Short Film Saturdays: The Last Halloween

 

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Synopsis: The city is quiet; the streets, deserted. It doesn’t much feel like Halloween, and yet four young trick-or-treaters – a Ghost, a Devil, a Grim Reaper and a Witch – make their way through the night, door to door and house by house, gathering up an unlikely harvest of kindness amid the devastated wreckage of society’s collapse. In a world where the only rule is that there are no rules anymore, it is perhaps a fitting irony that it should all come down to this… a simple choice between two starkly different options.

Length: 10 minutes

Rating: ★★★★

Weirdly enough, this is the first horror film that I’m going to review on this blog. It was only a matter of time before it happened and I’ disappointed it’s taken me this long! The Last Halloween intrigued me the minute I became aware of it. I was already familiar with Marc Roussel’s work, having previously reviewed Remote back in 2013.

I must start by saying that the cinematography and overall aesthetic of this film is absolutely superb. I loved the way this post-apocalyptic universe was presented to us through decrepit buildings and low-key lighting. The set design is so professional looking that it looks like something from a big budget film, and not an independent one. Everything looks so realistic, yet at the same time, from an era far away from our own. The set and costume design deserves high praise as they’ve delivered something truly wonderful here, set against a dystopian background.

The way this film places children in a position of power is also very well done, and though it’s a common trope in horror films, it’s delivered in a unique way. Children dressing up for Halloween has never looked quite this terrifying.  This film takes a fun annual holiday filled with costumes and sugary treats and turns it into something incredibly dark  The very idea of trick or treating in a post-apocalyptic environment is genius, and something I’ve never seen before. I’m almost angry I didn’t think of it first.

With a runtime of 10 minutes, I did feel as though it drew to a close a bit too quickly. I would’ve loved to see more of a build up, and it is a shame such a good idea was condensed down into a short space of time. In all honestly, if they released this as a feature length, I’d go and see it in a heartbeat. There are a few ambiguities that I wish had been answered; such as the reason for the apocalypse, but that doesn’t detract from the overall quality. It’s a strong short film with impressive visuals and was certainly an enjoyable watch for me. It’s amazing what a dedicated cast and crew can achieve, I was very impressed with everyone involved.

Thank you to Marc Roussel for sending your film to me, it’s always a pleasure to watch your stuff, and you’ve proven yourself yet again. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more!

You can watch the film below, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Short Film Saturdays: “Children of War”

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Synopsis: Family and history go hand-in-hand. In this Modern-Western, witness the duel within the bloodline of a small coal mining family born and bred by the rigor within the mountains of Miner’s City – known today as War, West Virginia. Slavy Freeman, the patriarch, forced to confront family secrets, must choose between reunification or the complete dismemberment of the Freeman bloodline.

Length: 20 minutes

Rating: ★★★

I was sent a link to watch this film by its director, producer and editor Apolonia Davalos ahead of its screening at Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival. It’s very exciting helping to promote an indie film and I hope the festival goes well! Thank you to Apolonia for trusting me to review your work.

I’m always fascinated by other cultures. Because of this, I was really drawn to Children of War as it’s based in a mining town called War in West Virginia. As someone who has lived their whole life in the UK and has never holidayed outside of Europe, I don’t know a lot about American culture, besides what’s been shown to me in the media. A lot of the time we’re only really exposed to big cities and popular states, so it’s refreshing to see a different side to the country.  I thought the cinematography in this film was particularly gorgeous and very well filmed too. It captures a side of America we rarely get to see. I wish we could have seen more of the town because it’s something that really captivated me. This is a film with strong familial ties, who are very proud of who they are and what they do. But, like all families, nobody is perfect and a secret soon emerges.

The acting in this film is very good, even if the dialogue is a little too quiet at times and hard to make out. I especially liked the father-son bond in this film and thought it worked well against a quiet, southern American backdrop.  The soundtrack is also well put together and complements the genre and themes. The film is described as a modern Western, and that’s certainly true. The iconography in Children of War definitely bares resemblance to the golden age of Western films.

I did find the non-linear narrative to be quite confusing and something that I had to really focus on, but I also feel that it was the right way to present the film. My only worry is that audiences may be confused the first time around and it may require a second watch, but that doesn’t detract from the emotional storyline.

Overall I did enjoy this film and the characters in it, but it definitely is one you have to pay close attention to if you want to get the full effect. A longer runtime may have benefited the film and allowed the narrative to become clearer, but Apolonia Davalos is definitely a talented individual and I look forward to seeing more of her work in the future!

