Review: Halloween

 

DIR: David Gordon Green • WRI: David Gordon Green, Danny McBride, Jeff Fradley • DOP: Michael Simmonds • ED: Timothy Alverson • DES: Richard A. Wright • PRO: Malek Akkad, Laura Altmann, Bill Block, Jason Blum • MUS: Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel A. Davies • CAST: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak

 

What has happened to our fresh-faced franchises that filled us with hope? Has Father Time turned us all into cynics? I don’t know to be quite frank, but I couldn’t think of any other way of segueing into my observation that David Gordon Green’s Halloween is only the second time that we have recently encountered an L. S. who has become embittered, misanthropic and estranged from their community in a remote hermitage (although this time it’s not off the west coast of Ireland) decades after the last time we saw them. Laurie Strode/Luke Skywalker – coincidence? Yeah, probably.

It’s forty years since the infamous Haddonfield murder spree in which Michael Myers murdered Laurie Strode’s friends and forced her to fight for her life. Jamie Lee Curtis and Nick Castle have returned to reprise their roles, with James Jude Courtney performing Myers’ stunts. Still under lock and key, Myers is soon to be transferred to a new, more secure, institution. He has refused to utter a word in four decades, much to the curiosity of Dr. Ranbir Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), successor to the now deceased Dr. Loomis, and the frustration of the investigative journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) that have come to interview him. Unable to gain any insight, the journalists turn instead to Laurie who is almost as tight-lipped about the events. Recognising the significance of the upcoming date and his transfer, Laurie attempts to impress the seriousness of the situation onto her family – her estranged daughter, Karen (Judy Greer), and granddaughter Alyson (Andi Matichak).

The new instalment is at its most interesting when examining the trauma that Laurie has battled with throughout her adult life. The echoes of the ongoing #MeToo movement can be seen as Curtis plays her elusive “final girl” as a battle-hardened survivor who has had to sacrifice relationships in order to maintain her grip on the world around her.

Returning to the franchise that spawned the slasher genre, it would perhaps be difficult to avoid meta commentary, and Green chooses to address the wider mythos of the franchise head on. Laurie and Myers’ siblingship, which was a revelation at the end of Halloween 2 and was felt to be a misstep by Carpenter himself – who has returned as creative adviser – has been retconned (something which the movie rushes to make clear). The film also seems to be rejecting the notion that Myers’ actions can ever be understood: lampooning the current obsession in popular culture for true crime, the two investigative journalists prove more interested in provoking Myers and Laurie than documenting them.

While there is lots to admire in the latest instalment, certain aspects also feel a little undercooked. Thanks to a lot of shifting in focus, the film takes a long time to find its feet. The central premise is compelling and makes for a suspense-filled romp, with the inevitable final showdown between Laurie and Michael both chilling and thrilling. Both the directorial team and the protagonist make great use of Laurie’s survivalist retreat, employing metallic shutters to slowly close down extraneous rooms, reducing the space between hero and villain as it draws towards the film’s inevitable conclusion. Yet one almost wishes that this compartmentalising could have started sooner, quite simply because other aspects of the movie feel somewhat tacked-on and insubstantial. Several set-pieces appear to be there as call-backs to the original film, and in particular Allyson’s high-school storyline could be removed wholesale while retaining the same plot. There’s certainly an argument to be had that Halloween is paying homage to what has come before it with these elements, but one also can’t help wondering if they couldn’t just be a bit more ambitious or creative while doing so.

Overall Halloween is certainly worth a watch for horror fans. In particular the excellent en media res suburban scenes of trick-or-treaters blithely skipping past Michael Myers as he goes murdering from house to house are a great call-back to the original movie and still highly evocative. There is plenty of tension and terror to be found: from the get-go, the opening credits are a stark reminder of just how spine-chilling Carpenter’s score is even four decades on, and Michael Myers unrelenting pace and cold-blooded killing still disturbs. So give yourself a treat this Halloween, and go see this bag of tricks.

Sarah Cullen

106 minutes
18 (see IFCO for details)
Halloween is released 19th October 2018

 

 

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13 Excellent Horror Films You May Not Have Seen

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Kevin Shields, who writes about all things abhorrent at the wonderful horrorthon.com, gives us 13 reasons to stay in over this Halloween weekend to confront our fears and stare evil in the eye…

 

The list consists of 13 films that either fell under the radar recently or are just classics that are bastard hard to find and may not have been seen by casual horror viewers. Most, if not all, horror aficionados will know these films for sure. This is simply a list to give them a bit more popularity because I believe they should definitely be seen!

 

13. Pontypool (2008) – Dir. Bruce McDonald

Pontypool

This Canadian gem takes the zombie genre to a world it’s never been to before. Stephen McHattie plays a DJ who, along with some of his co-workers and a few strangers, gets trapped in his radio station on a cold, snowy night, fighting off hoards of what are seemingly the undead!

Alas, I can’t say anymore about it because it would spoil it but this is a delightful romp with a few silly but somewhat creepy moments. McHattie is always a pleasure to watch. In some ways reminiscent of The Thing, but that might be the snowy atmosphere. Great violent fun too. Very clever story that some people didn’t seem to enjoy, but that’s their loss!

 

12. The Borderlands (2013) – Dir. Elliot Goldner

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This British found footage masterpiece is quite literally brand new to DVD so it might seem unfair to include it. But considering it got dick-all cinema time it’s only fair to put it here.

It follows three men on a mission to debunk a religious miracle in a church that took place in the back arse of nowhere in the south of Britain. One is a hardened veteran in the world of debunking myths and miracles, one is a techy there to document everything that goes on and the last is a priest who is also there to debunk said miracle. Little do they know, the horrors down there appear to be real and bring them on a hellish journey beyond their expectations!

Mostly shown through POV head cams, this film truly brings you into the world of terror, making it one of the only found footage movies to send chills down your spine and have you right on the edge of your seat. Even Mark Kermode was uncomfortable watching this, in the best way possible! Brilliantly executed and though it was much better in a cinema than at home, it still absolutely holds up. The atmosphere, effects and pacing are all tremendous. Definitely keep the volume up loud! It’s not often I give found footage movies very high praise but this deserves it.

