Monthly Archives: October 2011

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If you happen to see a spate of playboy bunnies, devils and witches flooding the streets, it’s probably Halloween (either that or Armaggedon). Its the perfect time to be creative and use our imaginations. Why then do we always drag out the same tried and tested outfits in a completely last effort? The more Halloween’s that pass by, the harder it is to find something ‘original’ to go as. Here are my suggestions for some lesser used costume ideas. You might have to spend the night explaining who/what you are to everyone you meet, but hey, it beats looking the same as everybody else!

1. Miss Argentina (Beetlejuice)

‘If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have had my little accident!’

Red hair, green skin, beauty pageant sash – Miss Argentina is pretty hot for a member of the undead. Why then does NOBODY ever dress up as her? Maybe I’m just going to the wrong parties…

You will need LOTS of body paint for this character, a pretty short and snazzy outfit and some suicidal slashes on your wrists to complete her ‘delicious…but dead’ kind of look.

2. Dead Disney

‘Now its no wonder that her name means beauty – her looks have got no parallel!’

Drag out your favourite Disney character…and throw tons of blood all over your self! You could be a Disney vampire, zombie, mutant, ghost, killer or alien. Was Ariel the victim of a serial killer? Did the Lost Boys go crazy and start stabbing everyone? Did Jasmine run into an axe? Was the Beast a little bit of a maniac after he got with Belle? Get creative with what happened after the ‘happily ever after’ of your favourite fairy tales. This idea might be taking off a little bit but there’s no limit to what  torments you can dig up for your Disney character.

3. Dead Celeb

‘Happy birthday…Mr President’

Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Liz Taylor…add some glamour to your Halloween by dressing up as your favourite deceased celebrity…and then making it pretty obvious that they’re dead. There are quite a lot of ‘dead celeb’ club nights about for Halloween but few people really embrace the theme. Of course, as the ranks of the undead rise, you will have plenty of options to choose from.

4. The Grady Twins (The Shining)

‘Come play with us, Danny’

There’s always been something a little disconcerting about twins…but the Shining sisters probably take the cake. Massacred by their father, they wander the halls of the Overlook tormenting Danny. You don’t necessarily need to be a twin to pull off this look, but undoubtedly it helps. It’s also preferable if you just stand side by side all night in doorways and maybe en route to the toilet or garden to creep people out. If you aren’t English, try working on your accent. Stand by the front door and say ‘Forever and ever and ever’ to each new guest that pops by.

5. Claudia (Interview with the Vampire)

‘But it means something else too doesn’t it? I shall never, ever grow up’

Claudia is woefully underrepresented on this night of the year. All you need for her look is some fangs, mad curly hair or ringlets and a nice old-fashioned frock. Claudia gets to wear some pretty elaborate and magnificent dresses so if you like the old world look you can really go to town.

6. Female (Hellraiser)

‘Not leaving us so soon, are you?’

Anyone that could pull off this look would find it very hard to find a party that would actually let them in on Halloween as this is probably the most horrifying of them all. God knows how anyone would really pull this one off; lots of leather and S&M style stuff, with a VERY pale face and some dark contact lenses. However you want to mutilate yourself to suitably present yourself as the scary Cenobite depends on the depravity of your own imagination.

7. Evil Alice (American McGee’s Alice)

‘You’ve gone quite mangy, cat…but your grin’s a comfort’

This one is made for brunette Alice in Wonderland fans everywhere. If you can’t pull off a blonde wig – don’t. American McGee’s Alice is holed up in an insane asylum after her parents are burned to death in their home and she revisits the warped landscape of Wonderland, unrecognisable from her childhood. The Alice outfit is easy to get your hands on. Team it with black boots, a fake knife and heavily made up dark eyes.

8. Veruca Sally (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)

‘Don’t care how, I want it now!’

She’s not ‘evil’ in the traditional sense but she is a ‘bad egg’. I’ve always thought this outfit is understated but interesting and she is essentially NEVER represented. Get yourself a red dress, black belt and a bad attitude like a christmas elf gone wrong.

9. A female slant on a male character

There are a lot of really interesting evil male characters and villains: Pinhead, Ghost Face, Freddy Krueger, Jafar…the list is endless. Pick your favourite psycho and give the look a female twist.

10. Carrie

‘It was bad, Mama. They laughed at me’

Carrie is the ultimate prom Queen gone wrong, and yet she isn’t a very popular outfit choice. Maybe people are worried about the amount of fake blood they’d have to invest in. You’ll need your best, most virginal prom dress…and then you’ll need to ruin it, by dousing yourself in blood.

11. School Pupils (Battle Royale)

‘And so our compulsory education was coming to an end’

This is one for the boys, as much as the girls. Get yourself a Japanese style school uniform and then get each member of your party to represent the different grisly deaths that each student meets; stick an axe in your head, get yourself some gun shot wounds…you know the drill.

12. The Grand High Witch (The Witches)

‘I hope nobody else is going to make me cross today’

Pre or post transformation, the Grand High Witch cuts a pretty imposing figure. You’ll want to be elegant and regal in her human form with some purple contact lenses thrown in for good measure. For her revealed look, you’ll just want to look batshit scary.

13. Princess Lily (Legend)

‘Are you afraid to kiss me, Jack?’

Part of the fun of dress up is putting an evil slant on an innocent character. Legends Princess Lily is the ultimate sweet and angelic pretty Princess until her wonderful transformation at the end. You’ll need lots of black makeup to reinvent this gothic look.

