Friday, 19 July 2013



This is nominally an anthology movie, though it's not a film in itself (unlike the old Amicus movies like Tales From The Crypt and From Beyond The Grave), rather a miscellaneous assemblage of shorts. Twenty six directors (or teams) were given a letter of the alphabet and had to make a low-budget five-minute film entitled A Is For ....., B Is For ..... and so on. The result, is a wildly variable gathering replete with sex, gore, death and nudity, together with a worrying obsession with toilets and frequently descending into unwatchable rubbish, but it lacks any consistency of style and has no overarching wraparound, with none of the individual segments being very good and some of them being utterly terrible.

I don't usually take notes during a film, but I had to for this one in order to keep track. I see that I've written "imbecilic" twice, "wank fantasy" once, "bollocks", "gibberish" and "stupid". In the film's defence I've written "funny" once and "creepy" once, along with "nice visuals", but three out of twenty six is a pathetic batting average. Furthermore, the "creepy" one is only creepy because it plays on my dislike of spiders, and the "nice visuals" refers to Forzani and Cattet's undeniably beautiful but meaningless O Is For Orgasm - lit like Suspiria or Maurice Binder's Bond titles. The funniest is Adam Wingard's self-referential Q Is For Quack, as he complains about being lumbered with the letter Q and why his name is last in the alphabetical credits (except it isn't). X Is For XXL (and also Xavier Gens) has a lot of blood as a fat girl hacks herself down to a size zero, and V (Is For Vagitus) has some terrific production values with a giant Robocop droid tracking down unauthorised breeding.

The rest of it? Well, Ti West's piece (the worst thing he's done, and that includes Cabin Fever 2) is a staggeringly ill-judged bad taste gag about miscarriage, F Is For Fart is as tedious and puerile as it sounds, the concluding segment Z is an incoherent mixture of ranting, Nazis, naked women and a giant prosthetic penis with a knife sticking out of the end, and W Is For WTF? throws together clown zombies, muppets, the apocalypse and a giant walrus to no effect except WTF bafflement. There are a few animations: a cartoon about a turd that won't flush away and a claymation piece about toilet training (in which the Dad looks alarmingly like Michael Heseltine). No idea at all what's happening in Andrew Traucki's POV surfing bit or Ben Wheatley's POV woodland segment. Or the one with a bloke in a dog suit fighting a giant Nazi cat. Or L Is For Libido, which appears to be about a Japanese wanking competition. Most of the others are just so-so and I'm having to look back through my scribbles to bring them to mind.

The ABCs Of Death isn't a film, it's a YouTube playlist and that's really where it belongs. It's too varied in tone, even within some of the segments themselves, to work as a movie in its own right; even the worst of the Amicus compendiums work because they are all done by the same people. But you can't juxtapose films by the makers of A Serbian Film, Doghouse and Hobo With A Shotgun and expect any overall coherence. With many of the shorts being unremarkable and most of the rest being memorable in entirely the wrong way, it's a pain to sit through; it's occasionally disgusting, occasionally tasteless, never scary (except E, the spider bit, but that's just me) and too often settling for bums, willies and poo like easily amused little boys. Fewer stories (The 1-10 Of Death?) that each had longer to develop, and an attempt at some overall consistency, would have helped enormously (The Theatre Bizarre doesn't entirely work, but is better in this regard). As it is, it's a Eurovision Song Contest rather than a symphony.


Wednesday, 17 July 2013



The advertising blurb for this experimental zero-budget vampire art movie suggests that it's inspired by Herzog, Rollin and Franco. I'm scarcely an expert in the field, but I'll hazard a stab anyway: while I wouldn't say one way or another on the issue of Herzog (his Nosferatu remake I haven't seen for at least twenty years), I like to think I've seen enough of Jess Franco's wildly wayward output over the years to state that a hell of a lot more happens in even his most incoherent and incompetent offerings than is on view here. And I never got that strange dreamlike sensation you usually find in Jean Rollin's nudie lesbian wanderings either.

