Sunday, 25 September 2011

La Meute aka The Pack

The accolades sprinkled upon French new horror1 are due to films such as Ils 2006, Frontier(s) 2007 and Martyrs 2008. As much as I hated Martyrs I recognise its attempt to tell a different story and push audience boundaries. Therefore I don’t regard the people who like it as reprobates – unlike, for example, the people who watch Fox News.

No accolades should be thrown at La Meute 2011. It’s French horror but shouldn’t be included in this New Wave2. La Meute exists like an idiot child; just because the sign says ‘Hilton’ doesn’t mean people want to sleep there.

Punk rock chick – or something French equivalent – Charlotte picks up hitchhiker Max. They pit stop at a café for some café. That’s when Max disappears in the men’s room. Charlotte goes looking for him.

Something finds her.

The infuriation this film provokes can be seen perversely by watching the actors. All the main characters are delivered with involved performances. Lead Emilie Dequenne and her support play it straight. The same can’t be said for the thesps who portray a biker gang. I suppose they’d rather be in Shakespeare.
Ooh la la: Emilie Dequenne
Dequenne especially shines because her role is such a haphazard. She stops driving the plot a third of the way through and no one replaces her. As Charlotte she is reduced to screaming and gurgling like a smackhead in an adult video. Buyer beware: this is torture porn.

Writer-director Frank Richard is the charlatan at fault. The story begins and continues with cliché then swerves into fantasia. There are inexplicable developments and plot holes that would swallow the dinosaurs. I can’t believe a horror film would fade out over important plot points then refer back to them in flashback.

There are monsters in this film. Their makeup is satisfactory but their raison d’être is perfunctory. There are no parameters for their capabilities and no reason for them to behave the way they do given their backstory – which also sucks. There’s a bait-and-switch false ending while the epilogue is extemporaneous. I hated Martyrs for its sadism. I hate myself for La Meute.
Yolande Moreau: talented
 What this film lacks is a producer like Art Linson. David Fincher made Fight Club 1999 (with Linson). David Fincher made Zodiac 2007 (without Linson). A producer with bite could have turned the script and the editing around into something coherent. It would have been possible because what’s onscreen is visually appetising. Shame about the aftertaste.

La Meute fails the litmus test as entertainment. The indiscipline displayed might have turned me into a rom-com fan but for the hope that this is the last torture porn flick to be inflicted on the public. The French New Wave of horror may well continue but the acolytes are reaching. There hasn’t been a Ju-on: The Grude 2003 or The Orphanage 2007 or Let the Right One In 2008.
Perhaps La Meute fits well in their canon after all.

La Meute is released in the US on 27th September via VOD.

Read more Thrill Fiction: A Nightmare on ElmStreet 2 remake
1 French horror
2 New French Extremity Wikipedia
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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The Thing (prequel) red band trailer

As soon as art reaches the public it becomes owned by the public. Graffiti expresses New York. Murals tell the story of the Irish in the nine counties. Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the US’ was a call to right-wing arms. Child’s Play 1988 is a video nasty.

For good or ill the public at large will misinterpret or reinterpret the artist’s original intent. Every artist must be aware that they may suffer that. Every artist must be aware that there is a section of the public that will scrutinise and analyse. These are the fanboys; the hardcore; the smart marks. They look closer – out of love.

John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982 tells a different story to different people. It is scifi, paranoid thriller and/or horror. It tells a different story with each viewing. It is a work of excellence. It was a box office failure upon release. The fanboys of subsequent generations have elevated it to classic.

Hollywood has a new generation at work. They are the likes of production house Anchor Bay and writer Eric Heisserer – the man who rewrote A Nightmare on Elm Street 1984. This new generation make movies by numbers. This hack Heisserer rewrote John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982.

The following red band is similar to the Terminator Salvation 2009 trailer: it’s noisy and says nothing. Anyone who has watched the original is going to hate this remake. There are anti-story jump scares and too much monster taking centre stage. All this can be gleaned from the trailer (and clip). Them’s the best bits.

The Thing 2011 may advertise itself as a prequel but do not be deceived. It’s a remake or less. It’s a ripoff.
The Thing is released 14th October in the US and 2nd December in the UK.

