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HORROR

Censor | Don’t Go in the Woods

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In 1984 the ‘Video Recordings Act’ enforced that commercial VHS sold in the UK must have classification from the BBFC leading to increased horror censorship. Victim to this oppressive wave was the ‘video nasties’, a unique type of film which gained reputation for extreme gore and outrageous violence.

Stamping a strangely satirical spin on the censorship crazies of the 80s is writer/director Prano Bailey-Bond’s feature length debut Censor. A film which stalks the story of an isolated film censor named Enid (Niamh Algar) who has her childhood trauma brought to life in the form of a ‘video nasty’. The name of the nasty, ‘Don’t Go in the Church’, an appropriately unnerving flick which hooks Enid’s attention due to its uncanny similarity to a childhood event.

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What follows is a slowly surreal drama that occasionally dips its bloody toes into Lynchian landscapes while keeping firmly rooted to its topic. Photographed by Annika Summerson (Mowgul Mowgli) the darkly lit external setting of damp offices makes everything in the fuzzy TV screen all the more enticing and fascinating. The contrast between the bright light of the scratchy VHS setting and the dulled tone of the British exterior heightens the oppressive status of video censors and the trauma that is restricting Enid’s life from colour and expression.

Perhaps for certain audience members none of this will feel quite as cathartic as the film was willing it to be. Despite a deliciously dream-like ending – the rest is quite emotionally stunted. There were moments in which the commentary on culture and VHS-related nightmares overtook the cinematic story that fronted it. Most likely, this will excite some and frustrate others.

Harnessing the obsessive fixation of the central protagonist is the excellent Niamh Algar. Opposing the political and parental mobs of anti-exploitative material, Enid’s infatuations and intrigues are with the films she’s employed to censor. With apt contextual backing for her descent into a killer craze – the protagonist is neither sympathetic or unfeeling. She is a stern in-between who doesn’t exude the blood of body horror, rather the haunting shivers of guilt and the ice-cold sting of trauma.

Despite the questionable acting of the VHS horrors to which her character is ruthlessly editing, Algar is believable and grounded throughout. Echoing Morfydd Clark’s role in Saint Maud (2020), Algar is an anchor for the film, convincingly reanimating the distress and trauma caused by the repressed memories of Enid’s childhood.

Enid (Niamh Algar) taking a late night, blood soaked stroll through her memories

Appropriately British and appropriately gloomy, Bailey-Bond resists any temptation to jump into 80s nostalgia. This is a grim depiction of trauma wrapped around the intrigue of British censorship and authoritarian editing. For those who remember the parental hysteria of VHS gore, there are segments of Censor which will recapture the Zombies, Werewolves and Yetis of yesteryear. Ironically, it may lack the twisted oomph required for those who have instead been raised on the ooze of big screen blood and the modern embrace of cinematic horror.

Aspects of Censor feel well-intended, with backdrops of Thatcher-era Britain providing the appropriate subtext for the screenplay. But the subtext only deepened the background commentary while the foreground and central story lacked proper substance and emotion. A sting of superficiality tarnished the story, as character and plot simply needed more ‘meat on the bone’ to truly harness any impact or cathartic bite.

Often leaning further into laboured exercise than emotional exorcise, for a film mocking and examining video nasty mayhem much of it didn’t feel nasty enough. Moments of violence lacked the cathartic thrill of exploitative body horror, and the screenplay at times felt like skin and bones begging to be fleshed out.

Moving to a dull beat at times, Censor does take time to push the story to its climax. Some earlier moments begged the headline ‘Videodrone’, but it did eventually rise from the dead with a bloody bite. It is an admirable film with enough substance for an intriguing Tuesday night watch. But it lacks the unflinching audacity and power of the video nasties of the 80s. In many ways, it felt like a cinephile’s dream and an average viewers nightmare.

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Action

‘Violent Night’ Review | A Violent Delight & Bloody Christmas Caper!

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HO HO HOLY HUMBUG!! Violent Night is an instant Christmas Classic packed with Festive Fun and Christmas Carnage! Tommy Wirkola blends gnarly bloody action with laughs and a magical story about believing. David Harbour Sleighs! as Santa Claus. 