 

11. Them [Ils] (2005) – Dir. David Moreau & Xavier Palud

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In this French skin-crawler, a school teacher and her husband relax in their massive estate in Bucharest only to be terrorized through the night by murderous, hooded psychopaths.

With an infuriating American remake on the way and a big inspiration for The Strangers in 2008, this film should definitely be more known! Sadly it’s not. It is one of the finest horrors of the 00’s and I reckon it should be plastered around everywhere so people can get to see it! One of the few films that relies 100% on atmosphere and intensity. The sound design and digital style make this all the more intense, each scene has you guessing and the fact it’s based on true events makes it all the more chilling. A prime example of less is more.

 

10. The House of The Devil (2009) – Dir. Ti West

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Ti West takes us back in time to 1983 in this legitimately 80s-looking modern-retro horror masterpiece. A young college student, desperate to make quick money to afford the deposit on her own home, takes a babysitting job way out in the middle of nowhere, unaware that the house owners have sinister satanic intentions.

This film is literally like watching a truly old school horror, you would swear it was lost in the archives and only recovered now (‘sorta like Miami Connection, only this doesn’t have the same rectum-tingling action). This is truly old school with its slow, atmospheric pacing and build up to insane horrific madness. They got absolutely every aspect of 80s horror down to a T. Music, cinematography, costume design, make-up and especially, the gore. No CGI bollocks here, true bloody violence. To add an even more retro feel, the whole film was shot on 16mm film and was released on VHS as a rare special edition. A very overlooked film and the best of Ti West’s career so far! Though he’s done some garbage lately, The Sacrament was a delightful step up!

 

9. Deadbeat At Dawn (1988) – Dir. Jim Van Bebber

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A true hidden gem of 80s trash here. Jim Van Bebber’s debut took him 4 years to make and though it’s not strictly a horror film, it definitely deserves a place on this list with it’s horrific violence and about 20 mins of psychedelic nightmares. Jim Van Bebber plays Goose, the leader of “The Raven’s”. When his girlfriend is brutally killed by the leader of “The Spiders”, he goes on a a nun-chuck wielding revenge spree, taking out everyone involved in her murder with vicious results!

This film is basically every action story I used to make with my Corps. & Action Man toys years ago. Insanely violent, high flying, martial-arts madness. (Perhaps I should have had therapy). Whatever about it looking cheap and being cheesy, this is a quality action film… and loose horror. Van Bebber is actually really convincing in it and actually did all of the fight scenes insanely well. This is a film I recommend film-makers watch because there’s so many simple and effective techniques in it! They’re also hilarious. It’s as trashy and violent as they come and not NEARLY as well known as it should be.

 

8. Tony (2009) – Dir. Gerard Johnson

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Another British gem here that plays out more like an intense drama than a horror but trust me, it’s seriously grim! Tony is a quiet, lonely, mild mannered man who loves to collect violent 80s action films and wanders the streets in search of love. But finding love proves difficult as he is a brutal serial killer, preying on junkies, gay men and possibly children?

This is a tremendously bleak horror film, it’s shot in the grimiest parts of London and feels like watching a Ken Loach film with a serial killer. The acting is totally believable all the way through and some of the things he does are absolutely psychotic. Channeling a bit of Otis Driftwood in The Devil’s Rejects with his sleeping habits… There is a lot of love for this film among the horror community but the average horror viewer may have missed this one. Definitely worth seeking out!

 

7. The Ordeal [Calvaire] (2004) – Dir. Fabrice Du Welz

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Another slice of French madness here. A travelling singer’s van breaks down in the middle of nowhere in Belgium. A strange man comes to the rescue and invites him back to a small B&B, where the landlord promises to change his van battery for him. Unbeknownst to him, the landlord has a much more sinister plan in mind. Cue schizophrenia, botched hair cuts & nightmares.

This is definitely one of the most unsettling horrors I have watched. It’s not that bad in terms of violence or anything, that image above is about as violent as it gets. It’s the tone and atmosphere that leave you uneasy in this! Most horrors you watch that are supernatural or zombies or whatever, they’re tense situations, but they’re never going to be real, this is DEFINITELY something that could happen to someone and I spent the whole film delighted that I was sitting comfortably on my couch in the safety of my own home. Seriously uncomfortable viewing! Brilliantly executed. Another that is big enough amongst aficionados but the every day horror viewer may not have heard of it.

 

6. A Horrible Way To Die (2010) – Dir. Adam Wingard

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This film is basically invisible! Adam Wingard and Simon Barret on top form here just before they’re hugely popular and incredibly enjoyable slasher comedy, You’re Next. A young woman dealing with the trauma of finding out her ex-boyfriend was a deranged serial killer finds solace in a new man she met in group therapy, while her ex-boyfriend evades police custody and is murdering his way back to town to find her.

Unlike most of their other work with the rest of the mumble-gore bunch, this is a straight up horror drama. The pacing is at a fucking snails speed but it works incredibly well. It does have an unorthodox filming style that garners a lot of hate but after about ten mins I grew to love it. It’s like a lighter, less disorientating Gaspar Noe style. Very engaging story and no shortage of dread. This is not one to be missed, provided you can get your hands on it!

 

5. Session 9 (2001) – Dir. Brad Anderson

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Et’s giid tae see Peter Mullan deen a fuckin’ horrdor aye! (Read that in your best Scottish accent) – When an asbestos cleaning crew are cleaning out an abandoned mental asylum, an evil force emerges and reveals the dark past of some of the crew, slowly turning them against each other while they’re trying to solve the mystery of what happened to the building.

Though this film has a bit of a TV-movie look, it doesn’t take away from the atmosphere at all. It relies heavily on that and acting rather than being visual. A lot of it is left to your own imagination and makes it all the more intense. A criminally underrated and under seen film. Peter Mullan is fantastic to watch in anything and especially in this because HE actually is scared. He’s generally hard as fucking nails. David Caruso is unfortunately in it but don’t let that deter you, he has probably the funniest delivery of “Fuck you!” ever in a film. It’s tremendous!