14. Blaze (Streets of Rage)

Blaze isn’t the bad girl – she’s actually one of the good guys, but her outfit is just that damn cool that SOMEONE needs to dress as her. For a strenuous Halloween link her outfit is blood-red. Get yourself some red leather and if you aren’t naturally endowed with one, give yourself a black beauty spot to recreate her look.

15. Unknown (Tekken)

Unknown has a look that is difficult to emulate. Possessed by a wolf demon she pretty much wanders around in purple goo with gold shiny eyes, but she does have a second wardrobe;  wandering around barefoot in a gray dress with chains around her ankles. It might not be an easy look to perfect, but you’ll most certainly look unique and hardcore video game fans of Tekken will know who you are!

16. Harley Quinn (Batman)

‘Oh, come on, puddin’! Don’t you want to rev up your “Harley”? Vroom vroom!’

So long as you aren’t planning on using the bathroom, the jokers bit on the side is a pretty creepy but mesmerizing outfit to dazzle Halloween revellers.

Do you have any original Halloween outfit suggestions?

What’s the most unique thing you have dressed as for Halloween?

Halloween is my favourite holiday. It’s the perfect time of year to get creative and come up with a scary, sexy or sickening outfit, and force yourself into all sorts of terrifying and surreal scenarios. Unfortunately, Halloween is grossly underappreciated and under-celebrated in England (at least that’s the conclusion I’ve come to). If you’ve had fun celebrating the pre-Halloween weekend, but want to spend the Monday holed up watching some tried and tested DVD’s, here are 40 film suggestions.

If you’re like me, you will just want to watch movies that will scare the bejesus out of you, but I’ve also included some movies that capture the enchanting and magical spirit of this holiday.

1.       Hocus Pocus

Before Sarah Jessica Parker was Carrie in Sex and the City, she was a Sanderson sister in Hocus Pocus. Three witches, hanged to death in Salem, Massachusetts, return on Halloween (of course) when a virgin lights a black candle. Their motivation? Eternal Youth and beauty. The sisters plan to absorb the life from the town’s children and live eternally. Two teenagers, Max and Allison (and Max’s Halloween mad sister Dani) assisted by immortal cat Thackery Binx are tasked with the not so easy mission of ensuring that the sisters do not get there way. This is the perfect Halloween family film combining humour and fantasy, but managing to be just spooky enough to give children their first taste of what the Halloween season is all about.

2.       The Saw Series

As a diehard Saw fan, there is no way that I could exclude this series from my list. Saw has been, in my view unfairly, labelled a lot of things; torture porn, all style and no substance, just a sequence of gory and gruesome traps, but there is actually a lot of intelligence and forethought in this series. It has to be said that the sequels grow progressively worse, so if you only have the patience for one Saw film, make it the first, a truly innovative and suspenseful movie that plummets the viewer into a sense of claustrophobia and immediacy in this race against the clock game for survival. 20th century horrors tend to be pretty predictable, but the end will leave you genuinely surprised.

3.       Hellraiser

I’ve already written a lengthy review on Clive Barkers Hellraiser but this film is worth seeing. As a huge horror film fan, there’s nothing I’ve ever seen quite like it since. Hellraiser tells the story of Frank, a man magnetically drawn to the pursuit of pleasure, who solves a puzzle box that plummets him straight into hell. He is brought back to life by his brothers’ blood and relies on his brother’s wife, Julia, to provide him with the bodies that will replenish him. Unfortunately for Frank, the Cenobites of the puzzle box do not take kindly to people escaping them. Hellraiser is essentially a family drama with all the ingredients of a Greek tragedy or Shakespearian adventure, which manages to bring down on its own head the wrath of all hell.

4.       The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Capturing everything that is camp, kitsch and comedic about Halloween, the RHPC has been a Halloween staple for many years. A freshly engaged couple’s car breaks down and they find themselves having to seek help at the house of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Everything else that happens after that pretty much makes no sense…or about as much sense as Alice and Wonderland, but its deliciously nonsensical and you will either love or hate the musical numbers that are rattled out at every opportunity.

5.       The Shining

Everyone has heard of the Shining, even if you’ve never seen it, and if you haven’t, Halloween is the perfect opportunity to witness how Stanley Kubrick brought Steven King’s novel to life. Jack Torrance takes a job as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, bringing with him his wife Wendy and son Danny. It is thought that the isolation of their surroundings will encourage Jack to write, but the Overlook hotel houses dark secrets and seems to bring out the worst in Jack. As winter sets in, the family find themselves trapped and Jack slowly begins to lose his mind.

6.       Se7en

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman are two cops searching for a serial killer who tortures and mutilates his victims according to the seven deadly sins. This is a clever and crafty movie, deeply unsettling and with a real modern day grim gothic atmosphere.

7.       Casper

Who can forget the story of a paranormal expert and his weary daughter Kat as they move into Whipstaff Manor and find it to be populated with three rather obnoxious ghosts, Stinky, Stretch and Fatso – and finally Casper ‘the friendly ghost’. This is family fun at its finest, spooky, spell binding but also sad.

8.       Beetlejuice

Tim Burton has always brought something cartoonish and whacky even to his attempts at ‘horror’ and Beetlejuice is no exception. Recently deceased ghosts Adam and Barbara call upon the insane Beetlejuice to help them remove the human inhabitants from their home as soon as they realise that the cynical former city slickers aren’t quite attuned to the paranormal. Beetlejuice is a strange and surreal film (wait until you get to the dinner table scene) with a uniquely spooky style.

