Thursday, 21 May 2015

AJAX




New track from the current supreme rulers of heavy-hitting, riff-driven hardcore. NYC's AJAX haven't yet dropped a single dud track over the course of a demo, 7'' and the choicest cut on Beach Impediment Records' Hardcore: Gimme Some More comp. This band is absolutely fucking untouchable. New EP hits in June. Hopefully a full-length to follow?




Saturday, 16 May 2015

HUNTING PARTY




There's a good reason why Oakland, SF's Hunting Party has remained on my turntable for the last three years. Authoritative, intelligent and original, there's very little recent hardcore that can even touch this. That's right kids "original". Remember that word? While too many people seem to be marching in reverse these days (destination 34 years ago), some, like these miscreants, are still actually trying to move forward.

Too short lived and criminally under-represented, Hunting Party only left behind a demo, the incredible Subrosa with Whispered Pacts 7'' and the best track on Iron Lung mixtape II.





Saturday, 9 May 2015

IT FOLLOWS




It seems like there's always a hot new horror movie that's being touted by critics and promoters as being "the scariest of the year", "the most terrifying I've ever seen" or some other hyperbolic statement. As ordinary filmgoers like you and I discover them for ourselves, it's only natural that we want to share the experience with others. We want them to have the same exciting, adrenalised experience that we had sitting in that darkened theatre or living room. When you're younger it's driven by a sense of pride at having sat through a gruelling movie and survived. As you get older and more jaded it's about alerting friends to the fact that there's a new movie out that actually has the power to elicit fear beyond generic jump scares.

Word of mouth spreads, and things can get a little exaggerated. Case in point: a couple of posts below this one I wrote that the otherwise excellent The Babadook isn't as terrifying as its reputation might suggest. Of course this is all very subjective, as what is scary to one person may have little to no effect on another.



Last weekend I sat in a crowded theatre and felt genuine fear for the first time in years*. I wasn't alone either, as the audience around me nervously squirmed, squealed and shrieked throughout the whole movie. The film I was watching was David Robert Mitchell's It Follows, and for much of its running time it freaked me the fuck out.

As with all great movies of the genre, there's a provocative allegory buried under the surface of It Follows that gives it real depth and meaning beyond the horror. Its exploration of the often dark and troubling nature of teenage sexual politics is one that we can all relate to, and its metaphor for sexually transmitted disease is a potent one. Not everyone reading this has contracted an STD of course, but who among us hasn't at least once experienced the anxiety of thinking that maybe we have? If you've ever waited nervously for test results to come back, you know exactly what I mean.


That STD allegory is enough to induce feelings of discomfort and nervousness, but it's the film's surface level horrors that bring on the waves of dread and gut-level terror. The titular "It" of Mitchell's film sent shivers up my spine that I probably haven't felt since first seeing Romero's corpses walk in Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. There's an everyday familiarity to this film's supernatural antagonist that hits in a personal, visceral way. It's deeply unsettling.

Another technique that It Follows uses to scare the shit out of you is in very effectively exploiting the sheer panic of being unable to escape from a relentlessly pursuing menace while enclosed in a confined space. Honestly this is probably the gnarliest element of the movie and in a few sequences had me literally cringing and groaning under my breath. There's a claustrophobic, nightmare logic to these scenes that made me tense up and wince every time the action would move into a building. It's a fantastic device for building dread.


The other thing that really drives the fear in this movie is the killer, no-holds-barred electronic score, courtesy of Disasterpeace (aka Rich Vreeland). Fans of retro synth horror scores are being absolutely spoiled at the moment (thanks to movies like Maniac, The Guest etc), and Vreeland has delivered one of the best here. A piercing, throbbing, loud score that blatantly references some of the greatest horror soundtracks, most notably Halloween, The Shining and Alien. There's no doubt as to the extent to which It Follows' score wants to manipulate the viewer. Its sole purpose is to to jangle the nerves, pound the senses and railroad you into a feeling of panic and impending doom.

All this, combined with some of the most stunning cinematography** seen in a horror movie in a while, as well as a fine set of performances from the young cast (especially from The Guest's Maika Monroe) make this a horror movie not to be missed. Original, terrifying, beautiful and haunting, It Follows is an instant classic. Watch it late at night, in the dark with the sound cranked up loud. 




*at a movie that is, the real world terrifies me constantly.

**the lighting of outdoor locations is very inventive and striking.

Friday, 8 May 2015

SFF 2015



Sydney Film Festival 2015 hits next month and this year brings with it a motley assemblage of genre offerings. Richard Kuipers seems to have sourced the majority of this year's Freak Me Out sidebar from SXSW, which is fine by me as by all accounts the selection there was strong. Here's a brief rundown of the movies I've scored tickets to. I'll do my best to get capsule reviews up for all of these.



