Stranger Things – What To Watch Next

st3-production-still-4-1

Ante K. Lundberg guides you through a personal list of films that inspired and informed Stranger Things, plus some his own choices, just for fun. 

So you’ve finished the latest season of Stranger Things, and you’re looking to fill that hole in your heart it’s left you? Well, you’re not alone. As a child of the 1980s, I find myself in the middle of a resurgence of film, television, video games and music made by my generation that is inspired by the 80’s. And it’s beautiful.

I was born in 1985, the year of a certain summer in the town of Hawkins, as seen in Stranger Things 3. Notable cinema releases that year included true classics such as Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Day of the Dead, Weird Science – and many more.

As requested by the ancient editor of Out of Dave’s Head, I’ve gathered a list of recommended films for viewing if you, like me, just can’t get enough of the ‘80s love that is happening right now. Some of the films on here have inspired the Duffer Brothers in creating and writing Stranger Things, others are just perfect examples of wonderful ‘80s cinema. These are the real deal, friends, so put on your Walkman, rewind that tape, and let’s get to it!

Stand by Me, director Rob Reiner, 1986

A group of young friends discovering who they are, the meaning of friendship, and life lessons? Check. Walking along a railway? Check. Small town thugs terrorizing our teen heroes? Check. While set in the 1950s, Stand By Me is an ‘80s film through and through, with a cast including young Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, John Cusack and Kiefer Sutherland! Based on a novella (The Body) by legendary author Stephen King, Stand By Me is a genuine, grade A classic, full of character, fun and heart.

The Lost Boys, director Joel Schumacher, 1987

There’s hardly a more ‘80s-looking and sounding film than The Lost Boys. This is the whole package; the music, the costumes, the hair. It also has Tim Capello shaking his sweaty, muscular hips and saxophone, and a healthy dose of teenage vampires living forever, led by (there he is again) a young, menacing Kiefer Sutherland, the hilariously bad vampire hunters the Frog Brothers (featuring that other ‘80s Corey… Haim), and a cracking, fast pace. Trust me, you won’t be bored by this one.

Evil Dead 2: Dead By Dawn, director Sam Raimi, 1987

I’m not in any way saying you shouldn’t see the original Evil Dead, but the sequel not only (kinda sorta) recreated the first film in the intro, it went way beyond the original with a fantastic combination of fear, blood and laughs. If you’re looking for one of the most hilariously over-the-top splatter comedies out there, Evil Dead 2 simply set the bar. Bruce Campbell’s performance is one for the ages, with some of the most amazing physical comedy ever put on film. It’s not without reason his wonderfully awkward-yet-badass leading chin Ash Williams got more films and recently a series, Ash vs Evil Dead – which is also well worth a watch! In addition, fans of Stranger Things 3 will find the cabin-under-siege setting nicely familiar!

Aliens, director James Cameron, 1986

James Cameron has made two of the finest sequels ever in Aliens and Terminator 2 Judgment Day (and I haven’t even mentioned Stranger Things 3’s HUGE homage to The Terminator… oh wait, I just did). It’s common knowledge that in Aliens, the tight spaceship corridors first established in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien are expanded to play host to some of the best action sequences put to film.

Aliens is a perfect mix made up of one part great production design, one part a superb cast of character actors playing a ragtag group of soldiers (including Bill Paxton and Michael Biehn – who would be a great addition to the Stranger Things cast!), one part body horror and huge parts action, all flavoured with a beautiful mother/adopted daughter relationship.

Add to that mix a scheming Paul Reiser (none other than Stranger Things 2’s Dr. Sam Owens), on great form as the company man more ruthless than the titular Aliens could ever hope to be, you’ll be hooked before you can say “game over”.

The Thing, director John Carpenter, 1982

I mean, really, John Carpenter in general, but in particular….

One of my favourite films is John Carpenter’s The Thing. Another claustrophobic body horror, set in an isolated location the characters can’t escape (see also Aliens, above), the mood in The Thing is unrivaled thanks to Carpenter’s direction and Rob Bottin’s incredible, practical animatronic work on the title creature.

Another great contribution from Carpenter, too often overlooked, is In the Mouth of Madness (1994 – yes, I’m cheating to include this, I know!), a horrifying Lovecraft-inspired film with lots of potential friends for Stranger Things’ Demogorgon.