9.       The Witches

If you’ve ever devoured Roald Dahl’s books as a child, you will love this interpretation of ‘The Witches’. Following the unforeseen death of his parents, Luke and his grandmother stay at an English hotel, which just so happens to be holding the annual Witches Convention, where the Grand High Witch reveals her plans to transform all of earths children into mice. This film really captures the spirit of magic and adventure through a child’s eyes and is perfect for actual children and adult children alike.

10.   The Nightmare Before Christmas

I never know whether to class this film as a perfect Halloween or Christmas movie but it is essentially a blend between the two. Jack Skellington who lives in a world of eternal Halloween stumbles across Christmas and develops a fixation with it. He attempts to bring Christmas to Halloweentown but the concept falls a little flat. The visuals of this movie are sumptuous, the songs infectious and the characters bizarre and engaging.

11.   Antichrist

For something a little more morose, you might want to check out Lars Von Triers Antichrist. This is not the typical horror slasher movie; it’s far more psychological and demands a little more patience. A couple in mourning after the death of their only son retreat to their cabin in the woods to be close to the natural world and make peace with their circumstances but the infectious and evil state of the natural world begins to ingratiate itself into their existence.

12.   The Cell

The odd casting choices of Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn are soon forgotten once the Cell gets going. An FBI agent lets herself lose into the head of a comatose serial killer in order to extract the whereabouts of his latest victim. The serial killers mind opens itself up as a Kingdom of twisted insanity. This is another ‘Alice down the rabbit hole’ saga where all is not what it seems. The dreamy, surreal quality of his nightmarish thoughts and the real time horror of the kidnap victim whiling away time in her prison mix perfectly to create a truly memorable movie.

13.   The Lost Boys

Michael and Sam move with their mother to a new town in California but begin to realise that the place is populated with teenage vampires. This film is super stylish, invigorating and pretty damn cool and should be one of the first you watch before you let the night degenerate with the more sick and freaky choices open to you.

14.   Candyman

Another Clive Barker offering, Candyman tells the story of Helen Lyle, who is completing a thesis on the urban legend of ‘the Candyman’, seemingly a creation of the poor citizens who dwell in the projects as an explanation for the inexplicable instances of violence that crop up repeatedly in their day to day life’s. The more engaged Helen becomes with her project, the more intertwined her and Candyman become.

15.   Addams Family Values

Who can think of Halloween without fondly remembering the Addams family? There are lots of films to choose from but my personal favourite is the one listed, in which the family attempt to rescue a besotted Uncle Fester from the clutches of the beautiful but money grabbing Debbie.

16.   Scream

Scream – subversive, satirical and god damn scary. Drew Barrymore falls victim to the ghost face killer and soon the entire town of Woodsboro is on lockdown in case the killer comes for them next, so what do they do? Throw a party of course. Scream sends up everything that is stereotypical and stagnant about the horror movie genre but still manages to be surprising and sensational. None of the subsequent Screams seems to capture the astuteness of the first, and Neve Campbell as Sidney, might just be the most likeable horror protagonist ever.

17.   The Craft

The Craft ever so slightly reminds me of Heathers. It’s the story of new girl Sarah who makes friends with a trio of high school outcasts. The girls each have their own personal problems to deal with and turn to witchcraft to find the solutions. What begins as harmless fun naturally takes on a darker significance, particularly in the hands of the damaged and disturbed Nancy who seeks not only retribution for those who have committed wrong doings against her, but absolute power.

18.   The Exorcist

The Exorcist is one of the most well known horror movies and tells the story of Regan, a young girl who is possessed by a demon. Her mother desperately calls upon the assistance of the exorcist to cast out the demon who has transformed her from a sunny girl into a bad mouthed contortionist. Although many of the scenes look dated now, there is still a very creepy vibe to the Exorcist and it is well worth watching.

19.   A Nightmare on Elm Street

Freddy Krueger is one of horrors most iconic movie villains – a fearless wiseass who in life murdered children and was in turn murdered by a lynch mob of furious and vengeful parents. Freddy finds revenge though, by attacking the children of his condemners in their most vulnerable state – in their dreams. A Nightmare on Elm Street has since spawned an endless array of sequels but the first conjures perfectly feelings of helplessness and will make you terrified of going to sleep!

20.   Psycho

Everyone’s heard of Psycho, most media studies students have dissected it and a helluva lot of TV shows have referenced it. Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’ is a hybrid movie that eventually settles on horror and takes some ambitious and quite unique risks in its telling of the tale. Norman Bates is the motel owner who can’t quite cut the umbilical cord with mummy, with terrifying consequences.

21.   Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Another Tim Burton film makes the list, this time with Sweeney Todd – the terrifying tale of a man who loses his wife and child and is locked away for a crime he did not commit. Upon his release, twisted, tarnished and tortured by thoughts of revenge, he sets up his own barbershop and seeks to turn the tables on the Judge who took everything from him. Sweeney is so caught up in his own victimhood that he doesn’t even realise until it’s too late that he has become the antagonist of this unsettling but beautifully told tale. A dark musical, perfectly casted and highly memorable.

22.   The Midnight Meat Train

Another film taken directly from the mind of Clive Barker, The Midnight Meat Train is a movie myself and a friend stumbled in to when nothing else was on, but we were pleasantly surprised. A photographer stumbles upon an unpleasant secret as he takes the last train home and witnesses the same man murdering passengers night after night. A thrilling conspiracy movie that gets slightly silly towards the end but is still mighty enjoyable.

