50 Words for Film

Films old and new reviewed in fifty words

Phase IV

Phase IVSaul Bass

1974

Ants suddenly become horribly organised in this tense classic. Directed by Saul “that Vertigo poster” Bass you can guarantee powerful visuals but Bass just lets the actors get on with it and the results are a little hammy, however, this is still a great example of pessimistic 70s science fiction.

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Night Of The Demon

Night of the demon

Jacques Tourneur

1957

Based on a short story by M.R James, polite and quaintly sexist this is a very English horror film. Dana Andrews plays cynical American Dr John Holden who slowly comes to realise they may be some horrific truth to this demonology nonsense. Not frightening, but it still haunts and lingers.

 

Donnie Darko

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Richard Kelly

2001

Jake Gyllenhaal, in one of his best performances, plays an angry but vulnerable teen falling handsome face first into schizophrenia and obsession with time travel. Set in the 1980s and shot with a clear love for Stephen King and Michael J Fox this is a hugely ponderous and entertaining film.

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Killing Of A Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos

2017

Stop reading. The best ways to view Lanthimos’s films is in darkness. A quietly surreal and unsettling story of revenge is all you need to know. The performances are cold but pitch perfect and its dialogue is at times shockingly funny. Hitchcock and Lynch are here but also Chris Morris.

Halloween

Halloween

John Carpenter

1978

The greatest slasher film. Halloween never forgets the needs of its audience. Michael Myers terrifies like no other; Jason Voorhees tries too hard and Freddie Krueger is shit. Everything here makes for perfect horror. The music, Jamie Lee Curtis and the cold indifference in a rubber mask of William Shatner.

 

 

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

Joan DidionGriffin Dunne

2017

Few writers captured America’s unease with itself as effectively as Joan Didion. Really, there should be dozens of documentaries on her but this is at least a good introduction. Perhaps a little conventional with its talking heads and quotes but who could get closer; Griffin Dunne is the subject’s nephew.

 

 

The Death Of Stalin

Death of Stalin

Armando Iannucci

2017

A great cast – a collection of supporting roles – bicker and backstab to replace the late dictator. This is a brilliant, The Lady Killers level of comedy and possibly a new subgenre: Historical farce. However, we never forget no one is safe. There are nob-gags yes, but also the Gulag.

Found Footage 3D

Found Footage 3d

Steven DeGennaro

2016

A film crew set out to make a found footage horror only to find they’re filming in an extremely haunted house. A cynical but loving tribute to a genre the filmmakers themselves admit has only produced two good movies. This is the third, witty but not smartarse and surprisingly frightening.

Blade Runner

Blade RunnerRidley Scott

1982

‘Blade Runner’ is a bounty hunter of androids and sounds cooler than ‘robot getter.’ Harrison Ford is our Hammettsque hero in this fantastic looking film. There are great moments here but little emotional attachment and a frustratingly plodding plot. We’re asked to question ourselves, but by a rather bored computer.

 

Goodnight Mommy

Goodnight Mommy Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz

2014

Austrian twins Elias and Lukas begin to suspect their mother is an imposter, which leads to some disturbing methods to discover the truth. As this haunted film progresses sympathies shift wildly as the boys’ behaviour becomes increasingly strange and nasty. There is much here on guilt and only following orders.

 

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