De L'Horreur

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"All good people are asleep and dreaming"

My, my, it has been unbelievably long since I touched this blog and I must say, I have missed it. After several failed attempts at posting a certain review (due to way too many blogger/computer malfunctions) I decided to take a break from this site...which turned into an extended vacation and before long, I had completely abandoned it. As it turns out, apparently some people are actually interested in reading some of the things that I write about so perhaps I should give it another shot! I'm going to do my best to keep up with this again because I do love doing it and I still spend most of my time watching new, strange films and doing new, strange things.

So much has happened since my last post and so much has been watched so I'm going to have to slowly catch up on things and try to break out some reviews on some of the highlights of the films we've watched in 2011. I already have a plan for what I want my first new review to be on and boy, will it be a good one. Why not get back into things with a bang? You'll see what I mean.

I also want to try to include some more photo diary posts. I have a beautiful new camera to play with so you can all view my adventures in trying to figure out how to actually work the thing properly. Beardy and I will also be moving soon and I plan on sharing some of my decorating schemes on here as well. I can't wait to get to the new place and put it all together! We've already found the most amazing medieval-type chandelier to hang in our new dining room and it's just making me more excited to move!

So anyways, I just thought that I'd post something here, just to get it going and I will work away at writing as much as I can from now on. It'll be nice to start keeping track of what I've been watching/doing again. I will try not to be such a deadbeat writer...yes, try....

I'm off to *finally* see Shame. Expect a "full-on" review shortly.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Oh Mon Dieu!

 So I have been a terrible writer this month. March has been interesting. I've been figuring out how I should be working for the time being (finally) and getting things together with that. We also got a kitten!! He's an adorable little black and brown kitty with funny eyes and a somewhat psychotic demeanor. We love him.

Not a lot of movie watching has been going on, in favor of sitting around and streaming television shows which is very weird for us. It started because I would be home most of the time and with James not around to watch movies with, I just started to watch nostalgic television shows and well, it perhaps got a bit out of hand! I didn't even do a post on our exploitation film of the month!!! My meager excuse for this is that I started writing it and got about a third of the way through when my computer decided to restart itself and the auto-save decided to malfunction at the same time on here so only two paragraphs were saved. I got a little frustrated and decided to re-write it later which turned into....never. So I can try to do it before the month is over promises. It will be written though because it was a great film! And with April coming up so soon, there will be another!

We did finally settle in for a movie last night and it was really good. We watched I Saw the Devil (2010 South Korea) which is a horror/thriller about a secret agent who loses his pregnant fiancee to a serial killer and begins a harsh pursuit of revenge, blurring the lines between good and evil. First of all, the cinematography in this film was stunning. It was so crisp and clear and with such striking, beautiful colours that stood out in some of the more grisly scenes. There were so many shots that I wished I could get a screenshot of because they were so beautiful! There was some great gore too, a good amount of gross out scenes and excellent use of blood splattering and squirting.  I should do a proper review of this film actually because there's a lot to say. I definitely recommend it!!

Oh yeah, and we watched Rubber a while ago which was actually pretty awesome and went to see Red Riding Hood which was awful! Cool to see some stuff I helped make in it but that was it!

I will leave you now with pictures of little Bastian because I can't resist! He's the cutest little monster!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"I am Death. Vengeance is mine!"

 I can't even begin to think about sleep at this point so it seems like a good time to finally get around to this review! 

I have a bit of an inexplicable obsession with diseases, the plague more specifically. So when I saw that there was a new film coming out about just that, I was quite expectantly intrigued. So the other night we sat down to watch Black Death and I was quite satisfied with what I saw.

Christopher Smith (Severance, Creep, Triangle) directs 2010's Black Death, set in 1384 England where the plague outbreak is spreading throughout Europe, many people questioning whether it's a curse from God or caused by evil in the world. The only place untouched by the disease is a small, isolated English village nestled against a marsh, deep in the woods. It seems impossible that this village alone could be free of pestilence and rumors run rampant connecting the village to devil worship, human sacrifice and cannibalism, all led by a necromancer who can raise the dead.

We follow a band of rather un-merry mercenaries sent by the Bishop, led by pious envoy Ulric (Sean Bean) and guided by a young monk named Osmond (Eddie Redmayne), as they set out to find and capture the alleged necromancer and bring them back to the church for confession- by any means necessary. Our young Osmond volunteers himself for the mission with the ulterior motive to reunite with his forbidden love Averill, whom he instructed to flee to the very woods outside this village to escape the plague.

