JUMPSCARECUT: A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

Written by Jessica Peña

You’d have to be living under a rock if you’ve never heard of Freddy Krueger. The murderous, sweater-wearing character is literally the thing of nightmares. Arguably one of the most feared villains of horror, thanks immensely to his nature of existence. Whereas icons like Jason Voorhees appear suspiciously to torment and slash in real-world life, Freddy’s battleground is essentially your subconscious, something you cannot and will not escape. It makes sense that this evil fool appears in front of you just as you think you’ve gotten away. The fear is believable and Freddy feasts on it. Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street gave kids of the time something to be scared about when they’re about tuck into bed at night.

Before the franchise started blurring the lines and scratching the rules up, its origin story, as told in the first film, carves out a memorable rule of thumb: Freddy exists only in the dream world. Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep. And then there’s the chance that you may bring some things back from the dream world if awoken. Tina Grey (Amanda Wyss) sort of figures this out as she is chased in her dream by the mysterious figure, waking up to see that her nightgown has four slashes in it. This is a daring revelation to the viewer, imposing a much more sinister threat than that of one’s own imagination. Craven’s film is clever and paced with animosity to its young characters early on. Tina invites her friends, Rod (Jsu Garcia), Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), and Glen (Johnny Depp) to spend the night the day after her close encounter. To her demise, the viewer is placed relentlessly into Freddy’s carnage, seeping deeper into the fear of resting your eyes. The deaths that follow are seemingly hard to run away from, and it works wonders to the narrative at center.

Robert Englund is Freddy Krueger, the nefarious killer that lurks in the dreams of the Elm Street teenagers. Once a child murderer (and most likely molester) back in the day, Krueger was strangely released on a technicality, cornered by a group of parents in an act of just vigilance, and set ablaze. His burned face, covered vaguely under a brown hat, terrorizes the teenagers’ minds moving forward in the aftermath of Tina’s vicious (and artistically clever) death. The searing memory of Krueger’s death haunts Nancy’s mother to this day, as she was part of the group of parents who took matters into their own hands one night. Nancy Thompson, unaware of her mother’s involvement, narrowly escapes Freddy’s fatal attempts and begins to fight back this elusive figure. With the help of her boyfriend, Glen, she orchestrates a plan to bring Freddy out into the real world and burn him once more for good. Now, if only Glen can stay awake and help her out…

Robert Englund is the peculiar star of the film for his portrayal of the bladed glove-wearing maniac. Backdropped by an equally odd synth track by Charles Bernstein, Freddy chases his victims like they’re trophies. In Tina’s second encounter, Freddy appears to her at one point as a silhouette in the dark shadows, elongating his arms to scratch the fences. He then breaks into chasing her in such an exaggerated manner, as if this is all truly a fun joke to him and he knows he can capture you.

Certainly, there’s a cold hard foundation to Freddy’s demeanor this early on. His cryptic manifestations are what pedal A Nightmare on Elm Street as a shock of terror delight. If nightmares were real, this film delves into them brilliantly. It’s one thing to watch a scary film and try to sleep, but it’s a whole other beast trying to get Freddy out of your psyche before bedtime. For those who enjoy the thrill of our scary subconscious, this film is hound for horror. Wes Craven’s vicious evil of an entity helped propel New Line Cinema into “the house that Freddy built,” with its massive box office return and inevitable franchise. In some old stories, it was a myth that if you died in your sleep, you died in real life. This film does a spectacular play on those fears, cultivating the ingenuities of that kind of imagination and letting them run wild. We’re dreaming in Freddy’s world, and sooner or later, he’s coming for you.

Advertisements

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

JUMPSCARECUT: The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Directed by: James Wan
Cast: Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, Madison Wolfe, France O’Connor, Lauren Esposito

Written by Tom Sheffield

James Wan’s The Conjuring was a hit with horror fans when it released in 2013 and has since spawned a sequel (with a third film confirmed) as well as two successful spin-offs – Annabelle, of which a third film will release in 2020, and this year’s The Nun, which was based on the demonic Nun, Valak, who we meet in this entry of the Conjuring Universe. The Conjuring films are said to be based on the true case files of Ed and Lorraine Warren – paranormal investigators who were thrown into the public spotlight following their investigation at Amytiville (which the first film as based on).

The Conjuring 2 is based on the Enfield Haunting, which was a case the Warrens took in the late 70s. The Hodgson family being to experience supernatural occurrences in their home and Janet, the second eldest daughter, appears to be the spirit’s first target. The Warren’s are called in to investigate and determine whether there are supernatural forces at work or if it’s simply a hoax. Whilst investigating, Lorraine’s worst fears come true and she must discover the real truth behind the strange occurrence’s at the Hodgson residence.

