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As part of the Glasgow Film Festival horror fans are in for a real treat thanks to soundtrack legends Goblin, or more accurately Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin* are providing a set filled with their perverse sounds to mixed audience of film buffs, metalheads and me.

Claudio Simonetti shuffled onstage appearing somewhat dishevelled in stark contrast to that of his smoothly and immaculately decked out backing band**. Claudio holds court to the side of the stage entrapped in a cage of keyboards and synthesisers, which is how everyone wants it I imagine.

What followed was a selection of some of Goblins finest pieces of work, more a less conducted in chronological order and each introduced by our leader leaving no mistake in what we were listening too which left little to surprise with.

Taken out of their usual context of providing a soundtrack to (normally gruesome) images it is quite revelatory to hear the scattershot approach of the music which seems to encompass everything from prog, funk, disco and metal***. And for all of the jokes that can be made about the backing bands appearance****, they were more than capable of providing the bombast and technical prowess required from their Claudio in order to recreate these fevered compositions.

But though these tracks were created as technically as they had been on record, which is no mean feat, it really put into contrast that Goblins music, or more accurately their better known music, is designed for the screen and without this the set becomes incoherent and out of place. It is valiant to see a band concentrate on getting everything right on target when it comes to the tunes but when this means there is little energy on stage***** due to this concentration then it lacks something for the audience to connect with.

Despite this there was still entertainment to be had and I won’t lie and say it wasn’t a thrill to see the music of ‘Susperia’ brought to life. Also it’s the first time in years I’ve seen a guitarist mouth along to the noises his instrument is making****** and it was amusing to see Claudio’s attention focused on two young goth clad ladies near the front of the stage, should these be the highlights of the night though? I’m glad I went, and would be more than willing to see them again but only when providing a live soundtrack to one of the many gorgeously horrible films where they made their name.

*Don’t worry; refunds were available on the door if this fact did not please you… only time in my life where I found refunds to be so freely available.

**Seriously, these guys were pretty… like girl pretty.

***You know… all the cool genres… yeah?

****Well, the jokes that I made anyway.

*****Except for the occasional metal horn thrown out there.

******More than worth the price of admission.



Fuck to this noise.
AKA You HAVE to fucking see this shit.

A Less-than-critical journey through film.

What do you mean you didn’t like Reality Bites? Oh, okay.
Anyway. Enough of the shit talking and the “I hate life viewed through rose-tinted spectacles” nonsense. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is FUCKING HEARTWARMING.

Sean Penn as photographer Sean O'Connell, elusive buddy and spirit guide for Walter's wee vision quest or whatever.

Sean Penn as photographer Sean O’Connell, elusive buddy and spirit guide for Walter’s wee vision quest or whatever.

Yes, the film may spread the central message of “live your life” a little too thickly, but who cares? Sometimes, it’s just nice to watch some fun shit, and see someone rediscover all the things on the to-do list that got lost amongst the humdrum reality of the day to day.

On yersel' big man!

On yersel’ big man!

Who doesn’t want to skateboard their way to see a volcano erupting, and smash the fuck out of Adam Scott’s smug face?

That beard isn't even REAL, you bastard.

That beard isn’t even REAL, you bastard.

Yes, some of the real incidents that happen to Ben Stiller’s Walter are far more improbable than his action movie daydreams, but – once more with feeling – who cares? It’s escapist. It’s bloody nice. It’s God damn SWEET.

Cake. Wins over the toughest of rebels.

Cake. Wins over the toughest of rebels.

You can take your moans of music video sensibilities and over usage of Arcade Fire and shove them up thy constipated ass alongside those consistent wailings about that ship/shark escapade.

Kiirsten Wiig as Walter's dream woman, Rachel Melhoff. Her son has mad skills.

Kirsten Wiig as Walter’s dream woman, Rachel Melhoff. Her son has mad skills.

There is the obvious nod to the effect the internet has had on magazine publication, and old school photojournalism becoming obsolete – also Kirsten Wiig looks AMAZING as a brunette – but overall Walter Mitty is of comfort to the persistent daydreamers of this world. Of course, we should all be living in the now, but occasionally it really is the better course of action to zone out for a while and just visualize stabbing someone’s eyeballs out with a rusty fork rather than literally doing it. Similarly, fantasizing about going for dinner with Dirk Benedict from the A-Team may most likely turn out to be better than actually going for dinner with Dirk Benedict from the A-Team. I digress.