Read more Thrill Fiction: A Nightmare on ElmStreet 2 remake
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Monday, 19 September 2011

Attack the Block

In the most recent series of The Apprentice (UK) contestant Susan Ma wondered aloud ‘Are the French very fond of their children?’. She was derided for it on the post-mortem show because it’s not politically correct to criticise the French. After all they’re not Zimbabwe.
A more relevant question would be ‘do the British care about their children?’.

‘Chav’1 is a term coined by southerners2 to describe what northerners call ‘scally’ (the American equivalent is white trash/ghetto). Circa 2004 the British media were frothing at the mouth in gleeful use of the word to spite the young3.

2005 witnessed a politically correct backlash over the word. There were left-wing accusations of elitism4 and unfounded right-wing bleating about inverted racism (white trash5). The media sidestepped the issue by adopting another word. ‘Hoodie’ is the current parlance. It’s safer as it obviously refers to an item of clothing. As said clothing is favoured by the young ‘hoodie’ has become code for yob, lout, scum etc; anything derogatory but with a youth prefix6.
The demonization of the young did not begin in this media age. The idiom ‘children should be seen and not heard’ dates back to the 15th century7. The Victorians believed parents should break their children’s will8. The plight of children inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist (pub.1838). British history is blighted with chimney sweeps, borstals and Catholic paedophile rings tacitly ignored by the authorities.
courtesy of
Why are these people so angry?

During the May 2010 General Election the Liberal Democrats pursued the student vote. They promised to revoke university tuition fees9. When they joined the Conservatives in a coalition government they reneged on their promise and raised tuition fees10. In November the students took to the streets.

The media reaction was savage11.
In August a police death squad shot and killed Mark Douglas12. Two days later rioting began and spread throughout England. The media response was more savage than the prior student protests13.

12 Since 1969 British police have killed an average one black person every 15 days. No police officer has been charged in over 1000 deaths.

The media have hijacked the riots as a ‘looter’s day out’. They have ignored the evidence of police terrorism and pointed the finger at young as opportunistic criminals. The British public who can’t think for themselves agree.

Do the British care about their children? Babies beware. This country is a hostile environment for those under 18. Into this atmosphere came Attack the Block 2011. It was theatrically released on 13th May.
This is not Byker Grove
An alien falls to earth but lands in the middle of a gang of hoodies. The kids do what the streets have taught them – they kill the blighter.

They retire in triumph to their South London tower block for rest and recreational drugs but soon discover the creature was not alone. It’s a full scale alien invasion and these monsters are worse than the police. With their block under attack it’s time for the youths to fight back.

Attack the Block is horror-comedy in the same league as Tremors 1990. The ethos of this subgenre is to induce mirth and fear without detracting from the other. There are very few films that accomplish this. Attack the Block succeeds because of its subject matter.

The heroes consist mainly of the most vilified demographic in Britain today – young black males. Writer-director Joe Cornish takes the stereotype, doesn’t apologise for it, and indulges it. He takes the audience for a run with this crew the way Quentin Tarantino did with the two hitmen in Pulp Fiction 1994. The result is criminal high jinks with alien deathly stakes.
Hoodies night out: (l-r) Alex Esmail, Simon Howard, John Boyega, Franz Drameh, Leeon Jones
The best movies have great scripts; they tell their stories well. Attack the Block is as witty and insightful as Clueless 1995. Joe Cornish writes his social commentary subtly but it cannot be ignored. In the opening scene the gang mug the lead female. After rifling through her purse one of them whines: “Aw she’s a nurse. They don’t get paid nothing fam. Ai Moses. Why you sticking up poor people man?

Each character arrives on their own terms and there are plenty of them; the toy gangster, the herb farmer, the girls and the middle class twit. They all bring humour and they all face peril. Attack the Block is choc full of aliens, horror, patois, comedy and social commentary. Despite all those ingredients the film is a cohesive story. It is not just exciting it is jolly good fun.
nurse Sam (Jodie Whittaker) and her token white Pest (Alex Esmail)
The best joke in the movie takes place when the crew are hiding from the invaders. One of the kids – Pest – starts sniffing after the nurse:

Pest: You’re quite fit y’know. Have you got a boyfriend?
Nurse: Yes.
Pest: You sure about him? Where is he? ‘Cause he aint exactly looking out for you tonight.
Nurse: He’s in Ghana.
Pest: You going out with an African man?
Nurse: No. He’s helping children. He volunteers for the Red Cross.
Pest: Ooh. Is it? Why can’t he help the children of Britain?