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson as Ed and Lorraine Warren are two of my favourite pieces of casting in modern horror. They both have such a fantastic chemistry on-screen and they nail every single scene they’re in – no matter situation they’re thrown in to. Imagine my delight when I heard they’re confirmed to reprise their role in the upcoming third Annabelle film, which will focus on their room full of demonic possessions.

Joseph Bishara’s score never fails to send chills up my spine, especially in Valak’s earlier scenes when she appears to Lorraine. It’s a score that stuck with me for a good few days after I first watched the film, and makes my ears prick up during every re-watch. Don Burgess’ cinematography also elevates this horror by adeptly making the most of space in the small English house. Wan and Buress create a sense of paranoia that has you constantly looking in the darkest corners of every shot and will make leave your lights on.

At the heart of this horror is a message of family unity and strength through times of uncertainty. There’s a scene where Ed sings ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ (and gives a corker of an Elvis impression) and, for a moment, you forget the horrors tormenting the family. The Hodgson family are all smiling and laughing and Lorraine looks on dotingly – it’s a scene that you wouldn’t expect to make the biggest impact in a horror film, but, for me, it does.

Whilst the film isn’t as much of a mystery to us as it is the Warrens or anyone outside of the Hodgson family, it delivers some genuine spine-tingling moments and is sure to pique your curiosity of what really went on in that house. I recently began reading The Demonologists – a book based on the cases of The Warrens, including Annabelle the doll, Amytiville, and Enfield.

For me, The Conjuring 2 is the strongest entry  The Conjuring Universe by a fair margin. The cinematography, score, direction, set design, and everything in between all add something a little special to this film and it still manages to give me chills no matter how many times I re-watch it.

 

Tom’s Verdict:

4-5

CAMFF 2018: The Guilty (2018)

Directed by: Gustav Möller
Starring: Jakob Cedergren
UK Release Date: 26th October 2018

Written by Elena Morgan

On his last night of dispatch duty, police officer Asger Holm (Jakob Cedergren) gets a call from a kidnapped woman and it’s a race against time to find her.

Films set in one location aren’t that uncommon anymore, but truly great and gripping ones are – The Guilty is a brilliant addition to the “genre”. Set solely in the dispatch room, the camera follows Asger as he works at his desk, bored of taking calls about muggings and is looking forward to getting back on the streets when fifteen minutes before his shift ends, he receives a call from a woman saying she’s been kidnapped. Frustrated with how slow the police are dealing with it, Asger takes matters into his own hands, calling the woman’s family, the kidnapper, and each call is more compelling than the last.

Like Asger, you only have the information he receives on his phone calls to make your judgement, and with snap decisions to be made, things aren’t always what they seem. There are twists and turns, but as well as being surprising, The Guilty works because you begin to care about who Ager is talking to, and that’s down to the performances. Cedergren gives a fantastic lead performance, it’s his minute reactions that so easily show his frustrations and anxiety – a clenched jaw, a twitch in the fingers – they all show a man that’s on the edge. His unseen co-stars are just as fantastic, the emotions in their voices allow us to visualise what is happening down the phone line.

The Guilty is gripping and thrilling. Director and co-writer Gustav Möller knows exactly when and how to release the tension and then go straight back into building it up again. It’s a film that keeps you guessing and is never what it seems. It’s no wonder The Guilty has been selected to be Denmark’s official Oscar entry for best foreign language film.

 

Elena’s Verdict

4-5

 

LFF 2018: A Private War (2018)

Directed by: Matthew Heineman
Cast: Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan, Faye Marsay, Stanley Tucci, Tom Hollander
UK Release Date: N/A

Written by Dave Curtis

War, what is it good for? after watching documentary filmmaker Mathew Heineman’s narrative debut the answer is clearly absolutely nothing. A Private War is a biopic which follows war correspondent Marie Colvin through her stellar career.

The true horrors of war are never an easy thing to see and war reporter Marie Colvin had been to them all in the last 20 years or so. She dared to go where others wouldn’t (Iraq, Libera and Syria). Rosamund Pike plays Colvin the award-winning journalist who it seems is more at home on the front line and in danger than when she is at home in London. She is not a likeable person, she struggles in social occasions and only seems to find peace when her life is in danger.

The film begins with an overhead shot of Homs (Syria) in 2012. It is completely destroyed, buildings are barely standing and there aren’t any signs of any life. A voiceover of Colvin can be heard being interviewed on why she does what she does. It quickly backtracks to earlier parts of her career. The film sets off re-playing key points in her life that will eventually lead to that fateful day in Homs.