In fact I would bet several films in Carpenter’s catalogue have inspired the Duffer Brothers in some way, as his body of work is chock-full of classics that I implore you to seek out and watch, including Escape from New York, Halloween, The Fog, Christine, Prince of Darkness and more.

Carpenter’s scores, often written and performed by the man himself, are also a huge inspiration for the Stranger Things soundtrack composers, Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein.

Pretty much everything John Hughes had a hand in during the 80’s

Yeah, you heard me. John Hughes had an incredibly creative output, and most of his stuff really is the beating pulse of ‘80s cinema. Writing and/or directing classics like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science and Pretty in Pink, he leaves us quite the legacy of movies that nicely illustrate the trials and tribulations of the teen years.

Although time has not been perfectly kind to all these films (especially in the female characters department), the look and feel are true ‘80s, unbeatably so. I recommended starting with The Breakfast Club, where you will at least have seen the gif of a totally ’80s tough guy raising his fist victoriously in the air, from one of the film’s many classic moments. “Don’t you forget about me” indeed…

Day of the Dead, director George A. Romero, 1985

George A. Romero pretty much invented the modern zombie (sans the running) with his slow, lumbering packs of dread in Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead. All three should be considered classics in their own right and can be watched separately or as part of a saga where – not really spoiler alert – things do not bode well for mankind.

In Day of the Dead, odds are not in our favour, as the zombies outnumber us and the remaining human population hide in shelters, trying to find a way to survive. Romero’s zombie films are part visceral horror, part social commentary (stop teasing the zombies, really!) and, as usual, it seems our biggest threat is each other. Day’s opening sequence also plays a big part in the opening episode of Stranger Things 3.

The Goonies, director Richard Donner, 1985

Personally, I’m not a big fan of The Goonies but it’s considered by many as an essential watch, and certainly is a Duffer Brothers touchstone for their Netflix show. If you’re after a “kids on a mission” film filled with adventure, treasure and danger, then look no further, and it features Sean Astin, Stranger Things’ lovable Bob, years before he was a Hobbit for Peter Jackson.

E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial, director Steven Spielberg, 1982

Tonally, Stranger Things owes a lot to Steven Spielberg’s lovable ET. The little guy is stuck somewhere he doesn’t belong, and is just trying to get home, despite the government suits doing their best to stop him. Cue the brilliant and inventive 80’s kids (see an ongoing motif here?) doing their damndest with what they have by hand. The film also includes that legendary bike sequence, glaringly referenced in the first season of Stranger Things.

The Deadly Spawn, director Douglas MacKeown, 1983

A fabulous and fun creature feature starring young Charles George Hildenbrandt (the son of one of the Hildenbrandt Brothers, who painted the legendary fantasy-style poster for Star Wars in 1977, as well as the poster for this movie).

The plot concerns a crash-landed alien that finds refuge in the basement of a house and grows to monstrous proportions, and the plucky band of teenagers who do battle with it. The many ghastly teeth of the monster here sure do look a whole lot like the ghastly teeth of the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things 3.

Altered States, director Ken Russell, 1980

All Ken Russell films are worth your time, but Altered States, Russell’s adaptation of the Paddy Chayefsky novel, will particularly resonate with fans of Stranger Things 3, as it runs with the idea that sensory deprivation tanks (as used by Eleven in the show) can activate hidden parts of the brain. But boy, Russell takes things in a totally wild direction that will blow your mind.

Ghostbusters, director Ivan Reitman, 1984

I don’t really need to over-explain this one, right…!? Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Sigourney Weaver, proton packs, bustin’ makes me feel good, Zuul! Stranger Things 2 crosses them streams.

A Nightmare on Elm Street, director Wes Craven, 1984

I can only imagine the feeling of seeing this particular nightmare in a cinema in the 80’s (Editor’s Note: It was pretty darn good!). The now iconic Freddy Krueger was an inescapable foe, terrorizing the dreams of poor teens with knives-for-fingers and a serious case of bad skin day.

I was late to the Elm Street party and, seeing it at an older age, I found myself really digging the over-the-top scenery chewing performance from Robert Englund as Freddy. Definitely worth a watch, even though “you’ll never sleep again!”

IT, 1990

I can’t really recommend Tommy Lee Wallace’s IT miniseries from 1990, which time hasn’t treated well. The acting is wooden (Tim Curry not included, he is great), the pacing is slow and the effects are completely outdated (Editor’s Note: this calls for fisticuffs in the pub later, Lundberg). But it does have the loser’s club camaraderie seen in Stranger Things and, I’m willing to bet, was a childhood watch for the Duffer Brothers.