You can watch the trailer for Children of War below, and please check out the filmmaker at http://apolonia.weebly.com/ 

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Introducing: “Short Film Saturdays”

Hello everyone,

I’ve decided that the best way for me to update the blog regularly is to create a proper schedule. Part of this new schedule is the introduction of this new section, Short Film Saturdays. 

It’s pretty self explanatory: I’m hoping to review a short film every week and share it with you all on here. I think this will be a brilliant way to support independent film and showcase just how good short films can be.

I’d love for people to get in touch with me about their favourite short films, or even a short that they were involved in making. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of shameless self promotion! It doesn’t matter if it’s a big budget production or a student film, I’d like to see it! I’m open to all genres and lengths too, though preferably under an hour as that’s what constitutes “short” in my opinion.

If you do have a film you’d like me to watch and review, please email me at lucybgoestohollywood@gmail.com, comment on the blog post or tweet me @lucyjadebuglass.

I’m looking forward to your suggestions!

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Lucy’s Top 10 Horror Films

A few weeks ago on Twitter I asked you guys what “Top 10” list you’d want to see on here, and the vast majority of you voted for horror. So that’s what I’m about to do.

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I know a lot of you can’t understand what draws me towards horror films and the genre does get a bad name due to it recycling the same stories and throwing out a stupid number of sequels. Not to mention, the content itself can be nauseating. But, horror isn’t always about gore and jumpscares, sometimes there is an interesting plot. Of course you’re never going to see a horror film that’s all sunshine and rainbows, but in my opinion the best horror films don’t simply rely on jumpscares every two seconds because it’s a cheap tactic. My list features a variety of films from different eras, and my attempts to convince you to give them a watch. If you happen to watch any of them, do let me know on Twitter or in the comments below! I love hearing your thoughts.

Before I begin I should mention that a few of my all time favourite horrors appear in My Favourite Films so I’ve already discussed them. You can read about those here. The below list is in no particular order because I couldn’t possibly choose, they’re all good, go watch them! As ever my notes are spoiler-free too.

 

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1. The Conjuring (2013)

Directed by James Wan, Rated 15.

This film follows real life paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren as they’re hired to help a family who believe they’re being haunted by a malicious spirit. That summary makes it sound like a generic horror film about some ghost, but trust me, it’s better than that. I absolutely love this film and can recall jumping out of my skin at one point when I went to see it at the cinema; it’s a film filled with lots of tense moments and anticipation, and the story of the Warrens is fascinating. I love James Wan as a director and this film is certainly one of his best after Saw.

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2. 1408 (2007)

Directed by Mikael Håfström, Rated 15

This film is based on a lesser known Stephen King short story by the same name. Håfström’s screen adaptation is brilliantly done and features one of my favourite John Cusack performances. He plays a writer who travels to supposedly haunted locations and documents his experiences. So far he’s found little of interest, until he visits the Dolphin Hotel and stays in room number 1408. It’s an emotional rollercoaster with lots of scares – a must watch for fans of ghost stories and Stephen King.

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3. The Descent (2005)

Directed by Neil Marshall, Rated 18

As someone who’s claustrophobic and despises any closed space, this film is absolutely terrifying. It follows the story of recently widowed Sarah, who goes on holiday with friends to try and bounce back after losing her husband and daughter in a tragic accident. It goes without saying that it goes horribly wrong and the group find themselves trapped in a cave. If that isn’t bad enough, they soon find out they’re not alone in the cave. The film constantly keeps you on edge as you follow the characters, as clueless as they are about how they’re going to escape and what lurks in the darkness.

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4. Scream (1996)

Directed by Wes Craven, Rated 18

This one is an absolute classic and if you haven’t seen it, I recommend you do. It’s a very clever film that is self-aware and mocks the horror genre throughout the story. Protagonist Sidney Prescott and her friends begin receiving anonymous phone calls from a serial killer who tests them on their horror film knowledge. If they don’t answer correctly, they die. Scream is very 90’s and provides excellent social commentary, particularly surrounding high school students and American culture. It’s hard to sell it to you without giving too much away, but it’s definitely worth the watch.