We have seen films like this before but what sets A Private War apart is that this is so recent. This isn’t years and years ago. This is a conflict that is still happening.  There is no turning away and not showing what is actually happening in Syria, it dares to be truthful (much like Colvin). Strong images of dead bodies of adult and children are offered held for an uncomfortable long time. Heineman isn’t doing this by mistake, he wants you to see it, he wants to put you on the front line with Colvin, to see what she saw, experience what she went through.

Rosamund Pike really does capture the spirt and voice of Marie Colvin. This may be her best performance. It is definitely her best turn since Gone Girl. It is frustrating to watch her slip further and further into depression and PTSD. Marie is not really a likeable character, so being invested in her story can solely be attributed to Pike’s performance

There is also strong support from the rest of the cast. Tom Hollander is Sean Ryan her editor at the London’s Sunday Times. His overly caring but really pushy act is well balanced. He wants the stories, but it is really worth putting Marie in those situations? By the end, you can see the torment all over his face. Jamie Dornan’s plays Paul Convoy Marie’s trusted photographer who will follow her anywhere. Dornan’s Liverpudlian accent is just about passable. In some scenes, it just disappears completely. Stanley Tucci also has a small role but he pretty much plays himself (which isn’t a bad thing).

A Private War really lands when it eventually gets to Syria and the final 40 minutes is as tense and dramatic as anything that has been seen this year. The first hour, on the other hand, is a little clumsy. It bounces around from past to present and then back again in an uneasy fashion. It just needed to be a little smoother. It does get a little confusing which doesn’t help when you are just to connect to characters and the storyline.

When A Private War focuses on Marie Colvin covering at the front it really does deliver, but it is when she back in the UK and dealing with her inner demons that the film really struggles. Thankfully, Pike puts in a barnstorming performance which could attract some buzz when it comes to award season. A biopic on a war reporter may not appeal to many but it is worth seeing for Pike alone.

Dave’s Verdict

3

CAMFF 2018: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)

Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Jack Black, Rooney Mara
UK Release Date: 26th October 2018 (Amazon Prime & select cinemas)

Written by Elena Morgan

After a car accident that leaves him paralysed, John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) tries to become sober and finds he has a talent for drawing funny yet often controversial cartoons.

The title, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, comes from one of Callahan’s cartoons showing some cowboys looking at an abandoned wheelchair and saying they’ll soon catch the guy. This sort of wry, and sometimes near the knuckle, sense of humour is prevalent throughout Callahan’s cartoons, many of which are animated and featured in the film. It’s also very much the sense of humour that’s running through the film, dark and sometimes weird and self-deprecating.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a biopic that’s told in a non-linear way. It’s a bit jarring really, especially at the beginning as scenes are intertwined with one another with no real reference point or understanding of who any of these characters are. The pacing continues to be uneven with the last thirty minutes or so being a drag.

Joaquin Phoenix is naturally great (even when wearing a horrendous range wig), managing to make Callahan irritating and charming in equal measure. Even before the accident and he becomes a little bitter, Callahan is a rude alcoholic that barely functions. After his accident, he’s not much better until he finally takes steps to become sober. Reading up on the real John Callahan after seeing the film, I did find it is a bit weird that 43-year-old Joaquin Phoenix was cast when Callahan had his accident when he was 21. This age discrepancy also makes his relationship with his nurse turned girlfriend Annu (Rooney Mara) seem out of place. She, like many of the characters surrounding Callahan, are never fleshed out more than the archetypes of their character.

The exception to that is Donnie (Jonah Hill), a recovering alcoholic and AA meeting leader. Hill is brilliant, and at times he even manages to outshine Phoenix, as he plays a wealthy gay hippie who is both hilarious and astute.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is more of a character study than a film with a cohesive and compelling plot, but it manages to be a perfectly serviceable biopic. Phoenix and Hill are great but they’re not enough to make this a memorable film.

 

Elena’s Verdict

3

 

CAMFF 2018: An Interview with Rudy Riverón Sánchez

Interview by Elena Morgan

Director Rudy Riverón Sánchez, a Leeds-based filmmaker, is currently on the festival circuit with his feature film debut Is That You?. We got the chance to talk to him as the film is having its UK premiere at the Cambridge Film Festival this week. Rudy, who was born in Cuba, filmed Is That You? in his home country back in 2016 and it recently won an award for ‘Best First Feature Film’ for the first psychological horror to be made in the country.


Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, would you like to introduce yourself to our readers…

I’m Rudy Riverón Sánchez, the writer and director of ‘Is That You?’, the first psychological horror film to be made in Cuba. I’m originally from Cuba but I’ve lived in the UK for more than 15 years.

