Film Reviews by NP

Welcome to NP's film reviews page. NP has written 686 reviews and rated 786 films.

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Fear Eats the Soul

Compelling human drama - spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 21/09/2019

This is only the second film I’ve seen by acclaimed director Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and on the strength of this and ‘Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?’ I intend to watch all projects completed in his short but prolific career.

I tend to go into these things spoiler-free, so expected this to be some kind of horror story, given the title. And it is very much so, but not in the way I imagined. It’s impossible to discuss without spoilers, so beware!

We’re concerned with elderly Emmi (Brigitte Mira), cleaner and widow, who enters a bar alone one night. Vulnerable and ostracised, only Ali (El Hedi Ben Salem) is friendly towards her and asks her to dance. The awkward exchange turns into unlikely romance which, for a slow-burning film, escalates quickly, and the shock Emmi’s family express when she announces she is marrying a Morrocan man twenty years her junior would be understandable – if they weren’t such a gang of self-serving grotesques. Emmi’s daughter Krista (Irm Hermann) is first seen in a domestic situation where she is ritualistically taunted by her objectionable husband, played by Fassbinder himself. Krista’s subsequent behaviour, however, proves that she is just as disagreeable as he is. And this is the premise for the film. Everyone is flawed, often in deeply prejudicial and unkind ways.

Apparently Mira found herself somewhat spurned whilst making the film, and while she rose above it, this possibly feeds into the vulnerability of her performance. A lesser director would be satisfied with the story-line as outlined above, but not Fassbinder. As the hostility eventually gets to Emmi – she and Ali are really treated appallingly – they go on holiday together, hoping the dust might have settled on their return. And when they get back, her ‘friends’ and local shopkeeper have clearly decided to treat the couple better, but only because of what they gain from the friendship, rather than displaying genuine decency.

So glad to be once again accepted, even Emmi shows signs of their unkindness – tellingly toward a new member of their cleaning team. This new member is on less pay than the rest of them and is shunned because of this, left to eat her dinner alone, while the others gather and gossip about her. Emmi’s attitude to her husband changes too – she treats him like a trophy, an object, in front of her friends. When he leaves her, she tells them it is due to his ‘foreigner mentality’. In turn, when Emmi comes to visit him at his workplace and entreats him to return home, he ignores her as his co-workers describe her as his ‘Morrocan granny’.

This is an excellent film, often cited as Fassbinder’s greatest work. As director, producer and writer, he almost tends to simply point the camera at his cast and wonderfully utilised downbeat surroundings, and let the story tell itself. This it does beautifully and deceptively simply. Could I describe Fassbinder as a kind of West German Mike Leigh? That’s how he appears to me.

Incidentally, a Wikipedia search reveals that for Fassbinder and his star Salem, real life was possibly more eventful than their fictional works. My score for ‘Ali: Fear Eats the Soul’ is 8 out of 10.

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Horror Hospital

Rarely a dull moment!

(Edit) 21/09/2019

I'll never stop being amazed how the silky sandpaper-voiced Michael Gough threw away the role of Holmwood in Hammer's classic 'Dracula (1957)' and yet puts so much more effort into his role as Doctor Storm in this cheerful, meandering affair. Gough shares top billing with 70s icon Robin Askwith, here playing Jason Jones. He plays a songwriter who gets into a fight with a local band when he accuses them of stealing his latest masterpiece, and then meets an attractive girl Judy (Vanessa Shaw) on a train who tells him her entire life-story - which is coincidentally the back-story to 'Horror Hospital'. His opening line to this rather sweet young lass? "Relax, I'm not gonna rape you." Dennis Price also shows up as a camp travel agent called Pollock, head of 'Hairy Holidays'. Skip Martin, who gave such life to Michael the Dwarf in 'Vampire Circus' a couple of years earlier, is shifty as Storm's assistant Frederick. The rest of the cast are non-actors, who nevertheless enter into the spirit of things wholeheartedly.

Director Anthony Balch made only a handful of films before his untimely death at the age of 42, and this was probably his slickest. Whilst that isn't saying a great deal, this is fairly enjoyable and certainly eventful. The finished production has a sense of chaos about it, with little attention paid to a coherent story-line, and none whatsoever to characterization (other than Jones' constant desire to have his way with naïve but provocative Judy - to be fair to him, he softens as the film goes on). There's lots going on, however, and regarding the more sinister characters, 'the ham', as they say, 'is thickly sliced.'