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5. Carrie (1976)

Directed by Brian DePalma, Rated 18

This is the film adaptation of Stephen King’s first published book. The titular character Carrie is a repressed 16 year old girl who lives with her Christian fundamentalist mother. She faces physical and mental abuse at home, and is bullied relentlessly at school. But she soon discovers she has telekinetic abilities and it’s only a matter of time before she snaps, and the resulting chaos that ensues is one of my favourite pieces of cinema. DePalma did a great job of bringing Carrie to life on screen, and making the viewers feel sorry for her, even when she does the unthinkable.

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6. Halloween (1978)

Directed by John Carpenter, Rated 18

In my opinion, this is the best slasher film to date. In fact if you haven’t heard of this film or Michael Myers, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Fifteen years after killing his own sister, he escapes from a mental institution and returns to his hometown. It’s become a popular film amongst film scholars, especially when dealing with the Final Girl Theory. The opening sequence is one of my absolute favourites, even though I’ve analysed it to death in essays.

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7. Poltergeist (1982)

Directed by Tobe Hooper, Rated 15

This film is a must see for fans of the genre, and it’s one of my favourite “haunted house” films of all time. The story focuses on a suburban family who find out their home is haunted, as the ghosts have taken their youngest daughter. It features lots of intense, graphic scenes with special effects that were pretty damn good for the 80’s. You may have seen one of them already, as this was a commercial success and was the eighth highest grossing film the year it was released.

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8. The Orphanage (2007)

Directed by J.A. Bayona, Rated 15

Also known as El Orfanato, this is a Spanish language film about a woman who returns to her childhood home with her family. It used to be an orphanage and she wants to turn it into a facility for disabled children. During her time there, her son claims he’s made friends with another boy, despite the fact the orphanage has long been closed. It’s a ghost story that is brilliantly done and doesn’t rely on constant jump scares, as it favours suspense instead.

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9. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Directed by Drew Goddard, Rated 15

Like Scream, this film satirises the horror genre and makes fun of the tropes we associate with it. I love films that are clever enough to parody the genre without being over the top and cheesy (yeah Scary Movie, I’m looking at you), and this film is no exception. The special effects and makeup are insanely good, and the characters embody everything we already know about the genre, which makes it familiar. It’s hard to say much about this one without spoiling it, but the less you know about it before going in, the better.

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10. American Mary (2012)

Directed by the Soska Sisters, Rated 18

This film is incredibly unique in many ways. Not only is it directed by two females, the vast majority of the main cast are female too. The story centres around medical student Mary, who turns to the world of body modification to help her pay the bills. The characters in this film are unlike any you’ve seen before, and it’s truly one of a kind. I absolutely loved the soundtrack, the story and the overall aesthetic of the film.

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Survivor Meets Saw – “Series 7: The Contenders”

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“I’ve got nothing to live for, but I don’t wanna die.”

Rating: ★★★

Reality TV is something we’re all too familiar with in this day and age. It seems like they’re always commissioning new shows where we act like voyeurs and watch other people live their lives, perform quirky (and often embarrassing) challenges, and compete against each other to win grand prizes. It’s nothing new, and can often feel repetitive and boring, yet the viewership figures for the genre remain high.

Series 7: The Contenders is a black comedy film that presents its audience with a chilling scenario: what if there was a reality TV show where the only real reward was your own life? A show where you were picked randomly and couldn’t refuse to participate? If that hook alone doesn’t make you want to know more, I don’t know what will. The film follows reigning champion from series 5 and 6, Dawn, who is eight months pregnant at the time of the show and the five other contenders. They’ve each been selected to participate through their social security numbers, and cannot decline. The contestants are all from different backgrounds and include a 57 year old nurse, an 18 year old student, a 72 year old retiree, a 39 year old dad of three, and a 33 year old married artist. The way the film reveals these characters to us is clever, and creates very good pacing as all the “episodes” of series 7 are revealed to us during the course of an hour and a half.

The characters don’t feel like characters, and I actually found myself lost in the film, convinced these people were real. You find yourself rooting for people, and trying to rationalise whether or not certain people should die, based on their actions, age, or health.  The film perfectly satirizes the reality TV show genre with its cheesy narration and fly on the wall observations. The camera is intrusive and often made me feel uncomfortable, like I shouldn’t be watching what I was. It oozes drama, arguments, twists and turns, and moments that keep you on the edge of your seat.  Props to director Daniel Minahan for perfectly mirroring American reality TV.

As well as simply satirizing the genre, it explores the dark side of the human condition, and makes you question your morals. Just how far will people go to ensure they keep their own life, whether it’s for their own selfish reasons, or for their loved ones? Would they kill someone for their own safety? It’s similar to the idea of “cherishing your life” presented to us in Saw, and the life threatening situations victims are placed in. Whilst Series 7: The Contenders is less gory than Saw, it’s certainly not less thrilling.