 

4. Prison (1988) – Dir. Renny Harlin

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Viggo Mortensen stars in one of his earliest films here. After a prisoner is executed by electric chair, his spirit returns years later to have revenge on the new governor, while mercilessly slaughtering anyone who gets in it’s way. The prisoners must band together to ensure their survival.

This is easily one of the most unheard of films in this list. A true hidden gem that I believe is making its way to Blu Ray within the next few months. This is a wildly forgotten about film that Harlin should be milking considering his career has nose-dived over the last few years. Excellent atmosphere, surprisingly violent and with cracking special effects, especially for its time! I can see it as a definite inspiration for The Suffering games.

 

3. The Battery (2012) – Dir. Jeremy Gardner

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Probably one of the best underrated films on this list, as well as the best zombie film in years. Two baseball players are partnered together in a zombie ridden world and they fight their way through the back roads of New England to a potential safe camp. That is if they don’t kill each other first!

I feel the less I say about this the better. The chemistry between the two leads is fantastic. Easily the most realistic zombie story I’ve seen, with more drama-based scenes and intensity than run and gun, zombie beheading left and right. A seriously new take on the zombie survival horror. A solid 40 minutes of the film is set entirely in a car too, which is some of the most engrossing and riveting stuff I’ve seen in a horror in all my life! One of the best films of 2013 (Saw it at a film festival then so I count it as that) – Extremely highly recommended!

 

2. Kill List (2011) – Dir. Ben Wheatley

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This film to me is the best horror film I’ve seen in at least the last 10 years, maybe more and is most certainly one of the best of all time. Absolutely stands above them all. Two ex-soldiers, now hitmen are given a kill list of 5 targets that they must take out. One of them, mentally scared from the war, begins to lose his grip on his sanity as the weeks go on.

I shan’t say anymore about this utter work of art because I don’t want to spoil any of it. Ben Wheatley is this generations Stanley Kubrick as far as I’m concerned, mainly with A Field In England, but atmosphere-wise he is asserting himself as a modern horror mastermind. The entire tone of this film is the most unnerving and dark thing you’re likely to see for years. Sure, the likes of The Human Centipede II and A Serbian Film are more fucked up in content and atmosphere but this is simply more eerie and real. It’s effectively three genres: The first 30 minutess is an intense, family drama, the next 30 minutess are a brutally violent and bone-chillingly tense hitman thriller and the final 30 minutess is a trippy, Wicker Man-esque, pagan horror. All three genres blend brilliantly together and leave you scratching your head in confusion while emptying your arse with fear. An unforgettable modern masterpiece, criminally underrated. Seek it out asap!

 

1. Angst (1983) – Dir. Gerald Kargl

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Well you’ve finally reached the end of my tremendous list! Cheers for reading this far! (If you bothered and didn’t just skip to the end like a prick) – I’m gonna finish on a virtually unheard of German horror that literally blew me away not only with the brutally intense story line, but the cinematography and camera work is out of this world!

A man who murdered an elderly woman is released from prison, seemingly a changed man, until his blood lust can’t be contained. He breaks into a house in the middle of the woods in a desperate attempt to find somebody to kill, setting off a horrifically violent series of blackly comic events.

This film is absolutely gob-smackingly good, the story, pacing, acting, violence and camera work are all untouchable. It utilizes the snorri-cam in such a way that I have never seen before, especially for it’s time! It revolves around him as he runs. It’s disorientating and incredible! The strange electronic music works a treat too. You will be kept on the edge of your seat for the whole thing, wondering what is going to happen next and what will go wrong! There is some horrendous scenes towards the end that make this all the more unsettling. Out of all these films this is the most unheard of. It simply MUST be seen. It deserves it’s plaudits as a exceptional horror and for it’s miles before it’s time technical achievements.

Thank you for reading my list! Hope you enjoyed it! There will be more to come so please keep an eye out! Also, go watch all of these films.

 

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… Halloween. Arghhhh – Screen Screams. Memories of Horror

Halloween

Alien – Peter White


In space no one can hear you scream. I can say that over and over and it never loses its power. Much like the film itself, Alien‘s tagline is hypnotic, terrifying and utterly memorable. Sitting down to watch this bona fide classic again this week, I struggled to approach it with anything but wide-eyed wonder. I had to remind myself that Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ripley, hasn’t always been around. That in 1979 people sat down to watch this film and fully expected the ship’s captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), with his roguish good looks and manly beard, to save the helpless lady astronauts. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t remove the facehugger from my psyche or the residue of the exploding-chest xenomorph which coated Alien‘s innards all over the face of modern cinema.

Having discarded my attempts at an unbiased reading of Alien, I settled in with the crew of the Nostromo and we screamed our silent screams together. What struck me over and over was how well the visual design of Alien has held up. For a modest budget of $11 million, Ridley Scott and his crew created an environment which remains absolutely believable today. The sets for the interior of the spaceship have a solidity to them which computer effects and green screens fall far short of today. The familiarity of the Nostromo’s design with its recognisable cockpit and mess room amidst airlocks and hibernation stations adds enormously to the film’s believability; fuelling the terror of the whole messy situation.

As impressive as the set design is, the iconic design of the film’s titular enemy remains Alien’s strongest asset. The perfection of the xenomorph’s biology combined with its demonic appearance makes it one of cinema’s greatest creations. Watching the ship’s crew initially chase the creature with a net is, from our vantage point thirty years later, sadistically hilarious. How quickly they run out of ideas and go from hunter to hunted, being outsmarted at every turn, is terrifying and testament to the dazzling design of the alien.

While the alien does indeed look like a man in a suit when we see it briefly in its entirety, I would still take this over the more recent swimming, computer-animated incarnations. The animatronic close-ups of the alien have lost none of their impact. Similarly, the face-hugger remains skin-crawlingly effective. Watching it tighten it’s grip when the crew attempt to remove it from John Hurt’s face before it bleeds acid through the floor is as much nightmare territory now as it would have been thirty years ago.

To appreciate Alien is to appreciate cinema. While it is an excellent story in its own right, it is the design of Alien which makes it so memorable. It has lost none of its aesthetic pleasure and still looks more realistic than most special effects oriented films today. For a sci-fi film to retain its impact after so many years places Alien within a very exclusive echelon of cinema. Treat yourself this Hallowe’en to a face-hugging film you won’t soon forget.