Attack the Block is released on DVD today in the UK and 25th October in the US.

Read more Thrill Fiction: 10 Horror Movies forthe Fall 2011
1 Chavs and the towns they live in
2 Origins of the word ‘chav’ Wikipedia
3 Media student expert on chavs BBC
5 Julie Burchill in The Times
7 Children should be seen… The Phrase Finder
9 Lib Dems tuition fees pledge BBC
10 Tuition fees raised BBC
11 Student protests The Daily Star
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Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Book Review: Found Footage Fiction

The mainstream image of the horror fan1 is that of a (white) teenage (maladjusted) boy wearing a heavy metal t-shirt on his way to a masturbation session.

The mainstream also believes NATO attacked Libya to save the Libyan people.

1 The current vernacular is ‘Fanboy’. Note the term itself is pejorative.

I’m a middle aged African-British male. My adjustment (to the mainstream) is a matter of perspective. I don’t wear heavy metal t-shirts although I do listen to Straight Line Stitch. My sexual practises will remain private – between me and my next victim.
Alexis Brown of Straight Line Stitch (not my next victim)

The horror fan drinks from the cup poured by the Masters of Horror; Wes Craven, John Carpenter, George A Romero, David Cronenberg. The horror fan does not restrict him/herself to the movies. Some read comics. Some more read novels; Stephen King, Clive Barker, Mary Shelly. The list is exhaustive.

Horror movies have discovered a new subgenre. Now in its second decade of popularity the found footage film dominates the box office2. It is apropos that the format has been claimed by horror as the genre as a whole is refuge to the low budget filmmaker.

21st century technology has given us the ebook. It is the refuge for the writer ignored by the major publishing houses. In today’s corporate market those of us without a media presence (ie non-celebrities) are shunned by the majors. It is a good thing that Shakespeare, Dickens and Orwell did not start their careers today.

Whimsical Doctor Shoe is an ebook by way of Amazon’s Kindle. It is written by Ricky Sprague. He is one of the best contemporary writers in English I have read. He too has struggled in finding a publisher despite the fact that two literary agents believed in this book. 21st century technology is a good thing.

The films of David Cronenberg are universally described as ‘body horror’. According to John Carpenter Cronenberg asserts his films are not horror. Ricky Sprague makes no claim that Whimsical Doctor Shoe is body horror – so I’ll do it for him.

Reuss Spitnode is a conjoined twin. Or he was. He disappeared in September of last year. A removal man found this manuscript of the missing millionaire between the mattresses of his bed. The bed was covered with faeces and urine.

How the rich lived.

The manuscript details the Spitnode twins’ quest for separation. What nature has conjoined let no whimsical doctor cut asunder. There is no mystery to the result of the operation. Ruess writes

“Brother is dead, not me.”

There is mystery in the German doctor who performed the operation and yet cannot be traced through his forged credentials. The mystery is his motives for the promised perversion and sadism. The mystery is if he ever existed. This manuscript could well be the testament of a madman.
doctors can be evil too
Sprague has a way with words. His prose is akin to a conductor of an amateur choir that brings tears to the eyes of cynics with their rendition of the national anthem. The beauty of the weaving of his words entraps the reader. Intrigue sets in the second paragraph of the introduction by Charles Hoerner. Reuss’ testimony is repugnant. It is irresistible. The reader is snared.

I must declare an interest. Sprague is a Facebook friend of mine. I’ve been reading his blog soon after I started mine. This was in 2009 when we both wrote about reality TV courtesy of VH1. I Love Money and all of that. He has been supportive of my work and I value his judgement.

Be aware that this is not a quid pro quo. Every word a man says he will be judged upon. Every word he should have said but did not say – he will be judged on that too. Most celebrities, politicians, professional athletes and other celebrities lie about the words they said on camera or try to minimise them. The same goes for the general public. I write words. I cannot take them back. My reputation depends on them – as a writer and as a man.

I was being facetious when I called Sprague a Facebook friend. I’ve never met the man but perhaps one day I will. It may be at a book signing for the hardback publication of Whimsical Doctor Shoe. It may be at the Bram Stoker Awards or the binge drinking afterwards. I look forward to it.

This review is of the first two chapters of WhimsicalDoctor Shoe and not the whole novel. Clink the link above to read the sample on Sprague’s blog Project Child Murdering Robot. Should you decide to buy it you can marvel at the price tag. Sprague is the epitome of a writer. He wants to tell you a story. To give is to receive.