Of course, it does have its flaws, hence the 3 star rating. I don’t think this is a “bad rating” and I definitely enjoyed it, but the third act was considerably weaker than the first two and I felt like this is where the film lost momentum. I don’t know if I liked the way the film ended and I think it was worthy of something stronger, but that’s open for debate. More context about “The Contenders” as a television show would have been appreciated too, as I often found certain things to be confusing and didn’t make much sense. The narrator could’ve provided that quite easily without having to detract from the reality TV style, but instead we were thrown in and expected to understand how things work from the beginning. I’ve noticed that a lot of reality TV, especially British ones, will recap and remind us of what we already know about the show for new viewers, so it’s something the film would have benefited from.

Overall this was a strong film and certainly appealed to my love of films with darker themes. I loved the way it felt real and how much I was either drawn to or repulsed by some of the contenders. I just wish the third act and ending had kept me as captivated, but don’t let that put you off, it’s a unique film where it’s very easy to lose yourself and make you feel like you’re curled up on the sofa watching the latest episode of your favourite show.

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Life Requires Sacrifice: A Review of ‘The White Helmets’

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“All lives are precious and valuable”

Rating: ★★★★

Oscar Winner: Best Documentary (Short Subject)

The Syrian refugee crisis is a topic that is being widely discussed around the world. Pretending it hasn’t become fuel for political propaganda would be wrong of me, so I will briefly talk about that before reviewing the documentary. We’ve seen politicians talking about how our countries are “full” so we can’t help out those in need, and how refugees are “dangerous” and should “go back to where they came from”. I find it difficult to remain impartial when I see no evidence to back up these claims. When you’re greeted with a horrible situation like this, it’s hard not to think about what you’d do if your country suddenly became a war zone. It infuriates me when people act like refugees want to risk their lives and leave behind everyone and everything they’ve known, so they can feel safe again. It is a choice no one would ever want to make, but know they had to if they had any hope of survival. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to understand why you’d speak so rudely and dismissively of people who have lost their homes, workplaces, many of their loved ones, friends… the list goes on.

But this isn’t an essay on my political views, and regardless of your own views I believe this film is worth a watch as it provides a very gritty, and very real look at what’s going on in Syria. I hope it instills some compassion in you, even if it’s just a small amount.

The White Helmets is a Netflix original documentary with a runtime of just 40 minutes. It centres around a group of volunteer rescue workers who come from a variety of backgrounds.The film features a variety of talking heads, all members of The White Helmets and people that experience atrocities every single day. They’re very honest about their experiences and all have harrowing stories to tell. The on screen titles show the spectator the jobs these individuals used to have, and it broke my heart every time I saw a lost career flash on screen. Much like the volunteers we see in our societies, many of these people have no experience and are willing to put the lives of others above their own. So far they’ve saved over 82,000 men, women and children, and 154 members have been killed in their attempts to save others. One of the men in the documentary explains that he wants to “save everyone, young or old” because “he considers them to be his family”.

Director Orlando von Einsiedel doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality; this isn’t a film where things will be presented to you through rose coloured glasses and pretty editing. This is a film where you’ll witness screaming child, every falling bomb, every panicked voice. There is a scene where you’ll see a one week old baby being lifted from underneath rubble, and another where you’ll see a child begging his dying father not to leave him. There is no sugarcoating here. The film deals with so much that it’s hard to believe it has such as short runtime, and I found it to educational and important despite its length. It provides its audience with a very frank discussion about the war torn country that was enough to bring me to tears. It was exactly what I expected from the documentary, I knew this wouldn’t be one to sit back and watch with a bag of popcorn, it was one that I had to focus on and treat with respect.

I don’t feel like it’s appropriate for me to sit here and criticise the film as this is certainly a film where the story comes first, and the quality of the production second. It’s so important that we identify with the people on screen as fellow human beings, and I believe The White Helmets did this perfectly. I cared about everyone I was watching and I wanted to hear their stories, no matter how painful they may be. I do wish the film had been a bit longer and had gone into more detail about certain things, but this is a minor criticism and does not detract from the importance of the film.

The Oscars is often filled with stories of escapism and glamour, and whilst there’s nothing wrong with that, I was pleased to see a film like The White Helmets honoured with an award. Films can be used as educational tools as well as entertainment, after all. If you want to learn more about the crisis these people are facing, I urge you to watch this film. It is not an easy watch, but I believe it’s a necessary one.