 

Carrie – Sarah Griffin


It’s one of those films that everyone thinks that they know – so embedded in our collective consciousness that even those who have never seen it feel as though they have. Carrie emerged from a hive of creativity and innovation in 1970s Hollywood, where directors were defying boundaries and making waves in every genre, blowing apart preconceptions of what a movie should be. No other horror movie is so lovingly rendered and artfully shot, and very few shlockers manage to cross the barrier and impress the Academy with its skills. Echoes of Carrie still ripple through horror movies today, as the formula of sympathetic terror is often copied but never equalled in its nuances – and there is no greater compliment to the prescient status of its iconography that it has remained a benchmark for the psychological horror.

What terrifies and enthrals about Carrie is the slow pace – the loving introduction of its main character, and her terrible life. The persistent bullying and aggression, followed by her mother’s religious freak-outs, are all underscored by Sissy Spacek’s soft-voiced, sad and lonely Carrie. She is a fully rounded psychologically realistic character – a rarity as a horror film antagonist – and within moments, our sympathies are fully with her. In fact, our compassion is so closely contained in Spacek’s unprepossessing portrayal of this little girl that as the climax excruciatingly builds, we almost wish the apocalypse upon these townsfolk. When that iconic pigs blood begins to pour, we yearn for the flames and carnage – vicariously cheering on Carrie’s revenge, then breaking down alongside her in terror and fear at her (and our) horrifying actions.

Perhaps my viewing of Carrie is coloured by being a girl, and having seen the movie post-puberty…when her craziness seems just that little bit more understandable. There is a nagging feeling throughout that, though her emotions are exaggerated and accompanied by telekinetic power, there was a touch of kinship in this movie relationship. And perhaps even a moment of vindication and relief…the vicarious living out of puberty fantasy, where the boiling emotions inside could result in flipping over a car or burning down the school!

Again though, the film’s director Brian De Palma – in a career kick-starter – defies our cheering dualism. Carrie is still lost and terrified, and after her cathartic high-school revenge, returns to her state of confusion and horror. She is no devil, despite her mother’s fanaticism, and wants only to be loved. Her tragic avowal of this is her inability to continue living with what she has done – the revenge now seemed outside of herself, and beyond her control. When she returns home to her mother, seeking reassurances and some semblance of love, she is greeted with the biggest betrayal of all…and her emotional collapse at this final insanity is so painful to watch that it bleeds onscreen. But at its centre, under the complex psychologies and emotional rendering, Carrie is still a horror movie – and its beating heart is terror. Carrie might be sympathetic, she might be understandable…but she is still a supernatural murderer, who wreaks a terrifying revenge. The prom-night massacre is no simple matter – she methodically locks the doors, and picks off her victims one by one as her eyes flash and the music soars. Spacek, covered in pig’s blood, stands compressed on the platform, electricity surging through her movements and fists clenched in concentration, slowly and gruesomely murdering her foes. And the final terror is yet to come – generations of movie-goers have still to discover that unbelievably horrific final jump. How I envy anybody who has never seen Carrie, who has yet to experience that moment of release as you think it’s all over, before it delivers its final, terrifying, screaming, wake-you-up-sweating-in-the-middle-of-the-night punchline. If you’ve got a taste for terror, take Carrie to the prom!

 

Drag Me to Hell – Geoff McEvoy



I love the logo for Ghost House Pictures, one of the production companies behind Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell: A skull jauntily bounces out of the screen with the company name written in ‘spooky’ letters. It’s great. Its retro style reminds me of the yellowed horror novels you see gathering dust in second-hand bookshops. But it also serves as a sort of mission statement, it promises a movie that will provide old school scares with a few knowing winks to the audience.

Of course this all came with hindsight. At the time I didn’t really settle in to the movie until about half an hour in. By that stage we’d already had some enjoyable, mild gross-out comedy when the elderly Mrs Ganush arrives at the sweet-natured Christine’s bank. Then there was an uproarious fight scene followed by a gypsy curse. Brilliant. But it was when the curse took effect and Christine’s home was attacked by a shadowy something that I realised I was in the hands of a master. I had laughed when he wanted me to laugh and now I was jumping when he wanted me to jump. It sounds simple I know and yet so many get that balance wrong. Sam Raimi gets it exactly right; the laughs enhance the scares without ever undermining them. After that I settled down and let the film carry me along safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t disappoint.

It didn’t. It never misses a trick, the jokes are funny, the scares are scary and for two glorious hours Sam Raimi wrested control of the horror genre from crass remakers and torture pornographers and reminded us how it should be done. Oh, and it features the best use of a goat in motion picture history.

 

The Exorcist – Ciara O’Brien


Horror is not a genre of subtleties, it reflects the world it is created in, and it pulls no punches and whimpers no niceties about the era. Horror not only shocks its audience with what is on screen, but also with revelations about the world outside the doors of the cinema; it ain’t pretty, but somehow we always go back for more. Human suffering was the cinematic flavour of the day in the 1970s, with scandals piling upon scandals, no one was to be trusted. The Exorcist explores the subject in a manner that no film before or since has attained.

The Exorcist marked a turning point in cinema in many ways. After its 1973 release horror was no longer wholly associated with exciting Vincent Price chillers, but could now be a vicious assault on the audience. Many have taken the idea of audience and gotten carried away but few have succeeded in replicating the atmosphere of The Exorcist, which abuses its audience and yet leaves them wanting more. The film is a possession in and of itself as it both shows suffering onscreen and causes suffering amongst its audience, it remains one of few films which have caused fainting and hysterics in its audience, and one of even fewer to be so sought after that bus trips were arranged to see it during its UK ban. So what made The Exorcist so special? And why should we care now?

The Exorcist was the beginning of atmospheric horror, which remains the most profoundly affecting form of the genre. The set was cooled to below freezing in Reagan’s bedroom and whether we watch it in the depths of winter or the middle of summer, there’s a moment in which we believe that we have seen fog on our own breath.