Thrill Fiction recommends 10 Best Horror Films of 2011
2 Found Footage Movies Box Office Mojo
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Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Top 10 Coming Soon Horror Movies of 2011 (September - December)

My home town of Manchester is a university town. Fifty thousand people from across the country – and a few hundred from the more gullible parts of the world – come here to study. Most of the newcomers are 18 years old. The universities call them ‘freshers’. I like to call them fresh meat. They arrive every September.

September begins the academic cycle. It is also the start of the final third of the year. It is the beginning of the cold months. These are the dark months. They are the horror months.

There are some good looking films yet to be seen before 2012. Some have been pointed out in earlier posts but not the following 10. They are of franchise, foreign, dramatic, comedy-horror and the sequel. They are the best of the releases in America and the UK from September – December.

There’s more to look forward to than just the horrors of the Conservative-Libdem coalition.

Numbering refers to order of release date. All releases are wide unless otherwise stated.

10 The Dead 2nd September UK Limited
A television special detailing the shoot in Burkina Faso raised my awareness.
As ubiquitous as the undead are nowadays The Dead has the potential to be something special. The trailer invokes the tone of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters 1979 aka Zombi 2. A sprinkling of Romero type socio-political comment would push this flick into the realm of zombie great. Time Out1 seem to think so.
The bad news is the release is limited to a scant number of towns2. Word of mouth could change that. It could even garner an American distribution deal.

Attack the Block 2011 anyone?

9 A Lonely Place to Die 7th September UK & 11th November US
courtesy of Bloody Disgusting
The survival movie is a subgenre unto itself. It is not to be confused with the rednecks-in-the-boonies-run-amok films such as Deliverance 1972. The survival movie can boast El rey de la Montana 2007 as its epitome. These movies are invariably thrillers with horror overtones.
A Lonely Place to Die arrives with high praise – Melissa George notwithstanding.

8 Burke & Hare 9th September US
This film was released last year in the UK and is available on DVD. It is directed by John Landis but unlike the previous movie on this list Burke & Hare arrives with bad tidings. A horror-comedy has to make the punter laugh within the presence of fear. The critics at Rotten Tomatoes3 aren’t laughing.
Whatever happened to the Masters of Horror?

7 La Meute aka The Pack 27th September US VOD
The French are building their reputation4 for modern horror on the back of films such as Haute Tension 2003 and Martyrs 2008. Like any subgenre there is the good and there is the bad.
This looks good but it may be an acquired taste – like French cuisine.

6 The Woman 30th September UK & 4th October US Limited
Jack Ketchum5 is a great American writer. The adaptations of his novels have varied from good (The Offspring 2009) to very good (The Girl Next Door 2007). His name does not disappoint. The Woman is a sequel to The Offspring.
It provoked a scandal at Sundance6.

5 Paranormal Activity 3 21st October US & 23rd November UK
This franchise is one of the main reasons found footage films get a wide release. It’s the only trilogy I know of that counted backwards. Ie this is the second prequel.
Here at Thrill Fiction the belief is this subgenre has run its course artistically. Over in Hollywood it hasn’t run its course financially. Don’t be surprised at a trilogy of sequels.

4 Demons Never Die 28th October UK
On the surface it has a number of minuses: it’s a shot on digital video (DV), it’s British and it has no names.

Directly below the surface are the facts: a DV camera can make a beautiful looking film eg Zodiac 20077. A British horror film can go one of two ways; it can be an American rip off (The Hole 2001) or told with British authenticity (Eden Lake 2008). Horror films don’t need names (Paranormal Activity 2009).
Now someone go tell The Guardian8.

3 The Awakening 11th November UK
Dominic West is yet to become a star but perhaps this British horror film could change that. It’s set in the 1920s when everything was so posh and twee – at least according to the movies. This is clearly aimed at the Yankee market that has been taught to think the English speak with a plum in their mouths.
They clearly haven’t met our women. They like two plums thank you.

2 Piranha 3DD 23rd November US & UK
For those who liked Piranha 3D 2010 this sequel began shooting at the end of April.
They won’t even have time to computer generate the actors.