Taps gushing blood instead of water, pasty-faced young zombies, beheadings, and a cracking twist at the end - there's rarely a dull moment. My score is a cheerful 7 out of 10.

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November

Weird and beautiful! (Mild spoilers...)

(Edit) 21/09/2019

From the moment this film begins, the audience is assailed with images that are so exotically bleak, we wonder how they were created. Whether computer-enhanced, or purely some exquisite cinematography doesn't really matter; what emerges is an immediate assault on the senses that bathes the viewer in atmosphere. And it is fair to say that atmosphere does not let up until after the final credits have rolled.

It is true to say that, at its heart, the plot is a thin one. In a nutshell, it concerns stoical Liina (Rea Lest) and her battle to be noticed by handsome Hans (Jörgen Liik). But if you are looking for a story of love and longing, it won't get much more unusual than this.

Based on the novel 'Rehepapp' by Andrus Kivirähk, 'November' is steeped in pagan Estonian folklore, with werewolves, magic, spirits, and lots of stealing. Filmed in beautifully stark black and white, Director Rainer Sarnet (who also adapted this) ensures that every scene is poetically framed in such a way that what emerges is one of the truest forms of cinematic fairy-tale (albeit very dark) I have ever seen. Central to this is the notion of the 'kratts' - surreal, mythical-looking creatures made from bone and wood and metal, who are summoned to perform tasks for the villagers, from menial to magical. They look ridiculous, but convincing and, with no saccharine set-pieces, command a very real melancholy - and humour.

One of the very first things we see is one of these ungainly, impossible creatures as it appears to attack some livestock. The unfortunate creature is obviously distressed, and we fear for its safety. What actually happens, however, defies and exceeds our expectations - which is a trick the film manages to pull off many times throughout its run.

At a little under two hours, it is a challenge to weave such delicate imagery successfully throughout, but due to many moments of surprise, as well as outstanding beauty, 'November' accomplishes this. Dark, brooding and peopled by characters with faces as gnarled and fascinating as the landscape around them, this film gets a mighty 9 out of 10 from me.

It's a keeper.

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Aguirre, Wrath of God

Uncompromising - spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 21/09/2019

The documentary ‘My Best Fiend’, in which acclaimed German Director Werner Herzog discusses his love/hate relationship with actor Klaus Kinski (with whom he made five films), explores the complicated balance between genius and someone whose mood-swings makes him virtually unemployable.

‘Aguirre’ was the first collaboration between the two men, with Herzog initially hoping to instill the character of Lope de Aguirre with the kind of genuine manic behaviour he had previously witnessed from Kinski. To say the resultant shoot proved to be fraught is an understatement. And yet, to some extent, the gamble paid off, with Kinski giving a tremendous powerhouse performance. To my mind, however, even this was somewhat overshadowed by the punishing conditions and Amazonian surroundings the characters go through.

In front of the camera, the story tells of the travels of Spanish soldier Aguirre, who leads a group of conquistadores down the Amazon River in South America in search of the legendary city of gold, El Dorado. Behind the camera, Kinski’s tantrums terrorized the crew and local natives who were assisting the production. It is difficult to know which is more fascinating, but there’s no doubt that ‘Aguirre’ is an uncompromising and bleak journey into madness and mistrust.

The music comes from West German band Popol Vuh – an excellent soundtrack which conveys both the majesty and unforgiving qualities of the environment. Additional music comes from the persistent native gentleman who doesn’t let the conditions put him off playing a selection of panpipe pieces that lighten and irritate with equal measure.

As you may expect, the journey doesn’t end well for anyone, but the final image of Aguirre alone and still battling to survive, is a strong one. You have to be in the mood for this, but there is no doubt is a very grim and powerful piece of cinema. My score is 7 out of 10.

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I Am Not a Serial Killer

New career in a new town - mild spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 21/09/2019

This is a terrific story involving a supernatural killer in a small Midwestern town. The question is - who is the killer? After a couple of very effective red herrings, the truth is revealed. Up until that point, there was no hint of anything non-human, and when the alien nature is initially revealed, it is so quick, you may have to replay the moment to be sure exactly what you have seen.

That covered, this is a very slow-paced feature. The long sequences in between effective set-pieces tend to drag and attention wanders. The close-knit community, often covered in a punishing blanket of snow, lends a very familial sense of isolation to proceedings, but even that isn't enough to stop the attention wandering from time to time. The finale then goes very much in the opposite direction, with some very effective scares.