The Exorcist can also be seen as the origin of character-driven horror. Until that moment it was rare to truly love the characters in a horror movie, but here we had an ensemble cast who captured the heart of an audience, and for me, that is the true genius of director William Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty. The Exorcist marked the beginning of the end for pre-pubescent children in horror, it seems that one fear has transcended eras. There is nothing more frightening than a little girl, particularly if she’s not quite a little girl anymore. Since its release it’s impossible for an audience not to feel some level of suspicion as soon as little Timmy appears on screen, something that recent release Paranormal Activity 2 has utilised fully in advertising. So Reagan is verbally and physically aggressive throughout her possession, and we see very little of her prior to the possession, and yet somehow we love her, we feel her mother’s growing frustration, and we want her to be healed.

The reason for this is simple. As visually violent as The Exorcist is, it has remained on the right side of a very thin line. There is more character than pea soup, and everything stays just below that visual wasteland of ‘too much’. The ‘spider-walk’ sequence is an impressive, now over-used one, and Friedkin’s removal of the scene is necessary to retain some level of ambiguity. Whilst it is suggested that Reagan’s possession is real, it’s also suggested that it’s the result of mental illness, we will never really know, and the psychological impact of not knowing is what creates true terror and cements The Exorcist as the genre’s first bona-fide mainstream classic.

With this Halloween seeing the most violent audience assault we have seen in the shape of Saw 3D, it’s easy to lose sight of the origins and purpose of modern horror cinema. Each time The Exorcist is popped into a DVD player something special happens. When we lose sight of that little silver disc, we enter a world where the special effects of a long-lost era are still affecting, the characters remain dazzling. The first horror film to be nominated for an Academy Award®, The Exorcist is the horror genre’s greatest cinematic triumph.

 

The Fly – William O’Keefe


There is many a hardy soul immune to the gore and frights of horror; the classics may have become muted over time, through re-watching or over exposure, and contemporary horror can be as frightening as an Andrex puppy through predictability and reliance on gore. Away from the movie screen however and offer that same person a piece of chicken, left atop a kitchen counter and let them see for a moment that a fly has had a moment to perch on the chicken meat and do its worst – even in pangs of humour, the meat will be avoided. While there may be scientific fact and documented medical cases, there is the much more impactful warnings of our mothers of flies landing on food intent on planting eggs to gestate. This is not a pleasing prospect – food, riddled with the spawn of a matted black, winged buzzing insect with compound eyes. So, even with all the detachment you can afford yourself in watching a horror movie and assurances this could never happen, the events of The Fly; the literal erosion of Jeff Goldblum’s human body, and transformation and mutation to one that seems comprised of oozy, navy cream filling when splatted on a window will strike a pre-natural fear in you.

The Fly is uneasy to watch, though of course entirely watchable – it is a visceral story which hardly steps outside the doors of our ill-fated scientists lab and as with most stories there is a girl at its heart. Film, and in particular horror, is full of morphed characters, awakened to instinctive, primal urges, becoming heightened versions of their former selves and most often maniacally violent. Everyone from Harvey Dent to Tweety Bird has had some evil unleashed from within, but this has always been tempered by the effort of their good intentions to win through. There is no finer example of this conflict than Jeff Goldblum and the work he does in The Fly – no amount of gore and dismemberment by toxic vomit can take from the compassion for our hero as he struggles with the way his body and mind changes and the desire he has to right things. His initial self is arrogant but determined, not a clean living character to corrupt but nonetheless the tension that follows puts us on a journey with him. For all the cliché that may smack off, we do want to support his search for a solution no matter how desperate the predicament becomes and unlikely a positive outcome will be. Even in the final moments he looks for solutions and to construct a family. His final resignation is all the more wrenching. Whatever science fiction or horror genre you might assign to The Fly it is most certainly a tragic tale.

The look of the transformation is key; it is convincing and it is vivid. The slow but steady change is unnerving, expanding from odd hair growth to a complete grotesque molting at the finale. (Should the rumoured re-make go into production, it is doomed if it considers CGI – only man-made, caked-on layers of crusty make up that needs peeling off will create the right effect). All the while love interest Geena Davis stays as loyal as possible, her own sense of dread growing, she gets to offer the ultimate of warnings and a now classic movie tag line ‘Be Afraid… Be Very Afraid’. The Fly is considered one of the finest movies of the ’80s and it is a very worthy entry for your DVD collection. It is a simple construct but over achieves in its noble aims, telling a good horror story with plenty of images to make you shudder.

 

HalloweenGemma Creagh

 

One of the original slasher movies; my mum wouldn’t let me watch Halloween when I was a ‘tween. She claimed (and rightly so) that it would give me nightmares. In retaliation, myself and my merry young amigos arranged an evening of horror at one of the less clued-in parental homes, where we had a triple bill of Jason, Chucky and Freddie himself. A few bowls of popcorn, two multipacks of sweets and a whole host of nervous squealing later, my devious band and I had one of the fearful and restless sleepovers in history.

Although not quite as frightened during my latest viewing, as I had been in that golden era of the mid-nineties, I was taken aback at how, after over three decades, the classic film’s tension and story still remain strong. Halloween was the ultimate low-budget independent horror, with meagre funding of $320,000. However, not only did it manage to gross over $60,000,000 but it spawned one of the most well-known and profitable franchises in horror movie history. The Halloween universe now spans a total of 10 films as well as a number of books, graphic novels and a range of stylish masks – the original of which, Jason’s mask, is actually an old William Shatner death mask from a Star Trek episode, only painted white.

By taking time to get to know the likable characters and their small cosy world of Haddonfield, Illinois, and then introducing an almost supernatural element of threat and terror; Halloween challenges the ideas of home and safety. In fact, Michael Myers is such a great evil figure because although we know his back-story, we essentially see so little of him that we can create the monster in our own imagination; a much scarier world than that any Hollywood prosthetics of CGI could ever create.

Apart from the odd slices of ham, there are some truly talented actors in the cast; the highlights being Donald Pleasence as the hapless Dr. Loom; and a young and talented Jamie Lee Curtis playing the prim and proper Laurie Strode. (Spoiler) It’s Laurie’s strong will and lack of interest in the less-fair sex that ultimately sees her survival.