The only connection with some of the films from those directors and Fangoria editor Chris Alexander's Blood For Irina is that Irina is a vampire, living in a tatty motel with the owner (also a vampire), who clears up the remains of the men she brings back from town and kills for their blood. It's a miserable, bleak and hopeless existence - never mind the Lost Boys' "Party All Night, Sleep All Day, It's Fun To Be A Vampire" tagline, this suggests a heavy price for immortality. (Let's not even mention Edward "Glittery" Cullen in the same breath.) Into this ennui-laden setup comes Pink, a hooker in a pink wig....

Image-driven rather than plot-driven, the film is undeniably well photographed. There are a lot of very long, languid shots of the desolate, empty, off-season motel and the mood of loneliness and approaching death is nicely conveyed. But with no dialogue save for a few snatches of heavily processed voiceover, and more emphasis placed on irrelevant imagery than narrative (several loving shots of a rusty, dripping tap, a plastic toy baby bobbing on the shingle as waves lap around it, or clear water slowly discoloured by blood), it's the kind of movie you could watch on fast forward and not miss a shot or a word (and the sonic wallpaper soundtrack would be less irritating as well). Plus it would be finished in 35 minutes as opposed to just shy of seventy - and even at such a slim running time, it's a bit of a drag, for all the nice imagery. Alexander wrote, directed, edited, co-produced and co-photographed (with one of his cast), and co-scored (with another).


Blood! Blood!

Sunday, 14 July 2013



This low-budget British-Irish urban hoodie horror looks to have dropped into cinemas out of nowhere. I don't recall seeing a tweet about it (at least on my relatively modest timeline), and I certainly didn't see a poster at the 16-screener where it suddenly showed up on the schedules. While that might have harmed its box-office chances in terms of audiences actually being aware of its existence - and opening the same day as Pacific Rim probably wouldn't help either - it's rather nice to be able to discover a film for yourself rather than being ushered relentlessly towards it by the marketing and publicity people.

In the same sort of vein as Eden Lake and Community, Citadel is set in the kind of urban wasteland in desperate need of the regeneration and renewal it will never actually get. The police can't be bothered going out there anymore and there's only one bus per day: it's a hellscape of hideous tower blocks, shabby houses, burnt out cars left in the streets, feral hooded kids rampaging unhindered - even to a violent and pointless attack on Tommy's heavily pregnant wife, leaving her comatose. Miraculously, the baby survives, but the evil kids soon seek to steal her away to the now-abandoned tower blocks awaiting demolition. Tireless nurse Marie believes they're just neglected and unloved (a naive delusion that doesn't pan out well), but a foul-mouthed priest (James Cosmo) knows exactly what they are and how to deal with them; can Tommy overcome his agoraphobia and trauma and rescue his stolen daughter?

It's certainly got the grim and depressing urban squalor down; it makes Harry Brown look like The Great Gatsby. There's no blatant political finger-pointing even though it's located squarely in the middle of Broken Britain: abandoned people in an abandoned land. And I like that there's enough explanation for why the kids are the way they are, without it going down the Daily Mail's patented Hoodie Scum lamentations, while still keeping the exact nature fairly vague. Neatly, while the priest initially refers to them as demons, Marie wishes the rest of society wouldn't demonise them - yet they turn out to be neither demons nor mere hoodie scum. Pulled together on tiny resources (there are only four significant speaking roles) and resolutely glum, it's nicely enough done, with a few moments of raw, nasty horror towards the climax when the nature of the hooded hordes is made clearer. Not brilliant, but certainly worth seeing.


Friday, 12 July 2013



Well, it's big. Forget what Douglas Adams said about space, this is bigger than the biggest thing ever and then some. The apocalypse is here, pretty much, and fortunately there's a sense of humour and a sense of humanity on show to make the last days of homo sapiens bearable. Whereas the impending extinction of human life in Man Of Steel was tiresome and dull, for all the spectacle, and the relentless trashing of cities raised not a flicker of interest in the Transformers saga, Guillermo Del Toro manages to balance the eye-searing visuals with a sense of the tiny individual human beings, the men and women at the centre. You never got a sense of the people in Battleship or Transformers as people: they've given no colour, no backstory, no humanity, and the cast and director aren't able to provide them with any depth, so there's nothing to connect to emotionally when things start blowing up. The characters of Pacific Rim aren't hugely layered, it's true, but enough is sketched in to make them, if not fully rounded human beings, then at least reasonable facsimiles of same rather than cardboard cutouts with the depth of the promotional standees in the cinema foyer.

