Sunday, 1 December 2019

EXHUMATION + Midsommar

Well, a year's flown by with no posts. I considered letting the EYE die, but my circumstances have changed, and I've found myself in a position where next year I'll have more time for this kind of thing. So why not resurrect the old corpse?

I'll kick things off with a few capsules of recent films. First, MIDSOMMAR.

Ari Aster certainly seems to be the real deal, but is he an auteur in the making, or just a very talented one trick pony? I say that because this film is so thematically similar to HEREDITARY. So far Aster’s main interest seems to be familial trauma/grief, and he has an obsession with depicting - in procedural detail - arcane ceremonies and rituals. I absolutely loved both films, so I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, but it’ll be interesting to see what he comes up with next.

I rewatched the theatrical cut last night on blu-ray (I'll give the director's cut a shot on my eventual third viewing), and I definitely enjoyed it more the second time around. It's so visually rich, so packed with the details of life in the commune (and little easter eggs like that foreboding bear painting in the beginning), that it begs for repeat viewings, just to pick through the sumptuous production and costume design. And I love the queasy hallucinogenic VFX, sometimes subtle, other times vividly recreating a psychedelic peak, which in the situation depicted here is a terrifying prospect.

Aster is skilled at sustaining a sense of mounting dread that lingers in the back of your mind, becoming gradually more overt and threatening as the story progresses. He also utilises shock and gore to great effect, less is more, and when it hits, it hits hard. As with his previous shocker, one thing that really made an impression on me is his perverse use of corpses. Dismembered and defiled corpses are central to the ceremonies that close both films, creating imagery that's truly gruesome and haunting.

So, what's left to say? Florence Pugh (who made a big splash in LADY MACBETH) gives it her all in winning performance; faces are destroyed beyond recognition; and Ari Aster makes peace with the painful breakup that was the catalyst for his screenplay. Just stay away from drinks with pubes and period blood in them, or you'll get burned!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019


Having patiently awaited the arrival of this film for years, Luca's SUSPIRIA did not disappoint.

Fiercely, unapologetically artsy and experimental, Guadagnino's redux is every bit as stylised and unique as Dario Argento's original. However, beyond their shared premise and characters, the two films really couldn't be more different. As the Italian director of CALL ME BY YOUR NAME has remarked himself, aesthetically and thematically SUSPIRIA '18 is far more indebted to the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder than it is to Argento's body of work.

And what a thematically rich film it is! Dave Kajganich's screenplay is a tale of radical social upheaval and power struggle, and the terrible damage that societal change can inflict on the lives of those who are caught up in it. Mirroring the revolutionary atmosphere of its Berlin '77 backdrop (a city reeling at the chaos wrought by the Baader-Meinhof R.A.F.), Guadagnino's coven of witches is a far cry from the unified sisterhood of Argento's film. Rather, this is a secret society that is teetering on the brink of a major power shift, as its members throw their support behind one of two "mothers", Tilda Swinton's Madame Blanc and the ancient Helena Markos (also played by Swinton, under a mountain of prosthetics).

There are deeper strands at play in all this - the overshadowing horror of the Third Reich; Womankind's war against the Patriarchy. This new SUSPIRIA leaves you with a lot to chew on. It's a bold film, actually more of a total reimagining than a remake, so it's hardly surprising that its reception from fans and newcomers alike has been nothing short of completely polarised.

Is it a new Euro-horror masterpiece, or an overly-long pretentious mess? I certainly know which camp I fall into, but in spite of my love for it, I feel like this isn't a movie that I could ever really "recommend" to a friend. Luca Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA is a challenging work of art that people should come to on their own terms, hopefully leaving their preconceptions about its source material, and what a horror movie "should" be, at the door.

Friday, 4 January 2019


We may not yet have flying cars or sentient synthetic humanoids, but a lot of BLADE RUNNER's predictions for what life in 2019 would be like - for better, but mostly worse - were shockingly prescient.