Among the possible killers are young John Wayne Cleaver, and septuagenarian Bill Crowley, both brilliantly played by Max Records and Christopher Lloyd respectively. These main players head an excellent cast who make their characters believable and appealing despite their very real flaws. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Doctor Who: New Series 11

I love wellies!

(Edit) Updated 29/08/2019

As a fan of Doctor Who for many years (since the Sea Devils stomped out of the waters to menace Jon Pertwee in the early 1970s in fact), I found this latest incarnation of the show quite good. There has clearly been a decision to cut back on the continuity so beloved of recent series (which some felt alienated viewers who didn't have an A Level in Time Lord history), and it is true to say the plots have been simplified a little in favour of reeling in new viewers. New Doctor Jodie Whittaker isn't as eccentric as some earlier incarnations, but she still has moments of delightful silliness. This is still very much Doctor Who, only Chris Chibnall-style, as opposed to Steven Moffat/RTD/JNT etc-style (tick as appropriate).

For anyone who sees this series as agenda-driven, or box-ticking, there are those who found fault in previous incarnations of the show (agenda-driven is an ongoing criticism, with each show-runner accused of a different agenda). At the heart of it, for me, there's a likeable new Doctor, three very appealing (and very 'real') time-travelling companions (or friends), and some great stories (The Woman Who Fell to Earth, Kerblam!, The Witchfinders and It Takes You Away), some good (Arachnids in the UK, The Ghost Monument, Rosa) and a couple of howlers (The Tsuranga Conundrum, Demons of the Punjab). So for all the change, in many ways, it's business as usual!

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Black Magic Rites

Mild Black Magic spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

Elongated scenes of gaudily coloured sacrifice, always involving manicured young women; the soundtrack of a hundred baying night-wolves; solemn, robed males; the blank-eyed corpse of the long-dead Isabelle; pulsating, recently removed hearts. It’s all here, folks, directed in a deliberately disorientating manner by Renato Polselli (who also wrote this), in a style very close to that of Mario Bava.

Isabelle (Rita Calderoni) has been burned to death, accused of witchery. A group of vampires keep her body, greyed and damaged, and sacrifice virgins in a bid to bring her back to life. Into the protracted maelstrom comes Laureen and her fiancé Richard Brenton and bless me! She’s the living embodiment of the long-dead Isabelle. Much wailing and screaming ensues – you needn’t worry too much about the storyline (there are many flashbacks outlining what is going on, but even then it is not made clear that they *are* flashbacks, which helps the dizzying incomprehensibility nicely). I found myself just enjoying the crazy exploitation style of it all, and basking in the long-gone European atmosphere. The very effective musical score from Romolo Forlai and Gianfranco Reverberi only serves the enhance this.

It’s difficult to comment on the acting. There’s not a lot of scope for emotion outside screaming and gnashing of teeth, all of which is entered into with gusto, and much of the moans bleed into the soundtrack. The women are invariably half-dressed and beautiful, the men fully-clothed and substantially less picturesque. There are some incredible, briefly seen Italian locations, and the set design leaves you in no doubt you are watching a richly gothic horror film. If you aren’t convinced, Dracula himself makes an appearance amidst it all. He gets everywhere, that old Count.

I quite enjoyed this for what it is. It’s loud and it’s relentless and some of the set-pieces are eerily effective – but after the brief end credits rolled, I was ready for something else.

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The Lodger

Much ado about next to nothing - mild spoilers ....

(Edit) 22/08/2019

Here's something I was not expecting to like. Two attractive young women sharing accommodation: one, studious and ambitious and the other, superficial and gorgeous. To begin with, I was hard-pressed to tell much difference between them. Both are casually stunning and appear very happy in their individual skins; and that is why I wasn't sure I would see this film through - I dislike such blemish-free catwalk characters being passed off as 'everyday'. It's a stereotype. It fuels people's paranoia about themselves. It presents a false image, and it annoys me.

Secondly, 'The Lodger/Roommate Wanted' is sold as a horror thriller. For a long time, I was waiting for anything horrific to show itself. By the end, I still think - despite some violence - I was somewhat mis-sold.

