Monsters come in many forms and things are not what they seem...
VIOLENCEIS THE ANSWER
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.
AS TABIN THE DARK
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.