Meanwhile her more promiscuous classmates get hacked to pieces mid-to-post coitus as a severe punishment to their loose morals.

Here’s an interesting side note courtesy of IMDB; the adult Michael Myers was portrayed by Nick Castle in almost every scene, except for a number pick-up shots and the unmasking scene, where he was replaced by Tony Moran. Castle was an old friend of John Carpenter and went on to be a successful director himself, now with the children’s movie Dennis the Menace under his belt – a far cry from his previous position, stalking and murdering young teens.

One of the best, and also the most frustrating aspect of this slasher classic, is its lack of reveal. This is instrumental in creating the tone, both with the gore as well as in constructing the mystery of Jason’s character. John Carpenter does a superbly subtle job of building the tension excruciatingly slowly so the viewer is both rooting for the spunky teens but also dying for some gory action. Then the murderous rampage is delivered in a swift and clean blow, so by the time the credits roll, you’re left abruptly with an odd sense of unease as the iconic music plays in the background – it’s hard to imagine that Williams composed and recorded that eerie soundtrack himself within four days. Legend.

 

The Omen – Peter Larkin


The Omen is a part of a group of films that symbolise a child being associated with devil. Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973) also feature this theme. It is written by David Seltzer who famously said, ‘I did it strictly for the money.’ Jerry Goldsmith’s epic film score won the much deserved Oscar® in 1976. The film was released in the U.K. on 6th June 1976; it stars Gregory Peck as Dr. Robert Thorne, his wife Katherine is played by Lee Remick. In Rome, on 6th June, Robert Thorne is told that his newly born has died, he decides to substitute it with an orphan and protect his wife by never telling her the truth.

Soon after, Thorne is elected as the US Ambassador to Britain, He moves to Fulham to live happily with his wife and the child whom they name Damien. On Damien’s fifth birthday, the nanny commits suicide on the top floor looking out at all the guests. A new nanny Mrs. Baylock (Billie Whitelaw) replaces her shortly afterwards. Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton) knows of Damien’s origins and warns Dr. Thorne and also tells him that Katherine is pregnant and Damien plans to kill the unborn child. Photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) has been investigating the Thorns ever since the Nanny’s suicide.

The thing that makes the original 1976 Omen so memorable is that it is so believable. What would you do if you were told that your child was the literal antichrist? Ignore it as Peck’s character does?

First-time actor Harvey Stephens plays Damien with a sense of subtle ambiguity. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick give brilliantly realistic performances. Billie Whitelaw is unforgettable as the mysterious Mrs. Baylock. There is good support from David Warner and Patrick Troughton.

Every time that I hear the track from Jerry Goldsmith’s score on my iPod as the Thorns approach the church, I can feel the roots of my hair being pulling at, just as the late great Lee Remick’s hair was by the little devilish Harvey Stephens.

It is a film about our fears. Richard Donner’s dazzling direction not only illustrates the material, but also orchestrates it to a high intensity. Gilbert Taylor’s cinematography makes England a bleak and eerie place. Stuart Baird’s editing is sharp and coherent.

The Omen is a masterpiece of horror cinema. Every time I watch it I marvel at how seriously it takes itself. You will never forget that last shot. It is one to truly remember.

Psycho – Steven Galvin


‘No! I will not hide in the fruit cellar! Ha! You think I’m fruity, huh?’

‘Mother-m-mother, uh… what is the phrase? She isn’t quite herself today.’

Ah yes…  My youth. Coming out of Rocky and wanting to be World Heavyweight Champion. Rushing home from Karate Kid to aim high kicks at my younger sister, and, of course, after seeing Psycho, hanging around outside showers brandishing a knife dressed in Mother’s clothes. Such memories…

Alfred Hitchcock is undoubtedly one of the oddest characters ever to have had their wicked way with film. He totally understood how it worked upon the audience and ceaselessly re-invented genres with his perverse mangling of storytelling and in doing so shaped so much of what is modern cinema.

If cinema is the best medium for suspense, then Hitchcock directing Psycho stands tall as one of the finest manipulating inducers of celluloid tension. He is the master magician, using sleight-of-hand, pulling rabbits out of his hat, employing techniques that mischievously implicate the spectator in the evil at the heart of the film. Who hasn’t unwittingly found themselves holding their breathe when Norman pushes the car with Marion’s punctured body into the swamp and, for that brief moment, it seems the car won’t sink. ‘Sink… sink… please sink’, you find yourself willing. Indeed, Hitchcock ensures that for the most part the viewer is essentially seeing through Norman’s eyes.

From Saul Bellow’s introductory screen credits that dementedly cut apart the screen backed to the manic paranoid-fuelled music kicking off Bernard Herrmann’s wonderful score, so essential to the mood of the film, through to the last shot of Norman Bates’ face with a still frame of Mother’s skull superimposed over it, Psycho is a feast of demented thrills and intense bursts of psycho-illogical eruptions. Hitchcock took Anthony Perkins’ timid monster, took the Norman out of normal and shacked him up in that eerie house with the skeletoned corpse of his own mother. What can possibly go wrong?

Anytime I see a house that reminds me in any way of Bates’, I always check the upstairs window for ‘Mother’ and can always hear her calling Norman’s name in her twisted voice and goading him: ‘As if men don’t desire strangers! As if… ohh, I refuse to speak of disgusting things, because they disgust me! You understand, boy? Go on, go tell her she’ll not be appeasing her ugly appetite with my food… or my son! Or do I have to tell her because you don’t have the guts! Huh, boy? You have the guts, boy?’

God knows what Hitchcock’s own Irish mother would have made of it all…

I once drunkenly argued that Psycho was the reason people replaced shower curtains with those horrible glass doors on their showers. People laughed at me but deep down I reckon I’m right – and they should consider themselves lucky they don’t have shower curtains; otherwise I’d be there, in Mother’s clothes, with my knife – cue shrieking violins and stabbing cellos.