They encounter some rather grisly horrors on their way to the village- stumbling across the beginnings of a witch trial, as well as an extremist display of flagellants whipping their bodies bloody as they march through the woods and from town to town, proclaiming that the plague was a well-deserved punishment from God, and advising the men to turn back because the devil resides here. Ignoring the warning headed, the men continue on and stop to rest just outside the village. As the others sleep, Osmond sneaks out to a meeting place that Averill arranged to wait for him, only to find that she has vanished, leaving only her cape and some blood behind. He also discovers a rather feisty group of men ready to attack. A wonderfully gruesome battle ensues and Osmond's secret intentions are exposed.

The gang eventually reaches the village, having lost a couple of men along the way, and are greeted rather warmly by the seemingly non-threatening villagers, despite the fact that they have all renounced God and the church.  They soon discover that the villagers are lead by Langiva, a powerful and manipulative woman with a knowledge of herbs and medicine and a tendency to feign resurrection of the dead. None of them are fully prepared for what the village has in store for them, least of all Osmond who finds himself grappling with dark forces and a test of his faith that threatens to destroy him.

It's a grisly film with harsh depictions of disease and death with no redemption. I was pleased with the general accuracy of the historical time period depicted in the film. The film also depicted buboes, the painful swelling of the lymph glands of the armpit, neck and groin, in the most realistic form of make-up I have seen in a movie regarding bubonic plague. That was an important factor that I was hoping for going into this film and paired with a lot of practical blood spurting and decapitation, I was very satisfied make-up wise. The film also presented it's torture and battle scenes through horrible sound effects that left you to imagine the bone breaking and flesh slicing that you're hearing but not always seeing on camera. This makes these sequences appear all the more real and keeps them from feeling overdone. Everything is very rough and dirty and always intense.

Sean Bean's portrayal of the religious zealot Ulric, a rough-edged but not unmerciful swordsman, was well played and quite convincing (and he is obviously comfortably suited for armor from his role in The Lord of the Rings). He was held up by a strong supporting cast playing the other mercenaries, a sort of motley crew of charismatic and well balanced characters that created this winning dynamic. You could tell that John Lynch, Andy Nyman and Johnny Harris were all fully into their roles and embodied the deep faith of these men with such an eagerness and intensity, proving they would rather die a horrible death than abandon the God they believe in. Even nonreligious folk such as James and I found ourselves rooting for these crusaders and feeling their pain, hoping that they would take out the God revoking villagers we more closely relate to normally. When we came to that realization I felt that must mean that the actor's have played their parts well. Oh yes, and though Eddie Redmayne plays the part of Osmond well, I found his character to be a bit boring but he redeems himself at the end. You'll see.

Shot entirely in Eastern Germany, Black Death offers countless stunning shots of eerie swamps, dense forests filled with dark mystery and age-old abbeys. Its the strikingly beautiful yet haunting settings that evoke such an effectively ominous atmosphere in the film. You never know what horrors await in the dark caves and forests and that bodes well with the film's theme. My favourite shot is of those flagellants walking through the misty water in their disturbing procession. It's both beautiful and absolutely creepy and unsettling which sums up this film quite well and is a style that I can appreciate.

 Black Death is a film that's sure to stir up some emotion in it's viewers. It's unquestionably bleak and at times pretty unsettling but it brings a good deal of raw realism to it's subject matter that makes it worthwhile. Though some might say there are some rather heavy-handed theological ideas, I was able to look past that and feel for the characters without really considering their strong religious standpoint. In the end, I ended up surprising myself by rooting for religious warriors! For a period drama bordering on horror flick I think overall it was an effectively beautiful and harsh film that gave a fair depiction of the subject I am so fond of and fascinated of- the bubonic plague.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

"I love the way you talk. Like spreading plaster, nice and smooth"

My apologies for the lack of entries lately, I've been on a bit of a reading rampage and haven't felt like writing as much. I do promise a new entry containing my thoughts on Black Death which I recently watched and Winter's Bone. Both positive. I'll leave you with the trailer for Norwegian Wood, a film based off of the amazing Japanese novel by Haruki Murakami that my sister let me borrow.

P.S. It's a new month so you know what that means!

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Magicians don't exist"

In keeping with my recent film choices of the French and animated variety, we watched a beautiful film that happened to be both French and animated. 

L'illusionniste (The Illusionist) is an 80 minute animation based off a screenplay written by Jacques Tati and directed by Sylvain Chomet, who also directed The Triplets of Belleville and the Tour Eiffel segment of Paris Je T'aime (which I also happened to have just watched) about amorous mime artists that can be seen here. Chomet has developed a completely unique style with almost a complete lack of language, save for a few common words and some incomprehensible chatter, and beautiful hand drawn animation of real world landscapes and caricatures that push the aesthetic towards humorous fantasy. The muted colours and the subtle humor transcend language and allow this film to be understood visually and emotionally by all ages.