Rather, DO give the book a read, even if it is a long one, or see Andy Muschietti’s new two-film version that is in turn set in the ’80s and inspired by the same palette as Stranger Things. You can watch the trailer for IT Chapter Two here.

Mullets, big-haired teens in pastel and neon clothes, muscle cars and BIG songs might have defined the decade, but the ‘80s have so much more going for them in terms of entertainment. And if Stranger Things has left you with a hankering to revisit those years, this list will be a good place to begin!

About the author

Ante K. Lundberg is a movie and music buff from the fjords of western Norway. Living with his wife and two small children, he longs for the day when he yet again will be able to binge watch a series.

He wrote this essay on a straight regime of pitch black coffee, Meteor and Gunship on vinyl, and several (imaginary) training montages.

Advertisements

Bollywood And Beyond: Mission Mangal

mission mars

Welcome to Bollywood And Beyond, our new regular column looking at the incredible movies coming out of Bollywood and Indian cinema, with our host, Chris Conway.

Mission Mangal (translated as Mission Mars) tells the true story of the Indian Mars orbiter mission, that was successfully launched back in September, 2014. It’s not an action film or edge-of-seat drama, like Apollo 13, but like Ron Howard’s movie, it tells the audience a story we know has actually happened.

Initially announced in 2013 and going into production as the real-life Mars Orbiter was launched, the film’s story is loosely based on the lives of scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation and focuses on the largely female team and their driven mission director, who all made it happen against incredible odds.

Director Jagan Shakti (previously a second unit or assistant director on films including Dear Zindagi, Holiday and Thupakki) put together a very engaging cast: Akshay Kumar (one of Bollywood’s most prolific actors) is perfect as the slightly eccentric director, and among the female team is the always excellent Vidya Balan (from films including Lage Raho Munna Bhai) struggling to balance work with being a mom and wife. Sonakshi Sinha plays a smoking, serial dating propulsion expert, Tapsee Panu portrays a soldier’s wife and payload expert. Add a pregnant woman, a separated Muslim woman, a nerdy young guy and an elderly man (at 59?) – and that’s quite a team.

The main story follows the mission’s beginnings and the problems faced by the team along the way, allowing us to get to know and empathise with the characters. This is greatly helped with the inclusion of some gently funny scenes, highly enjoyable as Akshay and Vidya are such likeable actors.

It’s all been slightly romanticised, of course – several times a team member will find something from everyday life which is the solution to a problem, and the film doesn’t really do science – in fact the team always use simplified terms, even in mission control.

The film even slips a song or two in there, this is Bollywood, after all. You’d be disappointed if there were none (certainly Indian audiences would be).

Shakti (along with fellow writers R. Balki, Nidhi Singh Dharma and Saketh Kondiparthi) makes sure the story is big on Indian patriotism – and why not? It is the first Asian Mars mission (and the cheapest!) – but if you’re not in a hurry with the plot everything carries you along to a nice ending.

In fact, if you’re looking for a word to describe the film, “nice” would fit perfectly.


Chris Conway is a Bollywood enthusiast who sees at least twenty Bollywood films a year, often at Leicester’s Piccadilly Bollywood Cinema. He’s also a jazz pianist, vocalist, composer and songwriter who is currently celebrating his thirtieth year of recording and performing. He also loves cloudy days and J-pop.

Avengers Assemble At Disney Parks

Avengers Campus

Marvel’s The Avengers want you to Assemble. Strictly speaking, they want your credit card to assemble, but they’ll welcome you along for the ride.

The previously announced news that Marvel’s characters would join the famous parks was confirmed at today’s D23 expo, where they gave more information on the upcoming super-hero lands.

The Disney Parks blog announced:

“When guests visit Avengers Campus, they will become part of an interconnected, global story that spans from California to Paris to Hong Kong with the Avengers recruiting new extraordinary people to join them.”

Avengers Campus will open at various Disney theme parks in California and Paris, joining the just-opened Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction to lure in geeks. They will will incorporate the existing Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! and a new Spider-Man attraction that will invite “new recruits to “suit up” alongside Spider-Man with the Worldwide Engineering Brigade (WEB).”

The first phase of the Anaheim Avengers Campus is expected to open in 2020, so you’d better start saving your pennies or deciding which part of your soul you’ll hand to Disney now.

