#96: Sin City

sincity3

“Eyes on the road, man.”

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Year: 2005
Genre: Action

Rodriguez’s adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel series, Sin City, is hands down the best comic book adaptation to hit the big screen. Why? Because it’s not just faithful to Miller’s work, it literally IS his work. Rodriguez brought Miller on as co-director/producer to help lift Sin City from the page and to the screen without hurting the material. An exact adaptation? That sounds a bit pointless and boring. Well, not everyone reads comics AND I would argue that Rodriguez’s film adds further life to Miller’s world and, *shock horror* I may even prefer it to the comics.

The film boasts quite a large and colourful ensemble cast including Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, and Bruce Willis only to name a few. The variety of talent here clearly understand the genre they’re working with and are able to give their caricatures enough pepper to make them memorable and, for some of them, even iconic.

What’s the point of it all? “Everything and nothing.” It’s an ultra-stylized, hyper-violent, neo-noir about corrupt cops, hookers, the mob and serial killers. Classy trash. A decadent romp. It’s probably every conservative parent’s worst nightmare. Film Noir deals with sordid characters and seedy underbellies and Sin City is noir at its most fantastical and dirtiest. It is a comic book movie however, which means it’s more playful than disturbing.

If you enjoy Rodriguez’s other efforts and/or the works of Quentin Tarantino then this is a must-see. In 2003/2004 Tarantino released Kill Bill which was his most hyper-real film to date, the kind of movie the characters from his previous films would watch. Sin City is a similar project for Rodriguez except where Tarantino paid homage to old-Martial Arts and Western films by shooting old-school, that is on film and without CGI, Rodriguez did the opposite. Rodriguez took the old genres of Film Noir and Exploitation, blended them together and presented them in a fresh, contemporary format. Sin City was shot digitally, mostly against a green-screen in order to achieve its unique moving comic-book look. The harsh black and white scheme with splashes of extreme colour is an effective yet familiar look for a comic book but on the big screen it can be quite wild and experimental.

There are many reasons to watch Sin City. You may be into comics, someone who’s interested in digital filmmaking, or you may just be up for some ballsy entertainment, whatever your prerogative, if you’re not a prude and you’ve not seen this film, watch it!

PS. Elijah Wood plays a psychotic cannibal!

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***CK’s Top 100 Redux***

CK’s Top 100 has been dormant for a few moths now, a mixture of laziness and preoccupation has kept me away from you, and for that I apologise. The break, however, has given me the opportunity to revise this here Top 100.

You may notice now that the numbering of my previous entries are a little out of whack.
Upon rewatching certain films and as time has marinated my senses I have developed the balls to rearrange the order of many titles in my list and even replace one film altogether.

The major changes from this revision are the unfortunate removal of ‘Super’, the inclusion of a new title to be revealed 3 entries from now, and the fact that the next 3 entries will jump back down the list to account for the now empty positions of #96, #95 and #94.
Once  those 3 films have been reviewed we will then jump back up to #79 and from there we will continue to progress chronologically (provided I don’t have a quarter life crisis and rearrange everything all over again).

I hope I haven’t exploded your minds with all of these boring technicalities. Apologies for the hiatus and the mind-fuck.
Now, prepare to resume your journey of CK’s Top 100.

#83: Stand By Me

standbyme2

It shrinks?

Director: Rob Reiner
Year: 1986
Genre: Drama

There was no shortage of coming of age dramas and childhood adventure stories in the 80’s and Stand By Me is the best of both worlds.

Based on a Stephen King novella, The BodyStand By Me revolves around four young boys who get a lead on the whereabouts of a missing body and embark on an expedition to retrieve it and claim the reward. The four lead actors of this heart-leaping coming of age adventure have got to be the most memorable preadolescent ensemble cast to date. Each one of these lads portray rather polarising characters yet all four of them are deeply identifiable. It probably helps that I’m a male myself but I daresay these characters are relatable despite their gender.