Massive gribbley monsters, dubbed Kaiju, start erupting out of a dimensional breach at the bottom of the sea, and start stomping on the coastal cities. The only hope is to create monsters of our own: equally outsized robots controlled by two pilots within the skull. In order to fully control these metal behemoths, the pilots have to "drift": merge their minds so they think and act as one. But the Kaiju are coming through faster and bigger and smarter and the Jaeger Programme is about to be shut down in favour of a giant reinforced wall to keep them out....Will the last few pilots and the surviving battledroids be enough to seal the rift and take the planet back?

The visual effects are absolutely stunning and there's not a single pixel out of place. Better, they do convey the sense of a physical object rather than the digital file pasted in afterwards: you'll believe that's a 250-foot robot and not just a drawing in Microsoft Paintbox. (Compare with Man Of Steel which, for all the gosh-wow spectacle, never suggested there was any physical reality to the effects.) Bravely, considering the light-loss issue with 3D, all the monster/robot fighting takes place at night, in (or under) water, frequently in heavy rain, which frankly makes the CGI work that much more impressive than if they'd slugged it out in broad daylight. Both monsters and robots are well designed, and the battle setpieces are well enough shot that you can actually see what's happening most of the time, unlike the huge robot fights in the Transformers series.

Perhaps the constant comparisons to other movies isn't entirely necessary or illuminating, but it needs to be pointed out where Pacific Rim gets it so right and Man Of Steel, Battleship and the Transformers series didn't. The trump card is a sense of humour, from the knowingly absurd names (in a year's time you won't be able to move in a maternity ward for baby boys called Stacker and Pentecost and Raleigh) to the hilarious double act of wacky scientists who frankly deserve their own franchise. Del Toro regular Ron Perlman contributes an enjoyably larger-than-life cameo as well (and stay to the end of the main credits for a nice payoff). And that comedy leavens the destruction which, again, gets a little wearing after a while. Humourless spectaculars like Man Of Steel and Transformers 3 have somehow made toppling skyscrapers worryingly dull, but for the most part Pacific Rim holds the interest amidst the chaos.

So the bottom line is that I really enjoyed it. I saw it in 2D (and ensured the cinema hadn't left the filter on like they did for two films last week) and it probably doesn't need the extra dimension, working perfectly well flat. Oddly for a modern spectacular, it's been made in the 1.78 ratio rather than the wide 2.35 - like Spielberg's War Of The Worlds, this allows the vertical height of the monsters to be emphasised without losing them in the horizontal width. The 12A is probably the right certificate as well: the action sequences are probably too intense for the kiddies, and there's one use of the dreaded F-word (which I didn't catch over the sound of roaring monsters and clanking metal and things smashing into each other).

Certainly it's not Guillermo Del Toro's best film - it's no Pan's Labyrinth - and it has little of the dark magic or sweet charm that you'll find in his smaller, more personal films. But if you are going to have vast summer blockbusters aimed at 13-year-old boys in which robots and aliens punch each other in the face and club one another round the head with cargo ships, better this than yet another damnable Transformers. It's a lot of fun, excellently done with nuggets of unexpected pleasure (like the tantalising glimpses of the Kaiju dimension), and well worth seeing. I might even go again and see it in shakychair D-Box.


