REVIEW: Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Written by Sarah Buddery

Having been a fan of Black Mirror since it’s humble 3 episode series’ on Channel 4, I have been delighted to watch it blossom into a genuine modern television phenomenon.

Now on its new home on Netflix, Charlie Brooker’s terrifying technology themed mini masterpieces have grown in scope and along the way, found an even bigger audience. With its thoroughly potent themes, hidden episode easter eggs and mind-bending messages, Black Mirror truly is the TV show for Social Media and tech-obsessed millennials.

For a show to consistently break new ground is an impressive feat but Brooker has done it once again with the latest episode ‘Bandersnatch’; a “choose your own adventure” style episode which hands full control over to those with the remote controller in hand at home.

I had initial concerns that this episode would feel gimmicky but I needn’t have worried. It maintains everything we know, love, and fear from Black Mirror and yet offers something completely different and one of the most unique and brilliant TV experiences in recent memory. Those used to video games that follow this format will find familiarity as we’re presented with a simple ‘this or that’ option, starting off as straightforward as choosing a cereal to, well, slightly more sinister choices; to spoil which would not only be unfair but also impossible as everyone is certain to have different experiences with this episode

And that is the absolute beauty of this episode. It is so expertly crafted that as soon as it is over you’ll want to go back to it and see if those seemingly inconsequential early decisions have potentially drastic and different consequences later on. There is a fairly straightforward path you can take through this episode but there is also much to uncover and I wholeheartedly recommend spending about 90 minutes with it to enjoy the full experience. There are several stops in the story that let you go back and do-over a certain scenario and it is at these points that you can pick something completely different.

There’s an event seen in a flashback early into the episode that I thought held the key to everything but as my episode and my decisions played out, it went in a completely unexpected direction and this totally floored me.

Breaking the fourth, the fifth, and every other wall possible, Bandersnatch is expert storytelling and Black Mirror at its most ground-breaking.

Watch, watch again, and be amazed each time.

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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

Grimmfest 2018: 10 Must-Sees!

Written by Sasha Hornby

GRIMMFEST, Manchester’s Festival of Horror, Cult and Fantastic Film, scheduled to take place from Thursday 4th October to Sunday 7th October at the ODEON Manchester, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. The line-up was announced on Monday 3rd September, and this year promises “the darkest, deadliest line-up yet of wild, weird, witty, thrilling, chilling, blood-spilling movies.” Each film shown is a premiere (of some sort) or cult classic, many with cast and crew in attendance.

To honour 10 years of it being Grimm Up North, we pick our 10 must-sees from the wicked roster:

 

AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS

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Northern Premiere showing Thursday 4th October at 8:45pm
UK / English / 2018 / 91 mins

Director: Johnny Kevorkian 
Cast: Sam Gittins, Neerja Naik, Grant Masters, Abigail Cruttenden, Kris Saddler, Holly Weston, David Bradley

It’s Christmas day, and one family wakes up to discover they’re sealed in their house by a mysterious black substance. On the television reads a single line of text: “Stay Indoors and Await Further Instructions.” The dysfunctional family, described as “the university-educated son and his Asian girlfriend, the horrible racist Grandad, the control freak father, the simpering doormat of a mother, the chav sister and her meathead boyfriend” are tense and confrontational around each other, not at all prepared for the strangeness of their situation. Shot in Yorkshire, and featuring mostly practical effects, this biting satire promises an unforgettable festive flick.

 

PLEDGE

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European Premiere showing Sunday 7th October at 12:25pm
USA / English / 2018 / 75 mins

Director: Daniel Robbins
Cast: Zack Weiner, Phillip Andre Botello, Zachary Byrd, Cameron Cowperthwaite, Aaron Dalla Villa, Jesse Pimentel, Erica Boozer

American films set in or around University Fraternities and Sororities are hardly new. PLEDGE takes the “geeky social misfits vs. privileged jocks and preppies” set-up and presents a no-holds-barred, cranked-up-to-eleven, savage look at arcane hazing rituals.

 

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (VUELVEN)

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Northern Premiere showing Friday 5th October at 9:15pm
Mexico / Spanish with English subtitles / 2017 / 83 mins

Director: Issa López
Cast: Paola Lara, Juan Ramón López, Tenoch Huerta

11-year-old Estrella has one desperate wish: for her missing mother to return home. As she joins a Lost Boys (Peter Pan) style gang of orphaned children in the violent, drug-war-torn, Mexican town where she lives, she learns some ghosts can’t be left behind, and the hardest battle is with bereavement. Brutal reality is given a whimsical twist through a child’s imaginative eye. Guillermo del Toro called Issa López’s haunting, artistic, urban fairy tale one of the finest films of the year – the highest of fantastical endorsements.