Oh, and if I see another film critic or blogger refer to David Bowie’s Space Oddity as “Major Tom”, I shall not be responsible for my own actions. Jesus, I know Walter gets it wrong, but there’s a lot he gets wrong in life. His job isn’t to research this shit, he’s a character in a bloody film. You, are not. Now get the fucking skateboard out, shave in a Mohawk and go have fun. It’s a nice day outside.


A Less-than-critical journey through film

Jesus H Christos Achilleos. Why the hell are people so cynical and so critical these days? Take that anger, take that hate, take that inability to have fun with an artistic endeavour and GO CREATE.
There are bigger fish to fry in this world.
Who am I and who do I write for?
I’m nobody any more, baby. And I write for me.

the-abominable-dr-phibes (1)

Behind every successful man is a woman.
Maybe. But shouldn’t that line include the added sentiment “ready to deal with all his shite and stresses, clean up his mess, and push him to get things fucking done when he’d rather masturbate over pictures of his dead wife and plaster his face with a cheap latex precursor”?
Anyway. Aye. Vulnavia. Tidiest of henchwomen. Glorious costumery, graceful dancefloor antics.

Vulnavia, beautiful assistant to the titular Dr Phibes, played by horror alumni Vincent Price.

Vulnavia, beautiful assistant to the titular Dr Phibes, played by horror alumni Vincent Price.

Doctor Phibes. Fucking love that guy. Suave bastard. Some cunts fucked up looking after the health and welfare of his wife, resulting in her untimely death.

Mad bitch Phibes want revenge, y'all. And he's schooled in the ways of the Old Testament!

Mad bitch Phibes want revenge, y’all. And he’s schooled in the ways of the Old Testament!

Bats, Bitch!

Bats, Bitch!

Frogs, bitch! (Technically death by frog mask, but you get the idea)

Frogs, bitch!
(Technically death by frog mask, but you get the idea)

Sprouts, bitch...wait. What the fuck? I know I start burning as soon as I enter church grounds, but I don't remember these green bastards being a plague?

Sprouts, bitch…wait. What the fuck? I know I start burning as soon as I enter church grounds, but I don’t remember these green bastards being a plague?

Ohh, right. That's why the sprouts are involved. Who knew locusts were such big fans of Christmas roasts?

Ohh, right. That’s why the sprouts are involved. Who knew locusts were such big fans of Christmas roasts?

Inventive deaths. Price with no face. Price with a static face. Price pretending his real face is made of plastic. Price with fake eyebrows and a frightwig. Price with a crazy voicebox. Price playing the shit out of a giant church organ whilst wearing an elaborate costume. Price doing fucking epic ‘Starey Eye’ acting, incorporating aforementioned fake eyebrows. Amazingly out-of-place but never-the-less wondrous dance sequences. A clockwork band. A CLOCKWORK BAND.

Wait a fucking minute? Is Vulnavia a fucking robot too? I'd buy that for a dollar.

Wait a fucking minute? Is Vulnavia a fucking robot too? I’d buy that for a dollar.

If you haven’t already encountered the disturbed mindscape of the Doctor, you fucking NEED to see this shit.

"So what? So let's DANCE!"

“So what? So let’s DANCE!”

True beauty is on the inside, bitch.

True beauty is on the inside, bitch.

A safer choice of opening gala for the Edinburgh International Film Festival than last year’s Killer Joe, Drake Doremus’ Breathe In is a close knit, slow burning drama centred around piano teacher Keith (Guy Pearce)and the impact the arrival of exchange student Sophie (Felicity Jones) has on his family.

Keith and wife Megan (Amy Ryan) seem to have an idyllic lifestyle. Theirs is a world of stable employment, of large houses in the outer suburbs. A world where there is enough free time and energy to indulge in and follow their passions – Keith’s part time orchestral cellist position and Megan’s cookie jar collecting. A world in which their marriage is envied by friends surrounded by divorce parties, and they have the luxury of gifting a car to swim team champion daughter Lauren (Mackenzie Davis) for her eighteenth birthday. On the surface they are – like the family portraits they pose for – perfectly happy.