We view the narrative through the eyes of Gordie (Will Wheaton), the puny and insecure story-teller. Gordie’s best friend Chris (River Phoenix) is the alpha-male of the group who comes from a family of criminals and carries the burden of their bad reputation. Phoenix is electrifying in one of his first roles; it’s his and Wheaton’s naturalistic performances that keep the film’s heart beating.
Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell are the character actors who add colour to the group, they’re the cherries on top, the pepper in the sauce depending on what course you’re up to.
Feldman plays the eccentric and possibly the most disturbed individual of the bunch being the son of a troubled war veteran. The ‘Ringo’ of the group is Vern, the tubby one who everyone laughs at. Vern was Jerry O’Connell’s very first film role, and probably his best, and he presents an absolutely adorable, hilarious and sympathetic character. It’s funny that O’Connell is now known for playing more boyish/jockey roles, a stark contrast from his debut effort. Did his experience playing Vern perhaps scare him into becoming the type of person that he would usually be bullied by?

Everyone’s so quick to grow up they forget about the magic of being a kid, especially since we haven’t seen a great all child cast since this film…
Super 8 (2011) is the only film I can think of with such a cast and that movie is a love-letter to E.T. (1982) and Stand By Me. Childhood is one of the more fascinating walks of life to explore on film and since the early 90’s most films with a child cast have been mindless entertainment featuring annoying little shits who are often more one dimensional than Jason Statham.

Stand By Me shows us how children seem to be able to make fantastic situations out of reality. Well, why can’t grown ups do the same without being ridiculed? Watch Stand By Me to fuel your dreams.

#80: L.A. Confidential

LAConfidential2

So that’s what Hollywood money looks like!


Director:
Curtis Hanson
Year: 1997
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

L.A. Confidential is a neo-noir epic of police corruption and Hollywood scandal set in 1953. Crime, sex and glamour are shaken seamlessly together to form this cocktail of a mystery/thriller that you can’t afford to miss.
Don’t be fooled by the taste, this cocktail is strong. You will have to use a small part of your brain to process the somewhat complex and involved plot surrounding three LAPD officers delving into a realm of conspiracy.
The film is by no means slow though, and its glitzy setting, slick direction and hot performances are sure to keep you watching.

You may be put off by the presence of Russell Crowe in the featured screen shot, don’t be. Before Gladiator (2000) exploded his ego and exposed some of his yuckier flavours, Crowe was one of the juicier actors on the scene. L.A. Confidential sees him in one of the finest performances of his career as a thuggish officer who starts to realise that not everything is as it seems. Guy Pearce has the lead role of the ambitious by-the-book nerd who investigates bad smells because he’s the only one who cares to notice. This is also one of Mr. Pearce’s finer performances and the energy between him and Russell is dynamite. Our two Aussie stars are also joined by Kevin Spacey, at his suavest, Kim Basinger, in her Academy Award winning role, and Danny De Vito.

L.A. Confidential is a classy as fuck mystery/thriller with an apetising plot and a very delicious cast. If you don’t see this movie, I’d keep that shit “off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.”

#84: Avatar

avatar3

Don’t be fooled by her blueish good looks…

Director: James Cameron
Year: 2009
Genre: Sci-Fi

I feel a little embarrassed including Avatar in this list. It can be tough justifying the integrity of top grossing films because generally the more money a film makes, the more it compromises on its more edgy or challenging aspects. Avatar, being the highest grossing film of all time, is not exempt from such treatment. Before its release, all the geeks out there were expecting an explosively unique Sci-Fi story, instead we got a re-telling of Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992) and Pocahontis (1995) with a sci-fi outfit. I guess I’m embarrassed because, like a lot of Avatar haters, I see right through the film’s story and can recognise its many flaws yet I’m as captivated as fuck.