WE ARE STILL HERE
Fuck yes! The Cramptonaissance continues. I've already been pretty vocal about my excitement for this here and here. Fulci Lives!



SPRING
I loved Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead's romantic subversion of Lovecraft's The Shadow over Innsmouth. You can read my review here. This is my first chance to see it on the big screen and I can't wait.



GERMAN ANGST
From the romantic to the Nekromantik! Only two words required: new Buttgereit. Unsurprisingly, this Berlin-set anthology is supposed to be somewhat transgressive in terms of explicit sex and gore.



DEATHGASM
In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and that New Zealand produces the best horror comedies. From the island nation that has given us Bad Taste, Braindead, Housebound and What We Do in the Shadows comes a metal splatterfest overflowing with practical gore and satanic demonology.



GOODNIGHT MOMMY
Unless I'm forgetting something, this Ulrich Seidl produced chiller marks the first Austrian horror movie I will have seen since Funny Games (I haven't seen Blood Glacier yet). The word is that this is a very stylish, beautifully shot, slow burn creeper. Prolicide or Matricide?



THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY
My only pick outside of the Freak Me Out section this year. Berberian Sound Studio's Peter Strickland turns his attention from the giallo to '70s Euro-sleaze, citing Jess Franco as an influence among others. The Duke of Burgundy has been getting raves for its luscious design and gorgeous cinematography, and is apparently funny and moving in equal measure.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

SOMNOL




Filthy, crushing NYC death metal.

Scumbags from AJAX, Nomos, Nuclear Spring, Rival Mob, Vanity etc.

The riff at 1:35 of "Dose".

FUCK OFF


Sunday, 26 April 2015

The Babadook




When Jennifer Kent's The Babadook took home the awards for best film, direction and original screenplay at last years AACTAs (our equivalent of the Oscars) it was a surprise, and an auspicious moment for Australian genre cinema. I was amazed that our Academy (and the AFI) had the guts to recognise that a horror movie could be taken seriously enough to be considered worthy of the top honours. That the Spierig's Predestination and David Michôd's The Rover also walked away with awards surely makes this a completely unprecedented event at a major mainstream awards ceremony.

I finally got around to watching The Babadook last night and was suitably impressed. Although it owes perhaps a bit too much of a debt to The Shining in parts, Kent's movie is an effective, unsettling exploration of domestic anxiety, the rigours of single parenthood, grief and madness. Some spoilers follow.

It shares a similar premise to Maury and Bustillo's masterful Inside, in that the main protagonist is a single mother struggling with grief at the loss of her husband in a car crash. The difference here is that The Babadook's Amelia is also fighting a deep seated resentment towards her son Sam, because the fatal crash occurred while her husband was driving her to the hospital to give birth to him. The other major distinction between the two movies is that where the threat to Sarah and her unborn child came from outside (ironically enough), the threat to Amelia and Sam's domestic happiness comes very much from within. Both movies offer a very welcome feminist viewpoint in a genre that is still sorely lacking in that department.


One of The Babadook's strengths lies in the way it subtly plays with the shifting power dynamics between Amelia and her son Sam. What initially appears to be a cut and dried case of a single mother trying to cope with a highly challenging and precocious child soon morphs into something far more sinister. At a certain point it becomes apparent that this is more a case of a child trying to cope with a mother who may be slipping dangerously into the abyss. It's not all black and white however, and the movie does a good job of highlighting the complexity of parent/child relationships and how fears and resentments can snowball out of a vicious circle of behaviours from both sides.

Much has been made of how terrifying this film is, but I have to admit that I think its scariness has been exaggerated to a large degree. The usual hyperbole that comes along with a well regarded, much hyped horror movie. There are some very creepy moments, but for me they stemmed more from the film's titular children's book, rather than any reveal of the creature itself or Amelia's infanticidal tendencies.

There are some very striking qualities to The Babadook which have to be mentioned. Alex Holmes' production design and Radek Ladczuk's cinematography, although overly stagy at times, combine to create a powerful visual metaphor for depression and anxiety. The film's look, with its oppressively dour colour palette of grey on grey, effectively conveys what the world might look like through the eyes of someone who is suffering through the pain and torment of extreme depression. At times it recalls the nightmarish settings of Lynch's Eraserhead, at others the gothic, shadowy expressionism of Murnau and Wiene, with whom director Kent has an obvious affinity.

The other thing that made an immediate impression on me was the film's editing style. Simon Njoo has cut the film in a choppy, rapid-fire manner that reminded me of the visual narrative technique employed by editor Jay Rabinowitz in Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream. As well as being an efficient storytelling technique, this also lends a sense of urgency and anxiety to the film, which (as with the aforementioned production design and cinematography) imbues it with a menacing sense of looming danger and madness.