It becomes clear with haste that all is not as rosy as outside eyes are led to believe. Megan refers to Keith’s love of music as a hobby, drawing his ire and causing him to retreat inward with daydreams of bands past and what may have been. He longs for city life and seeks solace from those who are supposed to be his ‘favourite people’. He appears to show little interest in the pursuits of his daughter, and displays an underlying hint of resentment as to how family life has placed restrictions upon him. Watching this unfold, Sophie becomes drawn to Keith. Quiet, and with a maturity beyond her years, Sophie is able to see the papered-over cracks in his marriage.

Holding similar viewpoints on life, music and creativity, a bond develops between Keith and Sophie. A bond which alienates his wife, and rips apart the already tense relationship Sophie had begun to form with Lauren. A bond which Doremus goes to great lengths to portray as having been less sparked by lustful desire but instead conceived through sensitive longing and the recognition of a kindred spirit.

For all the tender moments though, it is hard to see Sophie as anything other than a way out for Keith; a reason to be excused from his commitments. His decisions and actions seem too quick, selfish, and almost unbelievable. There are no sexual advances, but is this wistful doe-eyed reaction to Sophie really more than a midlife crisis caused by boundaries and restrictions imposed by marriage and fatherhood? Perhaps he falls more for what Sophie represents – freedom, choice, and escape – than the girl she is.

Guy Pearce gives a thoughtful and understated performance as Keith, connecting well with Jones as Sophie, but their relationship is lacking in charm. It is hard to feel sympathy or empathy for either of them, not because of their actions, more through an emotional stiltedness. Which applies to the whole film as – with the exception of Lauren – emotion often becomes replaced with quiet acceptance. There is outfall, there are repercussions, but the consequences of Keith’s actions are never truly explored to their full potential, with Amy Ryan’s role as Megan being relegated to an afterthought.

The musical pieces and score by Dustin O’Halloran prove to be a highlight. There is much beauty to be found in its cinematography, also in its messages and themes of freedom and choice, but with a slightly ambiguous ending, Breathe In follows in the footsteps of Keith’s treatment of his wife. Becoming cold and emotionally distant, it starts to forget the viewer who invested their time in watching it, and flees off as soon as it can, avoiding confrontation.

There are solid performances throughout, but it just isn’t enough.
Bloody good beard on Guy Pearce, though. Damn fine beard.

(Review originally posted on Live For Films)

Benedick & Beatrice

Benedick & Beatrice

So you have more or less all your TV projects cancelled at some point or another, you work on different films where your vision isn’t fully realised* and eventually you make the third highest grossing film of all time**. Now science fiction provocateur and all round nerd god Joss Whedon, has hit the heights of Hollywood power with Marvel geek fest ‘Avengers Assemble’ how does one follow up this mighty and well deserved success… well you get a load of your pals together to film an adaption of William Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ round your house when you’re on holiday, apparently so.

Suave bastard.

Suave bastard.

Returning from success in battle, Prince Don Pedro (Reed Diamond – Dollhouse), with his loyal soldiers Benedick (Alexis Denisof – Angel) and Claudio (Fran Kranz – Cabin in the Woods) by his side, seek shelter with nobleman Leonato (Clark Gregg – Avengers Assemble) and his family. Benedick, the egotistical gentry immediately heads into another battle, of words, with Leonatos’ niece Beatrice (Amy Acker – Angel) – hinting at a past that no one is mindful of. Claudio, immediately rekindling his love for Leonatos daughter Hero (newcomer Jillian Morgese), proposes and the wedding day is set. In order to amuse themselves throughout the preparations – Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio set themselves a challenge – to make Benedick & Beatrice fall in love. Behind the scenes, Don Pedro’s bastard brother Don John (Sean Maher – Firefly) is looking to cause trouble for all in attendance. Will Beatrice and Benedick get together? Will Claudio and Hero get hitched without a hitch? Can, against all odds including himself, Inspector Dogberry (Nathan Fillion – Firefly) stop the disreputable Don John? ***

Dogberry at work...