From 87North, the bare-knuckle producers of Nobody, John Wick, Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2, Bullet Train and Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw comes a coal-dark holiday action-comedy that says you should always bet on red. When a team of mercenaries breaks into a wealthy family compound on Christmas Eve, taking everyone inside hostage, the team isn’t prepared for a surprise combatant: Santa Claus (David Harbour, Black Widow, Stranger Things series) is on the grounds, and he’s about to show why this Nick is no saint!

(from left) David Harbour and John Leguizamo on the set of Violent Night.

Review

Santa Claus Has Had Enough of Christmas

This Holiday Season, Santa Claus is coming to town in this ultra-violent sugar cookie-coated tale from writers Pat Casey and Josh Miller whilst directed by Tommy Wirkola who infuses his gore-soaked humour into this familiar holiday tradition that’s full of festive fun, ferocious fights, action-set pieces involving Christmas ornaments, Ice-skates, and a Nutcracker. “Violent Night” is sure to be a Christmas Crowd pleaser that’ll ultimately make you think twice about candy canes and the Christmas tree star whilst also being a fantastic homage to the seasonal genre classics like “Home Alone” and “Die Hard”.

“Violent Night” introduces David Harbour as Santa Claus, a cynic washing away and drowning his frustrations with booze on Christmas Eve, he’s feeling burned out by a world with too much greed and too little Christmas spirit, and he’s ultimately disgusted with the world’s consumerism. Harbour perfectly slips into the jolly red suit and into the role of this cranky, brutal, and savage version of Santa Claus, making it look effortless as he goes from a despairing drunk to a bloodthirsty warrior on the battlefront truly capturing some of the best Seasons Beatings with gruesome and inventive kills. However, Harbour also provides some of the film’s endearing, heartfelt moments when he magically goes down the chimney, eating decorative cookies, and interacting with Trudy played by Leah Brady definitely thawed out this jolly man’s heart.

David Harbour as Santa in Violent Night, directed by Tommy Wirkola. © 2022 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Snow Way Out

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Lightstone residence. The Lightstone family, are an affluent and dysfunctional bunch gathering for Christmas at the countryside mansion of Gertrude Lightstone played by Beverly D’Angelo (National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise). It’s a lavish estate that has been funded by the profitable family business. Jason Lightstone (Alex Hassell), his estranged wife Linda(Alexis Louder), and their daughter Trudy (Leah Brady) travel to the family and are joined by Jason’s alcoholic sister Alva (Edi Patterson), her new boyfriend and wannabe-action-star Morgan Steele (Cam Gigandet), and Alva’s influencer son Bert (Alexander Elliot).

However, Just as Santa arrives there to deliver gifts — and takes a break to sample some fine liquor along with his cookies — the criminal mastermind called “Mr Scrooge” (John Leguizamo) breaks in with his gang of minions, intending to steal $300 million from Gertrude’s vault. But the money appears to be missing, and the Lightstones are taken, hostage. John Leguizamo plays Scrooge, the leader of the mercenaries with skill and energy which is a perfect rival for Harbour’s Santa. Alongside his gang of mercenary minions aptly identified with Christmas codenames such as Candycane, Sugar Plum, Gingerbread, and Krampus provide some of the most hilarious and bloody moments.

(from left) Sugarplum (Stephanie Sy), Gertrude (Beverly DÕAngelo), Alva (Edi Patterson), Morgan Steel (Cam Gigandet), Frosty (Can Aydin), Bert (Alexander Elliot), Linda (Alexis Louder), Peppermint (Rawleigh Clements-Willis), Scrooge (John Leguizamo) and Gingerbread (AndrŽ Eriksen) in Violent Night, directed by Tommy Wirkola.

Feliz Navi-Dead

“Violent Night” truly has its Season’s beatings as it’s jam-packed with ferocious fights and bloody deaths. The fights are incredibly well done, and the choreography and stunt of the action sequences are a work of art. Though at first, when the shooting begins, Santa doesn’t want to get involved. But once he recognizes Trudy’s involvement and realizes her goodness and innocence including her belief —which he dutifully looks up on a magical “Naughty and Nice” list—he determines that he must fight for her safety.

This movie is also rightly named “Violent Night” as it ultimately leaves pools of blood on the floor and blood spattered on the walls which in turn make the snow red. Throughout each action-set piece Santa batter’s the mercenaries with fists and heavy objects; stabs one with knives, sharpened candy canes and, well, anything with a point; and have their necks and body parts slashed or impaled on the likes of everything from axes and sharp Christmas ornaments to ice skates.

