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Non-Review Review: Radioactive

This film was seen as part of the Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival 2020. Given the high volumes of films being shown and the number of reviews to be written, these may end up being a bit shorter than usual reviews.

The life of Marie Curie is fascinating. Radioactive is not.

Curie is easily one of the great figures of the twentieth century, a scientist who changed the way in which mankind fundamentally understood the workings of the universe. That is no small accomplishment, and there is plenty of dramatic fodder to be found in her personal life; the manner in which she was marginalised by the scientific community because of her gender, her complicated relationship with Pierre Curie, even the tabloid scandal that defined so much of her later life. There are any number of interesting angles through which a biopic might approach Curie.

Unfortunately, Radioactive is greedy. Jack Thorne’s screenplay doesn’t just want to encompass the totality of Curie itself, the script hopes to offer something close to a cinematic biography of radiation itself. There is no doubt that Radioactive is ambitious, with director Marjane Satrapi even trying to break up scenes of exposition with helpful cinematic illustrations of the concepts under discussion. However, there is simply too much to cover. Radioactive struggles to maintain a consistent throughline, often feeling like a bullet point summary of Curie’s Wikipedia page rather than a compelling narrative of itself.

Radioactive could use some refining.

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The X-Files – The Host (Review)

This August (and a little of September), we’re taking a trip back in time to review the second season of The X-Files. In November, we’ll be looking at the third season. And maybe more.

The Host and Little Green Men represent a fantastic one-two punch combination to open the second season of The X-Files. It’s very hard to think of two back-to-back standalone stories that most effectively sum up the show, capturing a lot of what makes the series so beautifully compelling and enduring. The two episodes are also quite surprising. It feels strange that Chris Carter didn’t write Little Green Men, given the importance of the premiere to the show. However, in light of that, it also feels strange that Carter did write The Host.

Working on The X-Files, Carter tends to gravitate towards “event” episodes. His name is frequently seen on episodes that push the show forward – in multiple senses. Carter is the architect of the show’s grand mythology, so his name pops up quite frequently on those scripts. However, Carter is also prone to write occasional “big” episodes of a given season. He wrote and directed The Post-Modern Prometheus and Triangle, for example, two of the more unique and distinctive episodes of the fifth and sixth seasons.

Through the looking glass...

Through the looking glass…

So, seeing Chris Carter’s name on the first “monster-of-the-week” of the new year rather than the all-important season premiere feels a little strange – particularly since The Host is an episode that seems a lot less ambitious than Little Green Men. After all, Little Green Men depicted Samantha Mulder’s abduction, revealed the show’s aliens and tried to make Vancouver look like Puerto Rico. In contrast, The Host is about an overgrown mutant worm.

And yet, perhaps that’s the point. The second season of The X-Files was a massively important year for the show. Along with the Fox Network itself, this was the year that The X-Files defined its own identity and really began to aggressively carve out a niche. The show did not make the top 100 shows of the 1993-1994 season, but almost reached the top 50 shows of the 1994-1995 season. That’s a meteoric rise, and the second season is very ruthlessly refining itself.

X marks the spot...

X marks the spot…

To describe The Host as a simple “monster-of-the-week” is to miss the point entirely. The show doesn’t exist yet another entry in a genre that the show established during its first year on the air. Instead, The Host is clearly constructed to be the monster-of-the-week episode. It’s an hour of television that is designed to get a reaction, to push buttons, to get people talking. This is an episode squarely aimed at anybody who heard the buzz over the summer hiatus and wanted to see what the fuss was about.

It works very well in this capacity. There is a reason that The Host as endured as a classic episode of The X-Files, packed with all manner of iconic and memorable imagery. Chris Carter constructed The Host as an example of what The X-Files does very well – and it’s a piece of science-fiction horror that sticks with people. It’s incredibly hard to forget. And that’s the beauty of it.

A monster mash-up...

A monster mash-up…

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Chernobyl Causes: At What Point Exploitation?

This week sees the release of The Chernobyl Diaries, a horror film from producer Oren Peli, the filmamker who gave us the superb Paranormal Activity. However, I can’t help wonder if it is a little “too soon”for a horror based around the nuclear disaster that occurred in the Ukraine in 1986. It has been over a quarter of the century since disaster occurred, and yet I’d be lying if there wasn’t a faint sense of exploitation around the film, which sees a bunch of kids (American, naturally) touring the site of the catastrophe and uncovering all manner of unpleasantness. Still, it isn’t the only exploitation horror ever made, and I can’t help but wonder when a subject is or isn’t fair game.

Real-life horror…

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