Dogberry at work…

Before watching this movie I must admit that I had trepidation on how Whedon could handle such a low key endeavour without his usual wit and pop culture**** littered dialogue to fall back on. It would transpire that I had no need to worry as Whedon handles the play expertly with the respect it’s due and the main reason for this success is – casting. Denisof & Acker***** rekindle the chemistry displayed previously in Whedon’s ‘Angel’ and it is through this intelligent casting that the film rests on and ultimately succeeds. The whole ensemble bring their A game****** and look like they are having a ball doing so. Everyone is cast to their strengths whilst also displaying a side of their work which we have not seen before hand. Maher is positively treacherous as Don John, Diamond displays some fun and playfulness not seen in previous roles and Fillion shows that he can still be hilarious whilst performing 19th century prose. It is evident throughout that the cast are having a ball in this picture and thankfully this feeling is contagious to the viewer.

Beatrice, sneaking much?

Beatrice, sneaking much?

Whedon has picked the material intelligently as the characters fit nicely into the archetype characters of previous accomplishments. Especially Beatrice, who would not be out of place in Dollhouse or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. One could argue that the characters in ‘Much Ado’ fall into the categories in the Whedon co-scripted film ‘The Cabin in the Woods’, the Virgin (Morgese), the Jock (Denisof), the Fool (Fillion), the Scholar (Beatrice) and the Whore (Don John)*******. It is a testament to the source material and to Whedon’s tight and reserved direction that the performances of the cast really shine through; making what could have been a visually bland snooze fest into a heart-warming and frequently hilarious film.

Yes ladies, bearded Denisof... CALM DOWN!

Yes ladies, bearded Denisof… CALM DOWN!

It seems that what got this film attention (how it was filmed) seems to be what has made this truly special. This is a picture of love from its Director and the fact that it was done independently meant that no compromises needed to be made. Don’t be put off, yes its Shakespeare but it’s a hoot. Quite possibly this is Whedon’s greatest triumph and it now displays that he is not just the snappy dialogue guy but a serious Director that can handle all types of material.

I genuinely can’t wait to see this picture again.

*Except Serenity…

**And it was good too!

***A lot happens, a slight nightmare trying to explain the plot of this.

****It is interesting that he is now such a high profile pop culture icon now.

*****These two need to be in more things!

******Get it?

*******Admittedly I may be reaching a bit far with this one.

Ryan Gosling as stunt riding heart throb 'Handsome Luke'

Ryan Gosling as stunt riding heart throb ‘Handsome Luke’

Stretching over a period of fifteen years, Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines tells the intertwining tales of travelling carnival stunt rider Luke (Ryan Gosling), law student turned policeman Avery (Bradley Cooper), and the legacy they leave to their teenage sons.

Set mainly at a slow and steady pace, with minimal action, pared downed dialogue and most of the emotion being portrayed solely through body language and gestures, the film is very much character driven. Much like his last feature Blue Valentine, Cianfrance places the focus entirely on relationships. Where Blue Valentine explored the intricacies of love, marriage, and hateful breakdown, The Place Beyond the Pines instead deconstructs male relationships; laying fatherhood, friendship and loyalty out on a science lab table top for a full on guts-out prod about.

Split into three sections, the focus initially falls on Luke. Moving through Schenectady with his motorcycling act, he discovers a fling the previous summer with local girl Romina (Eva Mendez) has led to him becoming a father. Luke decides to put his riding days behind him in order to become a permanent feature in his newfound child’s life. Struggling for money in the face of tensions with both Romina and her new lover, Kofi (Mahershala Ali), Luke steps his fledgling friendship with new landlord Robin (Ben Mendelsohn) up a level to target banks ripe for robbing.

With Luke’s expert bike skills and Robin’s previous criminal form, a successful heist team is born, and it isn’t long before we see the two of them celebrating with a spot of beer and Bruce Springsteen. Having had no relationship with his own father, Robin fits the bill of father figure for Luke. Older, wiser, it’s as though he recognises a younger self. Luke may be pulling in the money, however the barriers between he and his son remain. Desperately wanting to do the right thing, Luke’s dream of the perfect family unit is shattered by his underlying violent tendencies and the horrible realisation that even when made with the best of intentions, bad decisions can often lead to a fall.

Ryan Gosling with Eva Mendez as Romina, mother of his child

Ryan Gosling with Eva Mendez as Romina, the mother of his child

Gosling’s performance is understatedly stunning – his particular trademark brand of heart breaking eye acting working to full effect in the role of errant father trying to make amends.

Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross

Bradley Cooper as Avery Cross

With the story falling on the shoulders of reluctantly heroic cop, Avery Cross, we are quickly introduced to a man dealing with the consequences of his own bad decision. Whether or not his intentions lie in the right place is initially hard to judge. We see a young man coming to terms with a work-related incident that leaves him hospitalized. Defying his own father’s calls for him to return to his law background, Avery becomes driven to succeed in a police force riddled with corruption, while also entangling himself in the life of Luke’s nearest and dearest, and becoming increasingly distanced from both his wife and baby son.

Sacrificing friendship for the greater good – to clear a heavy conscience or purely to further his career goals? – Avery’s motives seem unclear. Cooper performs well in the role of the young Avery, troubled by an error of judgement, but the real time for him to shine will be once he leaves the shell suits of the past behind and Cianfrance moves the story on by fifteen years.

Emory Cohen as AJ and Dane DeHaan as Jason

Emory Cohen as AJ and Dane DeHaan as Jason

The third and final segment centres on the children of Luke and Avery, and the repercussions of their father’s past doings on their lives. Luke’s son Jason (Dane DeHaan) knows nothing of his biological father, having had a stable upbringing with Romina and Kofi, while Avery’s son AJ (Emory Cohen) appears to have grown up distanced from his father by career and divorce. The bonds of friendship and family are tested, as secrets from the past return – pushing Jason to his limits, and haunting Avery to breaking point. DeHaan looks old before his time throughout, displaying great ability for both subtlety and rage.

Cooper is a revelation towards the very end, showing how much talent lies beneath the tendency to stray toward lighter roles. It’s a shame that we don’t get to see more of this earlier, as with the young Avery there could be much more exploration of the relationship with his father, and there are stilted talks with his psychiatrist that could be expanded upon. We only get to see the full effects of the ghosts which plague him very late in the day, but then a slow build up seems par for the course with Cianfrance.

So much of the story hinges on fatherhood, and sacrifices made for the ones we love, but some of the aspects are only touched upon briefly. Where it succeeds there are the jokes between Jason and ‘real’ father Kofi, Luke’s sense of duty to Romina and their child, the eventually destructive sense of care shown to Luke by Robin, and Robin’s short but very sweet interactions with Jason. Where it fails, I feel a little cheated by the shallow depths of Avery’s relationships with both his father and son, and the fleeting glance of friendships that test his loyalties.

But overall – as with Blue Valentine – Cianfrance’s best and most believable relationships are the ones he shows you. Relationships, partnerships and friendships, that are built up bit by bit through actions and interactions. The old writing axiom of “Show, don’t tell” is always at work. As mentioned before, the build up is slow, and very considered. For some this means the running time may be a problem, but for those willing to sit back and let the story gradually unfold, there are many rewards.

The performances are of the highest standard, even smaller roles for Ray Liotta and Bruce Greenwood being approached with as much care as those of the main cast. Ben Mendelsohn is such a strong presence in his role as Robin and stripped of all her usual glamour, Eva Mendez is beautifully sad as Romina. Mike Patton’s sweeping soundtrack works in harmony with the sublime cinematography of Sean Bobbit – the final scene in particular making for a visually stunning viewing experience.

Putting fatherhood issues aside, The Place Beyond the Pines is full of ill-judged decisions made in haste. But in life, everyone makes mistakes. It’s what we do over time to rectify them that truly counts.

Epic in scope and length, Derek Cianfrance has taken on an ambitious project which doesn’t always work, but when it does, it hits where it hurts.

God damn, I need a pair of those trews in my life...

God damn, I need a pair of those trews in my life…

On a lighter note, the highlight for me was always going to be Ryan Gosling and Ben Mendelsohn boogying with a dog to Dancin’ in the Dark though, wasn’t it? I mean, come on…

Colin MacNeil Judge Dredd

Due to the recent resurgence of interest in the character of Judge Dredd*, thanks to the recent reboot of the franchise with Dredd 3D hitting our screens** and the back catalogue of stories presented in 2000AD being published in compendiums, the patrons of the Glasgow Film Festival were treated to a conversation with his creator John Wagner & famed Dredd artist Colin MacNeil.


Arriving sharpish at the Glasgow CCA to find that a large queue had already scurried into the auditorium, disappointingly there seemed to be more than enough room for everyone and that this was far from a sold out event***. Greeted by our host John McShane who explained that the set up would be the usual for these events (he asks questions for a while and then it’s open to the floor), we welcomed on stage the men we were here to see.