And Finally, James Bond 25 Will Be Called…

007-Logo-1480x1020-Gallery-White

Instead of telling you, why don’t I let Eon Productions and Daniel Craig show you…?

There we go, No Time To Die it is.

Dammit Bond, now I lost my bet on Shatterhand. Trust you to go breaking the expected alliteration of Skyfall, SPECTRE and, uh… No Time To Die.

What do you think? Love it or loathe it? Sound off in the comments.

Meanwhile, this reveal also confirms that Bond 25 (as I may well continue to call it, just for the hell of it), Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007, will be released April 2020.

The film also stars Rami Malek, Léa Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Billy Magnussen, Ana de Armas, Rory Kinnear, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah, Jeffrey Wright and Ralph Fiennes, and is directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga.

More news as we get it.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood -Tarantino’s Fairy Tale Triumph

once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, is his masterpiece. There, I’ve said it.

It almost feels glib to make such a bald, bland statement about this often breathtakingly complex work, but if this is to be his penultimate movie (and his tenth and final film will be “epilogue-y” as the director recently stated), then he has left us with something that not only stands as a brilliant expansion and culmination of his cinematic style and obsessions but also as arguably the most intricate and layered film in his body of work.

It’s a beautiful and elegiac love letter to not only Hollywood but also international filmmaking, it uses a potentially troublesome real-life tragedy and gives it catharsis in the most surprisingly touching and tender way, and it presents a simple bromance that eventually reveals itself as something deeper.

Set across two brief moments six months apart, Tarantino shows us a Hollywood in transition, beset by television, the dying embers of the studio system giving way to the bright flames of New Hollywood, the encroachment of international films and indeed, of the death of the 1960s as an ideal, we’re introduced to fading star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stuntman-cum-personal driver-cum-gopher, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt).

As the two weave their way through dwindling career opportunities, we meet their mirror opposite, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), whose star is on the ascendant and ready to burn brightly. As Al Pacino’s Hollywood producer offers Dalton a lifeline in Italy to feature in Spaghetti Westerns and Euro-spy movies, Tate glimpses the wonder of her craft and the two threads play out with some of Tarantino’s most perfectly measured storytelling since Jackie Brown (now my second favourite film from the director), all the while magnificently slowly building towards the tension and violence of the era-ending and personal tragedy we know is about to unfold.

DiCaprio continues his run as a driven, fearless performer, handling every level of Dalton’s movie star bragadoccio and insecurities with ease, never failing to find the most human of reactions, while Pitt further reveals himself to be the character actor in a movie star’s body those of us with more attuned tastes have always known him to be. His role could easily have played as unlikable or even offensive, but he strides across this with his easy going charm, leaving us with an arresting and enjoyable ambiguity.

Pitt and DiCaprio make for such an impeccable screen teaming that if it wasn’t so all-fired perfect here already, I’d be begging to see more. But their transition from employer and employee to deep friendship is so beautifully bittersweet that I can’t see any other, future pairing as anything more than anti-climatic.

There has been much criticism of Tarantino’s handling of Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate, with many saying she is underused. This is, of course, complete nonsense (as is the storm in a tea cup over Bruce Lee’s role in the story, which willfully misunderstands the nature of the film). Tate is the joyful glue that binds the film, an even more impressive feat of both writing and acting considering many of her scenes see the character playing not off others, but reveling in her life, by and for herself, in the moment before her Hollywood stardom explodes.

Robbie, the writing and direction of her, gives us a wonderful character and a heartfelt tribute to the real life actress. The scene of her watching herself on a Westwood cinema screen, delighting in not only her own performance (made even more multi-faceted by the fact we see the real Tate) but also in the reactions of the audience around her, has instantly become one of my favourite Tarantino sequences from all of his films. Rather than marginalize the actor, Tarantino has the confidence in his star to let her carry this all out wordlessly.

It’s a scene which also stands as one of two moments in particular (though I suspect further viewings will reveal more) which startlingly play with perceptions of how, and perhaps even why, we watch films in ways I’m still trying to unravel, but this and DiCaprio’s incredible address to himself in his mirror where he instead makes perfect eye contact with the audience were genuinely spine-chilling.

The playful blending and juxtaposition of films in our real world and films in Tarantino’s reel world is also sure to leave film lovers with examination and critique that will no doubt reward, infuriate and entrance for decades to come.