In the end I'm slightly torn about my feelings for The Babadook, and I feel like I admire it more than outright like it. Jennifer Kent's debut - although very strong in some respects - is a bit too beholden to its influences, making it somewhat predictable and cliched in parts. It's also relentlessly bleak, and I can't really see myself returning for a repeat viewing anytime soon. This suburban nightmare is definitely worth a watch though, and marks another highpoint for Australian horror.




Monday, 20 April 2015

THE CONEHEADS




Akron, Ohio, uh, I mean Hammond, Indiana's Coneheads have achieved something that I honestly didn't think was possible.

Somehow these three teenage punks from the midwest have managed to completely nail not only DEVO's sound, but their attitude, philosophy and sense of humour as well. These young neo-spuds just get DEVO to a fucking tee.

Their sound falls somewhere between DEVO's raw mid '70s pre-album material and Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (with a hint of Duty Now for the Future creeping into a few tracks). They also kind of remind me at times of The Proletariat, that strange band who always felt like the odd one out on This Is Boston Not L.A.

When I say that this Indianan Smart Patrol has achieved the impossible, I'm talking about their ability to make music that's intrinsically tied to a particular band/sound/philosophy, but still manages to come off sounding cool and fresh. Many jocks, ninnies and twits have tried their hand at de-evolution before this, and all have failed*. All Hail The Coneheads! Hack, hack, hack!

The bandcamp link below is to their latest release, the 14 Year Old High School PC​-​Fascist Hype Lords Rip Off Devo for the Sake of Extorting $​$​$ from Helpless Impressionable Midwestern Internet Peoplepunks L​.​P​.​ It compiles their first two tapes, Out of Conetrol and Canadian Cone, but I urge you (uncontrollably) to seek out their latest tape, Selected Ringtones, cuz it's their best stuff to date.










*There's at least two well-known, highly regarded bands who've aped DEVO's sound and look, but transposed it onto a corny-as-fuck, psychotronic B-movie aesthetic. This shit is garbage.


Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Tale of Tales




Whoa! This trailer for Matteo Garrone's new film The Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is a real eye opener. A lurid, sumptuous, dark fairy tale overflowing with gore, sex and surrealism? Yes please!

Getting a killer '70s/'80s Euro horror and artsploitation vibe from this. A nice mixture of John Boorman, Ken Russell, Walerian Borowczyk and Jean Rollin perhaps? We'll find out when it debuts at Cannes next month.

Garrone is the co-writer and director of 2008's highly lauded Gomorrah, which I've heard great things about and now feel the need to track down and watch ASAP.





Saturday, 18 April 2015

UNDER




So, I'm kind of obsessed with Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.

Since finally seeing it a couple of months ago (I'm late to the party, and I regret not seeing it on the big screen), I've been haunted by this beautiful, eerie, psychedelic depth charge of a movie. The perfect fusion of exploitation and art-house sensibilities, Under the Skin blends the two so seamlessly and effortlessly that it makes the distinction feel completely redundant.

Forget your preconceived genre expectations, and just surrender yourself to this transcendent trip of a movie. Like Scarlett Johansson's "Female", Glazer's film is like nothing else on this planet, a thing of otherworldly beauty and alien mystery. 

It's not like Glazer is the only filmmaker to have successfully bridged the exploitation/art gap recently. Gaspar Noé, Fabrice Du Welz, Nicolas Winding Refn and Lars von Trier have all done so as well, and with spectacular results (their respective standouts being Enter the Void, Vinyan, the Pusher trilogy and Antichrist). Under the Skin, however, leads the pack as the cream of the crop of this rarified segment of genre cinema. It's a flat-out masterpiece.


A quick note on Under the Skin's fx - remember that feeling of watching a movie and being so thrown by the fx that it seemed like magic? Literally like magic, because you couldn't work out how the effect was achieved? This movie is full of moments like that. Absolutely state-of-the-art technological wizardry.

It also has to be said that Daniel Landin's cinematography does an impressive job of suggesting how alien a world this planet might appear to someone who was visiting it for the first time. Through his lens Scotland is transformed into a completely extraterrestrial environment.

But words simply can't do Under the Skin justice, so I spent a couple of hours combing through my blu-ray to pick out my favourite images from this film that stands as one of the most visually striking and beautiful sci-fi/horror flicks ever made. Important: if you haven't seen it yet, please skip these completely spoiling posts and go rent or buy the film now instead. You won't regret it.

The following three posts are presented as a loving tribute to the incredible work of Glazer, Johansson, cinematographer Daniel Landin, production designer Chris Oddy, composer Mica Levi, editor Paul Watts, prosthetics/sfx company Asylum Model & Effects and vfx company One Of Us.




















































UNDER THE