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Murder by Decree (1979)

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After Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things (1972), Deathdream, and Black Christmas (both 1974) put Bob Clark on the map as an influential maker of cult genre films, Murder by Decree saw the New Orleans-born, Canada-based director move into newly prestigious fare that nonetheless kept one foot planted in distinctively pungent horror movie territory. The credited inspiration for Murder by Decree was John Lloyd and Elwyn Jones’ book The Ripper File, a work published to capitalise on an early 1970s British TV series, but the film was also heavily inspired by Stephen Knight’s book Jack the Ripper: The Final Solution, a conjectural tome that proposed a byzantine plot behind the Ripper murders of 1888. Those killings, an evergreen topic of lurid intrigue and speculation, were examined by the writers who used them as a scarecrow to hang a full roster of fashionable concerns upon, most particularly a preoccupation with exalted political conspiracy and anatomising them as a symptom of a dee…

Tale of a Vampire (1992)

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An atoll of genuine creative spark amongst the largely torpid range of 1990s horror cinema, Tale of a Vampire is one of those movies that doesn’t entirely work, and yet lingers in the memory with rare and mysterious fervour. Originally begun as a short video project but then expanded into a feature, Tale of a Vampire was the feature debut of Japanese screenwriter and director Shimako Sato, a former art and design student who took up filmmaking at the London International Film School. Sato later returned to Japan and found commercial traction with the rather trashier Eko Eko Azarak: Wizard of Darkness (1997) and its sequel, and went on to write the script for the surprisingly enjoyable live-action adaptation of Space Battleship Yamato (2010). Tale of a Vampire represents a truly unique melding of styles and ways of parsing cultural detritus. Sometimes Sato’s visuals seem to have been transcribed exactingly from the panels of some manga artist’s assimilation of gothic tropes, whilst els…

More Halloween Horror Hype

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More advertising for my yearly upcoming Halloween Horror festival at Film Freedonia and Ferdy on Films. Keep calm and carry on…











Halloween Horror Hype

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It’s getting to be that time of the year again, friends, when I celebrate all that’s ooky and kooky in cinema. This year my Halloween Horror essays will be appearing at Ferdy on Films for the last time and also my new successor site Film Freedonia, so watch out on either site from October 21 to 31. As with last year, I’ll post links to each piece here as they're posted.








The Egyptian (1954)

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One of the more intriguing epic films released in the 1950s, The Egyptian is also one of the more vexing. An adaptation of Finnish writer Mika Waltari’s exactingly researched and internationally popular 1945 novel, The Egyptian emerged as a work of grandiose stature personally produced by Twentieth Century Fox honcho Darryl F. Zanuck, and directed by Michael Curtiz in his first encounter with the elongated canvas of the Cinemascope frame. Waltari’s novel tackles a fascinating if remote episode in history, the period when Ancient Egypt was ruled by Akhenaten, who attempted a brief, tumultuous civic and religious reordering of his kingdom, whilst weaving in a fictional account of the hero Sinuhe, named after one of the title character of one of the few surviving Ancient Egyptian novels. The film starts with Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) as an old man, writing his life story on scrolls in a tiny hut out in the middle of nowhere, determined to recount his long life with all its manifold experien…

The Predator (2018)

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The idea of hiring Shane Black to make a new Predator film was a rare instance of irresistible inspiration germinating in Hollywood. The match-up of talent to project seemed perfect not just because of Black’s abilities as a writer-director with his distinctive brand of knowing, rowdy, blackly comic entertainment, but also because, of course, Black played the ill-fated Hawkins in John McTiernan’s 1986 original, just before he found his real metier as a screenwriter of happily antisocial action movies on Lethal Weapon (1987). Given the enormous affection movie fans still feel for Predator, it’s small wonder Twentieth Century Fox keep trying to revive the franchise, having tried once with Nimrod Antal’s Predators (2010), a solid if only modestly successful entry, after the Alien vs Predator diptych combined two properties to rapidly diminishing prospects. The desire to recapture the untrammelled pleasures of ‘80s action cinema is one Black seems particularly keen to satisfy, being as he…