Avatar is the most visually stimulating cinematic experience I’ve ever had. It boasts the most impressive and seamless CGI to date. The world Cameron created, the planet of Pandora, is jaw dropping and luscious, and the 3D is gob-smacking. I’m not usually a fan of 3D, or CGI for that matter, but whatever Cameron did here paved the way for the future – strange that no other films have utilised this technology since? The depth that Cameron’s 3D created was so new that I physically felt sensations in my eyes. It was a whole new way of viewing the moving image.
Unfortunately the only way to take advantage of this experience is in the cinema – 3D TV technology is not yet up to speed. I’ve watched the film in 2D on DVD and it’s still impressive. I was worried that without its stunning 3D the CGI would suffer, but thankfully it still holds up.

The visuals aren’t the only thing worth a damn in this film. If you leave your cynicism in carbon-freeze and open up your heart you may find yourself as captivated as I was. Despite its flaws, the direction and performances were effective enough that I got caught up in the story regardless and found myself getting teary in the emotional and climatic parts. It was a shame though that Avatar wasn’t as much of a sci-fi as it should have been. ***SPOILER ALERT*** The film’s biggest let down is that the whole idea of having an “avatar” isn’t really explored at all. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) uses a Na’vi (they’re the natives of Pandora) avatar, that is, he walks around in a Na’vi body, to infiltrate the world of the Na’vi. Cool, right? Despite his avatar,the Na’vi know that he’s a human from the get go! What a missed opportunity for challenging character developments and unique plot points. Fuck me, and the movie’s CALLED Avatar. That’d be your $237,000,000 budget talking – can’t take any risks with that budget! The film is fuckin’ solid though. A lot of the best stories are old and familiar ones anyway. As long as they’re executed masterfully, the audience is your bitch – and Cameron is quite the maestro.

Don’t be expecting any complex sci-fi concepts and you’ll be in for a visual spectacle and an exhilarating adventure. If you haven’t already seen it you won’t be able to have the same overwhelming experience I had until the film gets a cinematic re-release. Don’t worry, they’ll surely do one in conjunction with the sequel which promises to be all the more orgasmic!

#81: Heathers

"Got a light?"

“Got a light?”

Director: Michael Lehmann
Year: 1988
Genre: (Black) Comedy

The Heathers are the most popular and feared group of girls at Westerburg High School, Ohio. Three out of four of these girls share the same first name, Heather. The fourth girl is Veronica Sawyers (Winona Ryder) and as she tires of her clique’s snobbish ways, in walks lone bad boy, Jason Dean/J.D. (Christian Slater). J.D.’s rebellious attitude is the perfect escape for Veronica and through him she finds inspiration to humiliate the head Heather, Heather Chandler. When J.D.’s pranks turn out to be far more menacing than expected, Veronica must decide how far she’s willing to go to change the culture of her high school.

Heathers takes a spiked dildo to the John Hughs teen films that dominated the 80’s and is the precursor to films like Mean Girls (2004) and Jawbreaker (1999). Don’t get me wrong, I love me some John Hughs, The Breakfast Club (1985) is one of my favourite teen comedies, but Heathers is better. Whilst this film is a comedy, it ain’t no Rom Com. If you’re looking for a fun teen flick about unrequited love and nerds becoming cool go see Pretty in Pink (1986). Heathers is a teen film about high school reputations and suicide and it explores its dark content the best way possible, with a sense of humour. Suicide is a dicey and heavy subject for any film to deal with but screenwriter, Daniel Waters’ light approach keeps this film from being preachy or heavy handed.

Heathers is like a rotten apple, a prime example of things that were once juicy and are now shit. In a lot of ways the story is about the deterioration of society and in that sense you are watching people decay. The decay also presents itself in our reality in terms of how we view the film’s stars and themes today. If you didn’t know, Christian Slater was once one of the coolest motherfuckers around and this film sees him in perhaps his most iconic role. Winona may not be the sad case that Slater became but her career isn’t what it used to be either and Heathers shows the dark princess of the 80’s in her prime. Believe it or not “teen angst” was also cool once. It spawned in the 80’s as a form of teenage rebellion against the return to conservatism after the death of the hippie movement. Heathers is the quintessential angst film and it’s fuckin’ bad ass! It is unfortunate that angst gave birth to “emo” but the 80’s did mean well. Watch Heathers to remember what was good about the 80’s and to discover a unique and daring high school film which has yet to be matched.

