could all be washed away in stormy night. It all becomes very fragile. The town of Lago is actually another character that’s abused in the film (more about abuse later) which we see is transformed, blown up and eventually burnt down. Its part on the film is on some levels more important than the people who inhabit it.
Turning to the townspeople I’m reminded of Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) a town with a dark secret that is bubbling on the surface ready to spill over. Except we don’t have a strong replacement for the mean Robert Ryan who did actually scare the life out of Spencer Tracy (during filming) who was the outsider looking for the truth. The secrets a lot looser here as the film takes on more of a horror tone, Clint’s not giving us a straight Western, it’s a Western-Horror complete with flashbacks which you don’t really see in genre, that plague your mind. A sequence which is played out at least twice but feels a lot more in the mind. It’s the conscience of the town put on the screen.
There is also a strong influence of The Magnificent Seven (1960) or should I say more precisely The Seven Samurai (1954) a cowardly town turn here to one outsider (not seven) that is more dangerous than the men they have been home to for at least a year that have played host to that have just been killed. Except these are all Mexicans who are fighting off bandito’s, they are American citizens who should by rights be able to pick up a gun and fight without fear. They seen off the Mexicans and almost solved the “Indian problem“, why are they so afraid? They need Clint’s stranger who doesn’t really care for them at all. Which leads me back to the flashbacks which are very important in our understanding of who he is, or in fact was. He is not so much flesh and blood as he has ghostly presence, he knows more about the town than he lets on. I believe he is ghost of the whipped town Marshall Jim Duncan (Buddy Van Horn) who we see in versions of the same scene that we’re reminded off. It’s the reason that The Stranger is here, the reason the town’s scared of the men who will be riding back for revenge after a year in prison. We follow these men back, they are ruthless in their journey, killing for horses, clothes and fun, these are dangerous men for sure.
The Stranger’s presence in Lago shakes everything up, from his first hours he has raped a woman Sarah Belding (Verna Bloom) which is brutal to watch, yet filmed from the woman’s perspective a glimmer of what is to come from Unforgiven (1992) nearly 20 years later. As much as Eastwood is a feminist he wants to come across as the revengeful type who will take what he wants. Maybe this was Duncan’s lover, we just don’t know. We do know that she vocal in her experience to the law who simply want to pacify her modern views that wont be accepted until the next century. We don’t linger as much on the rape as we do in Eastwood’s later film which hinges on request of the prostitute who places a bounty on the man who disfigured her. From a lower position in society they are exerting more power than the men who want to keep both cases quiet. Ironically their next encounter is much more consensual after working his charm and danger, as if he has broken a horse in, now he simply has to ride it when he wants (yes I know it’s a poor analogy but suits the film).
Here in Lago having The Stranger in town is very much to their advantage who abuses that power. From the beginning he turns things on there head. With a free card to do as he please, have what he wants he makes the much small person Mordecai (Billy Curtis) the sheriff and mayor of the town, the butt of the jokes, is placed in the strongest position behind the stranger. He’s not there for comedy with Clint who wants to play with these people who are fighting themselves more than they had before. It’s chaos in Lago. In-fact Mordecai’s built up, from being this typically comedic role to one of great importance, he uses his position to abuse those who have given him s*** for years, now it’s his turn. He is also another way into the past of the town, he too has a connection to the late Marshall, which may lead to his role in the film being so prominent.
I could go on forever about this film there is a lot going on so I’m going to turn instead to the ending which once again got me thinking of another piece I could make in the future, as the town is literally painted red, bringing new meaning to the phrase, which ironically has roots in my home county of Leicestershire in the town of Melton Mowbray when the Marquis ran riot causing mayhem and literally painting the town red in places. This is too strong to be coincidence, turning the idea on its head so the townspeople are causing the mayhem, they are preparing themselves, practically inviting the trouble. Renaming the town Hell, which has move to the surface of the Earth. The town can be seen far quiet a distance now, in one uniform colour of bright fake-blood.
All brought about by Eastwood’s ghost which is more than just showing up the town. He is getting revenge on them all, luring them into a false sense of security before deaths unleashed upon them. The role of the gunfighter’s turned on its head, no longer is he the gun for hire or protector of the people he is using his position to induce fear and draw it from his own past. Could he be the devil as the film draws to a close, he rode literally out of nothing and back into nothing, as if the ghost can now rest peacefully knowing that he has settled his unfinished business. Eastwood early on is showing that the standard western has to change, with his Italian influences and the changing language of cinema. You could say this is more fun than the formulaic Western but that would be ignoring the level of violence and rape that goes on. He is definitely pushing the boundaries of what you can do with the genre which he is reshaping in his image.
- High Plains Drifter (1973) (westernsontheblog.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter as Social Commentary (thewesternwordslinger.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (1973) (buddiesinthesaddle.blogspot.co.uk)
- Clint Eastwood’s film High Plains Drifter (1973) (tim-shey.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (1973) (sonofcelluloid.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (nothingiswrittenfilm.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (1973) (commonsensemoviereviews.blogspot.co.uk)
- HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) (cinefilestv.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (Universal, 1973) (jeffarnoldblog.blogspot.co.uk)
- High Plains Drifter (1973) (voyagesextraordinaires.blogspot.co.uk)
My first film of the month and after my return from working in Kent. Red Hill (2010) looked far better in the trailer than it did in the film. One of the victims of its own publicity. That sees new police constable Shane Cooper (Ryan Kwanten) arrive in the small town of Red Hill with his wife for an easier life. Things are already going wrong when he cant find his gun. How will he be able to protect the public without his firearm.
Easily seen as a clever twist of the horror and western genre, with many nods to both throughout. Things start to heat up when news of an escaped convict from prison Jimmy Conway (Tommy Lewis) an Aboriginal which reflects the Native Americans in North America. There’s a clear reflection of the original genre and historical events on both continents.
When it’s clear that Conway is on his way as one by one Old Bill (Steve Bisley) and his men prepare to go out and kill Conway. It’s not going to be an easy task when the men are taken out one by one in gruesome form. It’s not really as horrific as it should be as the men are gunned down by a man who doesn’t utter a word throughout. Truly a dangerous man who is driven to carry out his vengeance on the men who are out for him.
It’s not laughably un-scary as I have found with other horror films, it’s more predictable, we know they will all be killed off, it’s just how and when. It’s up to the new man in town to save the day, already he has met the Conway who has left his mark on him. It seems all too obvious at times. Being more style over substance with a storyline that has been rolled out time after time, take down the savage. I just wish it was darker and not so contrived. Saved from total predictability by a lone black cat that adds to the danger.
- Red Hill (filmnerdblog.wordpress.com)
- Friday Night Flix: Red Hill (modernborefare.com)
- Steve Bisley: Stillways (blogs.abc.net.au)