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28 Days Later

dir: Danny Boyle
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An amazing film, on a number of levels. The most amazing fact is undeniably the redemption of Danny Boyle and his crew. It’s a touching tale of intellectual rags to riches to rags and then hopefully back to riches. It’s also the kind of story all too common with young ‘cool’ film makers who compete with each other to find new ways of fucking up as their careers progress from the ènfant terrible stage to the illustrious ‘sellout’ stage. Starting off with the low key Shallow Grave, he and his people established themselves as being capable of producing a decent, nasty film with believable characters acting believably nasty towards each other as situations moved from bad to worse.

With Trainspotting these bastards upped the ante substantially, making a film as compelling and, dare I say it, fun as it was repellent. With a soundtrack that became a mainstay on the radio station I listened to and on the stereo at every party, bar and club that I frequented at the time, it was a fiendishly inventive urban nightmare, speaking to the uglier corners of our natures and the natures of people we don’t want to bump into on a Saturday night: it has been continually imitated but seldom matched by a multitude of pretenders in the years that have followed.

Hannibal

dir: Ridley Scott
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I'm here to tell you that there is a new contender for shittest film of the new year all ready, if not the decade. Hannibal is simply the dumbest film I've seen since primary school. The horror flick Fright Night on Channel 10 last night had a more coherent, intelligent plot. Hell, I've seen pornos that had better character development, plot machinations and more credibility than this load of old cobblers.

Many people don't actually know this, but Hannibal is a special effects heavy film, like Ridley Scott's last film, Gladiator. Except in this film, instead of using CGI for images of the Colosseum, Rome at the peak of its glory, or nasty tigers on chains, the CGI is used to depict Anthony Hopkins, because that can't be the same actor I've seem in other great performances for the longest time. He looked and acted as fake as the mechanical shark in the Jaws films.

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Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom

He's really not a nice chap

dir: Michael Powell

1960

Peeping Tom is a first of sorts. It’s not the first flick about a serial killer, nor about voyeurism, nor about the killing of prostitutes.

But it’s one of the first flicks I can think of that has a character study of a sociopath with something of an explanation of how and why he does the things he does. And, oddly enough, it’s a sympathetic portrayal.

It starts with a first person point of view, where we are to understand that the camera is a character itself. He or she, we don’t know yet, approaches an old boiler of a prostitute, who squawks that whatever it is that they’re referring to, it’ll be “two quid”. She leads him up some stairs to a slum-like room, and she looks as excited by the prospect of servicing another punter as she does about filling out her next tax return.

But then the scene starts to turn odd, as we realise that the first person perspective, isn’t the person themself, but someone holding a camera as he hired the woman and followed her to her room. When she starts freaking out, we realise that whoever is doing whatever to her is also filming it.

Later we get to watch the scene again as he filmed it, and plays it back to himself on his projector, as he watches the scene with a barely restrained passion, and rises up out of his seat climactically when the crucial moment is reached.

Is this some sick shit or what?

The identity of the killer is hardly a mystery. We begin spending time with him in his messed-up world right from the start. Mark Lewis (Karlheinz Böhm) has the googly eyes and sweaty discomfort of Peter Lorre reincarnated with more hair and a matinee idol tan. For those of you too young or ignorant to know who the legendary Peter Lorre is, he’s famous for playing these almost supernaturally odious characters in flicks like The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca. His appearance alone and his halting German accent marked him as an accomplished actor who was never going to be playing a good guy character.

Coincidentally, Mark has a strong German accent as well, but no-one really mentions it. It reminds me of the classic scene in trashfest Universal Soldier, where the love interest asks the character ably and masterfully played by Jean Claude Van Damme “What’s your accent?” to which he of course responds, “What accent?”

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American Psycho

American Psycho

You're one scary individual, Christian Bale

dir: Mary Harron

2000

The book that no-one thought could (or should) be made into a film finally has been, and thank the lords above that uber-hack Oliver Stone or pretty boy Leonardo “Credibility” DiCaprio, both initially rumoured to be interested, were not involved in this particular production. Whether it is a successful film and / or adaptation depends on three factors, only two of which depend on your opinion of the book. If someone is an overwhelming fan of the book, apart from possibly requiring anti-psychotic medication, it is quite likely that they will like the film, as the dialogue and the lack of plot are taken verbatim from the book.

The film is a very faithful, some might say almost timid adaptation of the book. Anyone hating the book obviously is a moron for watching the film expecting anything different. The most damning condemnation of the film that I’ve heard was simply that the film is boring, with no point, and an unpleasant way to waste 2 hours. It’s hard to disagree with that kind of logic.

The most horrific excesses of the book are effectively excised, and thankfully so, more due to the fact that even in the book alone the sheer catalogue of repetitive murder and torture simply becomes tedious rather than shocking. Apart from that, the fact remains many of those occasions are unfilmable in a non- snuff, non-X rated film. I am referring to sequences involving decapitated heads carried around on engorged genitalia, pipes, rats, and the human body, child murder, nailgunning, et bloody cetera. After a while it holds all the mystery and inventiveness of a casual perusal of your local phone book. The film avoids the same trap by having a sparing use of gratuitous violence except in those non-key scenes designed to show how much of a psychopath our protagonist, Patrick Bateman, truly is.

Our hero is young, handsome, intelligent, wealthy, and a worthwhile member of society with a large social circle of people unremarkably identical to himself. Except for the fact that he seems to have a tremendous appreciation for random acts of senseless brutality and the wholesale butchery of large numbers of clueless people, predominately women. The film is somehow ambiguous as to whether these constant exercises in murder actually occur, or whether they are confined only to his demented imagination. It is arguable either way, but certain elements from the book are used to establish this in the film, taking on a different significance than was initially intended.

Bateman speaks to us at film’s beginning, telling us that he is simply “not there”. He sees himself as a shell, a cipher, incapable of feeling or expressing a single genuine emotion. He seems to fit in perfectly on a social level, but has a constant awareness that he does not really exist to any more fundamental a level than his physical appearance. We are intended to see his murderous intentions as an expression of this complete lack of a soul, beyond morality or any other considerations, reaching to fill the abyss inside with some sensation from torturing and murdering others.

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