You wrote and directed Is That You?, can you tell us what inspired this story?

I took part in a screenwriting workshop for which I had to write a 20 minute screenplay, a scary story for children. The workshop led me to rediscover my interest in the horror genre. I then started to develop an idea for a horror feature film, one aimed at an adult audience, what was to become ‘Is that you?’. I wanted to tell the story of a young girl in conflict with her family but I wanted to ensure that my film was going to be distinctive. I decided to set the story in Cuba and use elements of psychological horror, a subgenre of horror which had not been explored before in Cuba. Having decided to set the film in Cuba, I started to think back to my life in Cuba in order to build the characters. Lili and her family are focused on surviving. They are isolated and caught deep into their own struggles. Lili’s father controls his family and forces his values upon them. This is where the horror element plays the most significant role, real fear in Cuba, mirroring the Cuban way of life.

What was it like filming in Cuba? Did the death of Castro affect the films production at all?

Our producer Emma Berkofsky brought the cameras from the UK, 14 suitcases with two mini Arri Alexas, lenses, and accessories, because the cost of this kit is too high in Cuba. Thanks to Reymel, our line producer and main contact in Cuba, we had the full support of RTV Comercial, the production services company that we were working with in Cuba, and the Cuban government. This helped to make sure everything went smoothly. Everyone we dealt with were really kind and helpful and all the cast and crew worked really hard. The only surprise was that we had to wrap up warm for the night shoots because the temperature in the countryside dropped to 2 degrees some nights. When Castro died, initially we were told by the local authorities that we had to stop filming, which would have been a disaster for the film. But luckily, because we had the right paperwork, we only lost half a day of shooting and after that we were allowed to carry on. However, the country had nine days of mourning and pretty much came to a standstill and so, until those days passed, the production team and myself couldn’t feel completely confident that things would go according to plan.

What did you find the most enjoyable about writing and filming Is That You??

What I enjoyed most when I was writing was the feeling of power that comes with creating a new world, with new characters, and while that’s challenging it’s also really satisfying. Once I got to Cuba, I really enjoyed the rehearsals because that was the first time I saw the characters coming alive, after they had just been on the page and in my mind for so long. Once we started filming, I felt a great sense of satisfaction after finishing each scene because I knew I was achieving the realisation of my vision.

Lili is a distant yet intriguing character, was it difficult finding the right actress for the role?

It took some time to make the decision. Gabriela Ramos, the actress that plays Lili, was recommended to me by the film’s cinematographer, Raúl Pérez Ureta, as he’d previously worked with her on ‘Últimos días en La Habana’. I then mentioned her to our casting director Libia Batista who also thought Gabriela would be great for the role of Lili. When I met Gabriela, I thought maybe we can try because she looked like I had imagined Lili looking. I wasn’t sure at the very beginning if she could do it because she didn’t have the experience, and the character demands a lot. So we did a rehearsal. Our producer Emma was like, “Rudy, are you sure?” I felt a lot of pressure to get it right, because Lili is the protagonist and so critical for the success of the film. It was only during the second week of rehearsals, after focusing on certain scenes, that I felt sure that Gabriela and I together could achieve what the film needed.

JC-ARTICLE-IMAGE.jpg

Congratulations on recently winning the Anna Mondelli Award for the ‘Best First Feature Film’ at the TOHorror Film Festival in Turin. Is That You? has been accepted into several film festivals across Europe, how do you get the most out of them?

Thank you.

At each festival, we’ve done as much as we can to promote the film and so that helps you to have a bigger turn out for the screening. I think doing Q&As is also a good thing to do, so that the audience don’t just get to see your film but they get to hear about the director’s inspiration and the experience of making the film. I also make the most of the opportunity to meet other filmmakers, to see their films, and build up my network.

Do you have advice for anyone who may be starting out in the film industry, or want to get into the business?

First of all, don’t give up, no matter what. Be thick skinned. Be patient. Keep working and learning. But at the same time be selective about the projects you get involved with and the people you work with. Learn how to quickly spot mediocrity. Be yourself and believe in yourself. 

Do you have any future projects in the pipeline you can tell us about?

I’m currently developing a psychological drama with the working title ‘Carlitos’. I’m looking forward to being able to return to focusing on this after this period of festivals. I’m also having conversations about a psychological thriller that would be a film adaptation of a novel.

We like to end our interviews with the all-important question – does pineapple belong on pizza?

No.