23.   Dread

Another Clive Barker movie here (can you tell I have a thing for his stuff?). Every student wants to come up with a unique idea for a thesis – the students of Dread are no different. They decide to start researching peoples deepest darkest fears but one of the group attempts to take the experiments even further. This is a pretty disturbing movie that left me feeling pretty mortified afterwards – just right for Halloween you might say.

24.   Devil

Getting trapped in a lift is bad enough but for this unlucky bunch, things get a whole lot worse once they realise that the devil is amongst them. Supposedly, the devil wanders the earth and now and again enjoys masquerading in human form in order to punish damned souls before he claims them. This movie was not particularly popular and received a lot of bad press, but it’s a simple and effective tale. It’s also quite fun trying to guess which of the trapped group might be housing Satan himself.

25.   The Blaire Witch Project

Three amateur film makers head out to make a documentary about the legend of the Blaire Witch. Armed with cameras and camping out, things begin to get stranger and scarier until the group are finally separated. The style of filming gives this film a very authentic, genuine feel but it is best watched in the early hours of the morning in an unlit room with your head gingerly poking out over the covers if you want to grasp the full effects.

26.   Orphan

Orphan is another movie which offers up a pretty ingenious twist. Esther is adopted by a husband and wife desperate for another child. At first, she is the picture perfect kid; polite, slightly eccentric, artistic and charming, but Esther has an odd and shocking secret. If you didn’t have a chance to catch this movie upon its first release – now is the time!

27.   IT

Straight from the mind of Stephen King, IT is possibly the first story to introduce us to the concept of the creepy clown. Pennywise is a demonic child killer who plagues the life’s of the ‘loser club’ first in their childhoods and secondly as adults. This is half a coming of age tale and half a horror but it is pretty enjoyable to see where this one is going to go, and many scenes are genuinely unsettling, particularly when framed against the backdrop of the bonds of the children (excellent casting ensures that the friendships are believable which only adds gravitas to the story).

28.   The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

Much has been said about Tom Six’s Human Centipede – a lot of it derogatory. A mad scientist decides to create for himself the perfect pet, by connecting three strangers in order to make himself a human centipede. This film is every bit as bizarre and as bad taste as it sounds but true horror is surely supposed to present us with ideas that are completely distasteful and that is what Tom Six manages to do.

29.   Let the Right One In

The Swedish story of Oscar, the young boy who befriends a vampire, this is a bittersweet love story, as much as it is a horror, and is definitely worth a look before you check out the American remake.

30.   Braindead

Before Peter Jackson blew up as a big name when he directed the LOTR series, he liked to make low budget horrors like Braindead. A comedy horror, Lionel is a mummy’s boy and so when she turns into a zombie, he does his best to ensure its kept quiet, but unfortunately an epidemic of sorts causes things to get out of hand. This is a really funny movie (but also pretty gross).

31.   Funny Games

Funny Games is quite frankly, a weird film that tips all of your horror/thriller expectations on their head. Nothing much happens, and yet everything happens. Two eccentric young men, very much the tweedle dee and tweedle dum of horror, take a family hostage and torment them for 24 hour duration with no motivation and no purpose. This film shatters all of horrors conventions but won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

32.   The Descent

All good horror movies manage to evoke a physical reaction. The Descent manages to rouse feelings of claustrophobia, distress and real panic, as a caving expedition goes wrong in every way imaginable. You would think the idea of being stuck in an underground labyrinth of caves would be terrifying enough, but the party is also being stalked by a bizarre breed of predators. This is a film that offers little to no relief and is a truly harrowing venture into madness.

33.   The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

For me, this is one of the best as it truly captures blind terror and sheer panic, as well as genuine madness. It’s got all the hallmarks of the typical horror story, but being one of the first, this effort feels sincere and innovative. A group of friends on a road trip to the Deep South end up meeting a family of psychotic cannibals who send them on a torturous journey into the heart of insanity. There is something truly maniacal and atmospheric and Sally’s screams will still be ringing in your ears long after the films finish.

Perfect Blue

34.   Perfect Blue

Who’d have thought anime could be scary? Mima is a successful singer with a legion of devoted fans. When she tries to cross over into the world of acting, she begins to experience the darker side of fame as reality and delusion, sense and paranoia begin to mingle together. You have to be paying attention to make sense of how this one ends.

35.   Insidious

One of the more recent films to make my list, Insidious comes to us from the makers of Saw. My theatre was littered with jittery, hyped up kids, who fell deathly silent when the film delivered its first shock. This is an old haunted house horror that concentrates the very best of its type with new and unique thrills, jumps and twists. Count the number of times this movie makes you jump!

36.   Carrie

Carrie is a social outcast, bullied and belittled both at school and by her fanatically religious mother. Carrie soon finds that she has a talent for telekinesis which is awoken when she begins her menstrual cycle. One cruel blow from a classmate is all it takes to tip Carrie over the edge. This campy, comical film delivers something pretty special.

37.   Scary Movie

If you’re not a big fan of being scared, but don’t really want to miss out on the spirit of the season, then check out Scary Movie. It will pay homage to all your favourite scary movies by sending them up outrageously. Scary Movie focuses on satirizing Scream, which ironically satirized everything else. Scary Movie 2 is also well worth a watch, but everything past that begins to lose its way.

38.   Interview with the Vampire

Lestat is a vampire who, desperate for a companion, transforms Louis into one as well. Louis doesn’t take well to vampirism and feeds on a young girl named Claudia, who is in turn bestowed with the dark gift. The three form a happy family of sorts until Louis and Claudia grow to despise living with the cruel and calculated bully that is their maker and seek to escape him, but as they uncover a coven of vampires posing as actors posing as vampires, they realise that even the eternally immortal cannot outrun their pasts.