Thank you Mr Hitchcock…

Rosemary’s BabyLiam Brennan

Over the past five years I have rented four different apartments and every time I attended a showing I always started out by asking the same question: What are the other tenants like? Are they quiet, easygoing neighbourly types who will nod their heads as you pass them in the hallway or step into a crowded elevator? Or are they rambunctious sex-fiends whose padded leather headboards will bark at you through the walls all night long? In my case, it was inevitably the latter and the same thought popped into my head by the end of the first week in a new pad: I wonder if they’re part of a satanic cult?

I have but one man to thank for these thoughts and his name is Roman Polanski. I recall the night I first watched his 1968 horror classic, Rosemary’s Baby. It was a warm summer night in Winnipeg, Canada and, being a homely teenage shut-in, I’d taken to renting heaps of old Hitchcock thrillers each week until the manager of the video store so kindly asked me to ‘watch something other than that old shit already’.

I asked him what he’d recommend, what would really scare the shit out of me? He started rooting around in the returns bin, which was nothing more than a cardboard box sitting underneath a broken window at the corner of the store, and returned with a video he assured me would be the scariest thing I’d ever seen.
He was right.

Hell, even the cover of the box scared me; that ominous green glow across Mia Farrow’s blank profile, that tiny black pram which seemed to be staring back at me saying, ‘You really don’t wanna see what I’ve got in here’. And for a moment I didn’t, but curiosity gets the best of you and, well, I’ve hated the process of renting apartments ever since.

The film itself is so perfectly executed that it’s hard to say where its blood-dimmed dreamscape begins and Rosemary’s reality ends. But that’s what makes it the quintessential horror film; Polanski knows that, as with any good scary story, the screams are only as horrifying as they are true. In this case, the viewer never really knows what’s to be believed and what isn’t. There is no line on the horizon that marks the waypoint between belief and, gasp, what lies beyond belief.

 

Salem’s Lot Charlene Lydon

It may seem rather an odd addition to this list of such great horror films, a three-hour-long TV adaptation of a Stephen King story, but this is definitely a film that deserves a second look. I read King’s novel when I was way too young to be exposed to such horror and it started a lifelong love affair between me and King’s books. I first saw the movie as a child, rented by my older sister from the video shop and I remember it being the scariest thing had seen in my life, up until that point. I revisited the film recently and despite the fact that it has aged terribly in parts, including the odd freeze-frame here and there and the dodgy floating demon children, the film still terrified me and the other members of the audience. Because it was originally a TV movie, there is surprisingly little blood in the film. This is something I realised after the fact and had trouble believing how little onscreen violence there actually was, especially considering Tobe Hooper was at the helm.

Salem’s Lot is a story about a journalist, Ben (David Soul) who returns to his home town of Jerusalem’s Lot, Maine to write about the Marsten House, a place that had frightened him as a child and has haunted him since. He has arrived at the same time as the mysterious antiques dealer Mr. Straker (James Mason) and his as yet unseen partner Mr. Barlow, who have rented the Marsten House.

The film is part haunted house horror, part vampire thriller, part indictment of the passive masses. King has been known for his tendency to favour small-town Americana. Perhaps this is because his good-evil dichotomy has always had an observer; the passive townsfolk who get picked off one by one. Salem’s Lot is a fine example of this.

The standout aspect of Salem’s Lot is the fact that it features a truly terrifying vampire, a rarity in cinema these days. Mr. Barlow is not sexy, he is not a tortured soul and he is not tragic…he’s evil, he’s ugly and he’s scary! I can’t remember the last time I saw a depiction of a vampire that was truly a bloodsucking demon and nothing more. The introduction of Barlow after almost two hours of anticipation is brilliant, one of the greatest scares in all of horror cinema.

The very long running time of the film may seem excessive but the character exposition and the slow burning tension ensures that it rarely drags. Some of the characters stories may seem superfluous but it all acts as a gateway into the lives of the town’s inhabitants and how far they all are from the world of vampires and demons.

Salem’s Lot is a genuinely tense and scary film; a good, old-fashioned horror film and a film example of what can be done without overuse of blood and gore. Flawed and at times a little cheesy, this is still a truly terrifying film which has been unfairly overlooked for a long time. Maybe it’s time to give ol’ Mr. Barlow another look. You might just find it’s the perfect film for a dark, spooky, Halloween night.

 

The Shining – Scott Townsend

For any misguided soul who views the horror genre as inferior, The Shining is probably the definitive response. Stephen King’s lengthy novel provides a cheap pulpy premise: a writer takes a job as a caretaker in an abandoned hotel for the winter with his family. The hotel, however, has a dark past, and begins to cloud his mind. King’s book took this premise and filled it with literal monsters and the supernatural. Kubrick, meanwhile, threw out the hokier parts of the book (living hedge-monsters anyone?) and instead focused on the family and psychological elements. Famously, King wasn’t impressed, calling Kubrick a man ‘who thinks too much and feels too little’. It’s this rejection of horror-movie grammar, however, that makes the film great. Almost every scene takes place in either a brightly lit area or in daylight. There are no shadows for anything to hide in, no darkness. In Kubrick’s world, evil is perfectly visible, staring you straight in the face. There is no direct antagonist, with the only villain being the hotel itself and the madness it brings out it in the characters. Kubrick’s mastery of atmosphere, compostion and editing brings out a chilling quality in the most ordinary things – a ball being bounced against a wall, a child’s tricycle. Case in point – the scariest image isn’t the tidal wave of blood, or the hag in the bathtub, but simply two twin girls standing in a hallway with dodgy wallpaper.

Despite lukewarm critical reaction at the time, and King’s dismissal of it, The Shining endures as one of the greats. It remains terrifying despite one of the finest ever Simpsons spoofs (‘That’s odd. Usually the blood gets off at the second floor’). Even on television, its chilling composition and electrifying sound design can haunt your dreams. The final shot raises a fascinating, head-scratching mystery that haunts you the more you think about it. And those twins are unspeakably creepy.

 

The Thing – Jack McGlynn

I was fully grown when first I saw The Thing. Darkness was no longer scary, night-time bumps were easily identified, and blood and guts in films was yearned for, not feared. A veritable Big Brave Dog, if you will.

And still it scared the piss out of me.