 

 

CAMFF 2018: Roobha (2017)

Directed by: Lenin M. Sivam
Starring: Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Amrit Sandhu, Thenuka Kantharajah, Angela Chrstine
UK Release Date: N/A

Written by Elena Morgan

Roobha (Amrit Sandhu), a trans-woman, struggles to find her place after being ostracized by her family. Her chance encounter with a family man, Anthony (Antonythasan Jesuthasan), leads to a beautiful romance. But their blissful relationship soon comes crashing down for reasons not their own.

Set in the Tamil community in Toronto, Roobha is a romantic story that touches on the complexities of gender identity. At one point Roobha talks about Mata, “the goddess of transgenders”, who was once a princess but when she discovered her husband in women’s clothes instead of coming to her bed, she cut off his penis. Mata is a figure Roobha gets comfort from, along with the idea of the ancient rituals that turned men into women. Roobha wants to undergo gender reassignment surgery but the costs and social pressures are almost too much to bear sometimes.

Roobha finds comfort and sisterhood in fellow sex workers. They look after one another and with them she finds a family to fill the void of her biological family. With her new-found sisters, she meets Mai and David, an elderly couple who own the Chinese restaurant the girls frequently visit. They all call Mai “mum” as she takes care of them. One conversation between Mai and Roobha is heart-warming as Roobha gets the nurturing and understanding mother figure she’s needed.

The scenes where Roobha and Anthony are so soft in every sense of the word. The way they are around one another is so gentle and caring, the lighting is soft and gives them an almost romantic glow. These are two very different people, but they love each other dearly and that love shines off the screen.

It’s wonderful to see how Anthony’s understanding of Roobha and who she is evolves. Anthony is a lot older than her, but he is kind and sensitive. Both Jesuthasan and Sandhu give sensitive and touching performances, because of them you believe that Roobha and Anthony could be a loving and stable couple if there weren’t other factors affecting them both.

Roobha is a unique romantic story that shines a light on the transgender stigma in the South-Asian community. Some people can be accepting, other’s views can change, all the while Roobha is finding her own way and her own community.

Elena’s Verdict

3-5

LFF 2018: Stan & Ollie

Directed by: Jon S. Bird
Cast: John C. Reilly, Steve Coogan, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, Nina Arianda, Rufus Jones

Written by Dave Curtis

Back in 1937 Laurel and Hardy were at the peak of their powers but their friendship was starting to creek. Strangely Stan Laurel was out of contact with the studio. He wanted a new and better deal. Oliver Hardy was still under contract and seemed to be happy with his current deal. With the pair at loggerheads it seems they had a dodgy working relationship. Stan & Ollie picks up 16 years later in 1953 where the comedy legends are touring the UK, trying to sort out their differences. They are now dealing with health issues, years of pent up anger and the decline in the size of their audiences. Can they mend their broken friendship, find the old magic and possibly make a new feature film, a Robin Hood parody, Robin ‘Em Good.

Steve Coogan plays Stan Laurel and John C Reilly is Oliver Hardy. Both actors’ careers are known for being funny but both are also to known for there more serious work. Reilly, in particular, has forged a successful career bouncing between the two. Here they are cast to perfection, both capturing the spirit and look of the famous duo. Coogan as Laurel is the businessman of the pair. He writes the scripts and comes up with new sketches. He always wants to be on show. Reilly’s Hardy is more concerned with his life and his wife, he is happy for Laurel to look after the other side of the work.

It is hard to separate the two leads. Coogan and Reilly share chemistry which is hard to fake. It is believable that they have been friends for years. They share good times and they share bad times. You are with them every step of the way. Coogan’s slender build helps mirror Stan Laurel’s persona. John C. Reilly also inhabits Oliver Hardy. He does have some help with decent prosthetics, especially in the later years. At first, it is a little jarring but he builds such a rounded character any concerns are quickly forgotten.

The supporting cast are also excellent. Rufus Jones as British producer Bernard Delfort is excellent value. He does get a lot of the of the best lines. Luckily, Stan and Ollie aren’t the only double on show. Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda almost steal the movie from under everyone. As Delfont says at one point ‘Two double acts for the price of one’. Henderson and Arianda are the famous duo’s wives, Lucille and Ida. The pair turns up midway through and really inject a much-needed boost just at the point when the movie starts flagging.

Director John S. Baird wrings every last drop out of Bill Pope script (he also wrote Philomena with Coogan). This isn’t a film full of jokes. What it does have are funny situations performed by a strong cast. It has nods to their earlier career. A scene where they are dragging a giant truck up a flight of stairs is classic Laurel and Hardy.

Stan & Ollie is tender and funny. It captures real moments of heart, It is a little cheesy in places but the strong cast keeps the film interesting. The film is a great way to introduce a younger audience to real comic geniuses.

Dave’s Verdict

4