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Non-Review Review: Without Name

This film was seen as part of the Audi Dublin International Film Festival 2017.

Without Name is a stunningly confident theatrical debut from director Lorcan Finnegan.

In theory, Without Name belongs that long-standing environmental horror genre, the fear that nature exists in opposition to mankind and that human beings are ultimately a hostile species not welcome in their surroundings. There are all manner of variations in that classic horror set-up, but it bubbles through any number of classic horror films, from The Shining to Jaws to The Birds. There is a recurring fear that the world is not a welcoming place for mankind, and that the wilderness might one day rebel against mankind’s desire to tame it.

If you go down to the woods today...

If you go down to the woods today…

Without Name takes that familiar premise and puts a uniquely Irish spin on it, distinguishing its own set of anxieties from those felt by the European Settlers in the United States or even those disconnected from their pagan roots in the United Kingdom. Without Name draws heavily upon the Western European pagan spirituality that informs films like The Wicker Man or A Field in England, but weds it to unique Irish anxieties about property and ownership that reflect both long-standing uncertainties and modern fears.

The result is a delightfully weird little environmental horror that feels very much of its time and place, a credit to its first-time director.

Sleep well...

Sleep well…

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Millennium – The Wild and the Innocent (Review)

This February and March, we’re taking a trip back in time to review the fourth season of The X-Files and the first season of Millennium.

The Wild and the Innocent is an ambitious piece of television.

It is not a piece of television that works as well as it might, the execution of the central ideas leaving a little to be desired, but it is an episode that commits whole heartedly to something unique. In I Want to Believe, Robert Shearman refers to The Wild and the Innocent as “a plot more suited to Cormac McCarthy than Chris Carter.” He’s not wrong. The Wild and the Innocent is a story about cycles of violence and abuse in the American south, a grim road movie with some very harsh conclusions about the way that the world works.

That sinking feeling...

That sinking feeling…

It still fits within the milieu of Millennium. After all the classic “serial killer road movie” is still a serial killer story, and Millennium has already carved out that niche for itself. However, the image of Frank Black and Peter Watts following a trail of bodies from Missouri down through Arkansas suggests a different show than the one that has been airing since The Pilot. In many respects – with its heavy philosophical voice-over, its country-tinged soundtrack, its fixation on the outlaw couple – The Wild and the Innocent feels almost like some old American folk tale.

There’s something decidedly old-fashioned here, with the episode playing more like a western than a police procedural. In the documentary Order in Chaos, Carter described Frank Black as character from a story “like Shane, like any cowboy, any good movie, Western movie.” As such, he fits in quite comfortably with this new type of story.

Road warrior...

Road warrior…

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The X-Files (Topps) Digest #1 – Big Foot, Warm Heart (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.

It is very odd to think that The X-Files has never done an episode about Bigfoot, perhaps America’s most recognisable and iconic mythological figure.

Perhaps there’s a reason for this. The show did a Bigfoot-type creature early in its first season, with The Jersey Devil. The fifth episode of the first season, The Jersey Devil helped to solidify the impression that The X-Files was better at abstract horrors than familiar monsters. It is not too difficult to imagine that the production team looked at The Jersey Devil and decided that Bigfoot was unlikely to be a runner.

Here there be monsters...

Here there be monsters…

Still, the show has waded into cryptozoology on occasion – with somewhat mixed results. Quagmire featured the agents hunting a mysterious reptile in a rural lake. When the show had to relaunch itself during the eighth season, Scully and Doggett bonded over their pursuit of a giant bat-like creature in Patience, the first standalone episode within that new status quo. Even Bigfoot was frequently referenced and cited. Most obviously, the final montage of Jose Chung’s “From Outer Space” suggests that Mulder treats the Roger Patterson footage as an almost holy text.

Perhaps it’s appropriate, then, that Mulder and Scully would come face to face with Bigfoot in the pages of the licensed tie-in, as part of the “digest” that Topps released at the end of their first year publishing the comic.

Eye see...

Eye see…

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Non-Review Review: Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf is quite possibly the single strangest werewolf movie I have ever seen. I would love to have been a fly-on-the-wall at that pitch meeting:

Teen movies are all the rage this year, sir.

And werewolf films have been trending up since The Howling.

Now if there were only some way to combine the two.

As the name implies, Teen Wolf is the story of a teenager who discovers that he has hair in places where he didn’t have hair before. Lots of places. The film does an… interesting job using a conventional movie monster as an exploration of teenage “otherness”, and I actually like the film’s second act is completely off-the-wall, but even the considerable charisma of Michael J. Fox isn’t quite enough to salvage a muddle mix of eighties clichés, knock-off eighties theme songs, and confusion about the movie’s rather basic “be yourself” metaphor.

Scott’s attempt to grow a beard has gone horribly wrong…

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