Saturday 17 February 2018

On a Thousand Walls #11: Ghostwatch (1992)

I was one of the people taken in.

I wasn't alone in this: quite a lot of people, potentially millions, either didn't tune in on time or didn't register the Screen One ident at the start of Ghostwatch and so spent at least some of 1992’s Halloween broadcast on BBC1 thinking it was real.

Monday 12 February 2018

Your Move, Darwin #3: Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971)

It isn't, of course, it can't be. In no way does anyone in this film escape from the Planet of the Apes. Let's get that settled right from the beginning. For one, where would they go?

The only possible answer is of course this: back to the beginning. Before the beginning, even.

We are on Earth. And it's 1971 or possibly a few years ahead of that. One of the capsules from the first two films has landed on a California beach. The military are there to greet them. Three astronauts climb out. And they remove their helmets. And to the astonishment of the assembled troops, they're chimps.

Roll credits.

Monday 5 February 2018

We Don't Go Back #78: Pretty February Things

February, AKA The Blackcoat's Daughter (2015);
I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House (2016)

Folk horror works at its best on the closeness of its subject matter; it is best in a place that isn't uninhabited but rather is abandoned, lonely. A haunted place near to the town, all the more isolated because of its very proximity. The comfort of human company might be just around the corner, but it might as well be a million miles away. Wind up alone, even in a place you sort of know, and it doesn't take long for the corners to seem inhabited by inchoate evils, by whispering threats.

Its precisely this sort of feeling that the best folk horror tries to duplicate. It's not that the uncanny invades the prosaic; it's that it was there all along, and it's making itself known. Even the most rational of people, the ones who know with absolute certainty that there is No Such Thing, feel this sometimes.

Friday 2 February 2018

We Don't Go Back #77: A Dark Song (2016)

Magic is different things for different people, but essentially practitioners of magic, however you conceive it, have for most of history divided into two broad traditional groupings: the basic everyday anyone-can-do-this-if-you-have-the-knack practice of witches and mediums (and also certain sorts of Christians, but even to say this gets you in deep trouble, so let's pretend I didn't); and the difficult, not-for-everyone kind that requires you to be able to put in a vast investment of time and money (and the proverb is right, they're the same thing) and academic study, the work of magic for the people who used to have sole access to Hermes Trismegistus and The Testament of Saint Cyprian the Mage. And there was always an implicit class divide, generally.

Of course this isn't even a hard and fast rule, and it doesn't begin to approach how complex it gets when you factor in religion and its trappings and the ways faiths relate to, appropriate and reject the different sorts of magic, but it's a good enough place to start.

Thursday 1 February 2018

Your Move, Darwin #2: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970)

(Wondering where Your Move, Darwin #1 went? It's here.)
It is with the second film that a movie franchise really begins. It's with the second film that someone has thought, this is a hit, and we should make another one, and has asked how the property be stretched to get it to produce a sustainable profit. And let's not kid ourselves, this is the main reason sequels exist – to get the most money out of an idea you can. So the people working on an idea continue to be in paying work.

There is no moral issue here. Nothing is wrong with making money from entertainment.

Of course, there's still a profound problem with the way that a capitalist system treats art, and the mass-production of art is one of those things, especially when that art is basically, you know, a commercial product.

Nonetheless, cultural products like this are still products of our culture, and they have something to tell us.