Posts Tagged ‘gothic’

When music-hall star Elizabeth Cree is accused of poisoning her husband on the same night as the last of a series of ‘Golem murders’ Inspector Kildare discovers both cases maybe linked and sets about solving both crimes.

Based on an an adaptation of Peter Ackroyd’s 1994 murder mystery novel Dan Leno and the Limehouse Golem director Juan Carlos Medina offers an old-school Hammer-style horror anchored by performances by subtle Bill Nighy (who took up the reigns from the late Alan Rickman), Olivia Cooke (of Bates Motel), Eddie Marsan and Daniel Mays. But it’s Douglas Booth as Leno who steels the show.

All the familiar Gothic Victorian elements and crime story beats are there reminiscent of A Study in Terror and countless other yarns and clichés set in the period which are more than likely inherited from Ackroyds source material. Set on the unforgiving, squalid streets of Victorian London in 1880, Jane Goldman’s script captures the Lizzy Borden and Jack the Ripper talk of the time, but where 2015’s comparable Frankenstein Chronicles series had a filmactic feel this is sorely lacking in Limehouse Golem given it’s made for TV look despite a theatrical release. That said the costumes, makeup and music are spot on as Nighy’s Kildare goes effortlessly about piecing the case together aided by some bloody flashbacks and spectres in his mind. There’s a little nihilistic twist which peaks interest showing that the conscious of life isn’t black and white especially when it comes to work politics, promotion and fame.

Overall, it has some gruesome elements and while it may not work as a whodunit reaching heights of In the Name of the Rose, Agatha Christie or a Sherlock Holmes mystery it satisfies as an unconventional immersive period piece in the vain of countless Ripper-like outings. Worth checking out even if for Booth’s memorable performance.

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Founded in 1934, Hammer Film Productions is best known for a series of Gothic “Hammer Horror” films made from the mid-1950s until the 1970s – notably a series of Dracula films that started in 1959 featuring Christopher Lee.
Although one of my favorites Hammer films is Countess Dracula (1971) many of earlier Hammer films were quiet formulaic and as well as Dracula included other iconic horror characters, The Mummy (1959) The Curse of the Werewolf (1961), The Curse of Frankenstein (1957). That said Hammer produced a variety of other sub-genre films and in later years TV series. During its most successful years Hammer dominated the horror film market, enjoying worldwide distribution and financial success.
But all good things come to an end… Due to the saturation of the horror market by competitors and the loss of some international funding it forced changes to the Hammer-formula, with varying degrees of success. The company eventually ceased production in the mid-1980s and in 2000 the studio was bought by a consortium with the company announcing plans to begin making films again, however none were produced.
In May 2007, the company was sold again and new owners announced plans to spend money on new horror films and did with a bang. Their hit success Let me In (2010) was a remake of Let the Right One In and due to the source material and the movie template already set Let me In arguably couldn’t fail.
Regardless of Hammers ups and downs their films contain a unique charm and atmosphere with iconic imagery that you can’t help retain. Here are few thoughts on Hammer’s The Resident (2010) and Wake Wood (2011 film). No doubt I’ll update this with The Woman in Black (2011) their most recent production soon.

The Resident (2010)

Dr. Juliet Devereau rents an apartment in New York, large and affordable, but the owner Max begins to want more than just rent.

Director Antti Jokinen doesn’t glamorise New York showing the older side of the city and keeps things moving with plenty of cuts and naturalistic lighting. The music adds some tension to the on screen proceedings to what is essentially a stalker/ voyeur thriller.
The cast includes a seasoned and accomplished cast including Hilary Swank, Christopher Lee as the creepy building owner August and his son Max played excellently by Watchmen’s (2009) Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan is first rate as the deranged obsessive weirdo and the casting of Swank as Devereau avoids the teen slasher cliché. Amougnst the spy-holes, secret doors and cavity walkways of the apartment it’s great to see Lee in a contemporary role albeit small.
Anyone familiar with Single White Female (1992) or Pacific Heights (1990) will have an inkling what their in for. The Resident is a small tight thriller that has few surprises, yet, it’s keeps you watching due to Swank’s allure, the simplistic premise and Morgan’s craziness.
Overall, nothing new, but maybe disturbing for many due to themes of intrusion and privacy being violated.
As a fan of Hammer horror, with a few of their many films being a spiritual inspiration for my book Blood Hunger, Hammer sent me a brand new copy and I thought it rude not to say a few words on the iconic studios latest offering Wake Wood...

Blood Hunger

Following the unnecessary, yet excellent remake Let me in Hammer returns with Wake Wood a supernatural chiller in which a child is brought back from the dead to comfort her parents for three days. But she’s not quite the angelic child she was.

Eva Birthistle plays the grieving mother Louise and Twelve Rounds (2009) bad guy Adian Gillen is exceptional as the deceased child’s father. Reliable Timothy Spall and the child actress are notable and the supporting cast are solid.
There’s some effective bloody gore, grizzly births, severed spines, dog attacks and killings. Some supernatural elements take place out of shot to avoid the use of CGI, which adds to the believability and saves the budget.
Wake Wood is dark, damp and dreary just as it should be. Nevertheless, it is slightly stifled by a filmed for TV look. That aside, with a small budget director David Keating keeps the blood flowing and the pace going. It benefits in plausibility and atmosphere with an on location shoot. There’s plenty of shadows, eerie music, sharp editing and a grounded screen-play (by Brendan McCarthy) to keep you watching with a grin that Hammer may have a place in this century.

Wake Wood [Blu-ray]

With elements of Don’t Look Now, Case 39, Carrie, The Wicker Man and Pet Cemetery to name a few you could argue it’s all be done before and better. However, Wake Wood’s great ending debatably leaves you thinking sometimes less is more.

If you’re a horror fan or have an interest in history you’ve most likely heard of Elizabeth Bathory. There’s been many films that incorporates the legend including Countess Dracula (1970) to recent teen supernatural slasher Stay Alive (2006). I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see a version that had originally cast Bond Girl baddie Famke Janssen as Báthory... Replaced by Brit chick talent, London Boulevards Anna Friel.
FAMKE JANSSEN 24x36 COLOR POSTER PRINTThis story follows the rise and fall of one of history’s most prolific serial killers, Countess Báthory who supposedly bathed in virgins blood to stay youthful.
This is a comprehensive fictionalised TV version directed and written by Juraj Jakubisko with mixed production values in both tone and atmosphere. The setting is fantastic and breathtaking, however, the exterior scenes lack the Gothic feel that the interiors have.
As a TV film, in several parts, the Monks narration and involvement arguably fits, however, as a film it may have benefited from the omission of the character entirely. You’ll also either love or hate the involvement of painter Caravaggio. Historical inaccuracies aside and the unnecessary humour injected usually by the monk, this incarnation of the legend is very interesting and adds food for thought to the tale of Báthory. In addition, it gives an interesting portrayal of politics,religion and royalty.

Anna Friel is fantastic as the miss-judged Erzsébet Báthory and gives a wonderful performance, full of range and emotional depth. It’s not all out horror, a possible nod to Ingrid Pitt in Countess Dracula. Co-Star Karel Roden is on top form as Juraj Thurzo and Vincent Regan is notable. The supporting cast do just that. The principle characters have strong motivations for their actions and the morale choices are at times shades of grey.

Bathory [Blu-ray]It’s not without its faults but there’s a handful of interesting dream and hallucination sequences and enough twists on the tale to keep you watching. This coupled with some fine locations, costumes and performances makes Bathory worth your time.