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Non-Review Review: Upgrade

On a very fundamental level, Upgrade understands the anxieties that drive body horror.

Body horror is largely rooted in the grotesque realisation that human bodies are little more than machines made of meat. After all, every student who has studied biology understands the mechanics of the human body; the processes that drive it, the structures that hold it together, the logic by which it operates. The nerve endings that relay signals from the furthest region of the body back to the brain, the synapses that fire within the brain. Described in such cold and rational terms, human consciousness becomes a mystery, a piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit. Software we don’t understand running on wet hardware.

What the neck is going on?

More than that, human bodies are inefficient machines. They are soft and squidgy, held together by tendons and muscles stretched over bones built of calcium and hinges filled with synovial fluid. The human body impressive feats of engineering from an evolutionary perspective, through the mere fact that it exists, albeit more vulnerable than the architecture or the mechanics of the world designed by human beings. Bodies can easily be bent and broken, warped and distorted. They can be attacked in so many ways, and fall into disrepair with such ease. They are unreliable, and very difficult to fix.

Upgrade understands that body horror thrives at the intersection of these twin anxieties; the nightmarish uncertainty of how human consciousness fits within the mechanics of basic biology, and the realisation that the human body would never pass basic health and safety standards for any complex piece of machinery. Upgrade wonders what happens when that machine made of meat receives an update to its operating system.

An impressive body of work.

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Non-Review Review: Devil

Devil actually has a pretty interesting B-movie premise, evoking the sort of cheesy thrill of an eighties horror. Six strangers are trapped inside an elevator… and one of them might be Satan. It’s a fairly straight-forward idea, albeit one that the script and direction needlessly complicate and convolute as they attempt to fill up the seventy-seven minutes. In many ways, Devil feels like something of a classic horror throwback, a simple high concept that relies on occasionally overstated jump scares rather than gratuitous gore or carnage. It’s not necessarily the best representation of the genre, but – if you can suspend your disbelief and live with the overwrought corniness – it’s an affectionate old-fashioned homage.

And things were just looking up…

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