Advertisements
    Advertisements
  • Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives









  • Awards & Nominations

  • Advertisements

Non-Review Review: Hold the Dark

“Do you have any idea what’s outside these windows? How black it gets?”

An enlightening piece of work.

In the American consciousness, the frontier is a haunted place.

In some ways, it is a concept distinct to the United States, at least in contrast to Europe. The boundaries within Europe were established centuries ago; although they might shift and bend, the contours of the continent have been known to the people who inhabited it for millennia. In contrast, to the settlers who arrived from Europe, the North American frontier was a mystery and an enigma. The frontier is distinct a border space. A border implies a point of collision that might be crossed, the neatly delineated boundary between one place and another.

Let Bisons be Bisons.

The frontier is something entirely different. It represents the edge of reason, and limit of what is knowable. To reach the end of the frontier is to reach the end of “the West.” In geographical terms, off the western shore of the North American continent lies “the East.” In more abstract terms, the American frontier is an imaginary space rather than a literal one. After all, Jeremy Saulnier’s previous film – Green Room – suggested that the frontier could be found somewhere  surprisingly close to urbanity, only a few hours away from the familiar comforts of Portland.

Hold the Dark takes place in a decidedly more remote environment, against the snow backdrops of Alaska. Saulnier goes to great lengths to illustrate the isolation of that environment, paying particular attention to how long it takes Russell Core to reach the small Alaskan town that serves as the starting point of the story before venturing out into the real wilderness. At another point, Vernon Slone stops by an old hostel on his travels. Asked for his point of origin, he’s informed that there was no road connecting the two places. “Not directly,” he clarifies.

Shedding some light on the matter.

As with the snow-covered western wilderness in Wind River, there is a sense that Hold the Dark unfolds against the very limit of the American frontier, at the point where the continent has ceased to provide for the settlers and instead has become something harsh and unforgiving. It is a place that has been settled by humans, but is perhaps untouched by humanity. If Green Room allowed Saulnier to explore the vipers coiled underneath familiar rocks, then Hold the Dark is a story about the animals that hunt at the very edge of civilisation.

Green Room was effectively a cynical and grim take on the familiar horror plot that warned of the dangers lurking off the backroads, just out of sight. Hold the Dark is the story of a hunt for a dangerous predator in a harsh environment. In both films, the monster looks very familiar.

Mask appeal.

Continue reading

Advertisements

95. Into the Wild (#180)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Jack Hodges, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT, with the occasional bonus episode thrown in.

This time, Sean Penn’s Into the Wild.

Christopher McCandless abandoned a comfortable middle-class life in pursuit of something greater. His search would take him across the United States, impacting the lives of those he met along the way. His search would eventually lead him into the Alaskan wilderness.

At time of recording, it was ranked the 180th best movie of all-time on the Internet Movie Database.

Continue reading

Millennium – Luminary (Review)

This May and June, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fifth season of The X-Files and the second season of Millennium.

Why is Frank Black still involving himself with the Millennium Group?

The second season of Millennium is a fantastically constructed piece of television, but there are a number of fundamental criticisms that can be leveled at this particular incarnation of the show. To some viewers, it is too much to watch the Millennium Group transformed from a consultancy firm in the style of the Academy Group into an ancient Christian cult obsessed with doomsday. Other fans may not be particularly fond of the surreal eschatology of the second season, finding it a bit more “out there” than stories about serial killers and more mundane evil.

Cooling off period...

Cooling off period…

However, there are fans who have difficulty reconciling the version of Frank Black presented in the second season with the iteration who appeared throughout the first season of the show. The second season gave Frank a fondness for Bobby Darin and a sense of humour, but the change is more fundamental than that. The moral and righteous Frank was a pillar of certainty in an uncertain world. To some fans, it seems strange that Frank would remain involved in the Millennium Group as their paranoia and cultish behaviour became more and more apparent.

In many respects, Luminary seeks to answer that question. The second of Chip Johannessen’s three scripts for the second season ranks among his very best work for the show and the very best of the show in general. Johannessen has admitted that he was a little frustrated with the direction that Glen Morgan and James Wong took the show in its second year, and that scepticism bleeds through into Luminary. It is also what makes Luminary so compelling. It is a story about how Frank Black has lost himself over the last half-season, and needs to find his way back.

Night lights...

