The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Movie Marathon #8: The Mummy

Now, I believe there to be a real dearth in the world of family horror films. You know what I mean-the type that terrify the kids into silence while the grown-ups can drink wine and enjoy the general rollick and fun of a good story. Babysitting movies, essentially.

The Mummy is a perfect example of that; fun, light, exciting, entertaining and properly scary in places. I saw it when I was twelve and incredibly impressionable, and I was shit-scared by it. It didn’t help that my father spent the rest of that evening chanting “Ih-mo-thep..” whenever I was in a room by myself, but frankly that’s just good parenting. I needed toughening up.

It’s also a wonderful throwback to the Hammer Horror films of the sixties; all glamorous women, handsome heroes and bumbling sidekicks. It’s difficult to balance homage with making a solid film of your own, but here it works; there’s just enough tongue placed firmly in cheek for the movie to pull it’s own style out of film history. It’s also greatly blessed by a cast who look like they’re having the best time ever, especially the eccentric English collector played by a gurning, goggling, gaping John Hannah. And Rachel Weisz as the sexiest librarian known to mankind. Which certainly helps.

It’s properly scary, too; from the opening scene of live mummification to the slowly-regenerating ancient killer mummy running around Egypt waging war with a wannabe Liam Neeson on a horse, it doesn’t skimp on getting in some really traumatic scenes for the kids. And therein lies it’s allure-when you’re a kid, you secretly hunt out the scary stuff, the stuff you shouldn’t really be watching. I still think that one of the reasons I have such a passion for horror movies is that feeling of crawling into the comforting womb of Something You Shouldn’t Be Doing, and The Mummy balances the fun adventure story with the nasty, violent horror side with panache. It’s a brilliant way for kids to get into the scary side of cinema without staying up late and ending up wide-eyed with terror-fueled insomnia after over-indulging on some blood-soaked frames of film. And anything that gets kids into horror is something I love. Saves me the bother.


Movie Marathon #9: The Bling Ring

The Bling Ring marks Sofia Coppola’s fifth venture into feature film territory, her first since the 2010 drama Somewhere. Starring Emma Watson, Katie Chang and Taissa Farmiga as members of the titular crime gang, the film draws from the true story of a privileged group of teenagers in California who routinely burgled celebrities to collect trophies and trinkets from their homes-victims included Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom, with some scenes shot inside Hilton’s own residence.

The film is filled with Coppola’s trademark ennui-the beautiful cinematography is chock-full of long, languid shots, and that very specific sense of disaffection and mild, middle-class dissatisfaction. Coppola’s ability to capture the frustration and discontent of beautiful young women-as she displayed in her first feature, The Virgin Suicides, and later in Lost in Translation-is brought to the forefront in a very different way in The Bling Ring, with a bunch of pretty young things and their social restlessness captured to a tee. One of Coppola’s key skills is her ability to remove herself from the action, acting only as a passive observer to the increasingly mad events taking place around her-she refuses at any point to become involved in the world of the girls or their high-profile victims. Instead, she focuses on what has driven these privileged young women, on the cusp of adulthood, to steal pointless knick-knacks from their idols; less a physical or psychological need to burgle, but rather for the pseudo-fame that came from the news coverage and social interest in the case.

Kudos has to go to the actresses who inhabit the challenging roles with ease. Finding young actresses who can convincingly portray, well, anything, really, is a challenge, but Coppola hit the jackpot with the lead five. Emma Watson, in the process of throwing of the shackles of her rise to fame through Harry Potter, rightly received buckets of critical praise for her performance as the leader of the group.

However, perhaps too much emphasis was put on her character at the expense of any sort of reasonable characterisation of the other four girls, as they begin to meld together with little defining characteristics. That said, this is a film about teenagers occupying the height of vapidity; the blank stares, mundane dialogue and overwhelming sense of senselessness, though sometimes seeming put in place just to emphasise how crushingly shallow these women are, are required to truly put across how crushingly shallow these women really, truly, and utterly are.