Posts Tagged ‘Neil Marshall’

Two British directors and writers really standout for me in recent years, Neil Marshall (Dog Soldiers, Descent and Doomsday) and Christopher Smith (Creep, Triangle and Severance). Smith’s latest offering has left its mark with a blend of swords, Catholicism and Wicker. It was released the same year as Neil Marshall’s well advertised (on DVD & Blu-Ray) Centurion, sadly both missed a good theatrical run.

Here are my thoughts on them both and why one has an edge over the other…Black Death (2010)

Set in 1348 the Black Death is at it peak, however, one village appears to be immune to the plague. Ulric (Sean Bean) devoted Christian enlist the help of a Monk (Eddie Redmayne) to lead him and his men through dangerous lands to this unholy village where it is said the dead are being brought back to life.

With marshes, fog and mists across the lands it oozes atmosphere. The gritty realistic sets and settings are note worthy, everything looks authentic and aged, perfect for first outbreak of bubonic plague. There’s some great practical effects, cadavers, dismemberment’s and blood. The flights are finely choreographed and swordplay is raw and relentless as limbs are hacked off.

The latter part of the film slows down, building tension in the seemingly safe village, Smith’s develops the eerie strangeness of the rural superbly, reminiscent of the Wickerman (1973 & 2006), In the Name of the Rose (1986) and The Village (2004).

Although in fear of being typecast as another chain armoured soldier Bean gives a passionate and gripping performance, and newcomer Redmayne plays the confounded monk Osmund’s admirably. The supporting cast, even though another band mercenaries are memorable and the characters are developed. Comedy actor Tim McInnerny is satisfactory in an unusual serious role as the village head. There’s a notable cameo by David Warner as The Abbot. However, it’s Carice van Houten who steals the show as Langiva the striking necromancer.

There’s a little too much shaky hand held camera work at times, that aside the cinematography is first rate. Dario Poloni screenplay is the icing on the cake, as the dialogue feels authentic and unforced, compared to the aforementioned other period piece. It explores religious beliefs, faith, witch hunts, occultism and much more.

With low expectation’s for another period piece, I was pleasantly surprised by Smith’s vision. Certainly not perfect or the grandest film; however, it’s a gripping medieval, satanic mystery action that has a nice original twist at the end.

Centurion (2010)

Talented and left of the middle director Neil Marshall returns with a 117 A.D story of a group of Roman soldiers who must fight for their lives as they are hunted down by the Picts the savage, elusive and remorseless inhabitants of Northern Britain.

In the vein of Beowulf & Grendel (2005) 13th Warrior (1999) and of course Gladiator (2000), Centurion oddly missed a long running large screen release. It has an excellent diverse cast ensemble, including Olga Kurylenko, Imogene Poots, David Morrissey and the great Liam Cunningham. With excellent make-up design, costumes and fantastic breathtaking settings, it’s only hankered by some strained dialogue which lacks the conviction of that in the Black Death (2010).

Centurion is modest constructed period piece, there’s Etain (Kurylenko) and Michael Fassbender’s excellent performance as Quintus, violence, blood and decapitations. Supporting actors are the backbone with the likes of Axelle Carolyn and Dave Legeno to name a few but they are not given enough to do or say. You can forgive at times Ilan Eshkeri great, yet, at times intrusive theatrical score, as Marshall delivers some great set ups, action, the wolf hunt and ambush to name a few and Centurion grips you and creates tension like his unsurpassed earlier work.

There’s lots of atmosphere created by the location shoot and visually Marshall delivers. Blood and gore lovers will eat this up.

Well there we have it, what did you think?

After film 4/four’s restructure in 2002 my Ghost story script was left in development hell it a long story but with the reshaping of UK film Council it got me thinking about those modern day horror classics/Sci-fi classics.

If you look through the list of 100 Favorite British Films of the 20th Century you’ll see an eclectic mix the likes of A Clockwork Orange (1971), The Ipcress File (1965), Room With A View (1985), The Crying Game (1992), yada, yada, Doctor Zhivago (1965), Dr. No (1962), The 39 Steps (1935), Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and so on. You’ll be lucky to find any type of horror or Sci-fi (the norm’ with best of film lists) apart from possibly, The Wicker Man (1973) and Brazil (1985).

