JUMPSCARECUT: 30 Days of Night (2007)

Directed by: David Slade
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

30 Days of Night holds a special place in my heart and my personal cinema-going history. In 2007, I turned 15, and 30 Days of Night was the first 15-rated film I saw legally. I proudly showed my Validate UK card when asked by the cashier and sauntered into the screen like I owned the place. I sat down, popcorn and medium coke in hand, ready to be scared shitless in a completely legal, cinematic manner. My mum then also walked in and sat next to me, equally prepared to be scared shitless. It was a mother-son cinema trip that neither of us has ever forgotten.

Josh Hartnett stars as Eben Oleson, a sheriff of a small town in the northernmost point of the United States, Barrow, Alaska. Every year, the town endures the titular 30 days of night; a month-long period of perpetual night-time (scientifically referred to as a polar night, it’s an actual thing!). The majority of its small number of residents leave Barrow for this month, but a select few remain. Seeing such an opportunity, a clan of vampires move into the town, taking the chance to have a month-long buffet. Eben, his estranged wife Melissa, and other locals are left to fight for survival against the vampiric onslaught.

To put it bluntly, 30 Days of Night fucked me up. Going into the film, I knew it was a horror film; I enjoy horror films, but I am susceptible to being easily scared. I can very safely say that 30 Days of Night is the scariest film I’ve seen in the cinema. In part, I’d but the scare factor down to the total surprise of how unrelentingly brutal the film is. It’s as scary as it is violent. I have a high threshold for what I find difficult to watch, but the final act of this film has several key moments that make me wince even today having watched the film countless times. I got the DVD for my birthday the following year which was rated 18; I’m absolutely convinced the BBFC mis-rated 30 Days of Night for its cinematic release. I have seen far, far less violence in 18-rated horrors. Consider that your warning – 30 Days of Night is not for the faint-hearted.

What really sets 30 Days of Night apart as an elite horror film is in its execution. With David Slade at the helm, the film has a reliably stylish edge to it. At the time, Slade was a relative unknown having mainly directed music videos and made his film directing debut the previous year with 2006’s Hard Candy. Since then, he has gone onto direct The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (the best of the series), and several episodes of highly regarded TV shows like Breaking Bad, Black Mirror, and multiple episodes of Hannibal. If you’ve seen Hannibal – if you haven’t, what is wrong with you? – Slade is responsible for the Season 2 finale, Mizumono. Yes, that one.

Slade’s style is apparent from the get-go, making the freezing temperatures of the town feel like they’re creeping into your living room with extreme close-ups of the characters struggling to deal with the cold while playing hide and seek from hungry vampires. In arguably the film’s defining sequence, the vampires are finally let loose by their leader, Marlow (Danny Huston), and they ravage the town in dutifully violent fashion. Slade and his cinematographer, Jo Willems, don’t leave any stone unturned, and present us with an abundance of gunshots, neck bites, blood clouds. A feast of human destruction through the gaze of a man who knows how to shoot action sequences. The cherry on top of this delicious sequence is a glorious top-down shot of the town, bodies and blood spillages lining the snowy streets of Barrow. 30 Days of Night is a feast for the senses.

Continuing the barrage of praise, the film has a memorable collection of characters at its disposal. Hartnett is great as the quiet sheriff capable of decapitating anyone in his path to survival, but the stars of the show are Ben Foster and Mark Boone Junior. Foster and Junior give their characters a kooky edge as the mysterious tourist and the local headcase, respectively. Foster deploys an other-worldly accent as his character’s origins remain unclear for much of the film, and Junior is just happy to get down to it and blow some vampires to smithereens. Junior has one of the film’s many defining action sequences, culminating in his creative use of a tractor with a giant tree chainsaw on the end of it. Yes, really, and it’s awesome.

30 Days of Night isn’t perfect; it has its fair share of horror clichés under its belt that feel a little bit like they’re working through a checklist of horror beats in order to move their characters into place for the finale, and the film does jump through the 30 days at will that may make you wonder how they went through an 8 day stretch unscathed, but those are fairly small gripes to have with such an entertaining, terrifying thrill ride of a film.

30 Days of Night is awesome. It makes vampires scary again, it has a great cast, it has an engaging story, and it has more than its fair share of fantastic horror and action sequences to quench any thirst for blood you may have. This is one of my favourite horror films of all time, and it’s on Netflix! I wholly recommend this as a film to watch in the final few days of Halloween season.

RHYS’ RATING:

4-5

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Leave No Trace

Year: 2018
Directed by: Debra Granik
Cast: Ben Foster, Thomasin McKenzie, Jeffery Rifflard

Written by Jessica Peña

In Debra Granik’s Leave No Trace, there’s a prominent meditation of home and peace. There’s also trickles of separation, both the physical displacements and the emotional grips of life we come to face. Living on the margins just outside of Portland, Oregon prove to be a place of comfort for Will and his 13-year-old daughter, Tom. They’ve been living this way for so many years that it’s essentially become everything Tom has known to be real. A serene wilderness welcomes us in the opening scene as we’re introduced into their routine life living in Forest Park, where they call home. Will and Tom are in their comfort zone, gathering and suiting their needs from the land where they can, relishing in their worriless, spacious living. They prepare food and eat together, stay close at night for warmth, and have even practised how they’d escape and hide if they were to ever be discovered. Their way of life is compromised as people learn of their hiding and try to integrate them into society and normality, but it instead begins to test the very existence they hold dear. Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie and Ben Foster are quietly phenomenal here as they engage in a dynamic that’s both heart wrenching and endearing.