CK’s Top 10 Films of 2012 – pt. 2

#5: Moonrise Kingdom

Film lives!

Film lives!

Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy

Wes Anderson’s back with arguably his best film since The Royal Tenenbaums (2001). Moonrise Kingdom takes place in 1965 on an island in New England where our protagonist, 12 year-old orphan Sam, attends a scout camp. Sam reunites with his year-long pen pal, Suzy, who also lives on the island, and together they decide to run away and build a life of their own. Hilarity, drama and excitement ensue when Suzy’s parents, the scoutmaster and the police join forces in search of the two young lovers.
Shot primarily on Super 16mm film and featuring Anderson’s trademark hand-made style sets, props and costumes, Moonrise Kingdom looks and plays out like a 60’s cartoon adventure, or a children’s book by Roald Dahl, a logical evolution from his last effort The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). Anderson’s hyper-real vision is turned up to 11 here, which may be off putting to some viewers but I go nuts for overly-stylised stuff, and the result is a revelation, a live-action cartoon – something Anderson may have been trying to achieve in previous films and here it is finally, fully realised.
If you want to feel like a kid again, if you want to view the world like a picture-story book, and if you want to see inventive film-making with “light” content for a change, set camp for Moonrise Kingdom.

 

#4: Beasts of the Southern Wild

beasts-of-the-southern-wild

‘scuse me, can you show me the way to ‘Toys “R” Us’?

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Genre: Drama

This striking effort from first-time American director, Benh Zeitlin, is a ‘ballad’ about the under-privileged fighting for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Beasts of the Southern Wild is in many ways the best film of the year, it certainly is the most emotionally gripping, because it doesn’t rely on any post-modern, genre-conscious stylistic flourishes or multimillion dollar special effects to tell its story. Zeitlin made a bold decision in casting non-actors for his debut feature but it was this decision that ultimately made the film standout.
8 year-old Quvenzhané Wallis plays the lead character, Hushpuppy (6 years old), and she gives perhaps the most convincing, naturalistic child performance I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. It’s fascinating watching a post-apocalyptic story through the eyes of a 6 year-old girl, it makes the plot all the more easy to follow which is another one of the film’s saving graces. Zeitlin utilised the bare essentials to weave this moving story; heart-breaking performances, a simple and solid script, a beautiful and effective film score, sexy cinematography, breathtaking scenery, and NO CGI.
Grab a box of tissues (for your eyes), lock yourself away from the world and get carried away by Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

#3: The Dark Knight Rises

Guess who's back?

Guess who’s back?

Director: Christopher Nolan
Genre: Action

The blockbuster movie event of the year may have disappointed many but it rocked my bloody socks off! The Dark Knight Rises should probably be further down the list, behind Beasts of the Southern Wild and Moonrise Kingdom, but I’m such a fan-boy I couldn’t help myself! It’s my preferred film of Nolan’s trilogy, I do love both predecessors, each one better than the last, but I think this one has the most moving and exhilarating story. Whilst The Dark Knight is the less flawed film, it’s lack of story surrounding the caped crusader himself was a problem for me. The Dark Knight Rises ties all three films together, enhancing the resonance of the previous two stories, and ends the series with the bitter-sweet finality it deserves. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it would’ve been to end a Batman franchise but Nolan did it so masterfully my arms keep extending to offer him a cuddle despite the man’s absence from my life.
There are some unfortunate plot holes/details which stop the film from being the masterpiece it should have been but that wasn’t a big enough problem to ruin the experience for me.
I saw the film twice at IMAX, the way it was meant to be seen, and that probably helped somewhat elevate my experience. It’s a BIG fuckin’ movie! There’s nothing like expecting a spectacle and getting it.
If you’re not really into Batman, or aren’t a fan of Nolan’s trilogy in particular, there is at least one very important reason to see The Dark Knight Rises

Joseph Gordon-Levitt!