Tarantino’s films all pay off with multiple viewing, but this is a genuine treasure chest which unfolds to reveal multiple levels of jewels which will catch the light to reveal themselves the more we look into it.

Standing as a love letter to Hollywood and an ode to that town’s ever-changing tides of filmmaking, as an ode to the end of an era, as the reclamation of a terrible real-life crime and celebration of the life of the woman involved in that event, as a charming buddy movie examination of the changing dynamics of friendship and as an investigation of cinema and our relationship to it, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood really is Tarantino’s most emotionally mature and singularly impressive work.

It’s also the first Tarantino film to bring a tear to my eye, with a quite beautiful, and delicate closing scene which perfectly encapsulates what the film is: a Hollywood fairy tale, with all the romance and darkness of the very best fairy tales.

In fact, it’s his masterpiece. There, I’ve said it again.

*You can read more about the cinematic legacy of Charles Manson here.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood – The Manson Legacy

manson collage 2

Out Of Dave’s Head is proud to publish our first article by another writer; welcome aboard Jon Harman, celebrating the release of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood with a look at the cinematic legacy of the real-life horror haunting the movie.

Charles Manson has been a defining Hollywood story for 50 years, ever since the fateful and brutal killings in August 1969. With Tarantino returning to this arena in his latest offering Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, we look at the impact and legacy of the Manson Murders in cinema.

The Manson Murders took place in the summer of 1969 and were the culmination of activities by a hippy cult lead by Charles Manson, an unemployed ex-convict who had spent more than half of his life in correctional institutions. Manson’s dreams of becoming a singer/songwriter had been snubbed by Beach Boys record producer Terry Melcher and he was suffering delusions of grandeur that he was the new messiah. He was also obsessed with the Beatles, particularly their 1968 self-titled album, and was allegedly guided by his interpretation of the band’s lyrics. He adopted their song, Helter Skelter, as the text to describe an impending apocalyptic race war.

On August 8th of that year, Manson instructed his followers, Tex Watson, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian and Patricia Krenwinkel to go to Melcher’s house in Cielo Drive in LA and murder the inhabitants, who were film director Roman Polanski’s pregnant actress wife, Sharon Tate, her hairdresser Jay Sebring, coffee heiress Abigail Folger and her boyfriend Voytek Frykowski. The following night he instructed them and Leslie Van Houten and Steve Grogan to perform a copycat killing of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca at their residence.

Manson occurred at a defining moment for counter-culture and Hollywood, starting a transition to a post studio system, as Peter Fonda’s Wyatt uttered the immortal words “we blew it” in Easy Rider, the love affair with hippiedom was over, but the kinetic, youthful and independent style of Easy Rider was opening a door to a new cinema. Then on August 8th-9th the brutal slaying of the Tate party in Cielo Drive ensured Hollywood and violence were fused together in a thematic way that has permeated US cinema for decades, with constant reference to the perfect boogeyman in Manson. 

There are the biopic, literal tellings of the Manson story over the years, but there are also countless films that channel a Manson theme within. Very early on, numerous exploitation films captured the salacious nature of the crimes like Angel, Angel, Down We Go (1969) which was retitled as Cult of The Damned (1971) to feed off the ever growing notoriety of the case, not to mention the bizarre attempt to add two minutes of footage to Sign of Aquarius (1970) to suddenly make a Mansonesque blaxploitation flick, Ghetto Freaks (1970) which was a fusion of too many themes to comprehend).

As the investigation played out in 69 and 70, aspects were already fusing into the lexicon of cinema, such as John Waters’ Multiple Maniacs (1970), which had Divine running a circus freak show as a front for robbery and murder and convincing her husband that he killed Sharon Tate in a drug induced haze. Waters was obsessed with the case and wrote references into his film as the case unfolded, later dedicating Pink Flamingos (1972) to “Sadie, Katie & Les” (Manson’s nicknames for Susan Atkins, Linda Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten, the main perpetrators of the murders). Waters has spent years advocating the release of  Van Houten, describing her as his friend.

The first attempt to bring the actual Manson story into cinema was The Other Side of Madness (1971) which itself was later retitled as The Helter Skelter Murders, a strange curational mix of documentary and re-enactment footage filmed in some of the actual locations whilst never actually using any of the names from the crime. The hippie noir depiction of the crime scene is both brutal and exploitative for a film of its time with strong mondo undertones leaving it a curio in the Manson legacy. At the same time, exploitation duo Michael and Roberta Findlay jetted down to Argentina to make The Slaughter (1971) about a Mansonesque death cult resulting in a film with either very limited or no distribution until independent low-budget distributor and sometime producer, Allan Shackleton picked it up and added a notorious murder scene as the finale and calling it Snuff (1976), spawning an entire urban myth strand of modern cinema about the existence of underground snuff films in its own right (which is another whole article by itself). 

