I think it’s fair to say that director M. Night Shyamalan has had a variable track record to date. After his big break, The Sixth Sense, made a new sport out of guessing-the-twist, he seemed to have landed straight at the top and seemed likely to stay there – but subsequent films saw this influence wane, with offerings such as Lady in the Water dividing fans and more recent efforts, namely The Last Airbender, uniting them again – mostly in derision. (I’ll admit I haven’t seen The Last Airbender, though whenever faced with Shyamalan’s most twee efforts, I always feel like Michael Jackson’s Earth Song is about to break out.) So, this brings us to his new film, the recently-released Split (2016), which features no spooks, no mysterious realms and no crop circles. On paper, it certainly seems like a concerted effort has been made to head in a new direction – but just how complete, and successful, is this departure?
I’ve always thought it’s a crying shame that we generally know very little about Russian cinema; although many fine examples have made it across to the West, we can be sure that many have not, and even those which have are often very under-appreciated. And so it is that it has taken me around a decade from the point of seeing some intriguing stills in print from Viy (1967) to actually seeing the film itself. However, this omission has meant that I’ve just been able to see a film, which is now a staggering half a century old, as one amongst the most innovative supernatural yarns I’ve ever enjoyed to date. That is the magic of cinema. The best of it not only doesn’t have a best-before date; it actively gathers extra appeal from the intervening years, adding the charm of the time capsule effect to its other merits. Add Russian folklore into the mix and you also get that strange, but not displeasing distance, too – where the tales are similar, yet different; the predominant religion is unique, but also recognisable – and the threat of the otherworldly is so very Russian (or Ukrainian) in many ways, yet feels as though it’s interlaced with themes and ideas akin to many European stories.
There seems to have been something of a resurgence in print media – alongside many other pre-internet media – in recent years; titles which had quietly slipped off the radar are back, and the indie press, which many folk had anticipated would have disintegrated by now, is ticking along rather nicely. Even we (that is, our previous incarnation, Brutal as Hell) have been at it, and a very enjoyable thing it is to do. I have to admit, there is just something compelling about the physical product; it calls to mind the old excitement of ordering, awaiting and then enjoying a magazine or fanzine – an excitement which is simply missing in the immediacy of the online world. And this isn’t simply blithe nostalgia, believe me; these labours of love tend to bring together disparate, but interesting voices. Such is the case with the new print project, The Reprobate.
An email was sent out recently by a well-established website who are seeking new writers to help them keep on top of the relentless flow of tidbits and news which fans might like to read. People applied to find out more, and received the following reply from the site in question – and I’m not going to play coy here, the site in question was HeyUGuys:
‘At the moment we’re looking for news writers to help us with the day to day running of the site. We don’t want to be churning out news to cover everything and anything but we are keen to get news to become a bit more prominent on the website. We don’t have huge amounts of cash to play with but we’re looking at paying around £1 per article. We hope that over the course of a month if we can do 2 or 3 per day it may add up to a tidy sum.’
Now, pick the bones out of that one. £1 per news item: two or three news items per day (probably around half an hour to an hour a pop, going on my own pace of writing) which could potentially lead to a whopping £20 or more per week. A tidy sum, indeed. Not only is the amount of money being offered here insulting and unliveable for anyone trying to sustain themselves professionally as a writer, I’m not even sure you could get away with it legally. Even if you were in the unfortunate position of having to supplement your existing wages in this way, it would hardly be worth the time and trouble. However, this email neatly encapsulates, for me, some of the issues facing fan writers in these times. Namely – should you write for free? Write for a pittance? Or hold out for better things?
The so-called ‘Satanic Panic’ of the Eighties (with some fallout in the following decade) is a curious phenomenon – one born out of a collision of new media, psychiatry, pop-psychiatry and pop culture. It’s one of those things which could – and did – run and run, borne aloft by its ‘hidden’ status (how do you disprove a secret?) and of course its seductive promise of illicit sex, cult activity, crime and murder – all available for concerned parties to enjoy, whilst simultaneously fretting and disdaining it all, of course. Various theses and books on the subject have appeared piecemeal over the years, but never before has there been such an exhaustive examination of the phenomenon as offered by the recent FAB Press release Satanic Panic – a book which brings together a number of commentators and invites them to offer their expertise on the topic in their own particular styles and from their own perspectives.