I’ve taken sometime away from writing since the release of Blood Hunger and put down some thoughts about British Directors Neil Marshall and Danny Boyle’s definitive Brit horror and Scifi’s.
Inspired by Orwellian tales, Hitchcock mixed with the likes of Louise Lawrence, Herbert George Wells? Influenced by George Miller and George A. Romero? Who know where the inspirations came from, some probably plucked from the air. One thing is for sure, I’m convinced these films will stand the test of time, more so than Nuns on the Run.

Danny Boyle’s 28 Day Later is the best mindless human being film since Romero’s zombie movies. It’s an exceptional horror film that follows a handful of survivors after an incurable virus spreads throughout the UK.

From the opening frantic scene that is quickly followed by the quiet empty deserted streets of London, you know your watching something different and fresh. Without detriment to the story there’s lots of gore and bloodshed. However, there’s also a lot of psychological terror happening and subtle character touches that make you feel for these people.
Outstanding writing by Alex Garland and a pulsating chilling score John Murphy adds to 28’s perfect tension, atmosphere and tone. The casting by Gail Stevens is faultless, it includes Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Christopher Eccleston in their best roles to-date. This is director Danny Boyle’s unnerving masterpiece. A perfect gritty horror, with a realistic scary premise. A must see.
It’s very rare that a sequel encapsulates the look and style of the original under s different director. However, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo successful takes over the reins from Danny Boyle.

In 28 weeks the US Army secure a small area of London for the survivors to repopulate and start again. The story is told from Don’s (Robert Carlyle) and his children point of view, exceptionally acted by Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton giving the film a grounded personal feel and Catherine McCormack is great a part of the supporting cast. Fresnadillo builds up the tension splendidly and keeps you on the edge to the final as the soldier played exceptionally by Jeremy Renner who tries to get the children to safety.

With excellent makeup, effects, great cinematography and a pulse pumping emotional strong score by John Murphy, it’s the perfect grounded horror film. A completely plausible worthy sequel that has possibly one of the greatest openings to horror thriller ever.

For many years Brit flick had become stale with numerous romcoms, comedies and gangster films. Dog Solider came at a turning point in British produced horror, made the same year as a flurry of effective horror/chillers including 28 Days Later and Deathwatch. Dog Soldiers follows a group of Army Soldiers who after finding the bloody remains of a Special Ops Squad take refugee in a farmhouse that becomes under siege by werewolf’s.

What stops Dog Soldiers from becoming B- movie fodder is the great script, story, lighting and effective practical effects of the werewolves that remain unseen for the most part.Writer/director Neil Marshall’s keen eyes deliver a witty, atmospheric, claustrophobic thrill-ride. There is a talented memorable cast of likable characters, including Wells (Sean Pertwee), Cooper(Kevin McKidd)and Ryan, (Liam Cunningham) who is excellent as the shifty Special Ops Captain. You care about and are rooting for the squadies, which gives this film an edge over other similar horrors.

The in jokes are subtle and it’s played serious.It’s a perfectly round werewolf film, packed with witticisms, action and blood. Dog Soldiers does what it says on the tin and more.

Doomsday is a solid sci-fi, with a strong cast including the talents of Adrian Lester, Bob Hoskins, Sean Pertwee and Rhona Mitra in her best role to date. A deadly plague has broken out and Scotland is walled off from the rest of the UK. Thirty years later, with the wall still up and the victims forgotten, the virus breaks out again in London. The Government decides to send a crack team of operatives over the wall to investigate the possibility of a cure as there are survivors.With hints of Mad Max, Resident Evil and Escape from New York it still has it’s own look and story-line.
The film admirably directed by Neil Marshall- who in my opinion hasn’t made a bad or uninteresting movie to date. The look is dark and gritty with some great, makeup, costumes, sets and locations. It’s also very bloody and violent with effective action scenes. Nevertheless, the medieval section featuring Malcolm McDowell doesn’t quite fit and is distracting beyond believe (however, you can see why Marshall has gone on to direct Centurion). After this hick-up it comes back on track with an amazing car chase and an enticing great ending that make you want a sequel.Packed with homages and its own look, Doomsday is an enjoyable sci-fi set in the not too distant future which keeps the film grounded and relevant.
Well that’s it folks, hope you enjoyed, hammer horror home!

Blood Hunger is out now.
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