What we were treated to was a bit of history on the character, the situations that he has found himself in and the inspiration behind these creations, as well as Wagner’s tendency to argue with his employers. Of course the subject of Dredd 3D took up a large portion of the conversation, covering the Stallone incarnation of the character…

 “I can’t say a bad word about Sylvester Stallone, the film would not have been made without his involvement, but because of his involvement this led to the problems with the movie”.

 …to Karl Urban’s**** portrayal. This led to the gentlemen stating their favourite incarnation of the world they have created to be the fan film ‘Judge Minty’ – which was being shown a couple of days later*****. However, the discussion on movie adaptations of the character led to the revelation from both men that they do not really watch films, the irony of which was lost on no one.

Judge Dredd was not the only topic of conversation, John Wagner’s ‘A History of Violence’ was covered in detail, both the comic and the Cronenberg adaption, Colin MacNeil’s inspiration for his visuals and working conditions, and other related 2000AD characters. This heralded the questions from the floor, which covered the recent American comics’ adaption of the character…

“I haven’t read it, is it as bad as the DC version?”

 To the recent indication that Dredd may be gay…

 “It doesn’t matter!”


Once several questions had been attended to, we were at the end of our event with the points of our attention doing some signage for afters******. This was a fascinating discussion with some nice revelations on the films and how the comics were written/drawn, but not too much focus on the Judge himself, as we more or less know everything we need to know about him through 30+ years of reading his cases.

*He is a hard bastard, what’s not to like?

**All 10 people that saw it in the cinema.

***Due to a general lack of interest in British comics or the quality selection of alternative events at the GFF?

****Eh, fucking ace!

*****Nae time off to go and see it.

******Later moved to the café due to other performances taking place.

"Admit it...I'm the pornography that gets you hot!"

“Admit it…I’m the pornography that gets you hot!”

Brian Yuzna? He’s the fella who caused the screen to drip with fleshy fluids as the bodies of the rich and privileged turned to playdoh whilst writhing like dying worms on fancy carpets in Society, right? Tell me more.

Mystery, intrigue, secret societies and soul-selling to Satan? As a fan of Dennis Wheatley’s tales of the black arts and orgiastic revelry – yes, I would be interested in that.

Wait, what’s that you say? It has Jeffrey Combs in it? As a fan of his Lovecraftian dabblings and admirer of his ‘little brother of Bruce Campbell’ good looks, you can consider this potential viewer well and truly sold on this Faustian-pact-wrapped package.

Jaspers, institutionalized post first hypnotic killing spree, draws smiley faced devils on the walls while psychiatrist Jade de Camp tries to reach him via the medium of Bach and Death Metal...

Jaspers, institutionalized post first hypnotic killing spree, draws smiley faced devils on the walls while psychiatrist Jade de Camp tries to reach him via the medium of Bach and Death Metal…

Fragile shell of a man John Jaspers (Mark Frost) is haunted by the brutal killing of his girlfriend at the hands of ragtag gaggle of thugs. On the brink of suicide, he is offered the chance to exact bloody revenge in exchange for his earthly soul by a sinister black-clad, white haired gentleman. In his haste, Jaspers fails to realise that following his wave of vengeance, he will forever be bound to do the bidding of a master with a candyfloss barnet – as a wolverine claw wearing agent of death. Caught and imprisoned – with no memory of his actions – Jaspers is befriended by Dr de Camp (Isabelle Brook) who aims to unlock the doors in his mind through her work in music therapy. But Dr de Camp has her own demons, haunted both by the loss of her father and terrifying sexual abuse at the hands of  ‘the Smooth Man’. When the cd player becomes too much to bear, Jaspers remembers everything, and heads for his candyfloss boss.

Look at the size of that sausage...

Look at the size of that sausage…

Rebelling against his fate, Jaspers is despatched of, and safely stored six feet under.

Wings? Cape? Stained sheets?

Wings? Cape? Stained sheets?

Only the thing is, the moon is in conjunction with…something, and the stars have aligned with…summat else, reawakening the body of John Jaspers as the superhuman demon Faust! To quote the old Always Ultra ad – Now with Wings! That look disappointingly like some moth-eaten curtains found at the bottom of a recycling bin. The rest of his bare muscled body looks alright though…in the right light. Watch out, candyfloss Mephistopheles, he’s coming for you! And your cult of followers that seems to include everyone but slightly sleazy detective Dan Margolies (Combs).