39.   Switchblade Romance

The French do horror well and Switchblade Romance is no exception. Marie and Alexa visit Alexa’s rural home but the illusion of peace and serenity is shattered when a killer, seemingly without provocation, begins to decimate their serene escape. This movie offers up a really unexpected twist and will leave your nerves jangling along the way.

40.   Halloween

This film, as the title suggests, was made for Halloween consumption. An institutionalised killer is on the loose just in time for Halloween and he has his sights set on the neighbourhood of Haddonfield. This film secured Jamie Leigh Curtis’ prized place as a ‘Scream Queen’.

What movies would you suggest for Halloween?

Modern horror movies tend to feel repetitive and rehashed. We can predict the scares and jumps long before they appear on the screen. We know all the tricks of the trade. The villain appears in the mirror of the medicine cabinet, the promiscuous partying teens are always the first to be hacked to death and the innocent virgin is always spared. If you feel exhausted, rather than horrified by the genre, then it is worth revisiting a cult classic this Halloween that remains authentic, innovative, inspired and truly horrific and introduced us to some of the most recognisable faces of the horror movie world. Adapted from the short story ‘The Hellbound Heart’ by Clive Barker, Barker himself directed the 1987 film interpretation and really brings his words to life.

Hellraiser tells the story of Frank Cotton (Sean Chapman), a hedonistic, depraved young man who has explored and exhausted all of life’s immediate pleasures – he’s travelled to exotic climes, enjoyed his fair share of sexual encounters and even slept with his brother’s wife. There is no boundary left for Frank to cross, no expanse left to traverse, and so he follows his tenacious and limitless thirst for new pursuits and pleasures. His adventuring leads him to an inanimate box that seems to promise carnal pleasures the likes of which he could only dare to dream – the lament configuration. This simple, straightforward, elaborately decorated black and gold box, if solved, can reward him with untold pleasures and draw him out of the malaise and inertia into which he has fallen.

Responsive to sincere desire, Frank manages to solve the puzzle but what he finds is not the standard of pleasure and fulfilment that humanity dictates. Instead, he is greeted by the coenobites, ‘demons to some, angels to others’ but essentially ‘explorers’ and is plunged into the farthest reaches of hell where exquisite pleasure merges with inexplicable pain in a bitter and unrecognisable symphony. Years later, Franks brother Larry (Andrew Robinson), portrayed as solid and dependable but essentially a wet drip moves in with his second wife Julia – the regal and frigid Clare Higgins. They believe that the house is vacant and decide to make a go of things on Julia’s ‘home turf’. It quickly becomes clear that their union is loveless. Julia, cold and refined was drawn out by the exotic eroticism of Frank and the danger and animalism of his magnetism.  His own disenchantment with a world that has nothing left with which to provoke him seems to awaken Julia from the stupor of married life and Larry is mediocre by comparison. As Julia recalls the violent and abrupt calamity of their love making, we become aware that their night of passion is never far from her consciousness and only reminds her of how unsatisfactory life is with the lesser of the two brothers.

They are quickly joined by Larry’s daughter, the beautiful glamour puss Kirsty, who has never seen eye to eye with Julia but dotes on daddy. Portrayed by Ashley Laurence, she has proven to be one of the most likeable and quick witted horror protagonists, putting her in line with Neve Campbell’s Sydney in Scream. When Larry catches his hand on a nail whilst moving furniture, Frank’s remains absorb his blood and begin to regenerate. The scene of his rebirth remains one of the most appalling, shocking and stomach churning moments of horror history and I would not recommend eating whilst watching his resurrection! Julia is drawn to the attic and he compels her to assist him with returning to a fully fleshed form, promising that things can be as they were. Now Frank is Julia’s secret in more ways than one.

It is here that Julia truly embodies the clichéd bored housewife – so bored is she that she is prepared to assist a bloodied corpse of a man just to return to the promised land of the first flush of their doomed affair!  Despite this, her eagerness to assist never appears false or plot driven. We can completely buy that this deeply repressed woman has had something within herself deeply evoked by the brutish and mysterious presence of Frank. She morphs instantly into the role of an enchantress, picking up men from bars and luring them into Frank’s lair. Julia takes on the role of a real reverse lady Macbeth, initially appalled by her implication in a man’s murder, she grows accepting and then finally exhilarated at the prospect of being reunited with the one man who has presumably ever roused out any hint of the carnal in her. She eventually turns her back on any sense of guilt or the moral ramifications of her actions. She monitors Frank as he slowly rebuilds himself before her eyes as he drains the life blood from the husks of his victims.

Higgins is never entirely believable as a temptress, but she does emit a certain aura that enables her to be convincingly captivating and her transformation is riveting to watch. She perfectly depicts the ways in which boredom and inaction can conceal fantasies and wants which become deranged as they are ignored and grow into something deeper and darker. The cold freeze of her Ice Queen persona hides an icy flame of intensity and a hunger almost as bottomless as Frank’s own. The agony of her fruitless marriage and the weight of her secret turn her into a soul liberated into evil, a path she chooses. The Julia of the short story is meant to be inherently desirable. Clare isn’t quite that, but she is magnetic and chilling in a very unique way and I can’t quite picture anyone else as her character. Meanwhile Frank, feeling the anguish of his raw nerves on floorboards, mutilates the rats he shares the attic with – quite an interesting little depiction of the ‘love rat’ indicating his penchant for self mutilation in the quest for immediate satisfaction.