 

#2: Sightseers

Anyone seen my eBay?

Anyone seen my eBay?

Director: Ben Wheatley
Genre: Comedy (Thriller)

Directed by British underdog, Ben Wheatley (Kill List 2011), and written by the cast, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, Sightseers is a fresh comedy/thriller to behold. When I first heard about this genre-comedy produced by Edgar Wright, I was expecting something akin to Attack the Block (2011), or Shaun of the Dead (2004), a typical horror or sci-fi yarn with a comic spin, which I would have been more than happy with. Instead I’m served up a surprising concoction of Wright’s fusion of genre and comedy, Lowe and Oram’s unique sense of humour, and Wheatley’s eerie, Wicker Man-esque atmosphere. Sightseers is a prime example of the kind of layered brilliance you can end up with from a team of creatives as opposed to a more one-note effort you may get from a single auteur.
I won’t bother touching on any plot details. Sightseers is a film to be surprised by. Anyone looking for a challenging British comedy with some juicy murders will walk away with more than a smile.

 

#1: Cabin in the Woods

My, what big...teeth you have!

My, what big…teeth you have!

Director: Drew Goddard
Genre: Horror/Comedy

THE

UNDISPUTED

FILM

OF

THE

YEAR

Why? Drew Goddard (writer/director) and Joss Whedon (writer/producer) bring us a horror/comedy that explores the avenues most standard horrors fear to tread. The result is a wild deconstruction of horror, surpassing even the achievements of Wes Craven’s Scream (1996). Calm down, it’s not the better film, it simply breaks down the formulas of the genre to greater avail. The screenplay is a tour de force. The writers are merciless with their characters and limitless with their plot developments.
Cabin in the Woods is like an episode of Buffy gone mad. It certainly is not for everyone, it’s even a divider amongst Whedon fans, as its relentless plot can drive people crazy.

The bottom line is…

Cabin in the Woods has everything you lust for in a horror – it’s exciting, brutal and bloody as hell.
It has everything you expect from a comedy – it’s wild and hilarious.
It has everything you hope to get out of a new film – it’s different.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll like it, but I strongly suggest you take a punt and decide for yourself.

CK’s Top 10 Films of 2012 – pt. 1

#10: Killer Joe

killer-joe-mcconaughey

“Think I’m as handsome as my reflection?”

Director: William Friedkin
Genre: (Black) Comedy

In order to settle a life-threatening debt, a young drug dealer, Emile Hirsch, hires a corrupt cop, Matthew McConaughey, to kill his mother in order to collect the insurance money. The theatrical poster deems it “a Totally twisted deep-fried Texas redneck trailer park murder story”, and that’s exactly what it is. When you go to KFC you’ve got a hankering for some greasy, immoral, finger-lickin’ pleasure and once you’ve eaten your chicken you feel both sick and satisfied which is not unlike the experience of watching Killer Joe.
Friedkin’s return to form, he ain’t made a decent film since the 80’s, is bold and refreshing. This film is relentless in its violent and sexual content and is certainly not for the most sensitive viewers out there, particularly die-hard Matthew McConaughey (rom-com mode) fans. The thing to remember is that this film is a comedy and it is a true delight to see such twisted and controversial content taken so lightly. There’s nothing worse than “hard-hitting trailer park drama/thrillers” and Killer Joe takes that dirty, cliche subgenre, deep fries it two times over and turns it into a twisted laughing stock.

#9: The Master

the-master1

“I am The Master. Try to capture that in the lighting.”

