Finally, A Fairytale With Teeth


Last year I planned to write a  book of strange fairytale variations, having been commissioned to write such a tale for a new collection, which I enjoyed immensely. After suffering through Kenneth Branagh’s ghastly ‘Cinderella’ for research purposes my intention was to return to the roots of tales and darken them, keeping the strange logic […]

What On Earth Is Wrong With Austrians?


First they gave us ‘Funny Games’, the original shocker that analysed our predilection for vicarious violence in cinema, then they remade it ten years later in a film so hated by the Roger Ebert column that it only earned half a star, but was described by the Guardian in a top-rated review as ‘an icy […]

‘Warning! Vividly Depicts Axe Murders!’


  So bellowed the captions in the trailer for 1964’s ‘Strait-Jacket’, which also promised that it ‘may go beyond your ability to withstand suspense’. There’s a  cycle of books and films rather forgotten now which were inspired by the massive international success of ‘Psycho’. Domestic Suspense is a category of fiction that had almost disappeared […]

Has The Horror Film Gone For Good?


The genres of most future films were firmly established when film was in its infancy. Of those, SF eventually came to the fore (albeit in a watered down version of its literary antecedents), the musical and the western both went away, crime moved to television and comedy was reduced to pubescent smut, an Apatow/Stiller format set […]

Why Don’t Voters Choose The Best?


As a long-term member of the British Film Academy I applaud its rigorous voting system, which I think works fairly for everyone, but it doesn’t mean that I always agree with the members’ choice. I’m staggered that the distinctly average ‘Bridge of Spies’ comes out top of this year’s nominations, just as I’m shocked by […]

8 Is A Hateful Number


No spoilers On the wall of my old office there used to be a Reservoir Dogs poster signed by Quentin Tarantino, thanking us for helping to make his first film a hit in the UK after it flopped in the US. I liked the film and loved Pulp Fiction more, but Kill Bill damaged my […]

Top Dog In 2015


Of all the movies I saw in 2015, one stayed with me more than any other. ‘White God’ is only the second Hungarian film I can recall seeing (the other was the brilliant ‘Kontroll’). It’s by Kornell Mundruczo and is an utterly unclassifiable one-off experience. Not only can I not explain how he got so many […]

Star Wars: A Writer’s View


No spoilers The Force can’t be resisted. ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ is the fastest-grossing film in history because it needed to be; the studio had to release high box office figures to jump-start a vast array of movie sequels and spin-offs that will power spending for years to come. Press editors around the world […]

Best & Worst Films Of 2015


At the birth of film there were stories about great achievers, from Nelson to Washington. Last week I watched a film about a woman who invents a mop and manages to sell it on QVC. Not exactly Scott of the Antarctic.  Joy is directed by David O Russell and stars Jennifer Lawrence. The performances are nice, but […]

Neglected Films 15: The Night They Raided Minsky’s


A few readers have asked me to revive this column, which I discontinued a couple of years ago. (You’ll find the old columns all stored here if you’re looking for unusual films). In the late 1960s audiences tired of old-fashioned pictures and made ‘Easy Rider’ a hit. The studios were caught out. What were they […]