One sequence perfectly captures the essence and pays homage to “Home Alone”. it’s full of innocence, fun, and games as the traps that Trudy set are lethal.

© Universal Studios Violent Night, directed by Tommy Wirkola.

Final Thoughts

HO HO HO

“Violent Night” is ultimately a story about Santa saving Christmas yet again, however this time with an onslaught of grisly holiday surprises. The movie’s heart is the magic of christmas, and even Santa doesn’t fully understand it, we see that magical force at play several times as he magically evaporates and whisks up a number of chimney flues and that his sack has the ability to store an endless number of gifts that he can magically pull out just by reaching in. The film also incudes a sountrack of festive themes and a creative use of Christmas songs which will leave audiences crying with laughter. Writers Pat Casey, Josh Miller and director Tommy Wirkola blends such gnarly bloody action with laughs and a magical story about believing.

“Violent Night”  Ultimately achieves a perfect blending of genres and totally exceeds expectations, truly making it a wildly entertaining holiday horror caper. With it’s impressive body count, explosions, bloodshed, heart, and overall holiday cheer, “Violent Night” most definitely earns a spot on the Nice List! and If your able to see this in cinemas, do so as the experience on the big screen is epic. I intend to make this a part of my annual holiday movie watchlist from here on out.

“Violent Night” is now showing in Theatres!

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Alien: Covenant

Cailee Spaeny Circling Newest Installment in ‘Alien’ Film Franchise

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 Fox has continued their Alien franchise since its inception in the 1970s. The first film was groundbreaking for its gritty sci-fi horror themes creating one of the best heroines on screen with Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and it appears they may be trying to reinvent the wheel once again with the rumored choice to lead the next franchise installment.

According to multiple outlets, Cailee Spaeny is in talks with 20th Century to join the Alien franchise leading its latest set to be directed by Don’t Breathe director, Fede Alvarez. Though there are not many details coming with this scoop, we do know that the franchise will likely continue its trend of having the iconic creature known as the Xenomorphs attacking whatever humans they encounter, this time set to be led by Spaeny. The studio is hoping to wrap up its deal with the actress as soon as possible as they would like to have cameras rolling by early 2023.

Spaeny was recently seen in HBO’s Mare of Easttown but has two high-profile movies she’s working on currently. The first being cast as Priscilla Presley for Sofia Coppola’s upcoming romance movie aptly titled, Priscilla, which follows the relationship of the King of Rock and Roll and his wife. Spaeny will be joined by Euphoria star, Jacob Elordi who will portray Elvis. Additionally, she will star in Civil War, the latest from Alex Garland alongside Kirsten Dunst and Wagner Moura. 

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Entertainment

‘A Quiet Place: Day One’ Adds ‘Stranger Things’ Breakout Star Joseph Quinn

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 Joseph Quinn’s new character, Eddie Munson within Stranger Things Season 4 was beloved by fans everywhere making Quinn’s star rise. Now, after months of anticipation, fans can see Quinn joining another popular horror-based franchise. 

According to a report from Deadline, Joseph Quinn is set to join the cast of A Quiet Place: Day One, a spinoff film of A Quiet Place developed by John Krasinski. Quinn will co-star in the movie alongside Lupita Nyong’o who was just recently added to the movie set to be directed by Michael Sarnoski.

Stranger Things Season 4 was one of my favorite seasons of television all year long and in recent memory. Part of the reason for that was the familiar favorites that have been with the Netflix original for past seasons, but Quinn’s Eddie Munson was a welcome addition and added an element that the show was missing. Despite the acting talents throughout the show, not all of the stars have taken off in the same way that Quinn has despite only appearing in the most recent season. 

 Sarnoski, who previously directed last year’s drama, Pig starring Nicolas Cage, signed on to direct A Quiet Place: Day One back in January while Nyong’o has been attached for only a short time entering negotiations in early-November. Nyong’o can be seen in theaters currently reprising her role as Nakia in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

A Quiet Place: Day One, though being an additional installment within the horror franchise, is not a continuation of the previous two films, but rather a spinoff that will probably not see John Krasinski nor Emily Blunt reprise their roles. However, Day One‘s story was written by Krasinski himself and he is developing the third film in the main storyline currently as Paramount is hoping to create their own universe following the rousing success of the first two movies. A Quiet Place: Day One hits theaters on March 8, 2024.

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