Making a return after its supposed Final Chapter, Jigsaw has once again come under fire for championing guts for glory. Yet for all the bad rep it gets, the flak may not be entirely justified. As criticism continues to spew from every end, there is no better time than now to revisit the much-maligned ‘torture porn’ genre, and the movie that started it all.
Released in 2003, Saw may be well known for its creative display of gore. But it was the plotting and characterisation that proved the most intriguing. Such as is rarely done in horror, the film builds up a strong case for its fascinating villain, whose impetus goes far beyond an ostensible murder intent.
Before his big plans, John Kramer had been stricken with cancer. When he attempted suicide out of desperation, he survived. It is only with his proximity to death, did he begin to appreciate life, and it is this belief that inspired his becoming.
In Hollywood, Ridley Scott can hear you scream. After backlash against ambitious prequel Prometheus, the seasoned Alien director admitted that he knew how the fans were frustrated and “wanted to see more of the original [Aliens]”. And so in Alien: Covenant (review), he ramps up the monstrous terror and holds back on philosophising.
Still, not everyone is enamoured with his latest venture. For all that is flawed with Alien: Covenant, many complaints fall upon the same point of contention: the baffling flute scene. In it, David (Michael Fassbender) places a recorder/flute in his doppelgänger’s hands.
“Watch me, I’ll do the fingering,” he says to Walter, teaching him the art of music in an intimate test of his loyalties.
But is there something more in this act of eroticism than pure evocation? If you haven’t seen the film, there will be spoilers, so come back later. If you have, let us discuss the “controversial” scene.
What makes a good movie? Ambition is admirable, yet many grounded stories told with sincerity and purpose captivate all the same. Often, character-driven narratives prove more memorable than most. But whether you prefer the independent scene or big-budget stand-offs, there is something in this list for everyone here.
While I await late releases such as Swiss Army Man and Green Room, here are ten movies that I have seen and loved in 2016.
10. Tallulah (dir. Sian Heder)
Living by the rules is not for Tallulah (Ellen Page). The young drifter believes in a free life independent of others, until she is forced to give it up and care for a neglected toddler. In her riveting directorial debut, Sian Heder makes incisive observations about the meaning and sacrifices of motherhood.
Sharply written and well-acted, the moving film takes us well beyond Tallulah’s story. We see unseen pains and unexpected loneliness in the maternal journey, through the different women she meets. All that seriousness finds reprieve in a lovable lead, who keeps spirits up with plenty of good humour.
These are interesting times for science. Artificial intelligence gains ubiquity at an exponential rate, integrating into our daily lives with uneasy grace. We entrust phone bots with our decisions, let loose self-driving cars on roads, and willingly send Skynet Google scouring through our personal data. Meanwhile, science has successfully engineered genes and developed brain-connected prosthesis.
As Frankenstein escapes the bastille of imagination, the line begins to blur. Machine has started to resemble man and man, machine. What then, does being human truly mean? Theology and science search for answers in the essence of souls and freewill. Yet more philosophy than fact, the concept of consciousness remains out of our grasp.
While aware of AI’s thematic implications, few movies find the way to provoke thought on the subject. Critics often helm Blade Runner and Metropolis for their sophistication, but these are not all the cinematic universe has to give. After several recent ‘almost-there’s and ‘could-have-been’s (See: Morgan, Lucy or Transcendence), I decided to write about my favourite AI movies that give this matter some due reflection.
5. Ghost in the Shell (dir. Mamoru Oshii, 1995)
Exposition is the death knell of sci-fi, and Ghost in the Shell could have easily sauntered into the cyberpunk graveyard. But Mamoru Oshii’s acclaimed anime deserves all praise for portraying complex philosophy in accessible terms, echoing similar thoughtful themes behind William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
The insightful dialectic centres on cyborg agent Motoko Kusanagi’s mission to capture the elusive hacker The Puppet Master. The latter is revealed to be a sentient program plagued by existential doubt. Motoko reflects the machine’s disillusioned psyche, contemplating the meaning of humanity and questioning her own identity as a cybernetic being. Their encounter triggers an intriguing point of singularity, where Homo sapiens may start to mean as little as Neanderthals do.
Home is where we let our guard down. There is nothing quite as terrifying as to have our safe sanctuary intruded upon. It is thus no surprise really, why filmmakers so often spatter blood right on the porch of the most homely apartment that echoes our own.
In this post, I name some of the best in the genre. So, if you liked Don’t Breathe, you may enjoy these five home invasion thrillers.
5. The Strangers (dir. Bryan Bertino, 2008)
Three strangers terrorise a young couple in their isolated vacation home. Based on a simple premise, The Strangers claims true events as its inspiration. While easily dismissed as gimmicky, the label works. It proffers a striking reminder of just how prevalent violent crimes can be behind closed doors.
The killers don painted masks, but their creepy disguise never elicits as much terror as their absence of motive or remorse. In the chilling words of The Strangers, the assailants reveal their haunting reason – or lack thereof, “Because you were home.”
I meant to publish this post on New Year’s Day itself. But Sherlock was on and I panicked and I’m sorry. But anyway… There goes 2013. What a year that was. I had the pleasure of watching Robert Plant and Metallica performing in the flesh. Absolute legends. So, that was a pretty great year for an audiophile.
Of course, it hasn’t been all quiet on the movie front. Brilliant 2012 releases including Django Unchained and Cloud Atlas finally saw the light here, while 2013 itself has been a real treat for global cinephiles. Original concepts are abound, as are worthy reinventions that had me reconsidering my utter distaste for remakes.
Filth, Mud, Inside Llewyn Davis, Kill Your Darlings, The Wolf Of Wall Street… Tons of late and new releases are all a-coming in the months ahead (The Winter Soldier is coming!), so forgive me for leaving those out. Meanwhile, here’s looking back at ten 2013 films that I did see and adore.
10. We Are What We Are
The Lords of Salem, American Mary and Chucky’s triumphant return to its serious roots – horror fans certainly had their hunger satiated this year. One of my favourites takes a grim peek into one reclusive family’s secret appetite for the flesh. We Are What We Are doesn’t look like much at first, but the soft quietude is delusive. Opting for a gradual build-up over sudden scares, the crescendo of the opus is a beautifully crafted exercise in genuine terror.