Monthly Archives: July 2017

  • It Comes at Night Trey Edward Shults (USA 2017)

    It Comes at Night Trey Edward Shults (USA 2017) Joel Egerton, Christopher Abbot, Carment Ejogo. Viewed Cineworld Newcastle 17 July 2017; ticket: £4.00

    If you go into the woods…

    Funnily enough the brutal front on barrage of cinema adverts before the movie,( representing forces of the known) felt like a preparation for Shults’ assault by forces of the unknown: the bank ad (Nat West) mobile phones, cars (VW and mini) all targeted right at the guts, contaminated me with desire and loathing before first frame of picture.

    Shults’ movie ‘It Comes at Night’ in its very title suggests classic horror genre. ‘It’ and ‘Night’ reference a script and scenario in which there is a certain design aesthetic at work. A design in which, as Tom Stoppard writes, events play themselves out to a certain logical conclusion: namely one in which finally the point is reached where all who are marked out for death, die. And of course in this case that means: everyone. Every one of them dies.

    It Comes at Night reminded me in its look and feel, in some respects, of the Blair Witch Project: but less clever in conception. Blair Witch also had the same tragic design and also used something of the same repetitive visual tropes as when the camera, from point of view of one of the characters, stares into the unyielding density of primal forest: we can see nothing but perceive only threat. The act of looking in itself yields an amplification of fear of the unseen and unknown. Something must be out there.

    But whereas Blair Witch was about psychic resources that centre on sexual archetypes relating to the female anima, Shults’ film is an American Gothic experience. The opening shot a very big close up of ‘Dad’s’ face, hollowed out and yellowed in best tradition of Poe’s cadaver’s, is vivid and present presaging a film that is an immersive experience with a contmeporary psychic resonance. Where Blair Witch is cerebral in its affect, It Comes at Night is a goth installation that situates the viewer within the film.

    The movie centres about the psychological state of paranoia. The state of exaggerated and uncontrollable fear that increasingly defines the USA of today. The USA as a polarised society where the imagined becomes real, where fear lurks at the perimeter of the sight lines. Where the best sight line is down the barrel of a gun.

    It Comes at Night posits a world characterised by lethal pandemic. For survivors all aspects of the outside world are suspect or infectious: potentially lethal. The plot, such as it is, is minimal, a device for permitting a range of atmospheric effects and events to further absorb the viewer into the screen. The family ‘holed up’ in the house, somewhat implausibly (but it is a movie so that’s OK) invite another family to share their safe space. Exploiting a number of devices including classic ambiguous sequences (modern movies abound with these), shot and edited so as to resist viewer ability to frame them as either ‘real’ or ‘dream’, the two families, though starting with good intentions, lose trust in each other and become a source of anxiety, creating the very situation which they hoped to avoid.

    Shot in high key and with low to ‘no’ lighting, It Comes at Night falls back on traditional horror technique to works its affects. The film’s effect and substance are structured out of camera movement and sound track. The camera continually tracking down and round dark corridors, through dense forest, panning across black space, focusing on the key anxiety object that is the access door with its lever handle. Each setting or event drummed out with scary electronic music and sudden stings from the sound track. “ You can’t trust anyone but family” intones the in-house ‘Daddy’.

    With its stilted dialogue adding little to the series of visual and sound clichés that make up the film, It Comes at Night is a movie for the late night players and seems to have played well to a certain audience. This is interesting. Shults offers little in the way of originality or tension, but his film is a studied reminder of the psychic bleakness of an age dominated by a set of deranged tarot cards. Adrin Neatrour

  • Baby Driver Edgar Wright (2017; UK)

    Baby Driver Edgar
    Wright (2017; UK) Ansel Elgort; Kevin

    Viewed Empire Cinema Newcastle 4 July 2017; ticket: £4.00

    Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of all…?

    There is a certain type of film which in conception, script and scenario is made as a act of narcissistic homage to its audience. I think that Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver conforms to this type. The culture of ‘image’ demands outer representation of self. Life is now lived out as acts of personal projection as witnessed in: TV reality and quiz shows, music vids and the anger and sadness individuals (in the West at least) manifest in the 24/7 news shows in interviews as victim. Unless a situation is ‘imaged’ we don’t get it. Life has become the continuous performance of an acted out personal theatre.