Likewise in 1971, fledgling writer/ director Wes Craven was typing out his script for what would become The Last House on The Left (1972). Whilst being an American retelling of Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960), it had a Manson Family undertone in its brutalism and striking similarities of character with it’s female villain “Sadie,” played by Jeramie Rain, cast just after playing Manson family member Sadie Mae Glutz in the off Broadway Manson musical 22 Years the same year. 

The zeitgeist of the Manson Murders was permeating new cinema as much as the raging Vietnam war at the time, which conflated in a later movie. Writer Peter Biskind, in his 1998 book, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls saw Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz in his compound in Apocalypse Now (1980) as: 

“another incarnation of Charlie Manson, the scourge figure who had gone native and now, unchallenged, ruled over his family. The compound was his Spahn Ranch” 

The sense of crime family, hippies, war and brutality also infused the zeitgeist of Tobe Hooper’s film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), in particular the opening prologue directly cites Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi’s description of the crimes as “the most bizarre mass murder case in the annals of American crime” to add weight to the false claim the film is a true story. 

1976 saw the release of CBS made for television film Helter Skelter, which depicted both the crimes and the trial in detail, based on Bugliosi’s book of the same name. Steve Railsback defined the persona of Manson for the viewing public (though retrospectively, this comes across as being quite histrionic and the film comes off as a weird episode of Perry Mason tonally), to the point he never really escaped its impact and stunting his fledgling acting career. The film reached an estimated 50 million Americans on release and thus defined much of the Manson story. CBS later remade Helter Skelter (2004) with Jeremy Davies playing a more subtle and realistic Manson, though not as eerie, this time the film focused more on the persuasive nature of Manson as guru and the lead up to the crime. 

Always lurking in the exploitative realms of cinema, Manson re-emerged in an early found footage piece that built on the earlier legacy of Snuff (1976) and ran with an assertion from Ed Sanders book The Family (1971) that they stole an NBC film crew truck and used the equipment to make snuff films. The imagined output is surreal. Manson Family Movies (1984) which is all filmed from the perspective of the family on super 8mm film and dwells on mondo-style, exploitative gore once again to entice the salacious viewer disturbed by the ever winding myths around Manson.

In the same vein, Jim Van Bebber’s The Manson Family (2003) takes a transgressive view on the subject matter and relishes in the hyperbole of cult and barbaric murder. Famously taking 15 years to produce and finish, for many murder groupies, this is seen as the definitive film of Manson. Van Bebber firmly asserts that if you cover this story, you have to cover it warts and all in an NC-17 way. The film does successfully channel a late sixties, early 70’s aesthetic in its tone and thus has a further authenticity of Manson as cinema, rather than cinema about Manson. Van Bebber has a certain connection with the Manson psyche as a film-maker, and is somewhat reminiscent when ranting to distributors about film to DVD transfers of his work too.

From this moment on, Manson as myth and cultural icon becomes a touchstone to regurgitate in direct to DVD movies or sleight of hand references in TV series. Manson, My Name is Evil (2009), House of Manson (2014), The Wolves at the Door (2016) and The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019) all carbon copy the salacious aspects of the case, water down the nuance and add to the myth-making of Manson, whilst never really tackling anything new and can be largely dismissed for wrapping themselves in Manson iconography with little substance. It is also  difficult not to see the Family fingerprints all over most home invasion horror films of recent memory, invoking the horror of being disrupted, held hostage and murdered by some counter culture creepy crawlers, they set the narrative template for this modern American horror fable. 

Manson has also continued to guest star in such shows as American Horror Story: Cult (2017) Aquarius (2015)  or Mindhunter (2019) illustrating he is still a strong cultural bogeyman in the American psyche that people want to explore and visit. Films like Martha, Marcy, May, Marlene (2011) nicely explore the phenomenon and psychology of cult radicalisation with strong nods to Manson, without getting caught up in all the salacious aspects of the case. Equally, Charlie Says (2018) explores the indoctrination psychology and less salacious aspects through the eyes of Manson’s disciples and here we see (former Doctor Who) Matt Smith play Manson in a more subtle and believable incarnation as oppressive seductor rather than histrionic mad man.