With all that out of the way, I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. The two girls are exceptionally well-played and occasionally, it really seems as if the veneer exhibited by both of them (in their own ways) is about to be cracked - but it never really happens. The violence, nasty though some of it is, is cartoon-like. Any scars or blemishes dished out soon disappear. Even toward the end, after everything is superficially - that word again - trashed, they still speak to each other in cliché (early on, Janie professes to 'like' clichés), their stoically cutesy personality traits very much intact.

I would have liked to see the comedy antics - some of which are genuinely quite funny - gradually dissipate as their fight went on. I would have liked to see the violence - both physical and mental - go further, instead of just being sporadically addressed before the two of them call another short-lived truce. Even the ending lurches back into caricature humour, which undoes much of the good work that had been done stripping them of their bravado. Perhaps Director Rob Margolies and writer Aaron Edward just weren't interested in making that kind of film. A shame, because if events had become more serious and more extreme, this could have been a really interesting project. My score is 5 out of 10.

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The Devil's Men

Land of the Devil's Men - mild spoilers ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

It is rare to discover a previously unheard-of Peter Cushing horror film. Even more so when it also stars Donald Pleasance, another genre icon. So just why has this Greek demon-worshipping thriller passed me by for so long?

Cushing plays Baron Corofax, a Hungarian with no trace of an accent; Donald Pleasence plays Father Roche with an Irish brogue. Luan Peters, who had been in 1974’s ‘Old Dracula’, 1972’s ‘The Flesh and Blood Show’ and a couple of latter-day Hammer films, appears as Laurie. Despite quite a CV, Peters remains rather unappreciated in my view. Certainly, this feature does her few favours – she’s there purely for show and to be rescued.

‘The Devil’s Men/Land of the Minotaur’ has a reputation for being a bit of a stinker. I quite enjoyed parts of it, but found it mostly deadly dull. I’ve never seen Cushing disinterested in a role before, but understandably, he seems pretty distracted here. Pleasence has rather more to work with and makes the best of it. Strange to think these two veteran actors were on the verge of two of their most well-known roles within a couple of years – The Grand Moff Tarkin from Star Wars, and Loomis from Halloween respectively.

There’s not a huge amount to say about this story. Corofax and his minions worship a giant stone Mintoaur that breathes flames through its nostrils and growls apocalyptic pronouncements. The legendary Brian Eno lends a few electronic burbles and flourishes in an incidental score that puts one in mind of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. And yet, Kostas Karagiannis’s sluggish direction ensures things never really get going until pretty much the explosive climax (Karagiannis also stars as one of the main characters, tousle-headed hero-type Milo who, as luck would have it, has a stunning girlfriend, played by Jane Lyle in a pair of miniscule cut-off shorts).

I certainly don’t rate this as lowly as some other reviewers do. It tries something slightly different with its evildoers and boasts some terrific scenery. And yet the pacing is slow, and we never really get to know any of the characters, some of whom disappear for vast chunks of the running time with no particular reason for us to recall them when they do turn up.

Point of interest: I couldn’t finish this review without mentioning, in the DVD extras, ‘Christopher Lee remembers Peter Cushing’. Although Lee had nothing to do with the main feature, Marcus Hearn’s interview with him brings out some fond remembrances of Cushing as part of a truly moving tribute.

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Alleluia

Another exercise in suffering from Fabrice du Welz! (Spoilers...)

(Edit) 22/08/2019

Director/writer Fabrice du Welz really has become a name to look out for. He seems to deal with, and delight in, punishing, murky human misery – and if there is a horror element in there too, the more successful his vision is! In this follow-up to the grim ‘Vinyan’ from six years earlier, his appetite for the bizarre and the grim has not diminished. Every visual here is plastered with a fug of clammy, grainy atmosphere – every pore exposed, every blemish displayed.

The story, however, comes second place by quite a distance. That’s not to say the premise isn’t fascinating. Nice, shy Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is coerced by a well-meaning friend to put herself forward for a date with online lonely-heart Michel (Laurent Lucas). To begin with, it seems Lucas is an uncaring villain, only interested in sex and money. His hostile treatment of Gloria’s little girl is testament to that. Gloria, for her part, seems instantly blinded by love into stupidity, eagerly entrusting this new man with her finances and family. It seems Michel is every bit as bad as he seems, and that Gloria wants to join him in his unscrupulous adventures. After a while, we have to ask ourselves – who is the more unstable of the two?

The film is told in four acts. The first sets up the plot as outlined above. The latter three follow three of Michel’s money-fuelled seduction/murderous crimes – all of them foiled by Gloria’s violent jealousy. These three episodic stories follow the same path and ultimately seem to go nowhere. The finale, when it comes, doesn’t seem to have solved anything.

