Frightfest Special: Ian Fielding on Rubber

Directed by Quentin Dupieux (aka French electro house musician Mr. Oizo) Rubber would make an effective concept for a music video. A car tyre arises from the desert and embarks on a killing spree across a dusty America town. The tyre dispatches its victims by deploying psychokenetic powers, usually to explode its victim’s heads. These proceedings are observed through binoculars by a crowd of spectators based on a nearby hilltop.

Rubber’s self-referential, ironic and minimalist execution edges it into art house territory. This is a film of ideas, concerned with making the silly, lofty and the lofty, silly. In a pleasing opening sequence a police officer spells out to the audience the central theoretical premise of the of the film – that ultimately things can occur for no reason. ‘In Stephen Spielberg’s ET why is the alien brown? No Reason.’ This hints at a kind of exploration of randomness, whereas the film is more concerned with a playfulness concerning the nature of reality and storytelling.

As this is ultimately a film about ideas, expect to be quirkily amused rather than emotionally enraptured. It skirts around the outside rather than delving deeply into those big ideas. It doesn’t utilise the toolkit of drama to pull out any astonishing turns and so despite its aesthetic purity and playful heart, the film comes over as a little shallow, a little distant and lacking in true dramatic impact. There are hints of potential here though. I can’t help thinking that with a dash more deviousness or a stronger serving of soul that Mr Dupieux could develop into a serious cinematic pull.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here:


FrightFest Special: Ben Simpson on Hobo with a Shotgun

Hobo (Rutger Hauer) has one dream in life, to buy a lawnmower and start up a new business. Unfortunately for him he’s homeless and lives in Scum Town. Riddled with every type of low life degenerate under the sun it isn’t exactly the ideal place to become a Gardner and when some masked men hold up a cashier at the ‘Pawn till Dawn’ Hobo has no choice but to part with his last $50, buy a shotgun and blast them all to hell. With a taste of justice Hobo’s hungry for more and starts cleaning the streets to the dismay of The Drake (Brian Downey) and his forever disenchanted sons who put a bounty on the Hobo’s head.

This is most akin to the cult films of the 80’s such as Street Trash on route through Tromaville without the hyper juvenile jokes that detract me away. The problem I have with Troma films are the characters are set to 11, they all have ADD constantly screaming at one another in hyper situations but there’s nothing going on around them. In Hobo with a Shotgun everything is turned to 11; environment, editing and the acting all working together to create a balance that never slows down until the end credits. The blood never stops flowing and there’s enough imaginative deaths to whet the appetite of the most hardcore gore fan. My favourite being ‘The Glory Hole’.

Seeing Rutger Hauer shooting the shit out of people, breaking down doors, eating broken glass bottles and a whole lot more is a sight to see in itself and at 67 he hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for the bizarre and trashy. He could very well be depicted as a Super Hero, the film has a comic book element to it, characters are black and white and Hobo even gets his own side-kick to fight crime with. A stunning looking prostitute (played by Molly Dunsworth) who together talk about the beauty of grizzly bears when they’re taking a rest from decapitating evil.

Watching Hobo with a Shotgun at Fright Fest was the closest I’ll ever get to the days of the midnight screenings on 42nd Street and I loved every minute of it. DIY effects, over the top lighting, great one liners and a montage that’s somewhere between Evil Dead 2 and Footloose. It’s what Grindhouse should have been and wanted to be. The Director (Jason Eisener) didn’t imitate a cult classic, he made one. In the Introduction Jason said, “We made this film without any rules, so you, the audience, should have no rules watching it. I like watching it without pants on.” and proceeded to take his pants off. That summed up the whole film in one action. Balls out horror.

Ben Simpson is the Co – Director of Patrol Men

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FrightFest Special: David Campion on I Saw the Devil

The Glasgow Film Festival has been invaded by Frightfest – could you ever imagine the London Film Festival including a genre segment in their bill? No, me neither. High props to Glasgow for opening their doors and hearts to the hordes of drooling horror fans, many of whom have travelled not only from England, but Germany and even Australia [somebody must have really wanted to see Little Deaths].