Our big cities are illuminated by giant digital billboards; we communicate with our computers verbally; video calls are the norm (albeit in a much more advanced form than the VID•PHŌN booths in BR); Off-world colonisation (of Mars and our moon) feels more plausible than ever; in our Asian mega-cities hyper-futurism butts up snugly against the dilapidated vestiges of 19th and 20th century architecture; and, most unfortunate of all, BR's vision of climate catastrophe appears to be a reality that we are hurtling towards with reckless abandon.

So, as we prepare to head into the third decade of the 21st century, here's to a 2019 that hopefully sees our species making some more positive choices.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


Due to a tumultuous back end, 2018 was a year in which I missed way more movies than I actually saw. I guess the silver lining is that I've got lots of good stuff to catch up on over the next 12 months! Looking at the films below, the thing that really strikes me is that this year's list is made up almost entirely of horror. There's no doubt about it, this was a banner year for the genre.

Happy BLADE RUNNER incept year people. Following tradition, here's my alphabetically ordered top ten (with three runners-up) for '18.


Saturday, 25 August 2018

SUSPIRIA trailer dissection

Darkness, Tears and Sighs!

With just days to go until its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, let's take an uncomfortably close look at this week's trailer for Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA remake. The devil is in the detail, as they say, so I've obsessively dissected this two minutes of footage for you to peruse at your leisure. Feel free to conduct your own postmortem examination, but be careful what you look for, you might find it (or it might find you).

First, a comparison of characters (and casting) carried over from Argento's film:

Suzy (now Susie):


Miss Tanner (is that human fucking hair?):

And of course, Madame Blanc:

And now to the trailer itself:


Mysterious psychoanalyst, Dr. Jozef Klemperer. Very obviously played by Swinton, but Luca and Co. are trying to pull a fast one on us, claiming that the role has been filled by an enigmatic actor by the name of Lutz Ebersdorf. They've gone so far as to create a fake IMDB listing for him, with a detailed career summary that makes him sound like a character out of SUSPIRIA itself.

A luminous presence.

Helena Markos, is that you?

The Colour out of Space.

Who the fuck is this? A member of the Coven? Lutz

Diagram of Evil. The names "Millius" and "Mandel" are a nod to the '77 film's Professor Milius and Dr. Frank Mandel (played by Udo Kier). "Sonia" is also carried over from the orignal, the ballerina impaled by falling debris at the beginning of the film.

A reference to Argento and cinematographer Luciano Tovoli's aesthetic. In green...

...and purple.

The Akademie.

The Dancers.

Their Masters (note "Helena Markos" poster).

"Broken Mirrors / Broken Minds".

A dance? Or a ritual?

The wonderful location that I made all that fuss about last year.


So, this looks like a shot from the gory set piece that was screened for the press earlier this year, to an overwhelmingly visceral reaction of shock and disgust.

A powerful connection. Madame Blanc holds...

... Susie in her spell.

Sara, be careful what you look for. You might end up with pins in your eyes!

Filling the shoes of the late, great Alida Valli, Angela Winkler (CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA) makes for a suitably menacing Miss Tanner.

Don't go in there!

A great shot of Susie and her mentor.

I know this is a dance film, but this is taking the term "footloose" far too literally.


This is intriguing, and fits in well with the film's themes as well as our current sociopolitical climate. A dark past, an evil ideology hiding in plain sight, emerging once again to cause violence and hatred. Wait, am I talking about fictional black magic, or real world fascism? 

The mask comes off. I imagine this shot is from the film's conclusion. Is that a fucking pile of dancers in the middle ground arranged into some kind of occult freeze? If so, I'm very much reminded of this iconic image from Michele Soavi's THE CHURCH. This is a good thing.

It appears that Tilda Swint- uh, I mean Lutz Ebersdorf's Dr. Klemperer has fallen afoul of that which he should not have meddled in.

The Madame, at the height of her power.

Well, that's it. Following its debut in Venice, expect the first reviews to hit on September 2nd!