Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Melvin the garden goblin

I haven't posted any of my creatures for a while, I've been really busy with a few different projects. I recently had a stall at a couple of Christmas fairs, for which I made a load of little Christmas pixies...


I've also been working on some commissions for different people. But here's a creature I 'discovered' a while ago in a nearby garden; he's a goblin called Melvin!

This guy's a garden goblin; a grumpy and tough individual that lives hidden in a nearby backyard. He likes nothing better than a fight, and is very protective of his territory, regularly beating up cats, birds, gnomes and anything else silly enough to get in his way. He doesn't use weapons, just his hands and teeth. He gave me a vicious kick in the shins, until I persuaded his I was friendly. His ginger hair reminds me of Ludo out of 'Labyrinth', but he's nowhere near as friendly, he's a moody little bugger!

Rosemarys Baby

I recently watched Roman Polanski’s famous 1968 film Rosemary’s Baby, a tale of Satanic worship and paranoia set in a Manhattan apartment complex. It is often lauded as a classic and “masterful” tale that causes mounting terror as the macabre plot unwinds….

This is definitely a film that hasn’t aged well. That was my first response, which isn’t great for a horror film. As a fan of classic horror, I was always recommended this film but never really got round to watching it. It’s very dramatic, very well acted and has good moments, but actually isn’t scary at all. It is probably a victim of time, whilst we can see it’s a well made movie, it’s very hard to actually feel the connection it would have once had. Mia Farrow is a total wet-lettuce, and as the plot unwinds it’s easy to see where it’s all going.

Many archetypal horror films remain scary and atmospheric; from Nosferatu, to The Wickerman and Don’t Look Now. Whilst we may be much more desensitized to blood, gore and violent shocks as an audience, few modern films manage to create anything approaching a spine-chilling creepy atmosphere. These classic horrors combine atmosphere with classic shocks, which might not be subtle compared to Rosemary’s Baby, but are much more effective when watched today. 

This is a meticulously crafted film, but I felt little fear or concern over the characters involved, and couldn’t connect with the story. Considering the issues it deals with, including our archetypal fears and paranoia about childbirth, it does little to disturb or challenge the fears of a modern audience. I have a collection of old books on folklore and fairytales. When you actually read many old fairytales they contain similar stories about fear of the unknown, with similar twists and turns. 

This felt like a very old fashioned story, and the big “payoff” at the end felt a bit na├»ve to me, as if we were supposed to never have imagined anything so dark. If you are a newcomer to horror, or not too keen on jumping out of your seat, then this might be the sinister story for you. But if you have as dark an imagination as me, you’ll be used to things being much much scarier!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Attack the Block

This is a great alien attack movie, set in a grimey London tower block. It's not new, subtle or revolutionary, but it's a great ride for anyone with a couple of hours spare. And there are some great alien creatures too...

 I'm a great fan of Joe Cornish, the comedian/first-time director of this movie. I was thinking of writing a long-winded review about this, but, well, there's no point really. It's exactly what it says on the tin. The aspect I did really like though, were the alien creatures. Instead of going with low-budget cgi beasts, like those used in numerous tv shows and movies, the makers used some real imagination and created some brilliant scary beasts. They're black, totally black so all you see is a dark furry outline, but then the beasts open their mouths to reveal amazing glowing blue fangs! Like in  many classic creature horror films, they used imagination and originality in the place of generic snore-inducing effects.

 I'd love to rave about this, but it's not really that kind of film. It has the feel of an old favourite, that you'll watch whenever it comes on the tv, but probably won't rush to go and buy. Saying that, those who're fans of creatures, like me, should definitely seek this out. I liked the setting and the characters; a gang of 'hoodies' in a rough London estate, but the antithesis of grimey modern life and hollywood sci-fi concept didn't really have the novelty factor that it wanted. Anyone who's watched Shaun of the Dead, the first 2 seasons of the TV show Misfits, or many other cult films will have seen this scenario before so it's not quite as funny as it could be.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Labyrinth: Why this is the greatest children’s film of all time…

My local independent cinema recently showed the amazing cult-classic children’s movie Labyrinth. I grew up idolizing this incredible film, and like many, am still totally in love with it.  It’s a funny, heart-warming and quirky film, in which the creatures and monsters of imagination are brought to life by fantastic puppetry and beautiful set designs. The magical Labyrinth, full of grumpy goblins, scary fairies and the terrifying “Bog of Eternal Stench!” has quietly seared itself into the conscience of a generation of youngsters. Quite simply, you either love this film, or don’t know about it.

If you have never come across this film, you will still be more than familiar with the work of many of those involved. It could be Jim Henson’s Muppets, Terry Jones in Monty Python, George Lucas’ Star Wars or, of course, the legendary David Bowie. Along with director Frank Oz, artists Brian and Wendy Froud and actress Jennifer Connelly, these people have all had a huge impact on modern culture.

Unusually for a cult favourite, this film never seems to get the love and attention it deserves online. It only gets rated at 62% on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes, and there isn’t really too much information out there for fans. Here’s the less than enticing  information from Labyrinth’s Wikipedia page:

“Labyrinth is a 1986 British/American fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas, and designed by Brian Froud. Henson collaborated on the screenwriting with children's author Dennis Lee, Terry Jones from Monty Python, and Elaine May (although only Jones received screen credit).

The film stars David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King and Jennifer Connelly as Sarah Williams. The plot revolves around Sarah's quest to find the way through an enormous otherworldly maze so that she can rescue her little brother, Toby, from Jareth. Most of the other significant roles are played by puppets or by a combination of puppetry and human performance. It was shot on location in New York and at Elstree Studios and Hampstead Heath in the UK. It was the last feature film directed by Henson before his death in 1990”.

So I think this film deserves so much more recognition. For some reason, perhaps simply because it’s a children’s film, because of it’s fairytale theme, or because it’s so idiosyncratic and fantastical, it has never reached the iconic status of the likes of Star Wars or even The Muppets.  Well, over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing about why this movie is, without a doubt, the greatest children’s film of all time and why it, and the artists and techniques used to make it, deserves to be regarded with tremendous respect along with nostalgia and affection.

If you agree with me please get in touch, or if you disagree let me know too!
Coming up first will be:

The Froudian artwork 

Monday, 7 November 2011

Great Films I've seen recently

Okay, so this blog is nothing if not random, so randomly, here's some of the best, most unusual films I've seen recently. Check it out!!!!!

Troll Hunter

This is a fantastic Norwegian "Black Comedy" in the style of The Blair Witch Project. It follows a gang of student documentary film makers as they track a hunter illegally killing bears in the Norwegian mountains. What they don't expect is that he's really working for the government "managing" the Troll outbreaks in the Norwegian countryside.

Rather than remind me of Blair Witch, I thought it had more of a feel of a fairytale Deliverance...It also seemed to have similar themes and issues, such as the clash between nature and modern life, but with a much more absurd and cutting edge to it.

The fact that the Trolls themselves, rendered in some of the most effective (at times subtle, at other times magnificent) CGI I have ever seen, feel real arnd strangely familiar adds to the impact of the film. Most importantly, when the different Trolls are glimpsed, they are nothing like the terrifying Giger inspired Alien, or the supernatural and unseen "Blair Witch", or event the primitive redneck stereotypes of Deliverence, the Trolls are the magnificent, primeval god-like creatures of Norwegian folkore. Fairytales and folklore, when you actually read them, are often incredibly dark and ancient tales, teaching lessons about respecing and fearing nature and it's beauty, wonder and danger.

This film is one of the most effective creature films I've ever seen. The Troll Hunter himself is an amazingly brilliant character, living in a world where primeval, archetypal creatures from nature clash against the banal burocracy with which it is often managed. Whilst reminding me of the artwork of John Bauer with the movies Jaws, Moby Dick, Deliverance, Monsters and even Let the Right One In, this film remains completely fresh and unique, and must be seen to be believed. Of course, if you are one of the boring bureaucrats this will all go straight over your head...still, cool cgi though!