The film centers around Tatischeff (Jacques Tati's real name), an aging vaudeville illusionist struggling to make ends meet in the music halls of Paris in the late 1950s. He travels to the grey and very wet London in hopes of revitalizing his career, only to discover how irrelevant his act is in a city overcome with the rock and roll sensation and Beatlesque band Billy Boy and the Britoons, a lament for a lost era of  entertainment. He at last finds an appreciative audience in Scotland and in one particular young girl named Alice who becomes enamoured with his illusions and accompanies him to Edinburgh. She wishes for new shoes and dresses and when they appear for her, she has no idea that he has to scrape together his pennies and work numerous demeaning jobs in order to conjure them up for her. His is a dying breed and we watch as other fellow variety artists struggle with alcoholism and suicide as they discover more and more that their talents are no longer needed and appreciated as they used to be. The world is changing with several Cold War allusions portrayed through newspaper headlines on the street.

He cultivates the illusion to transform Alice into a young woman who, though still naive, looks and dresses like a member of high society. It is through his own demise and sacrifices that she rises and makes something of herself and gets a chance at a life better than the poor one she had before. Just as she is opening her eyes to the world, he is losing his faith, his illusions of keeping magic alive fading from his eyes. It's these emotions and bonds of this film that resonate. Though it is often somber, the film is beautifully lightened by its unique and charming supporting characters and scene-stealing sketches of a drunken Tatischeff stumbling upstairs or fretting for his grumpy rabbit who he believes may have been cooked into Alice's stew, only to emerge from under the couch to gobble up a bag of sausages.

With Chomet's beautifully evocative recreations of Paris, London and Edinburgh from a bygone age and his amazing attention to detail he manages to create a sense of illusion and wonderment. I especially loved the scene where feathers from an open pillow case turn into an unlikely snowstorm, tricking young Alice into thinking winter has suddenly arrived and feeling the need to light a warm fire. Or even more remarkably when Tatischeff stumbles into a theater playing Mon Oncle (a Jacques Tati film) and for a few surreal seconds, the real and imagined Tati come face to face. These moments of beauty are what bring such life to this melancholy tale.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dimanche Rouge

Deeply Moulded

"Mary Dinkle's eyes were the colour of muddy puddles, her birthmark the colour of poo."

 Had a bit of an impromptu movie night the other night, or at least attempted to. I began with watching Don't Look Now on Netflix which I've wanted to see for ages. Unfortunately, 10 minutes in Netflix decided to disconnect itself and I couldn't continue to watch it. That was annoying and very disappointing so I'll have to just watch it another time. After that I watched this animated film called Mary and Max that I picked up a while back from one of those Blockbuster sales and hadn't watched yet. I'm always drawn to interesting looking animations and when I read the voice cast, I was sold. I finished with The Pit and the Pendulum with Vincent price which was a late Christmas present from my sister and then a couple of episodes of Bored to Death, Jason Schwartzman's new show that we just finished watching the first 2 seasons of and I highly recommend because it's hilarious (it also stars Zack Galifianakas). I now want to share a bit about Mary and Max.
Mary and Max (2009 Australia) is a clay animated flick for adults who seek a departure from the usual (but also wonderful) more Hollywood animations from Pixar/Dreamworks, etc. It's a film that follows the 20 year friendship between Mary (voiced by Toni Collette), a young girl from a small village in Australia and her pen pal Max (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who is a middle aged, overweight Jewish man in New York with a penchant for chocolate hot dogs.

It feels very personal in it's depictions of these two people who are both so equally naive and unaware of how the world works, and is frankly, much darker than I expected it to be. It uses witty and comical childlike frankness to explore the deep issues of a depressed little girl and a sheltered, lonely man who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome. We see Mary's world through a sepia filter and Max's in black and white, both with touches of bright red here and there that give this film such visual impact. I am always so impressed with the amount of time and creation put into clay animation and when it's coupled with amazing characters and a great story, it's all the more impressive.

We watch as they discuss every topic imaginable, swapping assumptions they've made and lies they've been told about where babies comes from, how to handle bullies, "sexing", animal facts and more, each more hilarious and naive than the next. We see their lives unfold, through the ups and downs, and how the one piece of happiness that remains constant in their lives is their friendship with one another, the only place they've ever truly fit in. Delivering funny anecdotes, cute visual jokes and many emotional scenes, Mary and Max deserves a watch. It's funny, dark and endearing at the same time and a striking piece of animation.

Friday, February 11, 2011

"Ma BĂȘte!"

Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can bring drama to a family. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this beast will be ashamed when confronted by a young girl.
They believe a thousand other simple things. . .

