June Thorburn film coming up

price1In case anyone is interested, I’ve spotted in the schedules of the Talking Pictures channel the 1959 film The Price of Silence, which features June Thorburn, an actress that really caught my attention with her performance in The Scarlet Blade when I watched it last month. The Price of Silence airs on Sunday 21st June at the decidedly unfashionable hour of 02:40, so I’ve got the Tivo ready for that one.

While I’m at it, other scheduling treats coming up on Talking Pictures are the great Kathleen Harrison (who stole the show in Turn the Key Softly) featuring in two movies: Waterfront Women (1950) airing on Monday 15th June at 09:30, and the comedy Where There’s a Will (1955) the following day, Tuesday 16th June at 02:30. Where There’s a Will also features George (Arthur Daley) Cole, so could be fun. I’ve not seen any of these three films before so will have to see how they turn out, but I’m particularly intrigued at seeing June Thorburn again.

The Trollenberg Terror

troll1Today another old black and white movie- and while perhaps not a ‘classic’ in the way Turn the Key Softly is, nonetheless any fan of 1950s sci-fi b-movies will find much to enjoy in this outing into cosmic horror. This British-made film from 1958 bears many of the hallmarks of horror/sci-fi of that decade; fears of the alien, of atomic power, and even throws in paranormal powers of telepathy into the heady mix: its the quintessential 1950s sci-fi, complete with some curio casting (Alf Garnet himself, Warren Mitchell, playing a Swiss atomic scientist (Professor Crevett) with a delightfully strange German accent), some dodgy sets and some VERY dodgy visual effects. As usual the whole thing is saved by earnest performances and a typically efficient script from Hammer stalwart Jimmy Sangster.

Its actually more fun than it might have been. Part of this is the witty script- at the start of the film during a mysterious mountaineering accident, one climber retorts “maybe its the Abominable Snowman!” which may or may not have been an aside to Hammer’s own The Abominable Snowman from 1957, which I watched a few weeks ago (haven’t posted a review of that yet). Curiously, that Hammer film also featured actor Forrest Tucker in a starring role, which perhaps indicates what a small world the British film industry was back then. Here Tucker plays United Nations troubleshooter Alan Brooks, something of a forerunner of  Mulder from The X-Files; this is a mysterious guy with experience of alien critters who is not averse to throwing petrol bombs at giant one-eyed monsters. As well as radioactive clouds hiding aliens and a telepathic girl, the film features victims brought back from the dead (talking zombies or telepathically controlled puppets, its not clear), numerous decapitated victims (do the aliens eat their heads!?) and a climactic bomb strike from a British bomber that reminds us of a time when us Brits had a bit more clout and didn’t have to rely on American firepower to defeat alien invasions. There’s a delicious feel of everything but the kitchen sink being thrown into the heady mix- audiences certainly get their moneys worth here. If anything, the film-makers cannot manage the scripts lofty ambitions, with the budgetary-constrained effects team’s climactic sequences not quite living up to what Sangster probably described in his script.

Its just a pity they couldn’t have gotten Peter Cushing involved, his sincere gravitas would have been the icing on the cake, although that would have denied us the pleasure of Warren Mitchell’s, er, performance (to be fair, I think its deliberately comic as opposed to accidentally so- the whole film has a slightly irreverent tone that possibly makes watching it today so much fun).

They even take the opportunity during the film to refer several times to an earlier alien attack in the heights of the Andes, giving this film (had it been popular enough) a ready-made prequel all set up. How modern is that?

Turn the Key Softly

turn1Turn the Key Softly is a British film drama directed by Jack Lee that was released back in 1953, which I stumbled upon by looking at whats on the Talking Pictures schedules here in the UK ( a goldmine of great, classic movies you wouldn’t ordinarily see, certainly not on the mainstream networks). The film is a morality play at heart, telling the story of three women of rather different social backgrounds who are released from Holloway Prison early one wintry morning and which follows them for roughly 24 hours, documenting their various struggles to ‘stay straight’ and reject various temptations to slip back into crime.