 

RE-ANIMATOR

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Cult Classic showing Thursday 4th October at 6:30pm
USA / English / 1985 / 86 mins

Director: Stuart Gordon
Cast: Jeffrey Combs, Bruce Abbott, Barbara Crampton, Robert Sampson, David Gale

With an introduction by Grimmfest 2018’s guest of honour, star Barbara Crampton, this screening of the original unrated version of the cult comedy classic is a ghoulish and gory start to the festival. A re-imagining of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird pulp novella, Stuart Gordon’s blackly comic tale of a medical student and his girlfriend experimenting with reanimating the dead is a masterwork of the macabre.

 

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE

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Greater Manchester Premiere showing Sunday 7th October at 8:30pm
UK / English / 2017 / 109 mins

Director: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins, Marli Siu

Described as “Shaun of the Dead meets La La Land”, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE is a Scottish Christmas high school zombie musical. Bloody, festive, delightfully charming – watch Anna and her friends slash and sing their way to survival in the zombie apocalypse.

 

NIGHTMARE CINEMA

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UK Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 4:30pm
USA / English / 2018 / 119 mins

Directors: Alejandro Brugués, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryuhei Kitamura, David Slade
Cast: Mickey Rourke, Elizabeth Reaser, Richard Chamberlain, Annabeth Gish

In this twisted horror anthology, five strangers are drawn into an abandoned theatre and forced watch their deepest and darkest fears play out before them. Each film introduced by creepy projectionist, Mickey Rourke, all 5 grim moral tales represent the style of their director. From Joe Dante’s ‘plastic surgery gone sideways’ fable to Alejandro Brugués’ sly take on the cabin-in-the-woods trope, there’s something horrifying for everyone.

 

THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW

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Northern Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 7:00pm
USA / English / 2018 / 77 mins

Director: Andy Mitton
Cast: Alex Draper, Charlie Tacker, Greg Naughton, Arija Bareikis, Carol Stanzione

An estranged father and son visit a rural gothic farmhouse in Vermont that has been purchased to flip. As renovations begin, the malicious spirit of the deceased previous owner makes it clear she doesn’t want them there, but also never wants them to leave. Part subtle ghost story, part emotional family drama, THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW plays on the hardships and fears of raising a child in 2018, and includes the supernatural to stress the situation to a “nightmarish and genuinely heart-breaking” conclusion.

 

PIERCING

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Greater Manchester Premiere showing Saturday 6th October at 12:30pm
USA / English / 2018 / 81 mins

Director: Nicolas Pesce
Cast: Mia Wasikowska, Wendell Piece, Laia Costa, Christopher Abbott, Olivia Bond

Adapted from the cult novel by Ryū Murakami, PIERCING spins the source material into a satirical, body-horror, rom-com. Deriving it’s aesthetic and aural influences from Italian giallo films of the 1970s, a man with a sinister plan, to commit the perfect murder, checks in to a hotel to meet a call girl. He meticulously rehearses every detail, but is unprepared for the disturbed blonde who walks through the door.

 

SUMMER OF ‘84

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Northern Premiere showing Friday 5th October at 11:00pm
USA, Canada / English / 2017 / 105 mins

Directors: Fran­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­çois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Cast: Graham Vercher, Judah Lewis, Caleb Emery, Cory Grüter-Andrew, Tiera Skovbye, Rich Sommer

From the directors or TURBO KID comes this 80s-set teen adventure with slasher-movie instincts. Echoing the structure of IT and STRANGER THINGS, four 15-year-old boys spend their summer investigating the policeman next door, who they suspect is a serial killer – because all serial killers have to be somebody’s neighbour, right? Featuring a synth score to ramp up the pastiche, SUMMER OF ’84 is more than just a re-tread of familiar themes, it’s actually scary.

 

GIRLS WITH BALLS

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European Premiere showing Thursday 4th October at 11:00pm
France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain / French with English subtitles / 2018 / 77 mins

 

Director: Olivier Afonso
Cast: Denis Lavant, Manon Azem, Dany Verissimo-Petit, Anne-Solenne Hatte, Camille Razat, Louise Blachére, Victor Artus Solaro, Tiphaine Daviot, Margot Dufrene

The Falcons, an all-girls volleyball team, find themselves stranded in the middle of cannibal hillbilly territory when their mini-van breaks down. Described as a “slyly feminist reinvention of the “Cheerleaders in Peril” scenario”, GIRLS WITH BALLS is a blood-soaked black comedy about the hunted becoming the hunters.