To leave no trace here is to leave nothing that can be traced back to you; to simply go live undetected, off the grid. Based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock, Leave No Trace carries a deep-rooted passion in how one father and daughter come to terms with a life that’s pulled the rug from under them and just how the journey back to the old reveals a new curiosity for adapting. Granik, along with long-time collaborating screenwriter/producer Anne Rosellini, tell us a story about family that is patient, and harmonious in junction with the world that greets them. Rosellini has worked closely with Granik through her past projects (Stray Dog, Winter’s Bone, Down to the Bone), helping now to form a tender, compelling adaptation in “Leave No Trace” that leaps into our hearts.

After being escorted out of the park for living on public property, Will and Tom are put through the system, cementing the influence of social realism and how the economy of living is affecting their existence. Will sometimes suffers from night terrors brought on by his past trauma so he’s heavily impacted by this sudden reintegration. Tom cries out for her dad when they get seperated for examination, never once having been apart from him. She’s devoted herself to the tranquil living they built as a two-person family, only depending on the other. Their relationship is at the heart of the film and it makes McKenzie and Foster stellar, convincing characters. It’s based on all the tribulations they face as they try to adjust, abandon, and reexamine their livelihood and where they can go from there. There’s a scene where Tom introduces her dad to the harmony and warmth of a beehive, something she herself was awe-inspired by. “See, you don’t need to be scared,” she tells him, now holding the bees on her gloveless fingers. Beautifully, this story begins to tell of how Will admires his daughter’s love for life and discovery, even when it’s indirectly trying to comfort him to the possibilities.

Foster gives an excellent, realized performance of a man who’s felt so much battle and defeat in his life that it’s made him feel obsolete to the society he’s casted himself from. His PTSD flares up from time to time as he relentlessly fights to keep his daughter and this sense of security nearby. McKenzie is truly the star that shines brighter as the film treks its way to the end. Tom is loving and pays close attention to care for her father, but she also begins to listen to the curiosity that grows within her. The people she’s met through the new housing journey have been the most welcome— giving them a mobile home to live in, Will a job, and Tom an agricultural group with others her age for learning new skills— and while it deeply overwhelms Will, it doesn’t make Tom want to retreat to the parklands.

It’s not a spoiler to say that there is no intentional conflict in Leave No Trace. The struggles of reality and feeling enclosed to live a way not normally accustomed to is the unmistakable inner conflict, and it leaves a lot to think on once credits roll. It’s clear that a bond that’s been untouched for so long can desperately unravel when shaken, but Will and Tom are quite resilient. It’s become one of my favorite stories this year and it has a sincerity that reaches new lengths. Debra Granik is a magnificent storyteller, moreso when it comes to observing the lives of those living off the grid or having had to persevere against all odds. Leave No Trace is an astonishing, quiet portrait of that.

Jessica’s Rating: 

5

 

Reel Women: June UK Releases

Written by Elena Morgan

Welcome back to Reel Women, a monthly feature where we highlight the films that are being released in the UK this month that are written and/or directed by women. As ever this is a mixture of wide and smaller releases, so depending where in the country you are, some might be easier to see than others, and there’s a couple of Netflix Original films here too. All the release date information comes from Launching Films and all dates are correct at the time this post was written – we all know film releases can change at the last minute, especially for smaller films.

This month there’s romantic comedies, documentaries, dramas, and one I’m personally very excited for – the Ocean’s spin-off.

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1 June

Book Club
Directed by Bill Holderman
Written by Bill Holderman and Erin Simms

When four long-time friends (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen) decide to read 50 Shades of Grey for the book club, they all get a whole new lease for life.

Erin Simms is an actress and producer who worked as a part of the crew for such films as ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and ‘Pete’s Dragon’. ‘Book Club’ is her first produced screenplay.

Ismael’s Ghosts

Directed by Arnaud Desplechin
Written by Arnaud Desplechin, Julie Peyr and Léa Mysius

Ismael (Mathieu Amalric) is a filmmaker whose life is turned on its head when his wife (Marion Cotillard), who he hasn’t seen for over twenty years comes back into his life, disrupting his relationship.

This is Julie Peyr’s second collaboration with Arnaud Desplechin and her tenth screenwriting credit. Léa Mysius is a writer and director of a number of short films. Her debut feature film, ‘Ava’, screened at the London Film Festival last year.

Lost in Vagueness
Directed by Sofia Olins

A music documentary about Roy Gurvitz who created Lost Vagueness at Glastonbury and reinvigorated the festival.