    Unfortunately this isn’t a personal everyday theatre of the absurd. It is theatre of banality that uses an outer conformed image to impress meaning into the everyday. Anger sadness and loss have to be accompanied by the appropriate exaggerated gestures mimicking the expressive range of stereotypes seen on film and TV. Enjoyment too; laughter and having fun have to be staged to produce for others the confirming image of what is happening. But in terms of today, most of all the prized image is the ‘cool’ projection, an enigmatic admix of presentation style control and detached involvement and knowingness. How cool the show. The way we run, walk, interact with others all have to display something for the other to see as ‘cool’.

    And Baby is cool. He embodies in all his actions ‘the cool one’. All that Baby does embodies in enactment his cool image, endorsing for the audience the primacy of an acted out being in the world.

    Live by image die by image.

    As spectacle Baby Driver is a retread of video games like grand auto theft (but with much much better graphics) transposed as movie: got the chase got the music. The playing out of the automobile fetish as an extension of the adolescent male control fantasy, the psychic interlude between mom and destiny.

    In some ways the spectacular in Baby Driver is not so much about Baby’s driving prowess or the rendering of his multiple manoeuvres involving impossible stunts close calls and near misses. Rather it is about the detached nature of Baby’s driving in which it as if he is not so much driving as writing poetry with the automobile. Perhaps not poetry but something close to poetry like mathematical equations, using his vehicle to create and sketch out a geometry crazy vectors. Baby is an artist using pure line. How cool is that! Wright’s action sequences have abstraction at their core. The parabolas and dazzling lines of Euclidean geometry are demonstrated by Baby as on road theorems. These sequences are more cerebral than visceral. An ultimate statement of ‘the cool’.

    Wright’s replication of the game ethos precludes the creation of tension as to how the action will be experienced. Tension is not cool. Both Electronic Games and Baby Driver are deintensified productions because in a game if you crash you start again: there is a built in inconsequentiality. The object of playing is mastery of the game. A mastery best served by detachment. Wright in his movie engenders this same feel. As we view on the screen Baby’s play out of dazzling mechanics and scintillating patterns of the vectors and force lines, the problem posed for the movie is that of repetition. How do you top out each action sequence. Once patterns replicate and repeat, the wow factor pay off from each stunt for each new equation, declines rapidly, becoming a long flat tail of repetition. Of course most SFX action movies are tested out by this problem. Without a script idea, they fail.

    Wright has set Baby Driver at the end of the cassette tape and beginning of the iPod era. The paradigm shift from analogue to digital. The analogue age was a time when there were still objects at which you could point. Such as money. It may now be impossible to set a bank heist centred script in the digital realm of today. Banks don’t have money, shops don’t have money, theft’s now virtual and viral.

    The period setting aside, Baby Driver is interesting for what it says as a reflection of salient aspects of this digital age. Those stylised elements and features that characterise the new century’s modes and settings. One aspect that stands out in Baby Driver is the expression of deterritorialised individuality. Baby is an orphan. He is scripted as having a guardian whom he now in turn looks after. But Baby is essentially alone and he has had to carve out his own identity from the opportunities presented to him by culture and society. In this sense he resembles a super hero, or perhaps a new generation of AI super computers. He is like a product of extra social forces. His identity is not drawn from community or family or from a traditional repository of collective skills. Like a super hero or a computer, he simply materialises. Baby is suddenly there on the streets of the city with a set of fully developed talents with which to prove himself. It’s a statement of very contemporary fantasy.

    Once the dream was to win the pools or to pull off the robbery of the century. The fall of chance or opportunity releasing you from the drudge of work. The fantasy now is to never have to experience work: no delayed gratification. Rather the dream now is that your own innate individuality is sufficient to itself in the world. All that is needed is for your individuality to be discovered by a TV reality show or on on line platform such a YouTube. To take or make the chance to show your talent to explode into the public consciousness and enter the door of life. Your individuality is your talent. The mirror, or the mirror like movie that is Baby Driver, reflects the image of you as an individual at the centre of the universe; just need your moment of opportunity and we can all be like ‘Baby’. Adrin Neatrour