Oh, wait...scrap that.

Oh, wait…scrap that.

The ropey wings are not the only low quality thing about Faust, unfortunately. The film suffers from a sprawling plot that involves far too many flashbacks, a host of characters with no explanation or grounding, and often seems more than a little confused. The usual disgusting effects of Yuzna don’t seem to bear any resemblance to the good work of his past filmic visions; they just seem revolting and occasionally shoddy.

Candyfloss Mephistopheles turns his treacherous concubine into a giant mammary gland

Candyfloss Mephistopheles turns his treacherous concubine into a giant mammary gland

Which would be entirely forgivable had I cared about – or maybe just known – what was going on. Or the women involved weren’t relegated to nothing more than vessels for sex or torture. Not just the women, I suppose. Margolies does get ripped apart by some giant hellbeast snake before birthing an even bigger snake; that can shoot lasers from a pentagram on its head. Or, wait, is said beast the product of candyfloss Mephistopheles ripping out his ex-concubine’s innards and trying to impregnate a virginal doctor who suddenly realizes the identity of her childhood abuser?

The smooth man...I'd have said 'slimy', but there you go.

The smooth man…I’d have said he’s more ‘slimy’, but there you go.

What the hell is going on? Have the planets aligned? Did they have enough sex? Have the gates of hell opened?
Why is everyone dead?

Candyfloss Mephistopheles's laser beast goes postal.

Candyfloss Mephistopheles’s laser beast goes postal.

Faust: Love of the Damned ultimately throws too much shit at the wall, and none of it sticks. It passed the time, but remained entirely forgettable. While it was still playing.

British sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones) is flown to Italy to work on sound effects for extreme supernatural horror film ‘Il Vortice Equestra’. In an unfamiliar setting – where not only location and working conditions are uncommon to what he is used to, but the film subject matter he is dealing with – Jones gives a great performance as a fish out of water, struggling to find his footing both in the oppressive surroundings of the studio and amidst the foreign culture.

"Room service? Take a fucking hike, mate."

“Room service? Take a fucking hike, mate.”

The people he has to work with for the most part prove to be unwilling to help him feel at home, the behaviour of some – particularly suave and predatory director Santini (Antonio Mancino) – serving to unsettle Gilderoy, and add to his unease. The only comfort he gets comes in the form of letters from home and his interactions with one of the actresses doing voiceover work. Statements of doom, possibly meant to be comedic, come from Santini and producer Francesco (Cosimo Fusco), intensifying Gilderoy’s nervousness.

This man knows how to make women scream...

This man knows how to make women scream…

“Come this way…don’t be afraid” is maybe not the best opening line to hear when walking in on a projector showing priests torturing supposed witches…

Equestrian school black magic peril, captured.

Equestrian school black magic peril, captured.

The magic of sound is fully explored within Berberian Sound Studio, an insight into how everything is put together makes for fascinating viewing. There are many things to amuse fans of Giallo horror: the black leather gloved hands of the otherwise unseen studio projectionist, nods to films such as Dario Argento’s ballet academy-set Suspiria, and cracking scene descriptions involving wonders such as undiscovered bodies in poultry tunnels and dangerously aroused goblins prowling dormitories.

The dangerously aroused goblin doesn't look so threatening in his turtleneck/sportscoat combo...

The dangerously aroused goblin doesn’t look so threatening in his turtleneck/sportscoat combo…

There are fantastic scene transitions, used to great effect in confusing the location of Gilderoy’s living arrangements. Does he live in an apartment out with the studio, or a mocked-up room right next door? These bring about a heightened sense of claustrophobia, where it appears that Gilderoy is not only mentally imprisoned by the film and the sound room, but perhaps physically imprisoned.

Gilderoy starts to unravel, like a reel of film falling from the projector.

Gilderoy starts to unravel, like a reel of film falling from the projector.

