Category Archives: Horror

My cultural highlights of 2022

The end of the year nears. That means it is time for my year cultural highlights of 2022. So, without further introduction, let’s get into it.

Film

Possibly the best new release I saw in the past 12 months was Iranian director Ali Abbasi’s The Holy Spider (2022). The story of a young female journalist (a powerhouse performance by Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating a religious serial killer in a rural Iranian city, little did I know when I saw it as part of Melbourne International Film Festival in September that it’s damning commentary on the male dominated nature of Iranian society, would find such a strong real world echo in the female led protest movement shaking the country to its foundations today. While The Holy Spider is not for the faint hearted, its horror is brilliantly conveyed through show don’t tell storytelling. Seriously, a lot of directors could learn from watching this film that you don’t always have to hit the audience over the head with a narrative sledgehammer.

Two other 2022 releases make my best of film list for the year. The first is Emily the Criminal. This is a whip smart neo noir about a young woman who falls into crime, featuring Aubrey Plaza in the lead role. I call it a millennial revenge film, which I think is THE upcoming crime genre with a bullet.… Read more

Wake in Fright is a Christmas film

As we dive into the Yuletide season, this is just a quick reminder that Ted Kotcheff’s 1971 film Wake In Fright definitely qualifies as a Christmas film.

I recently took part in a discussion on Kotcheff’s amazing film for the Journey’s Into Darkness film discussion group in the US. I talked about what Wake In Fright says about Australia in 1971 and now, conceptions of masculinity, and urban Australians uneasy relationship with the outback and our bloody colonial past. We also discussed how the film functions as a crime film, and outback noir and an Australian folk horror. You can watch the talk in full on Youtube here.

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Book Review: We Are the Mutants – The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon

Is there anything new left to say about the period of American film production from the late 1960s to the early 1980s?

This is the period that began with the so-called ‘New Hollywood’ and continued with its collapse under the weight of its own cinematic hubris and excess, bumped along considerably by the 1977 release of Star Wars, after which the blockbuster franchise, with its lucrative pre-sold merchandising deals, evolved into the majority of what now passes for the American film industry. Of course, this is just one facet of the story. Influencing this trajectory was Vietnam, the rise and fall of the counterculture, the election of Ronald Reagan and the rise of neoliberalism.

To say something different about all of this is a tough task. But it is is precisely the aim of We are the Mutants: The Battle for Hollywood from Rosemary’s Baby to Lethal Weapon. That the book largely succeeds in its mission is due to a quality I initially found hard to define until I hit on a way to do so by way of a comparison. The book reminds me of the work of British documentary maker Adam Curtis, particularly his most recent effort, I Can’t Get You Out of My Head: An Emotional History of the Modern World.… Read more

Book Review: Australian crime anthology and First Nations science fiction

Is it just me or is there definitely a renewed local interest in short story collections? There seems to be a few more of them being published than is normally the case and I am particularly interested in two that have come across my radar: Dark Deeds Down Under, an anthology of crime fiction edited by Craig Sisterson and This All Come Back Now, a new anthology of first nations speculative fiction, edited by Mykaela Saunders.

First up, Dark Deeds Down Under. The interesting selling point of this book is that it contains 19 crime fiction stories from Australian and New Zealand authors, some well-known, others not so much. As is the case with every anthology not every tale did it for me but there were far more hits than misses, which is unusual. I just want to briefly note the highlights in the collection for me.

Aoife Clifford’s ‘Summer of the Seventeenth Poll’ felt very much in the spirit of TV shows such as In the Thick of It, in its depiction of a political spinner who job sees them stumble across a murder, and the story has a real sting in the tail. No surprises that ‘The Cook’ by possibly my favourite Australian crime writer, David Whish-Wilson, was a terrific yarn about an ex-con speed cook and the troubled relationship he has with his son.… Read more

Pulp on the big screen

This month sees the 50th anniversary of the Mike Hodges film, Pulp.

I feel like Pulp, which I reviewed on this site here back in 2016, does not get a lot of love from people, but I am a fan of its bizarre, at times almost campy noir vibe. Most of all, I like the fact that it is an ode to the era of mass produced literature and to a time when pulp, in all its forms, could still be dangerous.

The lead character is a sleazy expat British expat pulp writer called Mickey King, played by Michael Caine, a nod to the prolific writer Earl Stanley Gardner. King’s dialogue drips with sleazy pulp cadence and the film is full of images of pulp in its many forms.

Ever since watching this film, I have been on the look-out for signs of pulp in the movies. As a 50th anniversary tribute to the Hodges film, below are the screenshots of what I have managed to find so far. I am sure there are many others and I would love readers to alert me to ones I have missed or to help me identify the ones below that I have not been able to identify.

Sella Davis (1937)
I Wake Up Screaming (1941)
Shadow of a Doubt (1943)
Lady In the Lake (1946)
The Killer Who Stalked New York (1950)
The Blue Gardenia (1953)
The Bad and the Beautiful (1953)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The Hundred Eyes of Dr Mabuse (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The League of Gentlemen (1960)
The Evil Eye (1963)
The Naked Kiss (1964)
Hud (1964)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)

Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965)
A Quiet Place in the Country (1968)
French edition of Woolrich’s Waltz into Darkness in Stolen Kisses (1968)
The Lost Continent (1968)
Orgasmo (1969)
Hi Mom (1970)
Brotherhood of Satan (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Get Carter (1971)
Paper Moon (1973)
Identikit (1974)
Farewell My Lovely (1975)
Rosie Dixon – Night Nurse (1978)
Hammett (1982)
Plains, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
Killers Kiss (1998)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Johnny Gaddaar (2007)
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