Kirsty begins to suspect that something is not altogether right at the house as she witnesses Julia bringing back her prey. She comes face to face with good old Uncle Frank, who has his sights set on her as his next victim, but Kirsty, intuitive as to the value of the puzzle box manages to steal it away from him and escape. Traumatized by what she has witnessed, she wakes up in a hospital bed with the box by her side and sets about solving it. She manages to open a doorway into hell which she enters, as if lulled hypnotically. Once inside, she confronts a freakish monstrosity, which she only narrowly manages to escape. As she desperately tries to close the portal, she ends up calling the coenobites to her, who vow only to let her go if she can return Frank to them. Pinhead, Female, Butterball and Chatterer, monikers bestowed on them by fans of the cult franchise, are disfigured, mutilated former human victims of the box who come as and when they are called to explore the flesh of new victims and welcome them to the sweet embrace of hell. They have very few scenes but the enthralling chill of their presence is apparent throughout and any moment they appear on screen will genuinely freeze you to the bone with fear. There is something ethereal, melancholy and deeply unsettling about their appearances. In a desperate bid to spare herself from their experimentations, she leads them straight to Frank, but Frank possesses cunning of his own, and hides himself in his brothers’ skin before the great reunion occurs. The coenobites catch him confessing to his sins and come to claim the soul that has bound itself to them.

Despite centreing on one man’s descent into hell, Hellraiser never comes across as preachy or sanctimonious. This is not a film that will tell you to go to Church or burn in hell. It is instead, a film that focuses on human frailty and lends itself more as a cautionary tale about not living outside of your means and opening a Pandora’s Box of secrets that have been boxed away for a reason. Hellraiser tells us that hell is not something that happens to us, it is something that some of us willingly seek, drawn in by curiosity and the quest for knowledge, and saddled with idle minds and boredom. By focusing on the futility of human desire rather than a specific entity such as God or the Devil, the story concentrates instead on a self led quest for hell and seems to introduce the idea that man unconsciously perhaps desires hell for some extremity of feeling to counteract the bland repetition of day to day existence. Nothing happens to Frank that he does not invite, and even as he is united with the coenobites, he licks his lips with sick anticipation at the sadomasochistic torture that is to come. Julia too, hot houses a calculating killer, motivated by her own lust. By contrast, Kirsty, whose intentions are always pure, is spared by the coenobites and faces a redemptive finish. These are honourable demons, indiscriminate, adept at reasoning and anticipating the intentions and motivations of the puzzle solvers. Pinhead (Doug Bradley) has become the iconic front man of the franchise, his character far more at the forefront that it is in the short story.

The movie is brilliant at depicting that which is hidden and needs to be brought to light; the box itself must be located and solved by someone with the correct intentions. Only then will it open itself and reveal to them the torments of the hell they seek. Frank regenerates in the abandoned attic, portals to hell emerge in walls, Frank’s heart beats fanatically beneath the floorboards – the dark, horrific hallmarks of hell that abound all around us mirror the otherwise dire, domestic secret of Julia’s pre-marital affair. Her secret literally unleashes and inflicts the wrath of hell upon herself, her husband and their home, before destroying it entirely. Hellraiser reminds us that secrets will out, and often do. Behind the facades, there is the common theme of deception; there is the obvious deception of Julia’s infidelity, their sham of a marriage but the treachery penetrates deeper, Frank conceals himself in Larry’s skin and masquerades as his brother, pain presents itself as pleasure and Julia becomes Judas as she brings back blissfully unaware men to be butchered and consumed. Frank too, betrays Julia and the two become a pair of deceptive lovers whilst the coenobites, visually gruesome, appear to adhere to a strict code of ‘ethics’ as it were, concerning who they take back to their hellish nightmare of a world.

If we look at the film as an exploration of our own moral compasses, Hellraiser seems to show us how limitless lust corrupts, it destroys people but within the context of the film, it literally opens the gateway to hell and causes Frank and Julia to face eternal damnation. Does it sound like a warning from the Catholic Church? Maybe. But there is nothing provocative or lecturing about the events as they pan out. It encapsulates the fullness and the vitality of hell and brings it into the domestic sphere. Good and evil are present in the film and metaphors and symbols abound within it; Kirsty passes by nuns on the street and the presence of Lucifer is quite strong. He appears to us as the box proprietor, or perhaps as the tramp that eats locusts and finally as a dragon. He is the tempter, the pusher, the peddler, with his innocuous presence he lets his wears speak for themselves and opens his customers up to a world of temptation and sin. He knows, as perhaps the devil does (if he exists) that man can lead himself into hell with very little in the way of tricks or motivation.

Ironically, the unlimited liberation the customers seek is concealed in the confines of a small box. No one is freed by unrestrained lust, nor rage, and so all the victims find themselves first contained, then shackled and then finally dismantled by their own needs, led there by curiosity, human frailty, desire and fallibility. None of them escape judgment but the judgment they face they bring upon themselves and draw to them. This is a self aware film that shows us that we know all too well when we need punishing, and what for. The presence of good and evil becomes intermingled and unintelligible. The Cenobites are easily identifiable if we follow the rules of semantics as the films baddies, but ironically they always emerge heralded by a blaze of light which is complicated to reconcile for those of us that affiliate the abundance of pure, white light with innate goodness. Instead this blinding light appears to signal annihilation and complete oblivion. Their brilliant visuals are saturated by the sound of sudden, warped church bells, signalling doom, and the echoing otherworldly, beautiful but sickening arrival not of judges, but of tools almost, with which the human characters can re-enact their own destruction, which they appear to long for. Pain and pleasure also intermingle, as Larry cutting his hand on the nail is spliced with scenes of Julia and Frank in the throes of ecstasy.