Unable to escape the horrific subject matter and atmosphere, Gilderoy becomes increasingly distressed, with the need to deliver the most terrifying of sound effects bringing about a change in his character. That we never see any footage of the film, with the exception of the opening titles, increases the power of the atrocious acts Gilderoy is viewing as he smashes aubergines, drowns cabbages, and rips the stalks from radishes with wild abandon. Symbolically cutting back to a vat of discarded and increasingly decaying vegetables, which mirror the crumbling psyche of Gilderoy, It’s not long before it all becomes too much, and the real becomes mixed with the imagined. Onscreen fiction enters Gilderoy’s waking life, and happenings at home infiltrate the celluloid.

The soundbooth virgin, struggling to scream.

The soundbooth virgin, struggling to scream.

For me to accurately pigeonhole Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio would be not only be a struggle, but would also be doing it a disservice. It’s a hypnotic mix of Giallo film history, culture clash and Lynchian nightmare. An uncanny and hallucinatory film phantasm. A ghost in the projector. It’s stunning.

Berberian Sound Studio is a bit of a masterpiece, and contains some of the best sound production out there, where the sound almost becomes a character itself, central to the whole story. A 20-strong sound team have worked audio alchemy with this film. The effects being worked on are of course a main feature of Berberian Sound Studio, but the incidental sounds – footsteps, typing, the dialling of a telephone, paper rustling, envelopes opening, the crawl of a spider – all seem turned up to the maximum volume. You become sensitive to everything you hear. The musical score echoes the unnerving soundtracks of many Italian horror films of the seventies, and adds so much to the atmosphere of the film. The sound effects, when coupled with expertly captured visuals – which often hark back to Giallo films themselves – and an outstanding central performance from Toby Jones, make the film a cinematic experience you can’t miss.

Some cabbages masquerading as DJ's. Banging.

Some cabbages masquerading as DJ’s. Banging.

The eerie, otherworldly sound of a UFO being produced from a simple lightbulb, over a slow tracking shot of vegetables illuminated by candlelight. Don’t think I’ve ever seen the friendly ‘five a day’ seem as creepy…

Opening with what appears to be an asteroid falling to earth, Jon Wright’s Grabbers doesn’t wait long before unleashing the scares and jumps. From fishermen being attacked at sea, to mutilated whales washing up on shore, it quickly becomes clear that all ain’t quite right with the waves around this tiny island…and that big sparkly fella falling from the sky? Definitely no asteroid.

Whales. Not usually the suicidal type.

Whales. Not usually the suicidal type.

Odd egg-like entities buried in the sand and strange creatures caught in lobster creels are only the beginning for island Garda Ciaran O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and temporary partner Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) when some squids from space get a thirst for human blood. Although they do seem rather averse to feasting on the blood of local alcoholic Paddy…

Chairs. Adequate method of defence when faced with a squirming, tentacled beastie?

Chairs. Adequate method of defence when faced with a squirming, tentacled beastie?

Previously kept at bay due to their need for water, all manner of daftness ensues when a storm hits, allowing the tentacled terrors to manoeuvre about freely on dry land. Holed up in the only pub on the island, O’Shea and Nolan – assisted by marine ecologist Dr Smith (Russell Tovey) and moonshine brewing Paddy – hatch a rather inspired and amusing ‘plan of action’ to fend off the marauding monsters. With nothing but booze to save them, it’s time to load the super soakers with vodka, and grab the Guinness before the only thing left is the crystalizing Crème de Menthe at the back of the cupboard.

Paddy imparts 40% volume wisdom on  Garda O'Shea. Proof that alcohol *can* save lives?

Paddy imparts 40% volume wisdom on Garda O’Shea. Proof that alcohol *can* save lives?

Coyle makes for a loveable shambles of a character, with he and Bradley forming a complementary double act of opposites as hard-drinking lawman O’Shea and uptight, by-the-book Nolan. Their dynamic and chemistry makes for some great dialogue and one-liners. The building of their working and personal relationship with each other is a highlight. Puts a warm glow in the heart that can only be matched by some of the meths in jar, sorry – moonshine, kicking about Paddy’s kitchen.

Jesus H. Cthulhu! What the fuck is that??

Jesus H. Cthulhu! What the fuck is that??

The alien CGI effects are professionally polished, the inhabitants of Erin island lovely, and the film mixes in the right balance of humour and peril. Grabbers is a cheery creature feature, with a hefty dose of charm. The world of horror could do with more of these lighthearted numbers populating it. This one is definitely a comedy horror that will have you reaching for the whisky on rainy evenings when something goes bump in the night…