Hello, Happy New Year, and welcome to our new project, Warped Perspective…
For those of you who have followed us over from our previous site, Brutal as Hell, then you may already see how and why we’ve chosen the new site name. Truth be told, it was co-founder and co-editor Ben Bussey who came up with it very early on in the process of finding a new name which we felt encapsulated what we already do (and what we’re planning to do here). On several occasions, over the many years that our team has now been writing together, we’ve jokingly said that Brutal as Hell should rightly be re-named ‘Contrary as Fuck’ – because it’s often felt as if we’re at odds with so many consensus opinions on genre film: not through deliberately being bloody-minded, but because first and foremost we’ve always approached our writing from our point of view as fans, not in anyone’s pay or employ, not trying to shower directors with hyperbole to get their attention and certainly not being motivated by the (for some) tantalising prospect of cover quotes or bogus thumbs-ups for diluted or downright dishonest opinions. Our perspective has always been very much our own; once Ben had come up with the now-current title, we felt it was a good fit. But there’s more to it than that…
I can’t say anything more eloquent than my colleague Ben already has regarding the imminent closure of our last little website, but I do want to point you in the direction of what’s left of our ‘best of’ Brutal as Hell magazines: for any of you who were meaning to buy one, but haven’t got around to it, then now’s your chance to support print media. I remain very, very proud of how the magazine looks and of what’s in it – the BAH team at its finest, offering reviews, interviews, special features and retrospectives – all in full colour.
And if that wasn’t enough, then please note that the price has now been reduced to our ‘festival price’ of just £2. You’d be mad not to, frankly.
A limited number are available now on our site store (or if there is any issue with the store, please fire us a line on Facebook and we can arrange a Paypal sale). There aren’t many left of these, but it would gratify me to get a few more sent out. Oh, and massive thanks to those of you who have already purchased and given positive feedback! Print certainly isn’t dead. Continue reading
Unless something else just sneaks under the wire over the next couple of weeks, it seems this could be my final Horror in Short feature for the current site. Huh. It feels like only yesterday that I decided it was high time we spent more time championing these often brilliant, inventive and grossly-underrated cinematic projects; and now here we are, years down the line, many films covered, and as usual, I was right. Happier still, today’s likely last short film – Remnants – is a stylish, well-paced offering which is clearly aware of its horror heritage, but has something pleasantly smart and knowing to say in a mere fifteen minutes. Take a look for yourselves, folks, before you read the review which follows…
Why do I think this works so well as a short film? Well, I was impressed by how director David Ugarte gives us an immediate sense of character via actors Terrance Roundtree and Hugh McCrau Jr; it’s achieved with a light touch, primarily thanks to natural dialogue (something lost on so many filmmakers). The early conversation between these two homicide detectives, who are en route to a crime scene, allows you to feel that these really are two men who know each other well, and also establishes that Ugarte feels confident enough to drop some humour into the mix in places too, both in what’s said and what’s shown (the final shot of the ‘demon’ against a backdrop of Instagram-worthy lines about love and happiness hanging on the wall definitely made me smile).
There’s also some nice technical prowess here. I liked the use of practical make-up FX, something which I know is a deal-maker-or-breaker for many genre fans but hey – it showcases a set of skills we might not get to enjoy otherwise, and it does make a difference to how a project comes across. Here, the film manages to switch between its initial realism and then scenes which deftly build dread and suspense – lots of the initial investigative work could make the audience feel as involved as our protagonists as we peer under furniture via the camera, just like they do. And then, maintaining a pace which works very well, extra tension builds as possible otherworldly influences steadily creep into the narrative – which they do without feeling tacked on… Continue reading
Japanese cinema has a proud tradition of body horror and over the past ten years or so, the Sushi Typhoon phenomenon alone has given us a whole host of flying limbs and mad mutations which are lots of fun to watch. For many of us, films of this ilk have pretty much set the bar for what’s possible to do on screen, with each subsequent movie going one step further – nothing is too silly or extreme. Lest we forget, though, Japan also boasts an equally proud heritage of kink, and in Mai-Chan’s Daily Life, the two have become one. A fetish film coupled with body horror? The result is nothing if not memorable…
Based, as you might have guessed, on an adult manga (which features in the opening and closing credits, as a nice nod to the source material) Mai-Chan’s Daily Life starts with a young woman, Miyako, who is seeking employment. She gets invited for an interview to begin work as a live-in maid at an isolated estate on the outskirts of Tokyo. There’s another maid already incumbent, the cute Mai of the film’s title – whose role it is to show Miyako the ropes. Still, given that the interview involved stripping off ‘to get measured’, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the job is not exactly conventional. The girls have to dress up as cats to eat their meals off the floor, for example, and they must keep the torture chamber immaculately clean. Their employers – Mr and Mrs Kaede – are indeed a pair of perverts, but they’re enabled to go that little bit further in their pursuits by the fact that Mai seems to have the supernatural ability to regenerate, whatever is done to her. So the Kaedes routinely gouge out her eyes, hack off her digits, and then simply wait for it all to grow back. And, when Miyako sees them doing this, it isn’t long until she’s getting off on the hi-jinks as well. Continue reading
By Keri O’Shea
I’d been wondering what had happened to director Sean Byrne since his brilliant debut feature The Loved Ones assured audiences that you could still weave an effective, horrific and ultimately heartwarming story out of elements which –… Continue reading