So, first for me is the latest Korean export, I Saw the Devil. Having already screened across the Atlantic, most notably Toronto and Sundance, the film has already earned a lot of buzz from critics and genre fans alike. Despite my high expectations, Kim Ji-Woon managed to surprise me with a whole new level of filmmaking. ISTD combines the clinical attention to detail as seen in Zodiac, the fierce psychological examination of a serial killer as seen in Silence of the Lambs, but injects it with a hyper kinetic quality, not unlike Christopher Nolan at his finest.

Thematically, the film is strong, playing with the concept of revenge and repetition; raising the question of when does revenge become unfulfilling? Kyung-Chul [Choi Min-sik] is a depraved serial killer, with no sense of morality or empathy; in real life this man deserves to be punished, in filmic terms, he deserves to die. However, for our ‘hero’, Soo-Hyun [Lee Byung-hun], death is not enough. Instead, he plants a tracking device into the killer and proceeds to beat him within an inch of his life, before letting him go and repeating the process.

I Saw the Devil not only boasts an engaging script, fine performances, pitch-perfect direction and high drama, but it also delivers on a primal splatter level as well. The deaths are messy and disturbing. There is a moment when Kyung-Chul shares a car ride with two shifty gentlemen. There is an air of Hitchcockian tension, especially as each man looks as dangerous as the other. This tension is broken when Kyung-Chul unleashes his rage, repeatedly stabbing the driver and his accomplice. In all my years of watching horror films, I have never witnessed such fury with a knife.

Much like Oldboy, ISTD has a westernized flavor. Aesthetically, both films evoke the spirit of David Fincher, whilst ISTD also takes a direct cue from No for Country Old Men. In the way Tarantino is happy to pinch bits from European cinema and make it his own, the film wears it influences on its sleeve, confident enough in its own originality. Kim Ji-Woon is friends with Park Chan-Wook [Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, Thirst] and Bong Joon-ho [The Host, Mother] and collectively, the trio represent an exciting new wave in Korean filmmaking. All three directors have a knack for taking typical ‘genre’ cinema and elevating it way beyond the norm. This has to do with their impeccable technique and understanding of cinema.  Personally, I’m keeping my eyes on these filmmakers, as I am expecting even greater films to come.

David Campion is the Co – Director of Patrol Men

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FrightFest Special: Ben Simpson on Little Deaths

Every year an English film plays FrightFest and the vast majority are a waste of time. So bad you fear your eyeballs will develop cancer (Dead Cert, Isle of Dogs and 13hrs just to name last year’s crop) and this doesn’t disappoint. Little Deaths is an Anthology piece with three stories that relate to the darker side of sex and death. The first major problem is that only one of these three directors can direct.

First up is House and Home, Sean Hogan’s (writer of Isle of Dogs) feeble attempt. A homeless girl is enticed into a couples’ home. She is bathed and fed and then at the dinner table, the couple poison her wine. The tramp wakes up tied to a bed and the sexual torment begins. The direction and narrative is so painfully dull and lazy that even a cum shot to the face and a golden shower fails to spark any repulsion or anger. Just when you think it can’t get any worse the twist comes a long. At least it can’t get any worse…

Andrew Parkinson’s Mutant Tool wasn’t much better, it manages to make a film about a caged Nazi monster with a huge cock that dribbles out semen into a bucket boring. Instead of focusing on this cum beast we get laborious scenes of what the scientists use the semen for. Hardly getting a peek at the monster feels like such a huge waste of effects. Plus you forget the story almost immediately after it finishes. Andrew Parkinson might as well of filmed the monster masturbating for 20 minutes.

