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!

Saturday, 18 August 2018

SUFF '18: The Traumatic Revenge of Mandy Luz's Puppet Reich

The program for this year's Sydney Underground Film Fest is off the chain. Their hottest lineup yet? Yeah, I think so. In 11 years SUFF has gone from the little fest that could to Sydney's premier genre event. No disrespect intended to SFF, ANOH or Monster Fest, but  SUFF is where it's at baby. 

I've picked up tickets to five films: Chilean "extreme" shocker TRAUMA (which is being compared to the infamous A SERBIAN FILM); the latest horror hit out of France, REVENGE; Arty German euro-horror throwback LUZ; the insane looking PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH (scored by Fabio Frizzi!); and most exciting of all, Panos Cosmatos' reportedly bonkers Nic Cage starrer, MANDY (with added bonus of the disgustingly delicious combo of ice cream and beer!).

If I had the goddamned time, I'd be going to Forzani/Cattet's Euro-crime + Spaghetti Western mashup LET THE CORPSES TAN, and Jim Hosking's GREASY STRANGLER followup AN EVENING WITH BEVERLY LUFF LINN too! I WANT MORE LIFE, FUCKER!

Saturday, 14 July 2018


There's this discussion happening at the moment about an apparent discrepancy between audience reactions to HEREDITARY (which are surprisingly negative) and the almost unanimous praise it's received from critics. And having now seen it, I can understand why that might be the case. Ari Aster's first feature is an amazingly assured debut, and in all aspects of its production an objectively well made film, but casual viewers looking for a fun horror flick to escape from reality for a couple of hours are likely to be disappointed. HEREDITARY isn't so much a fun horror film as it is a relentlessly grim exercise in depicting demonic terror.

Comparisons to THE EXORCIST are certainly apt. Aside from the obvious touchstones of familial disintegration and demonic possession, it shares with Friedkin's film a sincere commitment to portray satanic evil as graphically and "realistically" as possible. The glee with which Aster wants to assault us with these sights and sounds is evident in the sheer level of detail that he's layered into HEREDITARY's many depictions of ritualistic occultism (not unlike the obsessive detail that Toni Collette's Annie puts into her miniature artworks). Indeed, the film places so much emphasis on this that it plays out as a sort of black magic procedural, and must be like crack for certain quarters of the black metal community (where it's surely bound for cult status). It should be noted that this focus on minutia is based on research: HEREDITARY's demon, Paimon, is a deity with a legion of devoted adherents to this day, and the sect's symbol in the film is Paimon's legit real world seal. Don't believe me? Google it.

At a certain point, around the middle of the film, HEREDITARY starts to feel so earnest, so dedicated in its intent to be as gnarly as possible, that I found myself being amused by the fanciful notion that the film itself might be a thing of evil. A demonic invocation in artistic form, requiring the participation of an audience to summon that which its director secretly worships.

No, I don't really think that Ari Aster is the leader of a satanic cult (even if his name suggests otherwise!), but that I could even jokingly entertain thoughts like that while watching HEREDITARY is a sure indication of its success. As with Liam Gavin's A DARK SONG, this is occult horror that eschews tongue-in-cheek self awareness in the pursuit of creating a mythology that feels truly grounded in realism, and is all the more scary for it. CLUCK!

Monday, 11 June 2018


UPGRADE may not be the new sci-fi masterpiece that you're looking for, but it is a fun and violent cyberpunk gem well worth your time. The film's shoestring budget is plainly evident in its cheap looking sets and some less than impressive CG, but that micro-budget aesthetic works well in its favour.

This is a film that genuinely feels like the kind of awesome low-budget genre pic that was a staple of video store shelves throughout the '80s and '90s. Where a lot of filmmakers blow it by trying too hard to ape that aesthetic, SAW's Leigh Whannell has nailed the vibe (whether intentional or not) by simple virtue of working hard to get every cent of his sub-6 million budget up on the screen, as slickly and with the highest production values that his meager funds will allow. As demonstrated by almost every movie to follow in the footsteps of Tarantino and Rodriguez's faux-grindhouse trend, it's not about faking it, but trying as hard as you can to make it that does the trick.

