The Wes Craven Retrospective: Invitation to Hell (1984)

1984 was quite a busy year for Wes Craven who managed to release three films at that time: A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Invitation to Hell, the latter of which was a made-for-TV project he did not have a hand in writing. Similarly to how I felt about his 1978 outing Summer of Fear, a movie-of-the-week thriller with Linda Blair, I was immediately asking the very fundamental question of why Wes Craven – busy as he was – would ever decide to re-enter the world of television.

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Summer of Fear (1978)

Not everyone knows that apart from writing and directing theatrical features that greatly influenced the development of genre filmmaking, Wes Craven ventured outside this bubble in search for other opportunities. In fact, right after making The Last House on the Left he ventured into hardcore pornography (allegedly because indie filmmaking wasn’t exactly lucrative) and those skilled in the art will be able to find some of his work online without much ado. Though, a fair warning to anyone brave enough to do so that to call some of these movies unwatchable would be a compliment. In addition, Craven ended up branching out to make TV movies as well (of the non-adult variety) and over the course of his entire career he would come back periodically to direct something explicitly designed for the small screen.  

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Gamera, The Giant Monster (1965)

Daiei Film

It is widely accepted that Gamera films have originated as a competition to the Godzilla series and aimed to replicate its success and cultural footprint. In fact, from among all Godzilla knock-offs, the series about a giant fire-breathing (and fire-eating) flying turtle ended up the most sustainable, as it spawned twelve entries spread across four decades.  

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Paths of Glory (1957)

The 1956 answer to Jules Dassin’s RififiThe Killing, is remembered as Stanley Kubrick’s first mature film. Although it failed at the box office, its artistic qualities didn’t go unnoticed by the critical community and inadvertently put Kubrick on the map; the film became his Hollywood CV of sorts. This is perhaps why he was able to convince Kirk Douglas to star in his next feature, Paths Of Glory, which is now widely referred to as his first masterpiece. And for a good reason. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke – Funny Games (2007)

I honestly don’t know how to review this film without repeating myself wholesale, because it is an exact carbon copy of its 1997 original. Therefore, if you’re after my thoughts on what this film says about us as a society and how Haneke masterfully teaches us about the illusion of safety provided by financial wealth, I refer you to my review of that film. Instead, I think it might be a good opportunity to use the fact these two films are nearly identical twins to see them as an experiment proving auteur theory exists.  

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Caché (2005)

Caché (Hidden) (2005)

All throughout his career Michael Haneke has been busy putting a scalpel to the wealthiest classes and flaying them methodically – layer after layer – to expose their flesh and the intricately woven network of delicate cardiovascular vessels pumping their azure blood. However, while doing so he has also been struggling with his own perspective and, hence, some of his work may give an impression that he has been engaged in this delicate surgical work whilst mounted atop a high horse of immovable moral authority. This is not the case here. Released in 2005, Caché proves unequivocally that at least for the moment Haneke was able to dismount and deliver his most cunning experiment in deconstructing the bourgeoisie, thus proving to be the pinnacle of his filmmaking career in my view. 

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: The Killing (1956)

Stanley Kubrick referred to his 1956 noir caper The Killing as his first mature film. However, as Roger Ebert famously pointed out, it may be inappropriate to single it out as some kind of a fork in the road, let alone a watershed moment that set Kubrick on a trajectory to the pantheon of greatest filmmakers in history. Just as Ebert suggested, without the directing credit listed at the beginning of the movie, it would be very hard to trace it back to Kubrick. 

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Understanding Michael Haneke: Time of the Wolf (2003)

The term ‘time of the wolf’ finds its roots in Nordic folklore and in the most basic terms it denotes a time of the night just before the dawn. Ingmar Bergman once summarized it as a “the hour between night and dawn, when most people die, sleep is deepest, nightmares are most real. It is the hour when the sleepless are haunted by their worst anguish, when ghosts and demons are most powerful.” This note was an accompaniment to the screenplay to Hour of the Wolf, his 1968 psychological horror with Max von Sydow and Liv Ullmann.  

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The Kubrick Appreciation Project: Killer’s Kiss (1955)

There is an entire universe of difference between Fear And Desire, Kubrick’s feature debut, and Killer’s Kiss, his sophomore effort. Although one could see the filmmaker’s potential in the former film, especially exemplified in aggressive editing, confident staging of static shots and the way the narrative goes about exploring its central themes, many choose to see it as a failure whose reputation is solely derived from the eventual trajectory of Kubrick’s filmmaking career. In other words, it takes some real effort to see past the film’s blatant flaws in craftsmanship and occasional instances of narrative meandering marring the progression of the story in order to appreciate it as more than a stepping stone. 

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The Wes Craven Retrospective: Swamp Thing (1982)

Long before what we now understand as the Golden Age of Comic Book Movies, the pickings were slim for fans keen on seeing their favourite spandex-clad superheroes on the silver screen. Richard Donner’s Superman had only opened in 1978 and the public at large was most likely not ready to embrace comic books as a serious source material for cinematic treatment. Granted, The Incredible HulkCaptain America and others featured prominently on TV, but I don’t think I’d be too far off the mark if I assumed these works were never taken as anything more than entertainment for children.  

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