There will of course always be room for such oddities as Live Freaky, Die Freaky (2006) – a stop motion musical comedy about the Manson crimes, or Troma’s Honky Apocalypse (2014) – that imagines an alternate universe where Manson’s proclamation of a Helter Skelter race war comes true in typical Troma, independent trash cinema style. 

It is inferred in the trailer for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) that we may actually only be getting more the guest star in cultural context of Manson this time around and possibly revisionist takes on the myth whilst delving into the transitioning movie business in 1969, illustrating how much Manson has become synonymous with Hollywood either as protagonist or background player. The film opens here next week, so we’ll know more then.

We’ve even seen one of the stars of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Brad Pitt, do his own modern day interpretation of Manson in Tyler Durden, of course. Rewatch Fight Club through the lense of cult radicalisation and guru instructed mayhem, compare Tyler’s speeches in the film to Charlie’s real-life speeches and you see much synchronicity.

Charlie changed Hollywood, Manson is a Hollywood story, myth and bogeyman that perpetuates to this day in so many aspects of our popular culture.

It was only natural for Tarantino as the pop culture maestro to visit and explore, having ditched other Hollywood arch manipulator Harvey Weinstein. Tarantino’s obsession with killers in his work, with numerous nods like having written Daisy Domergue in Hateful Eight (2015) as “a Manson girl out west, like Susan Atkins or something” was leading him here. Indeed what was Charlie if not the ultimate director manipulating and coercing players to act out his Hollywood scene like a doting Hollywood entourage, whilst he laps up all the attention? And we’re still talking about it 50 years on.

Jon Harman is a film producer, director and lecturer. Producing work from web series to feature films, documentaries and mind numbing live pop fare for Disney. Jon has the media bite mark scars on the leg that Quint and Hooper would drunkenly argue over. Jon also contributes to Cinema Under The Stairs podcast on Spotify. His trailer homage to Lucio Fulci and Man Bites Dog “Cool Clyde” (made when 16) is hidden on Youtube somewhere as a special easter egg.

“Please Won’t You Be My Neighbor…?” Tom Hanks Clears Shelf Space For His Next Oscar

neighbourhood

There’s really not much to say here, except: Tom Hanks, Mister Rogers, next year’s Oscar winner. Here’s your trailer (get your tissues ready):

If you’ve seen Morgan Neville’s documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighboryou’ll already be on board with this film. If not, you should prepare your heartstrings to be tugged by A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Tom Hanks playing one of America’s great cultural icons frankly seems like a sure bet for Oscar nomination, and if it turns out to be as heartwarming as this trailer (spoiler alert: it will be), then we’re in for something quite lovely, and probably rather needed, given the times in which we’re currently living.

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood, starring America’s nicest human being ™ , Tom Hanks, and directed by Marielle Heller (Diary Of A Teenage Girl), opens November 22. That gives Mr Hanks three months to prepare shelf space…

Balanced Web-Spinner – Spider-Man: Far From Home

spider-man-far-from-home

Following up the successful first collaboration between Columbia/Sony and Marvel (Spider-Man: Homecoming), the cosmic hugeness of Avengers: Endgame  and the culmination of Phase Three of the Marvel Cinematic Universe always promised to be a tricky task, but returning director Jon Watts and returning scriptwriters Chris McKenna & Eric Sommers have managed a pretty balanced movie that nicely answers all those demands.

Set eight months after half of humanity was restored to existence in Avengers: Endgame (now referred to as The Blip), the film wastes no time showing us some of the ramifications of this but also throws us headlong into a plot which, by necessity, has to stretch out more broadly than Homecoming’s friendly neighbourhood feel.

Terrifying giant creatures, Elementals, have seemingly crossed over into our world from another reality and, while attempting to enjoy a summer class vacation through Europe and engage with a blossoming relationship with MJ, Peter Parker is pulled into battling these monsters by a heroic newcomer, soon named Mysterio.

With Tony Stark no longer around, Mysterio becomes a mentor figure to Peter, but all is not quite as it first appears and events soon spiral out of our young hero’s control – both in and out of his webby mask.

Jake Gyllenhall’s Quentin Beck (a.k.a. Mysterio) works well against Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, in an arc which nicely defines Peter coming to terms with loss, while underlining his constant struggles with responsibility from a fresh angle. And while the resolution of this arc might be one of the film’s weaker moments, there is still a great deal to savour.