Tuesday, 9 July 2013



An amiable but not essential rummage through the history, highlights and tropes of the slasher film, with a fairly interesting gathering of talking heads and some unfamiliar clips (mostly from trailers); this documentary is no Terror In The Aisles but it did leave me wanting to watch some prime examples of the genre again. Just as Not Quite Hollywood made me wish I could rewatch Turkey Shoot and Road Games immediately, and Machete Maidens Unleashed! failed to make me want to ever watch The Mad Doctor Of Blood Island or The Blood Drinkers, so this has pushed me in the direction of revisiting Friday The 13th Part 5, My Bloody Valentine, Prom Night and Rosemary's Killer. Which makes it at least a partial success.

The slasher net is thrown fairly wide yet there are some huge omissions - Psycho and Peeping Tom, but not Homicidal; Agatha Christie, Mario Bava and Jess Franco's Bloody Moon are included but When A Stranger Calls, Happy Birthday To Me and Silent Scream don't get a mention. Obviously they can't namecheck all of these films, as we'd be here for a week and some of them (like To All A Goodnight) are so wretched they just don't deserve the exposure, but When A Stranger Calls is surely prime slasher material. Is Tenebrae really a slasher film? Is Puppet Master? Tourist Trap? Despite the supernatural elements, A Nightmare On Elm Street certainly counts, but does The Stepfather? April Fool's Day surely fails as it's all an elaborate gag and no-one gets killed. The obvious cliches so ruthlessly exposed in Scream - don't have sex, don't say "I'll be right back" and so on - and The Final Girl are examined at length (if not in depth), as is "What makes a good slasher villain?". It has a ton of clips, some of which are from mostly forgotten shockers like The House On Sorority Row and The Initiation, and interviews with everyone from Lloyd Kaufman, Adam Green and Corey Feldman (the last with the most annoying hairstyle I've seen in a long time) to Tobe Hooper, Emily Booth and Fred Olen Ray.

Slice And Dice: The Slasher Film Forever is obviously a fan celebration rather than a serious critical overview: no-one points out that Madman and Terror Train are terrible films. You won't learn anything from it, but it's nice to see the clips and hear these films discussed again. Also on the DVD is a second, shorter documentary in the same vein, covering backwoods horror movies (Don't Go In The Woods, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), and a stack of trailers from Peeping Tom through to something called Halloween Night, which I've never heard of but have now added to the rental queue.


Stabby stabby:

Monday, 8 July 2013



There's something joyously irresistible about a title as blunt and trashy as that: it promises full-on undead action and brings the excesses of the video nasty era to mind. But though it might sound like a quickie retitling to make a dull cheapie look a bit more lurid, or an obviously absurd great-title-shame-about-the-movie joke title in the Troma vein of Stuff Stephanie In The Incinerator, it's actually a reasonable representation of the flm: there are zombies in it and there are driller killers in it as well. (Originally it was known as Dark Souls, which is a bit of a nothing title to be honest.) More remarkably still, it's actually quite a decent little horror, to the extent that I started openly questioning reality when something called Zombie Driller Killer turned out to be a better and more interesting film than the new Ben Wheatley or the new M Night Shyamalan. It's like Janet Leigh's death in Psycho: suddenly the comfortable old certainties have disappeared and you don't know where to turn.

It doesn't mess about: it starts at full tilt with a jogger being chased and drilled by a masked maniac in an orange jumpsuit. Yet she's not actually dead. While the police bumble around failing to solve the case and the increasing number of identical attacks (which don't count as homicides since the victims aren't technically dead), her music teacher father takes her home, as the hospital can't do anything, and then proceeds to track down the driller killer personally. But who or what is behind this evil zombification scheme, and why?

Taking its cue from The X-Files' alien conspiracy arcs (brilliantly, to the extent of including a sound clip of Gillian Anderson which encapsulates the premise of the film in advance), this is a grim yet generally good-natured little Norwegian schlocker which does have a bigger picture than just the individual zombie-biting mayhem. Throwaway zomb fodder it may be, but it snagged several award nominations around the world (winning Best Feature in Rhode Island and Best Foreign Male Actor in Melbourne), and is generally nicely enough done to easily pass as a Friday night rental. (Incredibly obscure injoke: the lead cop's wall is full of maps, photos and clippings - and also a page of screenplay which appears to come from a film called Pax, whose assistant art director Maria Ducasse produced this film, and is married to one of the co-directors.)