Frank is a saturated soul and a completely unredeemed character – so desensitised to vanilla sex, vanilla violence, vanilla life, his appetites lead him down a rabbit hole of ecstasy and agony. The choice to cast Sean Chapman, who appears very minimally until Oliver Smith takes over as skinless Frank is effective because we always remember him as the swarthy, intense, handsome beast of a lover from the earlier scenes, rather than as a bloody monster. This is torture porn before torture porn became a mainstream thing, but without any sense of exploitation, gratuitous scenes or obviousness. Frank is a philanderer but he is first and foremost an adventurer and his appetite is less about sex than it is about a lack of fulfilment with what life can offer him. Julia is a cheat, and though she never manages to be sympathetic, we can clearly see that she is not in love with Larry, nor is she pretending to be. These are complicated characters.

Clive Barker has been referred to as the master of horror for a reason. He really can capture the gravitas and significance of the small evils we commit independently and collectively, such as infidelity, and extrapolates them to the vastness of all hell. This film won’t make you rush to confession, nor will it make you give up any of your smaller scale sins, but it will make you think about what hell is, and remind you that you really don’t want to go there! Hellraiser is the perfect Halloween movie.

Warrior has been hailed as ‘All the Rocky’s rolled into one’. Though this glowing homage might
titillate the ever hungry action fans amongst us, this statement actually redacts the impact and intention of this movie, reducing it to a film about murderous, monstrous meatheads butting heads and tearing chunks out of each other for the depraved enjoyment of the apathetic masses. There is actually far more to Warrior than meets the eye.This isn’t the tale of two topless finely muscled gods of men merely exchanging fist greetings, though there are certainly enough intense, electric and animatistic fight scenes to really get the adrenalin and testosterone running even in the female members of the audience). There is also something far more subtle, nuanced and human about this film and that is where its success lies. Action fans may assume that this is a straight up fight fest – but they would be wrong in doing so. So too would action avoiders, who might boycott this film due to their aversion be warned against doing so, as they’d be missing more than a spate of WWF montages, but a truly captivating story.

Directed by Gavin O’Connor, who is, as of now, still a director waiting to make a huge impact (though I suspect his luck is set to change) and staring a mega watt cast including Australian hunk Joel Edgerton who portrays physics teacher-cum-fighter in strip club car parks for $500 a pop
against his wives knowledge, Jennifer Morrison as his supportive wife Tess, the swarthy and sophisticated Frank Campana as Frank Grillo and the gorgeously gritty, grubby and grimy Tom Hardy as former marine Tommy, the story is enlivened by the vital pulse of its characters as they battle and brawl the streets of Pittsburgh. Special mention deservedly needs to pass to the wonderful Nick Nolte who portrays Paddy Conlon, a melancholy, bittersweet, rough gem of a man, recovering from a life of heady alcoholism and abuse, who has reached his 1000th day of sobriety. If Nolte does not win an award for his heart shattering performance, which must contain painful notes from his own life, it would be a great injustice.

The story that plays out is one that is harrowing emotionally and physically in equal measure. Two brothers, estranged in adolescence, find themselves entering the same mixed martial arts fighting
tournament, SPARTA, for a shot at the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Isolated from one another, and from their father, the boys have carved out entirely opposite existences. What could be a campy, predictable movie under the charge of a lesser director comes alive in O’Connor’s hands. Physics teacher Brendan is the formulaic, considered family man whilst wild dog Tommy is the AWOL marine hiding behind his mother’s maiden name of Riordan. Whilst Tommy reluctantly and tauntingly turns to his father, a former boxer, for coaching, Brendan is trained by former friend, suave puppy eyed Frank.  Their motivations are not entirely different, Brendan wants to secure his family home and Tommy wants to donate the winnings to the widow of his war-time comrade. Their fighting styles too are from opposite schools of thought entirely; Brendan is methodical and plodding, with great patience and endurance – a true underdog who is always hanging in by his claws, who trains to Beethoven and fights for family. Then you have the emotional, volatile and dangerous Tommy, who switches on a dime and charges from the cage – he too fighting for family, if not his own. A whole host of colourful and intriguing combatants join them in the ring; the explosive Mad Dog and the glacier-eyed shark of a man Koba (Kurt Angle) amongst them.

This is a movie about men and male relationships and it seems to me that there are a distinct lack of movies that explore the ways in which men interact with one another; their bonds, rivalries, histories and futures. Instead male relationships tend to be projected as something either campy or feminized, frat boy esque or non-existence as if men simply have nothing of any worth or weight to say to one another. Warrior provides fascinating insight as it delves into the back stories of our father and son trio and their fragmented family unit. Having each gone their own way, they will battle either to bond or eternally shatter the family unit. In a world increasingly consistent of single parent families where many children grow up without the presence of a father figure, it is interesting to explore a son’s relationship with his dad – the conflicting and contradictory repressed and sometimes not so repressed feelings of rage, disappointment and hurt. The film explores the paradoxes of the male ego and with great sensitivity. Not a single tear appears insincere or sentimental, none of the emotion is clichéd or soppy.

This is a film that explores the differences in generations and in men with great respect and understanding, making it so much more than a film about fighting. It is at once both tender and brutal, heart wrenching and nerve fraying, cringe worthy and enlightening as the men re-meet in the most primitive, primal and perhaps most traditionally masculine of all arenas – the fighting cage. Here they thrash out not only their dreams and desires, but their deepest conflicts. Few scenes will touch you more than Paddy’s regression into alcoholism and disputes with his sons. This film goes for the jugular and will leave you feeling truly beaten and bloodied, but as we wade through the rivalry and redemption, peculiarly hopeful by its climax.