Night lights…

Continue reading

The X-Files (Topps) #8-9 – Silent Cities of the Mind (Review)

This November (and a little of December), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the third season of The X-Files and the first (and only) season of Space: Above and Beyond.

Silent Cities of the Mind is a very “comic book” story – it’s a story that might easily seem outlandish or ridiculous if committed to film, but which works very well within its medium. After all, the plot centres around a bunch of ancient Aztec priests who built an elaborate underground city that could project itself above ground as a mirage. Indeed, the story seems to accept this as a given, with Scully instead spending most of the adventure questioning whether memories can be transmitted via cannibalism.

It’s a concept that could easily seem ridiculous, and it’s a testament to writer Stefan Petrucha and artist Charles Adlard that it works as well as it does. Silent Cities of the Mind is a decidedly pulpy adventure, but that lends the story an undeniable charm. It’s a story packed to the brim with clever and fascinating ideas – from ancient aliens to ritual cannibalism to hidden cities to crystal skulls. All this is crammed tightly into two issues, meaning that everything moves so fast there’s no real time to stop and nitpick it all.

It's all in the mind...

It’s all in the mind…

Mulder is negotiating with survivalists! There are memories transferred through the act of ritual cannibalism! Mulder and Scully are shot down over Alaska! Mulder is trapped with a cannibal! There’s a hidden Aztec city buried underground! Mulder has discovered ancient Aztec mythology! There’s an army rescue team that isn’t a rescue team! There’s a macguffin that allows its wearer to commune with the gods! There’s a stand-off!

It’s all rather exhausting, but in a fun and exciting sort of way. Silent Cities of the Mind is perhaps the best example of how Petrucha and Adlard were writing The X-Files as a comic book, positioning the show’s tropes and iconography within the framework of comic book conventions.

Bonfire of the vanities...

Bonfire of the vanities…

Continue reading

The X-Files – Ice (Review)

Now we’re talking. It’s been a tough couple of episodes, but The X-Files bounces back with a strong contender for the best episode of the first season. Like the last collaboration between Morgan and Wong, Ice is one gigantic homage to a classic horror film. (Well, two classic horror films.) Shadows took its cues from The Entity, while Ice draws heavily from both John Carpenter’s The Thing and Howard Hawk’s The Thing From Another World, both based on the  John W. Campbell Jr. novella Who Goes There?

However, Ice works a lot better than Shadows. Part of that is down to the fact that Morgan and Wong seem genuinely enthused and engaged with their premise, rather than simply painting by numbers. Part of this is also down to the fact that this sort of horror and paranoia is more firmly in the show’s wheelhouse than the generic “protective avenging ghost” narrative from Shadows.

Ear, ear!

Ear, ear!

Continue reading

Star Trek – The Return of the Archons (Review)

To celebrate the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness this month, we’ll be running through the first season of the classic Star Trek all this month. Check back daily to get ready to boldly go. It’s only logical.

It is really hard to believe that this is the first time we’ve really had one of these plots, with the Enterprise visiting an alien civilisation, meddling thoroughly and freeing the population from oppression. Of course, that’s probably because the universe seemed so vast an empty in the first few episodes. The only planets seemed to be either lifeless rocks or human colonies. From this point on, the galaxy is going to seem a whole lot busier.

Return of the Archons is a little bit like an expansion of the archetypal Star Trek plot established in What Are Little Girls Made Of? The Enterprise visits an alien world following up on the disappearance of Federation personnel. When they arrive, they discover sinister plans afoot involving evil artificial intelligences that plan on stomping out free will. Kirk promptly uses his humanity to talk the machines into destroying himself.

However, Return of the Archons deals with a whole civilisation trapped in the midst of this sinister robotic plot. Kirk and his crew aren’t strolling through an alien graveyard. This is a living, breathing society. And this is the first time that Kirk would save an entire civilisation.

Some men just want to watch the world burn...

Some men just want to watch the world burn…

Continue reading

Non-Review Review: 30 Days of Night

I really wanted to like 30 Days of Night. I’m a sucker for vampire films, and David Slade’s adaptation of the horror comic started off on all the right notes, with a rather ingenious central concept. After all, if you were a vampire, could you imagine a better hunting ground than a town that spends thirty days in absolute and complete darkness, isolated completely from the outside world? It’s a novel take, and one that really should be more interesting than the rather generic desaturated gore fest that it becomes.

In need of a reVamp?

Continue reading