Not bad at all:



I'm going out on an incredibly wobbly limb here, but I do feel the need to defend M Night Shyamalan more than is strictly reasonable. I will concede, gladly, that he's not the best writer in the world: he tends to have terrific ideas, which he turns into terrible screenplays, and then directs those terrible screenplays rather well. I'll also concede that Signs doesn't hold water (sorry), but it's got some terrific scenes in it. Same with The Village. I do think The Happening has a great little premise at its centre, and I maintain Lady In The Water is underrated (it's a kids' movie, not a grown-ups' movie). True, The Last Airbender was a long way from being any good, but I defy anyone to have done much better with a concept that silly. But Unbreakable was great, and Devil was perfectly decent (note that he only came up with the back-of-a-fag-packet idea and someone else wrote the script and directed it).

But with all the good will in the world, it's hard to defend Shyamalan when he comes up with a film as ludicrous, and as dull, as After Earth. Centuries after Mankind has buggered Earth's environment to the point where the planet is uninhabitable, and humanity has legged it to other planets, Will Smith is an elite Ranger who can "ghost": he can hide his fear so he cannot be detected by the huge-ass space monsters that are wiping humanity out. For all his bravery and badassery, however, he's an absent father who doesn't know how to talk to his son (Jaden Smith). Through ridiculous circumstance, their ship crashes on the now deserted Earth; Dad's legs are broken and the whiny kid has to make the hundred-kilometre trek through the jungle to the back half of the shipwreck so he can set off the distress beacon. Unfortunately the fear monster got loose in the crash as well....

So it's a father-son bonding movie, a rites of passage movie about Jaden's initiation into manhood, a drama about a kid living up to his arsehole father's expectations and becoming the Ranger Cadet of his dreams. But Will Smith is left bleeding in a chair for most of the film and the dramatic focus is on Jaden, and frankly he's not up to the job. Mainly he's too young: he's now about the age where he should be remaking The Karate Kid, and he shouldn't be doing something like After Earth for another three years at least. He's only fifteen (today, as it happens) and can't give it the depth it needs if we're supposed to stick with him for most of the movie. And the film has no surprises to offer: you know exactly what's going to happen and there's no sign of a cunning twist at the end - which is Shyamalan's patented gimmick and he's not even bothering to play that card any more.

There's no reason why it's set on a future jungle Earth anyway - it's not like Jaden suddenly wanders into what's left of Bilbao railway station or Cineworld Milton Keynes; it could be set on planet Zog 3 for all it matters to the film. But since it is Earth: where have all the giant birds, mutated plants and other monsters come from? The movie isn't set millions of years hence when these other species have had a chance to evolve.

It's humourless, it's charmless, it's soulless, it lacks an interesting and charismatic central character to hang the drama on. Oh, it looks nice, and it sounds nice, thanks to David Cronenberg's regular cinematographer Peter Suschitsky and Shyamalan's own regular composer James Newton Howard, and the visual effects and design are mostly terrific. But technical pluses don't come close to outweighing the vast dramatic deficit. It would be great if Shyamalan was to return to darker, smaller and creepier - and better - movies like Unbreakable and The Sixth Sense instead of splashy empty A-list twaddle like After Earth and The Last Airbender; he's obviously better than this.




Hmmmm. Well, fair play to Film 4: they got people talking about this. The Internet has been full of it: about Ben Wheatley's previous films (Sightseers is a recent DVD release, Down Terrace - which I still haven't seen - was on the telly again, and wasn't Kill List brilliant?), about the genuinely intriguing trailer, about the day-date release strategy. Well, Sightseers was alright, but Kill List was certainly a disappointment and nothing like the bright and shining renaissance of British horror cinema it was touted as: it was more like a Danny Dyer remake of A Serbian Film that got steadily more absurd and less likable as it went on. Now here's a black-and-white psychedelic independent microbudget Civil War arthouse horror movie which gets points for ticking a lot of boxes but loses them for being needlessly arty and "difficult" and frankly boring.