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson
Genre: Drama

PT Anderson strikes again! What a little freak, right? Shot in mouth-watering 65mm film, and projected in selected theaters in 70mm, The Master is nothing short of mesmerising. More-so than Anderson’s previous efforts, The Master has been accused of being slow and boring. I won’t deny that this film can be difficult to sit through but it had all the right ingredients to keep me engaged, and I have a short attention span.
The Master explores the day-to-day activities of a cult known as ‘The Cause’, based on the practices of Scientology. Despite the fact that there are few plot developments I found it fascinating to watch the cult’s bizarre interviews and exercises play out.
The performances by the three leads are more than something to behold. Joaquin (please win the Oscar) Phoenix, back from his I’m Still Here hiatus, plays the troubled World War II veteran who is taken in by the cult. His performance as unpredictable as his character, keeps you hanging with every movement (and non-movement!). Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays the charismatic and cooky ‘Master’ of ‘The Cause’. He makes the most ridiculous and infuriating concepts seem enchanting to even myself, the viewer. He is a true hypnotist. The beloved Amy Adams shows another side of her talents as she steps out of the comfort zone of her usual sweet/comedic roles as the Master’s assertive wife.
If 65mm film, the peculiar goings-on of cults, and spellbinding performances aren’t enough to tickle your fancy, then perhaps alternative maestro, Johnny Greenwood, would have something to say about that with his magical film score! It’s classic Hollywood fare with an art-rock spin.

Behold! The Master

#8: Skyfall

skyfall1

“This is old-school, bitch!”

Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Action

As a fairly devoted fan of the 007 series I can honestly say that Skyfall is the best Bond film since Goldeneye (1995). It’s the perfect gateway film for both classic Bond fans (Connery to Brosnan) and Casino Royale (2006) fans. It continues the Daniel Craig franchise smoothly whilst injecting some of the old-school flare we’ve been missing from the classic series, and it does it with style. Whilst it shares a similar running time with Casino Royale it doesn’t feel as long. This installment to the franchise sees Bond spending less time developing romantic relationships and more time getting to know a colourful villain (Javier Bardem in yet another iconic villainous role) and playing with new (in some cases “old”) toys. Suit up for this classy Action Drama, ‘cos it’s a doozy!

#7: Berberian Sound Studio

Berberian-Sound-Studio

If I point the mic in the right direction maybe she’ll show me her boobies…

Director: Peter Strickland
Genre: Thriller

I don’t think this one’s had a theatrical release yet, I saw it at the Melbourne International Film Festival, but this is a film worth searching for. It’s about a British sound engineer, Gilderoy (Toby Jones), who finds himself recording sound foley for a giallo film in Italy. Shit gets crazy for Gilderoy when the film’s horrors manifest themselves in his reality.
!!! Think Blow Out (1981) meets Kill Baby Kill (1966), if you love giallo films and movies about film-making, Berberian Sound Studio is your ultimate wet-dream.

#6: Looper

looper4

“Here’s lookin’ at me, kid.”

Director: Rian Johnson
Genre: Sci-Fi

What a bloody show! If you wanna excite CK, release a Sci-Fi film about time-traveling assassins and cast two of his favourite actors, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, and get them to play each other!
For me, the deal was done with the concept. The fact that JGL was playing a younger version of Bruce Willis alone was enough to make me hot, but a Sci-Fi written and directed by indie-filmmaker Rian Johnson? Woof! The only way this film could go wrong for me was if it was poorly made, and considering its pedigree, there was no way that was gonna happen.

Looper is an awesome Sci-Fi thriller with some cool ideas and a couple of landmark sequences. It’s slickly directed and the cast are loads of fun. Unfortunately, the film is not without its flaws. Looper had the potential to be the film of the year, even the decade, but it didn’t explore its grand ideas in any great depth. I suppose if it had done so, it would have been a much smaller film and quite possibly may never have been made. You’ve gotta give Johnson credit for making a crowd pleasing high-concept Sci-Fi that is actually good. Looper may not be the Blade Runner of our generation but I’ll settle for a contemporary Luc Besson style Sci-Fi/Action yarn.

#82: Jaws

I don’t think we can eat that…

Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 1975
Genre: Horror

Steven Spielberg takes a b-movie concept, a shark attack movie, and coats it with sophisticated film production values to create the world’s first blockbuster movie.

What can one say about Jaws that hasn’t already been said? It’s an obvious choice for any Top Film list and a necessary one.

