Penny Dread­ful

Mon­sters come in many forms and things are not what they seem...

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Opinion -


In 2008 Pas­cal Laugier’s tran­scen­dent tor­ture- porn Mar­tyrs hit the pin­na­cle of the New French Ex­trem­ism move­ment and be­came a cult clas­sic. Those who haven’t seen it – avert your eyes! It’s a film of two halves, the first be­ing the es­cape and slow re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of a girl held cap­tive and trau­ma­tised as a child, the se­cond her demise and her friend’s sub­se­quent in­car­cer­a­tion and drawn- out tor­ture by a cult. It’s an or­deal, but it has some­thing to say. April fi­nally sees the US re­make hit screens and it seems to have missed the point, smooth­ing the rough, pol­ish­ing the sur­faces, stream­lin­ing the tor­ture and em­pow­er­ing the girls in a way that dis­em­pow­ers the film. Some­times by mak­ing a film less hor­ri­ble it be­comes cheaper and nas­tier. Three more re­makes guilty of the same: The Last House On The Left, I Spit On Your Grave and Funny Games US. In Last House mak­ing the par­ents young, beau­ti­ful and strong turns this into bog- stan­dard re­venge; the tricks, traps and gags of I Spit cheapen the rape en­tirely, and the re­cast­ing of Funny Games with Naomi Watts and Tim Roth turns an in­tel­li­gent dia­lec­tic into a pa­tro­n­is­ing scold­ing. Dis­turb­ing doesn’t al­ways have to be en­ter­tain­ing.


The best thing I’ve seen this month is only two min­utes and 42 sec­onds long. Lights Out is a low- bud­get, no- di­a­logue short from 2013 that I’ve just stum­bled on since the fea­ture­length ver­sion is head­ing to the big screen in Au­gust from Warner. Made by short- film­maker David Sand­berg, who’ll make his fea­ture de­but with the full- length ver­sion, it’s ge­nius – a woman in her house flick­ing the light on and off, and see­ing the shadow of a crea­ture only vis­i­ble in the dark. Google this now! How on earth this could pos­si­bly work as a fea­ture I have no idea – chances are, like Mama, which also be­gan as a bril­liant short, it won’t, but Sand­berg could well be the Next Big Thing. Mean­while Mama man An­drés Muschi­etti has signed on to di­rect one of my favourite books of re­cent years, Bird­box , about a post- apoc­a­lypse world ter­rorised by mon­sters so fright­en­ing you die if you look at them. Chal­leng­ing.


An­other in­ter­est­ing fea­ture de­but: low­bud­get in­die The Les­son , writ­ten and di­rected by Bri­tish for­mer ac­tress Ruth Platt. De­scribed as “Grange Hill meets Saw” it’s ac­tu­ally more so­phis­ti­cated than that – a dis­cur­sive ex­am­i­na­tion of the ethics of hu­man na­ture: are we born evil? Do we need rule and or­der to stop us act­ing like beasts? And, um, is that kind of a male thing? It’s Eden Lake with com­pas­sion, Bully with phi­los­o­phy, Pro­fes­sor Snape with a nail gun… In­ter­est­ing then, al­though it’s a vic­tim of its own meth­ods – I fin­ished the film know­ing quite a lot about Thomas Hobbs and Jean- Jac­ques Rousseau but not feel­ing par­tic­u­larly dis­turbed or thrilled. Platt’s one to watch though – check out the film via FrightFest Presents.


You know, like, when par­ents hide veg­eta­bles in pizza to make kids eat some­thing healthy by ac­ci­dent? Don’t watch the trailer, don’t lis­ten to the hype, but do take ev­ery­one you know to see 10 Cloverfield Lane . Shhh, don’t tell, but it’s ac­tu­ally a proper hor­ror film – and stealth hor­ror at its finest! A tense, ter­ri­fy­ing, the­atri­cal three- han­der dressed like a block­buster, it’s go­ing to make lots of peo­ple cross by virtue of not be­ing In­de­pen­dence Day, but I loved it. So JJ Abrams I salute you, for sub­tly and in­sid­i­ously sneak­ing a won­der­ful hor­ror movie into the di­ets of mil­lions of scep­ti­cal cin­ema­go­ers with­out them know­ing any bet­ter.

Get­ting to know the car­pet in Mar­tyrs. We think he’s learned The Les­son. What­ever you do, don’t turn the Lights Out.

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