Long had I been searching for a horror that could evoke genuine fear, not cheap jumps or scares. I had tried and tested all the great horror classics, finding them wanting. Then one cold dark night, a friend suggested John Carpenter’s underrated masterpiece, so we flicked off the lights and settled in for two hours of isolation, tension and grotesquery.

I realised this was a particularly distressing feature as I was laughing inside of ten minutes. Each of us responds to fear and tension in different ways. The Thing was so distressing, I laughed hysterically. And it wasn’t simply the ingenious creature effects which caused it (though I’d be lying if I said they didn’t help).
It’s actually The Thing’s subtler themes which haunt us so much: An isolated station, no help coming, an unknown threat, friends turning on friends. Mundane yet effective. In fact, the only aspect not immediately relatable in this horror is the titular creature.

There are no plucky virgins, no chauvinist jocks who could probably benefit from a good stabbing, no would-be heroes offering a glimmer of hope before some wrestler wearing a hockey mask rends him in two with a gigantic butter knife. Every single character is average, relatable, and ordinary.

The real terror here comes not from the prospect of being absorbed by the gross alien baddie, as that’s a relatively unlikely scenario for any of us to encounter. Instead the idea of best buddies turning on each other, becoming each other’s nemesis due to the fear and isolation, that’s what’s really affecting.

Death may come to us all, but it only comes the once. Fear on the other hand, has no such limits, and can take generally decent, civic minded folk, and turn them petty, selfish and unpredictable. What’s so scary about The Thing is that by the time the credits roll on this depressing film, you’ll be a lot less confident in how good and decent a person you really are.



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Bloody Countdown to Halloween: Halloween

As the spooky season raises its sharpened axe to soon fall upon us, the ghouls and goblins of Film Ireland wallow in the terror of the films that embrace the nutty freaks, bloody psychos and raging spoonatics with our ‘Bloody Countdown to Halloween’ – cue Vincent Price laugh…

 

Halloween

(John Carpenter, 1978)
 

Gemma Creagh

 

One of the original slasher movies; my mum wouldn’t let me watch Halloween when I was a ‘tween. She claimed (and rightly so) that it would give me nightmares. In retaliation, myself and my merry young amigos arranged an evening of horror at one of the less clued-in parental homes, where we had a triple bill of Jason, Chucky and Freddie himself. A few bowls of popcorn, two multipacks of sweets and a whole host of nervous squealing later, my devious band and I had one of the most fearful and restless sleepovers in history.

Although not quite as frightened during my latest viewing, as I had been in that golden era of the mid-nineties, I was taken aback at how, after over three decades, the classic film’s tension and story still remain strong. Halloween was the ultimate low-budget independent horror, with meagre funding of $320,000. However, not only did it manage to gross over $60,000,000 but it spawned one of the most well-known and profitable franchises in horror movie history. The Halloween universe now spans a total of 10 films as well as a number of books, graphic novels and a range of stylish masks – the original of which, Jason’s mask, is actually an old William Shatner death mask from a Star Trek episode, only painted white.

By taking time to get to know the likable characters and their small cosy world of Haddonfield, Illinois, and then introducing an almost supernatural element of threat and terror, Halloween challenges the ideas of home and safety. In fact, Michael Myers is such a great evil figure because although we know his backstory, we essentially see so little of him that we can create the monster in our own imagination; a much scarier world than that any Hollywood prosthetics of CGI could ever create.

‘Honey, I’m home.’

Apart from the odd slices of ham, there are some truly talented actors in the cast; the highlights being Donald Pleasence as the hapless Dr. Loom, and a young and talented Jamie Lee Curtis playing the prim and proper Laurie Strode. (Spoiler) It’s Laurie’s strong will and lack of interest in the less-fair sex that ultimately sees her survival.

Meanwhile her more promiscuous classmates get hacked to pieces mid-to-post coitus as a severe punishment to their loose morals.

Here’s an interesting side note courtesy of IMDB: the adult Michael Myers was portrayed by Nick Castle in almost every scene, except for a number of pick-up shots and the unmasking scene, where he was replaced by Tony Moran. Castle was an old friend of John Carpenter and went on to be a successful director himself, now with the children’s movie Dennis the Menace under his belt – a far cry from his previous position, stalking and murdering young teens.

One of the best, and also the most frustrating aspect of this slasher classic, is its lack of reveal. This is instrumental in creating the tone, both with the gore as well as in constructing the mystery of Jason’s character. John Carpenter does a superbly subtle job of building the tension excruciatingly slowly so the viewer is both rooting for the spunky teens but also dying for some gory action. Then the murderous rampage is delivered in a swift and clean blow, so by the time the credits roll, you’re left abruptly with an odd sense of unease as the iconic music plays in the background – it’s hard to imagine that Williams composed and recorded that eerie soundtrack himself within four days. Legend.

Gemma Creagh

Check out our blood-soaked countdown of Halloween Horror here.

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Scream Cinema Halloween Monster Mash Presents: Carrie’s Mother

Carrie

This Halloween, the Screen Cinema and Mother Club Discotheque, will be treating horror fans to an extra special screening of Brian De Palma’s supernatural horror Carrie. To get in the spirit, the audience is invited to dress up as the blood-splattered prom Queen Carrie or her crazy mother for this unique screening with surprises in store. Following the screening of Carrie, come to a very special, blood-soaked night at Dublin’s coolest club, Mother at Copper Alley. Keep your ticket stub to get in for €5, or come dressed as Carrie or Carrie’s mother for free entry*.

Brian De Palma’s commercial breakout, based on a novel by Stephen King, helped launch a whole slew of teen-based horror films, and Carrie the blood-spattered prom queen has taken her throne in the pantheon of modern American horror. High school girls played by Amy Irving (in her film debut), P.J. Soles, and Nancy Allen plot to avenge themselves on ostracized fellow student and budding telekinetic Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) after they get in trouble for pelting her with tampons. When they get popular boy Tommy Ross (William Katz) to be her date for the prom, the stage is set for some heart-rending cruelty and fiery retribution.

29th October  8.45pm

Tickets can be purchased in the Screen Cinema box office or online at www.screencinema.ie. This is a Club screenings and is strictly over 18s.

*Free entry before midnight only.

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