On a narrative level, A Field In England concerns an assorted handful of Civil War soldiers who leave the battle and head for a nearby alehouse: among them is alchemist Whitehead (Reece Shearsmith) who is forced to divine buried treasure for evil O'Neil (Michael Smiley). They find something, but what? Or do they ever make it that far, as they gorged themselves on wild mushrooms and may well have hallucinated everything?

Shot in very stylish black-and-white, its landscapes and facial closeups are undeniably terrific to look at. But as a piece of drama, as a piece of storytelling, it doesn't work: you don't give a hoot what happens and you're not sure whether any of this is taking place outside of someone's fevered, psilocybin-addled mind. Obviously, they know this: it's not a narrative film, it's a trippy visual film, it's a mood film, it's an atmosphere piece. There are moments when that works well, such as a particularly unnerving sequence with Shearsmith screaming in agony offscreen for what seems like ages, but there are moments when the off-yer-tits trip sequences (in which the screen is mirrored down the middle and the shots get progressively shorter and faster) just get wearying. And that's on home TV: I suspect it would make me ill in even a medium-sized cinema.

A Field In England has been described as an experimental film, but is it really? What's the experiment designed to achieve? If you're making films outside of your own bedroom or media studies class (not intended as an insult: I was a media student once!), then trying whatever wacky stuff comes into your head and seeing if it works isn't a viable option, especially if you're already an established director and you're charging an audience money to see it. For much of the time I just wished Wheatley would stop with the weirdness and tell the damned story. Atmosphere and style shouldn't be the whole point of the exercise: even David Lynch's effortless conjuring of utter dread lose their effect when you neither know nor care what, if anything, is going on. Even the complete absence of coherent narrative in Berberian Sound Studio didn't annoy me as much as it does here.

The more interesting experiment is the release pattern: A Field In England has been made available on all platforms simultaneously - cinema, DVD, Blu, online and TV. That's certainly unusual and I don't think it works as a commercial tactic to make one of the options free. Why on Earth would I have paid to travel to one of the few cinemas screening it or hired it from a rental library when it's on telly that evening for nothing? A much more interesting experiment would be to adopt this pattern for a huge summer blockbuster like Pacific Rim or Man Of Steel: at least then I'd have the choice to see it a handy chain cinema (my nearest option for A Field In England is over 30 miles away). Until the distributors have the balls to market huge-budget spectaculars that way, and cinema chains agree to give up the theatrical window entirely, day-date is going to remain the province of the tiny art movie.

Regardless of the medium, the bottom line is that I didn't like A Field In England at all; rather, I just got steadily more annoyed with it as it went along. Even given that I'm not a fan of the director, I expected more than this given the hype and publicity: yes, it's made a bit of a splash, but the splash itself is really more interesting than the thing that dropped into the bucket and made that splash. I don't feel conned - after all, I watched it for free on Film4 - but I do feel I've rather wasted my time with it.


Thursday, 4 July 2013



Well, you can pretty much rely on James Wan to press the scare button every time now. Granted, Saw wasn't actually scary, just horrible and nasty and sadistic and great fun, but Dead Silence did the job efficiently enough, and of course Insidious had me leaving lights on all night up to a week after I'd seen it, and I still haven't dared go back for a rewatch. I've no idea how I'll manage with the forthcoming Insidious sequel! But in the meantime, he's made another horror film that's genuinely scary - not gory or explicit, just can't-look terrifying - and which had me covering my eyes for great chunks of the time. Which is precisely as it should be: so many horror movies aren't ever close to mildly chilling, let alone boxer-browning scary, that it's a delight to find one where your hand spends half the running time covering your eyes.

As with countless haunted house movies, from The Amityville Horror onwards, The Conjuring centres on a family moving into a spooky old house in which Something Unspeakable happened years ago, and whatever caused it is still there. The Perron family (led by Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor - the latter having already done haunted house duties with Jan De Bont's noisy but ineffectual remake of The Haunting) have barely settled in when they're assaulted by the full panoply of loud noises, spectral appearances, bird strikes and physical attacks. Enter paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga), who quickly deduce the what and the why - but how can they get rid of it?