UPGRADE's premise is simple: during a brutal attack that leaves him a quadriplegic, Grey Trace's wife is murdered in front of him. Some month's later a reclusive tech genius rescues him from the brink of suicide by offering to give him the use of his body back via the implantation of a revolutionary bioware chip. This sets in motion a spree of mayhem and carnage as Grey uses his new body - and its unexpected "improvements" - to seek out his wife's killers and avenge her death.

Despite its hackneyed storyline, this little splatter actioner that could joins the ranks of noteworthy cyberpunk by virtue of a philosophical question that lingers in the mind after the credits roll. It really makes you ponder the separation  between mind and body, and how our bodies are little more than robotic automatons that allow our minds to engage with the physical world. An alien jellyfish that resides in our cranium and drives our bodies, like a pilot operating a mech suit. UPGRADE asks: to what degree is your body truly yours, and what happens when the mind/body connection is severed and a new operating system is installed? The truth seems to be that your mind is what makes you "you", but your body is just borrowed, disposable hardware that can be replaced, repaired and reused.   

The film is anchored by three terrific performances. Logan Marshall-Green's physical performance as Trace is excellent. He really sells the idea that he is simply a puppet being driven by a separate internal force. The disembodied AI that drives him - STEM - is also brilliantly realised by Simon Maiden. In a performance that recall's Scarlett Johansson's in HER, his AI is by turns very funny and disturbingly sinister. Finally, and coolest of all, Benedict Hardie's super enhanced military cyborg is an action villain for the sci-fi annals. He's an absolute badass, and steals the show the whole way.

But philosophical questions and good performances aren't the real reason to buy a ticket to UPGRADE: if we're being honest, we're all here for the cyberpunk tech and the damage that it inflicts on inferior, fragile human tissue, and in that Whannell's little future-gore flick truly excels. Bodies are broken, sliced, ventilated and pulverised by lethal nano-tech, Cronenbergian body-guns and general machine strength, all lovingly realised with (mostly) practical fx. It's good meaty stuff.

Add to this a killer droning synth score by Jed Palmer, and a very original and clever title treatment that starts things off on a high, and you've got yourself a very nice little package indeed. Along with the likes of BLADE RUNNER 2049, DREDD, SPLICE, GHOST IN THE SHELL and ALTERED CARBON, the last decade has been a good one to be a fan of tough-as-nails, violent cyberpunk.

Finally, Whannell (who surprised everyone by showing up at Friday's screening, coming across as a very modest and likable dude during his brief but funny intro), is insistent and very proud of the fact that, despite US financial backing, UPGRADE is an overwhelmingly  Australian production, shot in Melbourne with a mostly Aussie cast and crew. I'm proud of it too, another feather in the cap of our increasingly diverse and awesome genre cinema canon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

SUSPIRIA trailer and poster

Great logo! Hope any posters that are to follow are more visually interesting than this, but in terms of colour scheme and typography, this is an intriguing design choice for a horror film.

The trailer is fantastic. Sinister and full of grim portent. For the most part they're keeping things mysterious, revealing just a handful of visual clues, and wrapping the teaser up with a few tantalising glimpses of evil witchiness. Love the poster for the Markos Tanzgruppe! As I predicted last year, the beautiful Art Nouveau staircase of the Grand Hotel Campo dei Fiori (one of the films primary locations) features prominently. No sign of Jessica Harper's cameo yet.

Perhaps the most interesting clues in this trailer are the unlikely references to terrorism: the Red Army Faction's AK-47 and star logo scrawled in the diary, and in the police station, an anti-terrorism flyer next to the missing poster for Chloe Grace Moretz's character. The flyer depicts an ominous and seemingly appropriate image and the headline "Mord beginnt beim bösen Wort" - murder begins with a bad word.

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Terror has no Shape.

This new design for Chuck Russell's THE BLOB (AKA the best blob movie) by Steven Luros Holliday is rad, and a quick search unearthed the cool poster below, by none other than Gary Pullin. The Blob rules, and that's all you need to know!