1 The Darkest Hour 25th December US & 12th January 2012 UK
This is an alien invasion movie that could be more scifi than horror. The protagonists are teenagers which evokes Twilight 2008 and not Red Dawn 1984. It’ll serve as a distraction for the Yanks keen to escape their relatives on Christmas Day. Us Brits will have to wait until we’re skint to see it.
Hidden from the headlines of course are the independents, straight-to-video, foreign imports, VOD and porn. Look and you will find something to suit your taste – but will it be any good? I’m going to post my rewrite screenplay online before years end – A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Return. That will be good.

It looks like we’re going to have to wait for 2012 before we get to see The Innkeepers directed by Ti West, The Cabin in the Woods written by Josh Whedon and the Dibbuk Box. Trick r Treat 2009 was worth waiting for.

Now where’s that damned sequel?

1 Time Out review
2 The Dead Theatrical dates
3 Burke & Hare Rotten Tomatoes
4 New French Extremity Wikipedia
5 Jack Ketchum Wikipedia
6 Sundance 2011 Dread Central
7 Zodiac IMDb technical specifications
8 Demons Never Die The Guardian review
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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Apollo 18

The trailer is indispensible to the marketing of a movie. Some are so effective they entertain more than the feature. The trailer for Apollo 18 2011 touches the pleasure points of the genre. There is premise, intrigue, excitement and horror. Further marketing (ie the one-sheet) embeds the tagline as a warning to the fans. Despite several release date changes this is a film pitched perfectly to the public. Dimension Films have a history of horror.
The Apollo 18 story is of a clandestine lunar landing in 1974. This NASA recovered footage shows why the Americans have never gone back. ‘Recovered’ being synonym for ‘found (footage)’. Apollo 18 is another addition to the POV subgenre.

The history of the found footage film1 starts with The Blair Witch Project 19992. It wasn’t the first such film but it was the first to capture public attention. A production budget of $802k (all figures adjusted for inflation) yielded a worldwide box office $331million.

By the nature of its low budgets this genre was always going to attract the independent filmmaker. The following years saw a variety of films coalesce the genre but not establish it. In 2008 Hollywood player JJ Abrams3 produced Cloverfield4 to a worldwide $178m. Paranormal Activity 2009 had a $16k budget and a $214m worldwide gross5. Found footage is the new torture porn.
(coming) soon to be found footage
Found footage films are a gimmick. The technique inserts the viewer into a point-of-view stance with the object of heightening the visceral response. It is visual sibling to the first-person-narrative of the novel but can also be described as a poor relation. The technique is restraining. To wit Alien 1979 would not be a better film if it was found footage.

In most cases the narrative reasoning for the POV technique is hackneyed. In most cases the form does not have the legs to tell a feature length film. The only exception to this is [REC] 2007. For example in the case of Cloverfield human beings do not point a camera at something that is going to kill them. Human beings run – unless they are extraordinary journalists.
The premise alone of Apollo 18 is enough to excite the superstitious amongst the conspiracy theorists. The premise is also unique in its suitability for the found footage subgenre. Every camera and angle has a legitimate reason for position and recording be it static or mobile. The problem is surveillance cameras tend to record white noise.
The budget figures haven’t been made available but some of it should have been spent on the screenplay. The script stretches out the high concept to the point of torpor. Consequently the film is full of padding. Eg one of the astronauts snores which later results in a jump scare with no significance to the story.

Worse follows; post Scream 1996 no horror film should use the cliché of the dumb big tit blonde walking up the stairs to investigate a strange noise when the front door is an option. Apollo 18 substitutes the bimbo for a burly crew cut astronaut.

Ridley Scott and HR Giger set the bar for the hostile extra-terrestrial. Other films such as John Carpenter’s The Thing 1982 and Slither 2008 created their own credibility. The underwhelming Apollo 18 reveal begs the question where the budget went. It didn’t go on production.

The conspiracy film6 is a genre of its own. The premise of Capricorn One 1978 is the opposite to that of Apollo 18. Where Capricorn One remains credible Apollo 18 is revealed as a good idea but with languid execution and a ludicrous exit. This film should have been a bigger budget with a better script. It shouldn’t have been found footage. This should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Read more Thrill Fiction: The 100 Best Horror Films #3
2 The Blair Witch Project The Numbers
3 JJ Abrams IMDb
4 Cloverfield The Numbers
5 Paranormal Activity The Numbers
6 Conspiracy films Wikipedia
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