For those of you who’ve not seen this classic Adventure/Horror film, I suppose you may feel inundated with pop-culture references, John Williams’ famous film score and various shark movies that followed, and fear that Jaws may be boring and predictable.
I must admit that had I never seen it I would be a bit “CBF’d” about seeing a film featuring a killer shark mainly set on water but I can assure you that there is nothing boring about Jaws.

Jaws has all the ingredients for an exhilarating yarn. It set the ground rules for what a blockbuster should be; an exciting genre story with top notch production values, loveable characters, sexy special effects, and a fistful of emotions!

The film is exceptionally paced with the first half exploring the hysteria of a small town as it’s threatened by a man-eating great white shark. In its second half the film evolves into more of an adventure where the three lead characters set out on a great hunt for the great white.

Whilst Jaws is masterfully effective with its scares and suspense, don’t be expecting a celebration of guts and limbs; there is ample bloodshed but this ain’t no gore-fest.
On the other side of the spectrum, you’ll be gravely disappointed if you’re looking for mind-blowing plot-twists, existential moments or deep touches of profundity. Jaws is, after all, a blockbuster, but its elegant craft, memorable characters and sharp dialogue turn light entertainment into first-class escapism.

#85: Suspiria

The Rainbow Connection…of fear!

Director: Dario Argento
Year: 1977
Genre: Horror

Strange that our next stop after Dancer in the Dark should be a psychedelic horror, or giallo, film about a dancer in a very dark environment. Let’s just pretend that I’ve wanked on about the similarities between these two wonderful movies, joked about how Suspiria could perhaps be one of Selma’s musical dream sequences in Dancer in the Dark, and move right on to exploring Suspiria as a film in its own right.

Suspiria is, Italian horror master, Dario Argento’s undisputed masterpiece. Though I’ve not seen his previous classic, Deep Red (1975), I doubt it will compete against Suspiria‘s dream-like qualities, which I find particularly appealing. The narrative follows an American dance student, Suzy, who arrives at a prestigious dance academy on a stormy night in Germany. Stormy nights and foreign surroundings help set the tone for this psychedelic nightmare. Our American protagonist is very much the outcast from the get-go, and we watch her become more and more alienated as each student mysteriously disappears, the death count rises, and circumstances get stranger and stranger.

Suspiria is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen with its highly saturated colour palette, elaborate set designs and stylised camera work. The acting style is quite odd, as it is in most giallo films, which may be due to the mix of English speaking and non-English speaking cast members. Many may shrug it off as bad acting, but I think it adds to the film’ s surreal atmosphere. Watching Suspiria is like letting a nightmare play out in front of you. Mesmerising and terrifying.

If you aren’t already down with the antics of Dario Argento and the Giallo film genre then do some fucking homework! Alright, settle down. I’m no giallo expert myself, and I’ve only seen about four Argento films, which means that you don’t have to be an Italian Cinema enthusiast to enjoy Suspiria. You should probably be partial to a bit of blood and gore before you delve into this nightmare however, ‘cos IT. IS. VIOLENT. Start drooling, gore-hounds. There is bloodshed by the bucket load and internal organ extractions a plenty! One thing to note about giallo films, and Italian cinema in general, is that most of the violence is shot gracefully with death scenes being framed as visual art as opposed to gritty, disgusting visions of reality. The blood is bright red providing a more striking contrast to the imagery. The placement of the subjects within the frame is often composed symmetrically and/or melodramatically distancing the viewer from the reality of the scene. The finished corpse is then exhibited in all its bloody glory as one of the director’s killer’s works of art. Such sensibilities, the art of finding beauty in the revolting, reflect the desires of those who enjoy on screen violence. It’s a form of escapism, for those of us who aren’t already sickos. I’m not saying that I’m rooting for the killers in these movies but one certainly relishes in the danger and the fear. The ability to enjoy fear in a simulated environment is an interesting one.

If you’re looking for a new experience in horror…

I recommend Suspiria,

after midnight,

alone.