The story is based upon real-life criminal duo, the Lonely Hearts Killers. It is a pity there isn’t at least some sense of closure at the end, other than Michel realising how unhinged Gloria is – as we, the audience, have already seen for ourselves. Purely from a business point of view, Michel can’t have conned any money out of the potential victims he has seduced because Gloria does away with them all in a succession of mad frenzies (in one memorable scene, she stops to sing some tender love song – into which bleeds the incidental score - before getting down to the business of sawing the limbs of her first victim. It’s quite a moment).

The Belgian/French thriller boasts some extraordinary performances, especially from the two little girls – firstly Gloria’s daughter, whose innocence and isolation is told entirely through her eyes. Secondly, the daughter of Solange (Héléna Noguerra), who we meet in the final chapter, delivers some extraordinary moments, vocalising her intense dislike for the unscrupulous Gloria. You should have listened to her, Solange!

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Dark Feed

Familiar but enjoyable - mild spoilers ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

The very first scene of ‘Dark Feed’ made me wince. Involving a lip-ring and a mirror, it ensured I was watching behind partially closed fingers. There’s a later scene involving a stapler that had a similar effect on me – not bad for a wizened old horror fanatic like myself. Of course, the rest of the film could not hope to match these scenes, but despite an obvious low budget and some inexperienced actors, there’s a lot to enjoy here. Sometimes you are just in the mood to watch a crew of silly youngsters getting slaughtered.

Of course, the plot is as you might imagine from reading the premise. A group of young movie-makers collectively think it might be a good idea to film in a creepy old disused asylum. What do you think is going to happen? Whatever is behind the subsequent descent into blood and insanity is never comprehensively explained – some theories are touched upon and then summarily forgotten. Also, there are a whole lot of characters, most of which you never really get to know. I liked the special-effects guy, he had an element of death-rock craziness about him before things had even begun. I was willing both Mitch (Daniel Berger-Jones) and diva Rachel (Rebecca Whitehurst) to succumb to something dark and horrible. The writer of the amateur film being made (within this story) Chris (Andy Rudick) is the most likeable – everyone seems to pick on him, so he is immediately endearing.

There are problems with pacing here, and some explanation regarding the ‘dark feed’ of the title could have been more comprehensive (unless I missed it), but really, the atmosphere of the sprawling yet claustrophobic building is what sells this – kudos to directors/writers Michael and Shawn Rasmussen for that. Some will mourn the lack of CGI or excess of gore, but it is pointless to criticise a low-budget project like this for not containing Hollywood theatrics. The fact is, films like this are being made and put together with a passion lacking in some more expensive production-line cinema-fillers. And that will never not be a good thing.

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The Other

Doesn't quite live up to it's reputation ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

Niles and Holland are twin brothers. They are actually played by twin brothers. This surprises me, because they are hardly ever in the same shot, so I just assumed one actor was doubling-up on both parts. The only reason I could come to why the two were visually separated in such a way is because one of them is dead, and only his twin could see him.

I like horror films that play against the conventions of the genre. This is set very much in wholesome Tom Sawyer country, amidst sprawling, open locations drenched in sunshine. So much so that it really doesn’t come across as much of a horror film at all. Although I try to avoid spoilers, I had read great things about ‘The Other’ and for the most part, I’m puzzled as to why it has been so well received. Even the ‘creepy’ Aunt Ada, who has taught Niles to ‘astrally project’, is a kindly and caring woman.

That’s not to say this is a bad film: it isn’t. The actors are excellent, especially young Chris and Martin Udvarnoky, who, unlike so many juvenile performers, are appealing and – even when misbehaving – don’t come across as brattish or irritating in the least. I can only assume Robert Mulligan took the decision to play against the horror aspect throughout, to heighten it only at the very end. As such – and this is no slight on anything – ‘The Other’ comes across like a supernatural, post-watershed episode of ‘The Waltons’

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Tenebrae

Stylish and sprawling ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

This is a stylish, sprawling giallo from Director Dario Argento. Writer Peter Neale is played by 50-something Anthony Franciosa, surrounded by a cheery, adoring gaggle of young ladies whenever he flashes his pearly whites. Unlike a lot of giallo leading men, however, Neale is likeable and a gentleman, at least most of the time, and Franciosca plays him very well. Some nicely paced set-pieces put the victims through their paces in a memorably punishing manner, often topped off with more than a splash of thick red blood.

Supporting players include the appealing Christian Borromeo as possible suspect Gianni, and the familiar face of John Saxon, who was prolific in film and television at this time, is Bullmer.

The star of the show though, is undoubtedly Argento’s wondrous directorial flourishes. The squealing, electronic prog-rock soundtrack is provided by the idiosyncratic band Goblin. Like their other incidental scores it is somewhat ‘full on’ at times, but nevertheless injects various scenes with a sense of perverse dread, and enters fully into the director’s somewhat gaudy style.

‘Tenebrae’ saw the welcome return of Argento to the world of giallo after delving into pure supernatural horror for his last few ventures. It proved he hadn’t lost his stylish approach to the genre and remains a favourite of mine. The ending, where there is revelation upon revelation, is particularly successful. If you are considering venturing into the world of ‘Tenebrae’ for the first time, I advise you to avoid spoilers! My score for this is 8 out of 10.

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My Best Fiend

When Herzog met Kinski - mild spoilers ...

(Edit) 22/08/2019

This is a documentary written and directed by the acclaimed Werner Herzog, and focusses on his tumultuous relationship with volatile actor Klaus Kinski. Volatile might actually be an understatement for, as the very opening shots reveal, Kinski was a man of unpredictable temper. And when he let go of that temper, well …

It is impossible to review this without at least touching on some of Kinski’s personal peccadillos. In the 1950s, he was diagnosed with psychopathy and was unable to secure film roles. As a result, he twice attempted suicide. His career recovered somewhat, but his schizophrenic behaviour didn’t. After his death, there were various allegations from family members of sexual abuse.

Herzog, despite being labelled a megalomaniac (and other things) by Kinski, has lead a less notorious lifestyle. He has married three times, and has continued to direct to this day.

Featuring much behind-the-scenes footage of Kinski’s rages, Herzog’s personal anecdotes also feature a more measured human being, even suggesting someone who would instigate his tantrums as means of making sure everyone’s attention was focussed on him. Herzog would even provoke his star before a take, ensuring he had got it out of his system in time for filming! Steering Kinski’s volatility could never always be successful, of course, and it is with a vein of black humour that Herzog recounts tales of actually intending to kill his ‘best fiend’.

Two fascinating characters, then, who were often capable of greatness as a result of their explosive relationship. It would, of course, have been fascinating to have had Kinski alive at this time to provide his own reminiscences. But we are left with remembrances from those he worked with, my two favourites featuring one time when his co-star Eva Mattes won an acting award, and Kinski did not. I don’t need such accolades, he is said to have replied: I know I am a genius! Secondly, the two men were at such loggerheads that Herzog threatened to empty eight bullets into Kinski’s head, leaving the ninth for himself!

Who hasn’t got a fiend like that?

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Dark Silence

Hellish misery for the underdog.

(Edit) 01/08/2019

There’s a lesson here; always persevere with a film past the first fifteen minutes. On first attempt this seemed very much to me like an Italian production (it is actually Italian/Canadian) trying too hard to emulate a wholesome American ‘family’ horror – which it is in a way – but the results go beyond that kind of blandness.

Following the death of his wife, Craig and his mute daughter Jennifer (Aaron Stielstra and Eleonora Marianelli respectively) move into a dilapidated home. Craig looks and dresses very much like ‘your average guy’, and uses American slang, but has an accent, as all characters do. He also has a slightly manic edge to him. Jennifer is a sweet child, terrifically acted. Her sense of fear and unsureness is conveyed entirely through her eyes, and I would hope Mirianelli has a successful future ahead of her. Craig’s sister Susan (Désirée Giorgetti) provides scant, and often pretty unhelpful support. In flashbacks, wife Helen is played, rather stiltedly, by Sofia Pauly.

Craig seems to be sinking into his own private hell, exacerbated by his daughter’s increasingly dark dreams. As we learn a little more about him, we find he has a catalogue of failures behind him. The dream-like figure of The Blind King (David White), a chatty mummy-like demon, appears to be orchestrating Craig’s anxieties through shared dreams and threatens to engulf him completely. Or so it seems to me – a lot of this is open to interpretation, despite much psychological dialogue. This appears to be the curse of the underdog, the black sheep of the family, the loser.

This is a dark journey that runs out of steam a little toward the end. My score is 6 out of 10.

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