45 years before Disney's adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast", Jean Cocteau- poet, playwright, sculptor, surrealist- adapted Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont's famous story in a far more magical and visually stunning way. Cocteau dazzles us with dreamlike imagery, scenes that could easily stand alone as paintings, and potent sexual imagery that is left open to psychological (and psychosexual) interpretation. Cocteau desired "to make the Beast so human, so sympathetic, so superior to men, that his transformation into Prince Charming would come as a terrible blow to Beauty." and he succeeded. Not only does Belle react to his transformation with less than fawning delight, but the audience is left missing their Beast as well.

Henri Alekan's beautiful camerawork compliments the fairytale special effects of the castle in such a stunning way. Simple camera tricks like smoking hands, jewelry turning into snake-like roots, and Belle gliding down the castle hallways in an entrancingly beautiful and ghostly fashion, paired with living furniture- arms holding up the chandeliers on the walls, faces in the fireplace and architecture of the castle- make the film feel stunningly fantastical and brings Cocteau's poetic vision to life. Since there isn't enough that I can say to do justice to this work of visual enchantment, I will leave you with a collection of images and a clip to entice you to see this for yourself.

Photo Penchant

Thursday, February 10, 2011


The other night my sister and I ended up having an unplanned French Criterion movie night. We ate delicious salads, nostalgic KD (which we have officially retired) and Baileys lattes (mine was quite heavy on the creamy beige). We started off with Gervaise which I brought over because I'd had it for a year and hadn't gotten around to watching it yet. This was followed by a quick episode of The Golden Girls (Jackie insisted and it was quite funny) and then we watched her copy of Jean Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast. It was a lovely escape into black and white french splendor that has left me wanting more and constantly humming Charles Trenet.

René Clement's 1956 screen adaptation of Emile Zola's L'Assommoir (The Dream Shop) is a harrowing and somewhat excruciating tale of working-class Parisians in the mid-19th century. It stars Austrian actress Maria Schell as Gervaise Macquart, a young lame laundress who's dreams are slowly crushed by her alcoholic husband.

The film begins with Gervaise being left by her lover Auguste Lantier, leaving her with two young boys and the embarrassment of everyone else being privy to his cheating, long before her. This leads to quite the cat fight when Gervaise is confronted by the other woman's sister, Virginie, at work and before you know it, there's hair being pulled, buckets of soapy water being thrown and behinds being spanked! Unfortunately for Gervaise, this incident has long-term ramifications for her. 

Gervaise eventually moves on and marries affable roofer Monsieur Coupeau (Francois Perier). They have a daughter together, Nana, and living happily together, Gervaise thinks about opening her own laundry. Sadly, her dreams are set aside when Coupeau has a roofing accident, injuring himself quite severely and preventing him from working. It takes all of their money for Gervaise to care for him and it looks like she'll never get her shop until Coupeau's good friend Goujet (Jacques Harden), the tender and dignified bearded blacksmith, loans Gervaise the money.

They live happily for some time and just when it looks like things are finally working out for Gervaise, Virginie returns with a plan to destroy her. Coupeau begins his spiraling descent into acoholism, Gervaise struggles with a love for Goujet and Lantier returns to turn her life upside down. Coupeau befriends Lantier and invites him to live with them and we watch as Gervaise's life and dreams are destroyed by the men she tried to love. It isn't a happy ending as Gervaise herself turns to alcoholism and little Nana runs around with all the little boys, foreshadowing a similar future full of men and peril for the little girl.

It's very tragic and perilous to watch, although from what I've read, L'Assommoir is even more savage and tragic. What I appreciated about this film was how Clement kept it from turning into a weepy melodrama. It was so artfully put together and he was able to communicate basic human feelings that evoke a genuine emotional response without the need for contrived sentimentality. He utilizes devices like overly cheerful music during moments of crisis that direct us to feel Gervaise's brief moment of happiness so that when the blow comes, we have a deeper feeling and understanding for her pain.

The film also offers gorgeous sets that effectively reproduce working-class areas of Second Empire Paris and compliment the tremendous acting. It's no surprise that Maria Schell received the Best Actress award at the Venice Film Festival for her gripping portrayal of Gervaise. When you watch her you can't help but form a strong emotional attachment to her character and feel every blow as she takes it. The character of Gervaise symbolizes the working-class woman of the mid-19th century, a strong and determined heroine trying to create a better life for herself and hold her family together, whilst still dependent on men, who do nothing but hinder her and show contempt. Francois Perier's convincing performance as an alcoholic, showing the erosion of a man's confidence and hope, really emphasizes Gervaise's despair and fills you with such disgust and disdain for his character that you find yourself just waiting for him to finally do himself in.

Clement so beautifully depicted humour, affection and loveliness, as well as despair, squalor and cruelty in a perfect blend that completes the irony of the film. It's a harrowing and deeply moving look at life in the slums that is truly affecting and a must-see for film lovers.