In terms of character development, the high-point of the film is undoubtedly Peter and MJ’s romance. Zendaya’s MJ is a real treat; snarky, goofy and vulnerable, and I could happily watch an entire movie of her and Holland just playing off against each other.

Holland is, it almost goes without saying, a pretty much perfect Peter Parker, beautifully playing the push and pull the character feels between his heroic responsibilities and his teenage life, continuing to make him highly relatable.

The actions sequences are excellent, the climax in the centre of London is one of the best Spider-man set pieces since Spider-Man 2’s train battle ( I saw the film in 3D, which really enhanced this sequence), and the film balances action, drama and (a great deal of) humour deftly, giving it a distinct feel while still integrating it firmly into the MCU.

It’s a superb summer movie, and a lot of fun (often mischievously so), even if a certain amount of Homecoming’s down to earth charm has been sacrificed.

Do make sure you stay through the end credits, as one of the two stings brings not only a wonderful cameo (particularly for long-time Spider-Man movie fans) but a pretty seismic cliffhanger for Spider-Man’s status quo.

The best thing about the film is that it makes you want to spend more time caught up in Spider-Man’s web and in the company of these characters, so bring on Spider-Man: Home From Home, Home Run, Home Sweet Home, or even Don’t Try This At Home

Marvel Phase 4 – Black Widow Begins Filming In Norway (English Language Exclusive)

black widow

Blue Bayou – the shooting title adopted by Marvel for the production of the first movie in Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow, has begun filming here in Norway.

The unit production base has established itself in the small village of Sæbø, in Sunnmøre on the western coast of Norway. The Sagafjord Hotel was overrun with a fleet of trucks as rumours first exploded locally that this was filming for the latest James Bond film (which is actually also shooting here, not too far away on The Atlantic Road and in Rauma, slightly further north in the region).

Per Henry Borch, line producer for Truenorth, the production and service company, confirmed to NRK that the film wasn’t Bond 25 in an effort to stop interested fans swarming to the site, obviously not considering that there might also be plenty of Johansson or Marvel fans ready to make the trip.

But your roving reporter can confirm that trucks, equipment and local signs are festooned with the legend Blue Bayou, revealed back in February as the shooting title for Scarlett Johansson’s first solo outing as Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow.

BW 1

Local newspapers are suggesting that Sæbø and nearby Bondalen (oh, the irony) are standing in for Romanoff’s childhood home in Russia.

20190528_134127

Shooting titles are often used to deter curious onlookers for location shooting and Marvel Studios productions have recently used covers including Mary Lou (Avengers: Infinity War/Avengers: Endgame), Open World (Captain Marvel), and Bosco (Spider-Man: Far From Home).

Crewmembers at the base remained tight-lipped and impervious to my requests for the movie’s entire plot-line, but filming will continue throughout the week. Production of the film is based at Pinewood Studios in the UK (as seen in the exclusive photos here), while the film is being directed by Cate Shortland from a script by Jac Schaeffer (Captain Marvel, the forthcoming Vision & Scarlet Witch TV series).

20190528_132302

No official release date has been given for Black Widow, but you can be sure you’ll be updated on these pages.

Stop Everything! It’s The Brilliant New Trailer For Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

once two

First of all, stop what you’re doing and watch this wonderful new trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie (debuting ahead of its premiere at Cannes)…

Regular followers of this site will already know I’m full-blown down for anything that comes from the mind of Tarantino, and that I’m super vibed for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (as we’ve been following its production here from those initial casting announcements).

And this features one heckuva cast, including  Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Kurt Russell, Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Luke Perry, Margaret Qualley, Bruce Dern, Emile Hirsch, Lena Dunham, Damian Lewis and Al Pacino (HOO-HAH!). I mean, come on…! Who doesn’t want to watch, well… anything… that stars this bunch!?

The teaser trailer was great, but this first full trailer, in all its Neil Diamond-glory, literally makes me want to wish away the days until July 26th (but that would mean missing Godzilla: King of the Monsters, so I’ll have to curb my enthusiasm).

Featuring the first proper reveal of Charles Manson (as played by Damon Herriman) and his family on the Spahn Ranch, and the first sense of how this story might play out, it certainly seems that this will be as thrilling (and probably divisive) a ride as we might expect from one of my favourite cinematic provocateurs!

Let’s not even get started on the flame-grilled Nazis…