It's based on the true case files of the Warrens (thus giving it a lovely 1971 atmosphere and setting that also happily removes Google, email and cellphones from the drama at a stroke), but in truth I'd have been just as scared if it was a work of pure fiction. Like Insidious, The Conjuring combines the scary paranormal realm of demons, ghosts, spirits and curses with a recognisable domestic world we're all familiar with. Hardly any of us have spent time in Castle Dracula or the old abandoned mental hospital, but we've all moved into a new home at some point, we've all heard strange noises in the dead of night, and (especially when children) been convinced there's someone else in a darkened bedroom, under the bed or behind the door, and The Conjuring brilliantly brings those fears to life. Its approach may not be particularly subtle - it's basically yelling Boo! repeatedly in your face accompanied by Joseph Bishara's atonal score - but it's still incredibly effective and made me jump every single time.

In the end, it's perhaps not quite as chilling as Insidious, but that's mainly because it hasn't yet wormed its way back into my mind late at night and left me wondering if there's someone or something in the kitchen. Like that film, the final act is perhaps a slight step down from the rest of the film - here the Warrens' final desperate tactic for releasing the demon's hold on its new host feels very slightly off - and in this instance I'd have liked far more use of that disturbing evil-looking doll that's on the poster but which features only in the introductory sequence (which would make a freaky enough short by itself) and a few moments in the middle. Yet it almost seems churlish to knock a few marks off for that, when so much excellent work is done in the first hour, and by the end I'd still been put through the wringer more thoroughly and remorselessly than anything since Sinister. Terrific stuff.




Remember Gareth Edwards' Monsters from a few years back? It was set in a world where giant alien creatures had come to Earth and most of Mexico was now sealed off to keep the monsters in quarantine - but the film didn't care about them and was more concerned with the mumbly mismatched relationship between two not particularly interesting humans. The Monsters of the title were so far in the background they need not even have been there: they were practically redundant in their own film and could have been replaced with an Earthbound menace like drugs gangs or political extremists. That's not to say that Monsters is a bad film, merely that it's a noodly character drama and not a monster movie as claimed in the title and poster and promotional material.

In a similar way, Another Earth is only very slightly about the momentous discovery of a mirror Earth in the sky, and spends most of its time with Brit Marling's young ex-con as she tries to expiate her guilt over the car crash that killed a young family by working (unpaid) at the house of the sole survivor (William Mapother) who's been in a coma and so doesn't recognise her as the drunk driver who caused the crash four years ago. She cleans his house, brings a little joy into his life, starts a physical relationship with him....but she's also applied to be one of the select few to voyage to Earth 2. What if she wins? What happens when Mapother finds out who she really is?

There's a bit of stuff about how Earth 2 was absolutely identical to Earth 1 until the moment we saw each other, then the synchronicity was revoked and maybe that fatal accident didn't happen on Earth 2, so maybe "they" are still alive up there. (Presumably no-one on either Earth 1 or Earth 2 wonders if their equivalent was killed in a car smash four years previously.) But much of the film is a dull drama of guilt and penance, with Marling desperately seeking forgiveness and Mapother unaware there's anything to forgive. That's not necessarily a bad area for a drama, but it doesn't really need the Star Trek/Doctor Who/Red Dwarf mirror Earth stuff hanging up there.

Maybe this is a case of reviewing the film it isn't rather than the film it isn't, but frankly, just as with Monsters, I was much more interested in it as SF than as a low-budget indie and for me it's the SF angle that's left on the sidelines. The other obvious point of comparison is Lars Von Trier's gloomy Melancholia, which at least has the gorgeous slo-mo opening and properly apocalyptic ending which Another Earth's tiny budget and harsh handheld digital look can't hope to match. That perhaps helps the naturalistic, noodly indie feel, but for those who might think the sudden discovery of a new planet should take priority over a joyless character drama, it leaves Another Earth seriously lacking and not much fun at all.