‘Lost in Vagueness’ is Sofia Olins’ first feature-length documentary. She’s previously worked as a second unit director or assistant director on a variety of British television series including ‘Primeval’, ‘The IT Crowd’ and ‘Peep Show’.

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8 June

The Boy Downstairs
Written and Directed by Sophie Brooks

Diana (Zosia Mamet) is forced to reflect on her past relationship with Ben (Matthew Shear) when she unintentionally moves into the apartment above his.

‘The Boy Downstairs’ is Sophie Brooks first feature film.

15 June

Set It Up
Directed by Claire Scanlon
Written by Katie Silberman

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) are two stressed out assistants who each have a high maintenance boss, Kristen (Lucy Liu) and Rick (Taye Diggs). When they decide to play matchmaker, maybe they can spread some romance and get their freedom.

Think of any big American comedy show of the past ten years and Claire Scanlon has probably directed at least one episode of it. Her directing credits include ‘The Office’, ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’, ‘Modern Family’ and ‘Fresh Off the Boat’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature film. Katie Silberman has previously produced comedy films ‘Hot Pursuit’ and ‘How to Be Single’. ‘Set It Up’ is her first feature-length screenplay to make it to the screen.

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22 June

Ocean’s 8
Directed by Gary Ross
Written by Gary Ross and Olivia Milch

Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) gathers a crew to attempt to rob the Met Gala.

Olivia Milch is a writer-director whose debut film, ‘Dude’, is a Netflix Original Film. As well as co-writing Ocean’s 8 she is also a co-producer on the film.

Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat
Directed by Sara Driver

A documentary exploring the pre-fame years of American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and how New York City its people and the shifting arts culture of the 1970s and ‘80s shaped his work.

‘Boom for Real’ is Sara Driver’s first documentary feature film and her first film in 15 years.

Freak Show
Directed by Trudie Styler
Written by Patrick J. Clifton and Beth Rigazio

Despite attending an ultra-conservative high school, teenager Billy Bloom (Alex Lawther) decides to run for Homecoming Queen.

Trudie Styler is an actress and producer and ‘Freak Show’ is her directorial feature debut. Beth Rigazio has previously written TV movies including the Disney Channel original movie, ‘Go Figure’.

24 June

To Each, Her Own (aka Les Gouts et Les Couleurs)
Directed by Myriam Aziza
Written by Myriam Aziza, Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé

Simone’s (Sarah Stern) been in a relationship with Claire (Julia Piaton) for years but has never come out to her family. Her brothers keep trying to set her up with men, her father’s a traditionalist and her mother is just a little bit eccentric – soon everything comes to ahead and Simone is forced to make some hard choices.

‘To Each, Her Own’ is a Netflix Original and is Myriam Aziza’s sixth film. She wrote, directed, edited and was cinematographer on her documentary film ‘L’an prochain à Jérusalem’. Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé previous screenwriting credits include ‘I Hate Love‘ which won the Award of the Youth in the French Film category at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.

27 June

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms
Written and Directed by Mari Okada

Maquia (Manaka Iwami) is an immortal girl and when she ventures out into the world she meets Erial (Miyu Irino) a mortal boy, their friendship becomes an unbreakable bond that lasts throughout the years.

‘Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms’ is Mari Okada’s directorial debut but she’s written episodes for dozens of different anime. In 2011 Okada won the Animation Kobe Award, an award and event that aims to promote anime and other visual media.

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29 June

Leave No Trace
Directed by Debra Granik
Written by Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

A father (Ben Foster) and his teenage daughter (Thomasin McKenzie) have an idyllic life living in a vast urban park in Oregon, until they are forced to re-join society.

Debra Granik is the director of ‘Winter’s Bone’, a film she co-wrote with Anne Rosellini and which earned them both an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. ‘Leave No Trace’ is their first feature film since ‘Winter’s Bone’ was released in 2010.

Patrick
Directed by Mandie Fletcher
Written by Vanessa Davies, Mandie Fletcher and Paul de Vos

Sarah’s (Beattie Edmondson) life is a bit of a mess and she really could do without the pug named Patrick her grandmother bequeathed her. As Sarah struggles to look after Patrick, find romance with his vet (Ed Skrein) and cope with a new job, Sarah realises that Patrick might just be helping her turn her life around.

Mandie Fletcher has directed episodes of popular British comedies like ‘Black Adder the Third’, ‘Only Fools and Horses’, and ‘Miranda’ and her previous film was ‘Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie’. ‘Patrick’ is both Mandie Fletcher’s and Vanessa Davies’s first produced screenplay.

The Bookshop
Written and Directed by Isabel Coixet

Set in a small English town in 1959, Florence (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookshop but is met with polite yet ruthless opposition.

Isabel Coixet is a Spanish filmmaker with over 30 directing credits and 20 writing credits to her name.

 


 

That’s thirteen films made by women being released in the UK in June. There’s something for everyone with animation, dramas, documentaries and a fair few romantic comedies. Personally, I’m looking forward to ‘Ocean’s 8′ and ‘Set It Up’, two films that have been on my radar for a while, but one I hadn’t heard of before researching this feature but definitely want to see is ‘Freak Show’ – the trailer makes it look like so much fun!