I found the film absolutely enthralling, part of this because of its glimpse of a post-war London, and of a British way of life back then that is lost to us now- in some ways its like a science fiction movie set in some alien world, albeit rather familiar. The old fashions, the old decor, the old sensibilities, for good or ill (everyone smoking, even in restaurants). Its a feast for the eyes, old cars/buses/lorries/fire engines, side streets deserted of traffic, old-fashioned street corner pubs; I have a suspicion one could lose oneself in films such as this, a kind of dangerous nostalgia running through it that was likely unintended when it was made. It may have been a myth of the film, but its so endearing to see approachable English bobbies standing on street corners, or within earshot of a whistle for help, so many of them rushing to assistance during a robbery. Maybe it was never really like that, I don’t really know, but its such a fascinating, comforting thing to see and an indication of how life here seems to have gotten so much worse. I’d like to think of it as an honest representation of what London was like back then, because the film does seem very realistic and compassionate in its story and characters, its almost a docudrama that skirts the boundaries of film noir. The black and white cinematography is exquisite, capturing the grittiness of the streets layered in damp and cold (you can clearly see the breath from characters mouths as they talk caught in the light) and you really get a sense of the cold early-morning light of short days and neon-drenched winter-evening streets. The film looks and feels very real.

turn3The cast is wonderful: the film graced by three very strong performances from its female leads, which rather makes it a surprisingly modern-feeling film in some ways. A very young Joan Collins plays Stella Jarvis, a Cockney beauty caught between what she fears is the boredom of a mundane life in a traditional marriage and the seductive ‘easy’ life of prostitution and all the excitement she thinks that offers. She’s very good in the part, Collins was obviously something of a beauty and carries that part of her role well, but she’s surprisingly adept at clearly showing her frustrations and fears in her expressions- suggesting she might have been a more serious actress given opportunity (damning her with faint praise there, I suspect). The character is the most under-written of the three and could have been something of a serious weakness for the film but Collins really shines and manages very well indeed.

Yvonne Mitchell plays Monica Marsden, the nominal lead of the picture, who carries the central story-line. Mitchell is absolutely brilliant; beautiful and fragile. yet underneath that exterior strong and independent. Its a nuanced performance- Mitchell was a stage actress really, which was a loss to film on the evidence of this role. Monica is struggling to shake off her lover, David, who she’s just done twelve months prison time for, after a bungled burglary. He seduces her as soon as she’s out and is secretly manipulating her into another burglary that very night, setting up her personal trial for what path she will take when she realises she has been duped by his false promises.

Kathleen Harrison as gentle old shoplifter Mrs. Quilliam steals the film, however: a sensitive performance of considerable understated tenderness as a lonely woman abandoned by her daughter and struggling through a life of poverty with her beloved pet dog, Johnny. The sad fact that her performance and character is as timely now as it was all those years ago is a grim reflection of the world we live in and how the aged are easily disenfranchised by society.

The archetypal old English lady is something of a cliche but its done so well here. Her increasing desperation when she ‘loses’ her dog, wandering in the dark streets calling out for him is really touching (I’ll admit it, as a dog owner, any scene of someone losing their dog is one to tug at my heartstrings) and her final fate all the more poignant.

turn2Based on a novel by John Brophy, I suppose Turn the Key Softly is a very simple story, but its one very well told, and the setting and the location filming of it is really quite fascinating. Its a lost world, really, and a lost sense of community or how people lived- at time of writing, it was released an incredible 67 years ago, and here I am, swept off my seat by it like its a bolt out of the blue. Sure its a little melodramatic and there’s perhaps one or two coincidences slipped in there to serve the plot, but I can forgive all of that. This is a great little British movie. I’d love to see this film properly restored and given a Blu-ray release from the likes of Arrow or Eureka, I think it really deserves that kind of attention. I can’t speak highly enough of this film.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out the following website,  https://www.reelstreets.com/films/turn-the-key-softly which I found whilst looking up the film after seeing it- the website has many screen captures from the film coupled with fairly recent photos of the locations. Its a spellbinding thing, comparing images of then and now, and if you haven’t seen the film, the screen captures will hopefully demonstrate just how well the location shooting was executed, and the docudrama look and feel of the film. If you are familiar with the film, you might find looking at these ‘then and now’ shots rewarding.

Turn the Key Softly is available on DVD and can also be caught by keeping a watchful eye out in the schedules for the Talking Pictures channel here in the UK, as I presume it will get repeated airings (as its content usually does).

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

mal1Twenty minutes into this belated 2019 sequel to the 2014 original I almost gave up on it (the Abort Button already, crikey I’ve had some week) – it was too twee, too sweet, too… well to be honest, it was too much like an animated movie. Nothing was real; the sets/locations/characters, other than Elle Fanning (and God knows she can be wooden enough to be mistaken for a Supermarionation character) everything seemed to be CGI artifice, outtakes from Avatar. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, was real: I swear it was like it was a Pixar movie. Like quite a few of these live-action Disney films, I really wonder if they should be taken to task referring to them as ‘live action’. They even insisted on one of those endless impossible helicopter/virtual camera shots sweeping over vast landscapes and huge distances, low over forests and over waterfalls and all that… ugh I hate those shots. Always pull me out of what I’m watching and put me on edge.

Thankfully we eventually reached a part of the film with real actors and real sets and the plot kicked in, because then I finally had something to latch onto, even if it was a bit weird seeing Citizen Smith (Robert Lindsay) apparently selling out as royalty and, well frankly I still felt a bit lost. Wasn’t King Henry some other actor before, as was Aurora’s boyfriend, Prince Phillip, and was Michelle Pfeiffer the Queen in the first film? Yes, they recast quite a few of the roles, and no, King Henry’s missus didn’t seem to be in the first one, weird that, or maybe I blinked and missed some explanation. Are we supposed to expect continuity problems or internal logic issues between movies?  Are we supposed to care with films such as this?

mal3Actually, it got better as it went on. Nothing too original or clever, I mean the script was fairly routine/predictable but I guess you rather expect that with big blockbusters like this: keep them simple, keep them undemanding. I might suggest that maybe they should spend some of the overblown effects budget on decent writing, but hey, you can never tell these days, maybe they did, scripts like this probably don’t come cheap even if they do sometimes feel cobbled together from DVD collections. It did, unfortunately, come across like some big overblown machine, the structure of the film, the characters, the telegraphing of stuff… I’m sure the kids love it but many of these blockbusters feel like films made by a committee, films without any individuality of vision.

But it worked, eventually working out as a worthy sequel to Maleficent, a film I quite enjoyed but never returned to- maybe I would have enjoyed this even more had I rewatched the first film beforehand (yeah, do your homework stupid), but it certainly looked like a ‘part two’ to a ‘part one’, even if that first film did originally appear to be self-contained. Some of the visuals are astonishing- Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent continues to be a remarkable creation, scary and monstrous and beautiful and somehow sexy… like a female version of Tim Curry’s Darkness from Ridley Scott’s Legend. Legend actually came to mind a few times watching this film- many of these film fantasies continue to appropriate some of that films imagery, and Ridley’s achievement in those pre-CGI days cannot be denied. But yeah, Jolie really does well under all that make-up, that can’t be easy.

And they should probably do a Flash Gordon reboot now, because the winged men of Prince Vultan’s Sky City can be nailed perfectly- the later battle sequences of Maleficent: Mistress of Evil are like a pre-vis for the end of a future Flash Gordon attack on Ming’s Fortress: I couldn’t help it, I kept on thinking “Flash!” having a bit of a geek giggle. I’m reminded of the recent Planet of the Apes films using CGI apes so magnificently; sometimes a films time comes, when the tech can fully realise the vision, you know? Maybe Flash Gordon’s time is now: an odd thing to realise from watching a Maleficent movie.

Crawl (on your knees, sucker)

crawlaOh no, here’s another one.

This is one of those tedious movies that pass as horror films these days, or films in general really: wildly implausible, and carrying a bit of a whiff of Marvel super-heroics about it. Which, really, is getting tiresome now. Our heroine Haley (Kaya Scodelario) gets her leg bitten by an alligator, is flung around awhile with her leg in its jaws, then kicks herself free with her other leg, and later out-swims other alligators with said injured leg, stands, runs on it etc. She gets her right arm elbow-deep in the jaws of another alligator, shoots it in the head several times to get her arm free, later uses that arm for climbing, fighting, swimming etc. She gets mauled by another alligator with its jaws on her shoulder but frees herself again and climbs the side of a building onto the roof… yeah, mauled leg, mauled arm, mauled shoulder… who is she, Captain Marvel?

Her Dad (Barry Pepper), who Haley braved a hurricane to try and find/save, is just the same. She finds him in the basement/cellar of the old family home, unconscious having been mauled by an alligator, his abdomen slashed by teeth etc but he’s okay once woken up, and fixes his smashed leg with a wrench (auditioning for a Rambo reboot, maybe). Later he actually drowns in the flooded basement but his daughter smashes through the floorboards (!) to pull him up from his watery grave and revives him with CPR. A few minutes later he gets his forearm bitten off by another alligator, grits his teeth and ties himself an handy tourniquet with his free arm to stop the bleeding, climbs onto the roof etc.

These guys spend hours in freezing water, they should be blacking out with pain, trauma, delirious with exhaustion and blood loss… This film crashes the credibility barrier so early on and smashes any bullshit radar. This kind of super-heroics is getting increasingly prevalent these days, as if ordinary characters have to compete with Marvels spandex crusaders. Its so preposterous, so utterly insane, it almost threatens to be fun, but really, all the way through I’m thinking, “I’m being mugged here”. The only saving grace this film has is that it doesn’t use the family dog as ‘gator bait.

Quentin Tarantino apparently rated this as his best film of 2019. Either he didn’t see many movies that year, or he’s taking anyone who listens to him for a ride into la-la land. Can’t say it improves his critical standing in my book. Maybe he’s just trying to be controversial or something, or relevant until he gets a Marvel gig.

My advice, watch this movie with plenty of beers. On the subject of watery horrors, can Underwater be much worse?

If you’ve got a crate of cans or box of wine handy, Crawl is currently showing on Sky Cinema here in the UK.

Shameful Killers Anonymous

killEveryone involved in this film should hang their heads in shame. In all the several years here writing posts, I don’t think I’ve seen such a self-indulgent, cynical, aimless mess as this film proved to be. I can forgive some of the minor cast -everyone’s got bills to pay, and most actors can’t be too picky when they get that casting call- but regards the involvement of Gary Oldman or Jessica Alba, actors worth millions whose names/images ‘sell’ any film project they are involved with, well, I reserve for them a very special ire, and far as I’m concerned, they are marked for future ignorance/irrelevance. Anybody watching this film on the strength of their involvement should feel like they have been conned, taken for fools. That’s sort of how I felt, certainly- when picking something to watch last night, I saw their names in the credits and figured, well, that might be interesting. Well fool me once, shame on you, shame me twice…

Indeed, I don’t intend to waste any more time than I need to writing this particular post, as, frankly, this film is absolutely not worth it and I wasted enough of my time watching the film- some ninety minutes or so that I will never get back. To that end, I’m going to start a new resolution – a mid-New Years Resolution if you will- aborting terrible movies. You see, in the past, I’ve always stuck with a film, through thick and thin. Nothing particularly noble about it, more like stubbornness I suppose, but when I’ve started watching a film, I’ve always seen it through, for good or ill. Well, post-Killers Anonymous, that’s all over. From now on, when I’m watching something execrable, I’m pulling the plug, hitting the Abort button. It’ll probably be a whole new category of this blog.

Anyway, for anyone fortunate to have not seen this yet- avoid. Avoid with Absolute Prejudice. Life is really far too short even if you lived three hundred years.

Origins of Mordor: Tolkien

Tolk2Films are not the place to look for facts or cold hard Truth. Films prefer to smooth things out, preferably with a happy ending, or certainly something life affirming. Always take a biography on film with a pinch of salt. But there is always something enticing about the ideal pictures that films paint, something seductive.

On paper, a biography of JRR Tolkien seems the unlikeliest of subjects for a film. Tolkien was, as far as I know, a very traditional Englishman a world apart from those we consider ourselves to be today, a wholly different generation that possibly ended with the Great War. Fascinated by language, mythology and history, an Oxford scholar quite averse to celebrity or wealth – and likely quite ignorant of the Hollywood machine that turned his most popular works into something else entirely, making billions of dollars and earning Oscars and fabulous wealth for those involved. One has to wonder what he would have thought of the hugely successful LOTR trilogy; he may have been ruefully chagrined by the whole spectacle, and as someone who read the books in the 1970’s, I can sympathise with those that feel the films woefully inappropriate. A LOTR trilogy close to Tolkien’s original vision might be the biggest and most elaborate arthouse movies ever made, far removed from the popular-culture films Peter Jackson produced. Something more Boorman (Excalibur) than Jackson, I think.

Tolk1The narrative of Tolkien is rather mundane, if understandably so- its a dramatisation of Tolkien’s early life, from his orphaned childhood to later years at college, and the narrative is how his experiences and friendships over those years, and his experiences on the battlefield of the Somme during WWI, informed his later creations of Middle Earth and the saga of the Ring, images of which are scattered throughout the film.

I suspect some liberties may have been taken. The film has the feel of… well, I’ve raised this before regards films based on true events or life stories: in making a dramatic work, you can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story. Tolkien’s biography does have elements of the remarkable to it, and there is no doubt that his harrowing experiences of the Great War and the loss of his friends had a huge effect on what he later wrote in his stories. It is perhaps inevitable that the wholesome, Sunday-afternoon matinee movie feel of the film is perpetuates through the war sequences which are suggestive rather than as graphic as they might have been, the whole film perpetuating a very mild matinee sheen. I’m thinking, Downton Abbey. Maybe that’s inevitable, it seems that’s how the outside world thinks we lived in the past, our own equivalent of the Hollywood Wild West.

The film is heartfelt and well-intentioned, but lacks the darkness that I think really infected Tolkien’s actual work. In the tradition of Downton Abbey, everyone seems handsome or gorgeous or noble or good or combinations thereof, almost as if we are seeing an inspirational ideal rather than the possible reality that Tolkien lived, something that unfortunately reduces Edith to an underwritten love-interest. Its all harmless and entertaining but lacks any genuine surprises and any drama feels idealised, or distant. Its a harmless film, really.

If Lovecraft wrote a date movie: Spring

springThis film first caught my attention several years ago, but as often is the case with indie films with limited distribution deals, the film proved elusive to find in HD resulting in an outlay not worth the blind-buy. Years passed, and I’d actually forgotten about it. Thankfully, as often happens these days, by pure chance I found the film on Amazon Prime and  having re-sparked my curiosity from years ago, could not resist- I watched it immediately.

After the death of his mother, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), a troubled young American tries to escape his problems with the law by taking a trip to Italy, where he enjoys a few drunken adventures with some Brits and ends up in an old, quiet coastal town. A beautiful woman, Louise (Nadia Hilker) catches his eye and he finds himself intrigued by her and falling in love. It might be the Italian sun, the sea, the wine, or the fact that she’s quite gorgeous and extraordinary, but its rather like Avanti! for the Lovecraft generation. The film is exquisitely photographed, really making the most of the startling and captivating locations, just as Billy Wilder’s film did, giving the film a lushly romantic feel. Evan is right about one thing- Louise, you see, is indeed no ordinary woman, but not wholly in the romantic sense that Evan is thinking of.

Spring is surprisingly a very subtle movie; I was quite swept away by it. Its mostly a character piece, with two fantastic leads. Pucci is a naive young man angry at the world , trying to escape his troubled past by finding something new, always trying to do the ‘right thing’. Hilker, meanwhile, as the bewitching Louise is quite a revelation, a beauty who is older and wiser than her apparent age suggests and quite a force of nature, an exciting and mysterious femme fatalle. I had one of those ‘where have I seen her face before?’ moments until I discovered she’s appeared in the last few seasons of The Walking Dead that I watched before bailing on the show last year: chalk her up as another great talent utterly wasted by the soul-destroying writing on that show. In Spring, she utterly shines, stealing every scene she’s in: its definitely her movie and on the evidence of this performance deserves success in future films if she can escape that tv show.

spring3Considering this is indeed a monster movie with a few startling transformations and shocks, its quite a feat that its the relationship between the two characters that proves the centrepiece of the movie. Its no mean achievement in a film like this to establish a realistic, emotive relationship as if its primarily a date movie posing as a genre piece, rather than the other way around. Indeed, I think its not until the hour-mark that the horror aspect starts to surface.

My reference to Lovecraft in the title of this post is not accidental- its really got Lovecraftian undertones, albeit grown-up, open-minded Lovecraft (which, er, doesn’t exist, now that I think of it). In some ways one could get away with summarising this film as Billy Wilder’s Avanti! crossed with Stuart Gordon’s Dagon. If that sounds intriguing, you’d be right. I suppose in some ways, that whole monster sub-plot proves totally unnecessary, and that’s what might make this film so interesting/frustrating: the two leads are so good and their romance so convincing, that’s probably enough, leaving the horror almost superfluous. Which really isn’t what I had expected, and made it such a pleasant surprise.

If I have a problem with the film, its possibly how it concludes. If by some ghastly whim Lovecraft ever had really written a horror romance, he would have had it much darker, but the film goes the Billy Wilder route. Individual mileage may vary- I guess some may feel its perfect and validates everything that happens earlier in the film, and I guess they’d be right, but that’s never how Lovecraft had it in his stories, finally making the film less of a Lovecraftian movie that it threatens to be. Intellectually that darker end would have been more fitting, perhaps, albeit it could have felt like a bitter punch to the stomach so the alternative taken is hardly surprising.

Spring is apparently finally coming to Blu-ray here in the UK later in the summer, if that still comes to pass I think I’ll be getting a copy. This was a great little movie.

Spring is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.


Jaws 4K UHD

jaws4kYou never know until you actually sit down to watch it, but every fan can relax, this is great. Another substantial 4K edition of a classic movie: Jaws looks fabulous in this new 4K release. Details are amazing, right down to the fabric on the clothes and textures on objects, and the HDR adds a vibrancy and depth to the image that is almost startling. Best of all, while grain is evident, it doesn’t degenerate into mosquito noise on my OLED as it tends to at times during other 4K editions of some classic films. I doubt the film looked anything near as good as this as when I saw it at the ABC in town back in 1976, or over the years since on VHS, DVD, Blu-ray etc… yeah, this is one of THOSE films that we just crave in whatever new format comes along. Well, I’m certain this is the last time.

Fantastic movie, mind. In my opinion its Spielberg’s best, by some margin. Maybe it was the adversity of the nightmarish shoot he had, filming this back in 1974 (well documented over the years in documentaries that appear on this disc- indeed, special features ported onto the actual 4K disc, we’re truly spoilt with this one). There does seem some pattern in film history with directors producing their best work in the face of great trial, which makes me wonder if they unconsciously coast somewhat when everything goes swimmingly (sic). Not that any of them would admit to that, but maybe some thrive under pressure, and its certainly true that Spielberg, forced to look at other ways of approaching the shark attacks when Bruce proved to be a troublesome star, improved the film no end by adopting a rather Hitchcock-like method. At the same time, it allowed the character actors to do their best and truly shine, avoiding them being overshadowed by any monster effects. There’s a sense of reality to the film that grounds it, regardless of the rather ridiculous premise.

The retro ecstasy of The Vast of Night

vastThe Vast of Night is a glorious throwback to sci-fi of old; deliberately set in 1950s small-town America on the desert border with New Mexico, a setting which evokes all the paranoia of that period which informed all those old b-movies of alien menace and Russian Cold War threat. Taking place (almost in real-time, 1917-style) over one long night in a deserted town (the majority of the towns populace at the High School watching a basketball game) it promotes its low budget as its biggest asset- almost like a radio play, everything is suggested, never shown, characters recounting events like campfire horror tales, callers describing things over the telephone or to the radio show. Something is in the night sky, we are told, something unexplained and hidden. People are disappearing.

The retro styling is reinforced by the film being framed as a television programme: the film begins as a slow pull-in towards an old, 1950s-style CRT screen as it begins an episode of ‘Paradox Theatre‘, complete with a Twilight Zone-homage title sequence and Rod Serling narration. We are pulled into the b&w screen, and its grainy monochrome image only gradually resolves into a colour image, although it always maintains its grainy quality. Occasionally, the film fades to black, as if breaking for commercials/’a word from our sponsor!’ before resuming.

And yet, for all its 1950s-television sensibilities, the film does maintain some very impressive, modern twists: the opening sequence is one long single take (possibly a faux-single take, like those of 1917, I’m not sure- its tempting to guess where the cuts and joins might be) as the camera follows the main characters from High School gymnasium and halls, through car parks and streets, breathlessly trying to keep up with both their hurried stroll and their rapid-fire conversation. A later shot takes us all through the town in, again, one apparent single take, from the High School and the streets and backyards to the radio station, brilliantly establishing both the geography of the films setting and the emptiness and deserted feel of the characters milieu. It feels incredibly authentic: considering its very low budget, the film brilliantly evokes its period setting.

vast2It reminded me a little of John Carpenters The Fog, a film that also made its low budget its biggest asset,  particularly recalling that films opening campfire scene and John Houseman’s ghost story which so vividly established the films atmosphere and old-school credentials. Another similarity to The Fog is the use of the radio station and DJ as a central narrative device to move the mystery forward, and describe events rather than see them. The biggest similarity to this of course is Orson Welles’ radioplay of The War of the Worlds, which fooled many of its nation that its events were all real.  Suggestion is most always better than physically showing something in a horror film, a little at odds with how the genre gradually became increasingly graphic over the years, resorting to visual gory excess to shock. While The Vast of Night is perhaps more a cold war/paranoia sci-fi thriller rather than a horror film, it is (mostly) all suggestion, using many Twilight Zone-like tricks to let the viewer’s imagination to do most of the work.

I found it a refreshing approach and a nostalgic nod to all those b&w b-movies I watched and loved as a kid (as well as those tv shows The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits). Curiously, I can’t imagine the film coming out at a more timely moment than during this Covid19 crisis we are living in; the films sense of isolation and fear of the unseen being quite perfect for late-night viewing right now. In that sense, The Vast of Night is absolutely perfect.

The Vast of Night is currently streaming on Amazon Prime