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The official website for The White Helmets: 

https://www.whitehelmets.org/en

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Come Visit ‘Lucy Goes To Hollywood’ :

Kendall Lacey's Webworld

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Got time for a new movies blog? Of course you do, this is the Internet where your time is well spent listening to us writers talk about movies, music, magic etc etc. Now my friend Lucy has thrown her very talented hat into the ring with her new blog Lucy Goes To Hollywood which is set to discuss and look at all kinds of cinema that she loves and she has the same sort of love of variety as me, with her top ten movies ever ranging from the darkness of the original Saw to Pixar’s The Incredibles.
The blog is all new, but head over there now to read her excellent review of Trainspotting 2 and her list of Top Ten Movies Of All Time. Both are great reads – in case you think I am just hyping her because she is my friend, i should note that her…

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T2 Trainspotting: Choose Life, Choose a Fucking Good Sequel

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“So, Mark, what have you been up to? For 20 years?”

Rating: ★★★★★

Feel free to debate me on this one, but Danny Boyle’s T2: Trainspotting is the most anticipated sequel we’ve had in a long time. Loosely based on Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno, and set 20 years after the original, the film follows the adventures of Renton, Sick Boy, Spud and Begbie, who captivated audiences and caused mass controversy due to their addictive, psychopathic and hedonistic personalities back in 1996. Some argued that the original film glamorised drug use, some argued it was so repulsive and bleak that it worked better than any anti-drug advertisement ever could. The film is like Marmite, but you can’t argue that it didn’t massively influence cinema as we know it, with its R-Rated content, its amazing soundtrack, and its gritty yet stunning cinematography. Even if you haven’t seen the first film, you’ve probably seen one of the scenes, such as Renton’s big monologue in the opening sequence or him hallucinating falling into a toilet. These scenes will forever be iconic, and for good reasons.


With any sequel, you can’t help but wonder if it was necessary. Too often filmmakers seem to cash in on the franchise and make an average film with the original title splashed across all the posters. Of course, T2: Trainspotting was no different. When they announced they were making it, I had mixed emotions. On one hand I was excited to see them back in action, and I was excited to hear Danny Boyle was back behind the camera again, as he’s one of my favourite directors. On the other, my brain thought: “Can they REALLY pull off a sequel? The first one was so good that they can’t afford to mess this one up”.

Thankfully, they didn’t, and when I sat down in the cinema I was presented with a sequel that was on par with the original film. In all honesty, it was like the characters had never left. They were familiar, yet older, and exactly where we expected them to be. T2: Trainspotting alludes to important moments seen in the first film without feeling forced, reminding us of key events and making us wonder how they’ve impacted the characters. Renton returns to Scotland after stabbing his friends in the back to find Begbie in prison, Spud feeling suicidal, and Sick Boy continuing to live a life of crime. It’s as bleak as the first film, and rightly so.

The performances in T2: Trainspotting are commendable, particularly Robert Carlyle’s performance as Francis Begbie. If you thought he was terrifying in the original film, just wait until you see him now. In a similar fashion to infamous horror villains, he provides several nail-biting moments where you’re not sure what’s going to happen next. Likewise, Ewen Bremner should be praised for his performance as Spud. He steals the limelight in a good way, as Boyle places much more focus on him as opposed to how he was portrayed in the original film. After watching this I felt like I understood Spud more, and that it wasn’t just about Renton anymore, it was about the people he’d left behind too.

Now, for the burning question: is the soundtrack as good as Trainspotting’s? My answer is yes. I wouldn’t say it was better but it certainly worked with the film, something that Danny Boyle has always proven he can do. I’m yet to find a film soundtrack of his that I dislike; he certainly has a gift for including the right songs at the right moments. Expect songs from Blondie, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, The Clash and more. Trust me – it’s good.

It’s up to you whether or not you trust the opinion of a 21-year-old, considering I was one when the original Trainspotting came out. But as a huge fan of Boyle and his other films (including Shallow Grave, 127 Hours, 28 Days Later) I expect very high quality from him, and it was clear he gave his all to this project. After watching and studying Trainspotting several times in college and university, I’m familiar with how much of an important film it is, and how any follow up film had to be treated with respect.

It’s nostalgic, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s terrifying, it’s disgusting, it’s graphic, it’s the sequel Trainspotting deserved.

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