Friday, 19 January 2018

We Don't Go Back #76: The League of Gentlemen (1999-2017)

When The League of Gentlemen was first broadcast, I didn't own a TV, and by the time I owned one, I was living with my Beloved, who didn't have any interest in seeing it. Nonetheless, I could tell you a not insignificant amount about the major characters, and reel off catchphrases. I could tell you what it was like. People cared about it. Partly this was because several of my friends adored it, and it entered the referential lexicon of our conversation. But partly it seemed to be present, part of the furniture of our pop culture.

For example, I remember that at the time the university LGB society (the T or the Q were not yet added, which is related to a point I'll pick up later) used pictures of prominent gay and lesbian people on posters for an anti-homophobia campaign and one of them was Mark Gatiss, and I recognised him as the chap from The League of Gentlemen. It's fair to say that The League of Gentlemen fell firmly into the category of things I'd never seen but which I could take part in a conversation about without getting completely lost.

I never got round to watching The League of Gentlemen.

But now this project is Serious Business, there are some things I can't really get away with leaving out. So I committed myself to watching it. A good friend expressed concern that it might be too late for me to do that. I sort of half understood what he was getting at, but only really got what he was about having worked through it.

The usual caveats about how writing about comedy are the antithesis of funny apply here, by the way (I still think my funniest article was the one about Planet of the Apes, but I digress).

Friday, 12 January 2018

We Don't Go Back – Guest Post: The Wailing (2016)

This is another guest post from my friend and frequent collaborator Jon Dear, of Views from a Hill.

My first encounter with Asian horror was Takashi Shimizu’s Ju-on (The Grudge) (2002) and it upset me more than I was expecting. At the time my ignorance and lack of experience put this down to the supernatural threat not playing by (what I then saw as) the rules. The malevolent force could pursue victims who ran from the haunting (there was no escape, that’s not fair!).
Oh now, this really is too far. Most unsporting.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

We Don't Go Back #75: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016)

There have been a couple of occasions where the act of fitting a film into my series has been in itself a betrayal of a plot twist, a handing over of secrets. Where the tropes of folk horror are part of a reveal. And in order even to talk about them, I am explaining the ending. So tread carefully. I think The Autopsy of Jane Doe is a strong enough film to be worth a look with its twists revealed, but nonetheless I'll be giving things away.

You can find The Autopsy of Jane Doe on UK (and I think US) Netflix right now. It is well worth looking up. You need a strong stomach though.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Written in Water #23: Following Yonder Star

January 6th is the Feast of Epiphany, the official end of Christmas. It's when, traditionally, the tale of the Magi is told in churches. It bears telling again, for it is one of the strangest stories in a book full of stories whose strangeness we take for granted.

Friday, 29 December 2017

We Don't Go Back #73: Doctor Who, twice more

The thing that few commentators on Doctor Who outside of the hard-core fan communities ever properly get across is how it isn't really one show. When its entire cast, production crew and writing team change every few years, this is inevitable. Pretty much every sweeping "Doctor Who is/does" statement you can make, even on the most fundamental level, in terms of theme and content, needs to be suffixed with "except when it isn't/doesn’t" to be true.

I think the one real exception to that rule is only this: Doctor Who is a cultural artefact that reflects the prevailing atmosphere of the time, and because it's science fiction (except when it isn't) it can comment on the milieu it's in more freely, and with more feeling.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

On a Thousand Walls #10: Possession (1981)

This post is also The Question in Bodies #6.
Possession – a film that was banned for some years in the UK, butchered in the US and only finally released in its intended form in 2013 – feels for me like a low-key simulation of trauma.

It has that irrational, raw feeling, is all about the confusion, the moment where you freeze up and nothing makes sense, and you can’t form a thought, and you react in ways that afterwards leave you deeply ashamed and humiliated and messed up for days or weeks afterwards. You see it happen, the way that characters try desperately to find some reason in the ways they’re behaving, in the time they give each other, only for the fight-or-flight reaction to kick in and drive them to do wildly inappropriate things.

It's trauma. It feels like you’re watching a trauma happen in real time.