Bitch is a breath of fresh air. Just by the first shot you can tell the director (Simon Rumley) is leagues above the two directors that play before him. A dark tale about domination and fear, Simon gets some powerful performances out of the actors while being both subtle in his storytelling and successful in creating a living environment for them to populate. Bitch has a completely different look to the DV-like quality of the first two films. It is raw and life-like and brings a dark, uncomfortable and cold tone to the film. Ultimately though it’s too late, after the atrocious segments before it nothing could save this car wreck of a film, which is a shame because Simon Rumley’s Red, White and Blue was one of my favorites of 2010. If it wasn’t for the third segment this would have played like a 1st year film students project. Go and watch Trick R’ Treat instead or if you really want to see a new-ish English anthology film go with Cradle of Fear. It’s not that good, but I’d watch it over Little Deaths anytime.

Ben Simpson is the Co – Director of Patrol Men

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Ian Fielding on True Grit: Bravery on Tap

Dino De Laurentiis, the late, great producer of Blue Velvet once said that to be a man you need three things. Heart, brains and balls. In looking at the Coen brother’s new film True Grit, I’ll be focusing on balls.

True Grit. The background is spiritual pollution, the bloodthirsty acquisition of the west. The book is Charles Portis’ classic take on the western novel. The characters are the tough and weather-bruised products of their environment. They meet death with equanimity, resort to brutality with laissez-faire matter-of-factness and treat each other as straw dogs, with little more than money, justice and the need to survive binding them together.

The film contains stirring feats of heroism, which serve as the flags to the measure of its character’s constitutions.

Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), the astonishing 14 year old Presbyterian with a smart mouth and steady nerve is a monster of progress and logic who is driven by a powerfully centered emotional force – the need to exact retribution upon the man who killed her father.

The moment when Mattie frees herself from the keeper of the river ferry and crosses the water on a swimming horse amazes and charms us with her spontaneous resourcefulness. Bravery is not trait-like, it only emerges in special circumstances like this.

J. ‘Rooster’ Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), cranky, robust and raw, is a true veteran of the plains, corrupt, forgetful and above the law. There’s a sense of old school masculinity in the way he lets his soul play out, it’s like Johnny Cash’s voice, timeless and forged in the fire of primal humanity, as fixed as the North Star and attached profoundly to the earth. This is not a man of wit and stealth but a man of straight talking simplicity, clear means and closely guarded pride.

Cogburn turns on the physical courage when he rides fearlessly into a gang of four outlaws, facing them head-on, reins in mouth and two pistols blazing, facing the fray in confidence. Though elsewhere (especially in Mattie’s eyes) he is shadowed by vice.

Psychological bravery means acting against our natural inclinations and facing fears which may not have any social  implications. This includes overcoming personal addicting habits, irrational anxieties and harmful dependent relationships. So as Cogburn turns to drink, he looses his bottle and the film throws its own quiet anti-drinking campaign. Mattie loses her faith in him (not in the least because it is a reminder of the circumstances surrounding her father’s death) and Cogburn looses face as he rides onward drunkenly through the day boasting and singing to himself.

Moral Courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. The prime cinematic example is James Cagney in Angels with Dirty Faces. Who on his death bed, his appointment with the electric hair, acts like a cowardly, sniveling wretch before all the criminal kids who idolise him so that they don’t follow in his footsteps, completely annihilating his reputation in a swoop.

Cagney’s display is the polar opposite to Nietzsche’s vanity bravery: ‘One never dives into the water to save a drowning man more eagerly than when there are others present who dare not take the risk.’ For me, Cagney’s is the greatest act of sacrifice in cinema.

So what is true grit? Is it not a kind of bravery on tap? Pure internal focus and resolve. Like the characters in this film who have it embedded into their bones. A necessary state to get by in a tough universe. A thought that makes Mattie an even more formidable character considering it takes time to build such resolve.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.

Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

You will be hard pressed to find a film that doesn’t contain a moment of bravery, ranging from the foolhardy to the heroic. Bravery is the key catalyst to progress in life and so it is with film.

My name’s Ian. I’m a writer and Filmmaker from London currently shooting my second feature film – a detective thriller called Dead Unicorns

To see pics, a trailer and what’s currently happening with Dead Unicorns click here: