Ford On Film

Chronicles of a silver screen addict

A former Disney star sheds his image with the disturbing My Friend Dahmer

My Friend Dahmer is unique amongst biopics about serial killers. Rather than focusing on the grisly murders and eventual arrest of Jeffrey Dahmer, Marc Myers’ directorial debut looks at Dahmer’s teenage years, his formative experiences and the troubling influences and interests that eventual led to him brutally murdering 17 men and boys. Though My Friend Dahmer occasionally paints its ‘origins of a psychopath’ story in broad strokes, it’s nearly always fascinating due to Disney actor Ross Lynch’s committed performance in the title role.

My Friend Dahmer

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Sunday Short: Real Gods Require Blood (2017)

There’s something thrilling about discovering a new voice or an undiscovered talent in short films, especially when it’s a homegrown, BFI-funded effort. Scripted by novelist Tom Benn and directed by Moin Hussain, Real Gods Require Blood is an interesting, deeply disturbing take on an old favourite: the Satanic Horror.

Set in Manchester in 1990 (at the height of the moral panic surrounding satanic abuse), Real Gods Require Blood depicts recovering addict Alice (Anna Berentzen), who reluctantly agrees to watch out for her troublesome neighbour’s children “for an hour or two”, only to find herself trapped in a home filled with eerie sights and tormented children who receive a visit from ‘Bells-A-Buss’ every evening. Gruesome polaroid pictures and a locked box offer hints at what is going in this household, but whatever happens, things don’t look good for Alice or the children.

Kitchen sink horror is a rarity, but director Hussain uses the 4:3 aspect ratio and claustrophobic, dingy flat to give us a sense of a realism and poverty before ramping up the horrific elements. It’s a slow burner at 19 minutes, but the climax is worth it; a truly chilling vision that recalls the wide-eyed terror of Rosemary’s Baby and the repulsive sadism of Audition. Both screenwriter Benn and director Hussain are talents to watch.

Watch Real Gods Require Blood here:

By Harry J. Ford


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The Rider blurs the lines of fact and fiction with impressive results

The story behind Chloe Zhao’s The Rider is truly remarkable. In 2015, Zhao met cowboy Brady Jandreau at the Pine Ridge reservation and instantly knew she wanted to make a film about him. Unfortunately, she couldn’t figure out his story; that was, until he suffered a near-fatal riding accident and had to retire from riding aged just 20. Casting Brady and his friends and family as fictionalised versions of themselves, Zhao blurs the lines of fact and fiction to create a fascinating, unique cowboy movie. If nothing else, The Rider is perhaps the most unconventional Western of the decade.

The Rider 2

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Apostle looks like an ultraviolent blast of folk horror from The Raid director Gareth Evans

It’s been over six years since Gareth Evans exploded onto the action cinema scene with The Raid, one of the most extraordinarily violent and choreographed martial arts films ever made, and four years since he released its ambitious follow-up The Raid 2. Now teaming up with Netflix, Gareth Evans is back with the trailer for upcoming folk horror Apostle, and the results look insane.

Starring Dan Evans as a man visiting a Welsh village to rescue his sister (Lucy Boynton) from a sinister cult led by Michael Sheen, Apostle‘s trailer reveals what looks to be an ultraviolent update of The Wicker Man. There’s buckets of blood, medieval torture devices, bodies strung up in trees, and a whole lot of sinister events. If the sight of blood makes you weak, best avoid this trailer. For gorehounds and horror fans alike, your new favourite film might be here. Given how talented Gareth Evans is (check out his horror segment Safe Haven from V/H/S 2 for an example of how extreme he can get), Apostle is certainly one to add to your watch list.

Check out the trailer for Apostle here:

By Harry J. Ford


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Bojack Horseman takes gimmick episodes to new heights in its outstanding fifth season

Since premiering to mediocre reactions (by critics who were unaware of creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg’s serious intentions) in 2014, Bojack Horseman has gone from strength to strength. Praised for its honest depiction of depression, furious political attacks (on subjects as controversial as sexual assault, gun control and abortion) and unique gimmick episodes, the show has rightly been called the Best Netflix Show of All Time, and it’s hard to argue that this strange little animated dark comedy features some of the best writing, animation and voice acting of the decade. The anticipation for season five couldn’t be greater, and the writers have once again delivered a hilarious-but-devastating look at the former star of Horsin’ Around.

Bojack Horseman 5 1

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The Coen Brothers return to the old west with the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Are the Coen Brothers the greatest living filmmakers? For over thirty years, the brothers have crafted some of the greatest films of all time, tackling everything from seedy noir (debut Blood Simple) and slapstick comedy (Raising Arizona) to offbeat crime capers (Fargo) and musical odysseys (Inside Llewyn Davis). If there’s one genre the brothers seem particularly fond of however, it’s the Western.

Not content with winning Best Picture for their terrific neo-Western No Country for Old Men in 2007, or remaking the John Wayne classic True Grit in 2010, the Coens are returning to the wild west for their latest film, the Netflix-produced The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. Originally conceived as a TV miniseries, the Coens have reworked their original idea into an anthology of cowboy stories featuring big names like James Franco, Tom Waits, Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson and Tim Blake Nelson. Netflix have just released the first trailer, and it looks to be another broad comedy in the vein of previous hits O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Hail, Caesar!.

Whether The Ballad of Buster Scruggs reaches the heights of previous comedies The Big Lebowski and Burn After Reading (or plumbs the depths of their worst film, The Ladykillers) remains to be seen, but with a Best Screenplay win at the Venice International Film Festival, this is one of my most anticipated films of the year. Check out the trailer for The Ballad of Buster Scruggs here:

By Harry J. Ford


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Do horror films need to be scary to work?

I’ve been pondering this question since I watched and reviewed Ghost Stories last week. My biggest complaint about Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s spooky theatrical adaptation was that the scares simply failed to translate from stage to screen. There were a couple of fun jump scares, but nothing to keep you awake at night. However, after posting the review, I began to question myself: Is that really a big problem?

Horror is as subjective as comedy – what one person finds hilarious or terrifying, another may watch in stony-faced silence– and there are plenty of great horror films over the years that have failed to truly raise my pulse or give me nightmares. 1974’s The Exorcist is a classic, but it’s not quite as chilling as it was forty-four years ago. 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs may be among the most critically-acclaimed horror films of all time, yet it plays as a straightforward thriller these days. Even last year’s Get Out, one of the very best films of 2017, wasn’t a particularly effective horror film. Was it a biting satire? Yes. Did director Jordan Peele raise tension perfectly? Yes. Did it scare me? Not particularly.

Film Get Out

This is even more noticeable when it comes to the horror-comedy. Have there been any truly frightening films that mixed terror with laughs? Shaun of the Dead is a perfect zombie parody that prefers laughs and gore over scares. Evil Dead 2 is practically a Three Stooges-adaptation, featuring Bruce Campbell battling his own possessed hand before cutting it off with a chainsaw and replacing it with a shotgun. The closest the genre has come to genuinely frightening is John Landis’ classic An American Werewolf in London, a genuinely scary horror-comedy, albeit one that isn’t remotely as funny as many of its peers.

Clearly it’s possible to make a great horror film that isn’t scary, so why did Ghost Stories fail to affect me? Perhaps it isn’t that Ghost Stories isn’t scary, but that there’s little to the film beyond jump scares. As I mentioned in the review, the final act attempts some interesting narrative twists and turns, but other than that, at least an hour of the film only wants to scare you, and it rarely does. Does a horror film have to be scary? No, as long as you can make me laugh, cry, or force some kind of reaction out of me. If your film has nothing but jump scares and spooky imagery, it better chill me to the bone. Sadly, Ghost Stories didn’t quite manage it.

By Harry J. Ford


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Ghost Stories struggles to translate from stage to screen

Adapting a stage play into a feature film is tricky. What makes a piece work in a theatre – intimacy, intensity, immediacy – can fall flat when viewed in the cinema. This is especially true of horror. Just look at James Watkins’ 2012 adaptation of The Woman in Black: unbearably frightening on-stage, the film adaptation was reduced to predictable jump scares and loud noises. Sadly, the same can be said of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s adaptation of their own popular stage play Ghost Stories. While the piece is probably terrifying when performed a few feet away from you, the film version never gets under your skin.

Ghost Stories 1

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A hunting trip goes badly wrong in the tense, gripping Calibre

Though the basic premise – two old friends go on a hunting trip and run into violence– sounds like a Deliverance-style backwoods horror, Matt Palmer’s directorial debut Calibre is actually a sophisticated, sharply-written psychological thriller. Utilising its low budget and limited locations to deliver a tense, atmospheric morality tale, the Netflix-distributed film is among the best directorial debuts of the year.

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Jessie Buckley’s star-making performance carries the otherwise frustrating Beast

Jessie Buckley.

Remember that name.

In Michael Pearce’s directorial debut Beast, Buckley plays Moll, a troubled and lonely young woman living in an isolated Jersey town. Suffocated by an overbearing family and dead end job, Moll ditches her own birthday party – after her sister uses the opportunity to announce her pregnancy – to go clubbing. Nearly assaulted by a one night stand, Moll is saved by Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a charismatic loner who happens to have appeared the day after a local girl is abducted and murdered. Is Pascal as perfect as he appears to be? Does he have a dark secret in his past? Or is it Moll who’s keeping something hidden?

Beast 1

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