We live in apocalyptic times, or so the media would have us believe. The future is represented as increasingly dystopian, and the science fiction genre has always depicted the fragility and uncertainty of humanities esteemed position as the planets ruling species. It seems we nurture a nightmarish obsession with being usurped, entertaining futures where we are overtaken by aliens, enslaved by technology or overthrown by genetically enhanced apes. It is interesting to revisit our age old fears of being replaced as the superior species by beings previously perceived as lesser than us. The media bombards us with sensationalised headlines; the economy is crashing, global warming is an inevitable threat and the planet is becoming overpopulated and under resourced.  In this chaotic environment we can easily submerge ourselves in a world where the deterioration of mankind gives rise to a new master species, the apes.

We are all familiar with the Planet of the Apes story, whether you were first acquainted with the French novel, written by Pierre Boulle, Franklin J. Schaffners film adaptation, or the more recent, unimpressive venture from Tim Burton. Rupert Wyatt’s adaptation does not fit the continuity of the established series, instead it is a reboot rather than a remake, chronicling the origin of the apes uprising and laying the foundation for a new departure.

Will Rodman (James Franco), works as a scientist at pharmaceutical company Gen-Sys, attempting to concoct a cure for Alzheimer’s by testing a genetically engineered gene therapy on chimp test subjects. The drug mutates the chimpanzees in such a way that it bestows them with increased intelligence. The most exceptional subject, Bright Eyes, violently overtakes a board meeting in which Will is delivering his sales pitch, believing her recently born baby is under threat, thus dashing Will’s hopes of convincing potential investors.

The typically villainous and unscrupulous English boss Steven Jacobs (David Oyelowo) orders chimp handler Robert Franklin (Tyler Labine) to destroy the chimps but he is unable to destroy Bright Eyes son, and so Will raises him in secret. He is aptly named Caesar after the tyrannical and revolutionary roman emperors of Roman history and indicative of his future as a ‘seizer’ of power from his human oppressors, by Wills father Charles (exquisitely portrayed by Nigel Lithgow). Charles is in the first stages of early onset Alzheimer’s, lending Will’s calculated scientific studies a human motivation.

Caesar flourishes under the two men’s care, but eventually outgrows his suburban life and begins to stick out like a sore thumb amongst the more conventional inhabitants, particularly next door neighbour Hunsiker (David Hewlett). Caesar has a hard time reconciling his animalistic, territorial nature with the human world he must inhabit and the human terms he must abide by. When protecting a disoriented Charles from the onslaught of Hunsiker, Caesar reacts violently, and is confused by the disdain, fear and shock of onlookers. He is separated from Will, the only father he has known, and forced to stay at the San Bruno Primates Sanctuary, owned by John Landon (Brian Cox) and overseen by his cruel son Dodge (Harry Potter’s nihilistic Tom Felton), who faced with no prospects and no future, has become desensitized to the marvellous animals in his care and inflicts upon them a torturous and tormenting day to day existence. Beginning to perceive himself as a pet, prize and prisoner, Caesar is abused not only by humans but by his fellow apes, although he does develop a friendship with Maurice, a former circus orang-utan who communicates with him using sign language.

Caesar begins to detach himself from his former family and quietly thinks of a way to escape his imprisonment. He releases Buck, a gorilla kept in solitary confinement and gains the respect and admiration of his fellow apes. Meanwhile Will, mourning for Caesar, continues working on his treatment and Jacobs clears testing. Unbeknownst to them at this stage, the virus, though beneficial to apes, has devastating consequences for human users. Unfortunately, Charles’s immune system negates the effects of the treatment and he passes away. Caesar refuses to return to Will and instead pledges his allegiance to his own genus, stealing vials of the treatment and releasing them in his captive home, before teaming up with captive zoo apes, causing a mass break out. The film culminates in a battle between ape and man on the Golden Gate Bridge which boasts some spectacular scenes. The apes make it to the Redwood Forest, overseeing the city from their own vantage point and through new eyes. A new future for the apes also heralds the downfall of humanity as a global pandemic, triggered by the treatment begins to spread.

Despite being a new franchise in itself, Wyatt pays homage to his predecessors, hinting that the future for the apes lies in space, as Mars has been declared hospitable to sustain life. CGI breathes life into the apes. We are not faced with anthropomorphic puppets reminiscent of humans, but apes as they are, merely with increased intelligence. As such, although some scenes look clunky and unrealistic, the apes are portrayed with powerful, rousing humanity, particularly Caesar who is given life by the wonderful Andy Serkis who seems to be able to inhibit any skin he is given, whether it be Gollum or King Kong. The film charts the rise of the apes against the cruelty, oppression, revulsion and disrespect of their human captors and their disillusionment with their place in human society. They embody the power of the united collective against the disparate hedonistic individual endeavours of the human.

The retaliation of the apes generates a conflicting empathy and makes us question our relationship to our genetic cousins. The tense relationship between the natural order of evolution and the man made endeavours of science remind us of our tendency to exploit animals for the benefit of man alone to the detriment of their wellbeing. There are some truly moving interactions between man and ape, and you will be surprised at how CGI images can evoke such a strong emotional reaction. Man has always been preoccupied both with his future and with the place of his origin and as such the ape has a special place in our hearts. This film intriguingly explores the relationship between species and our primal struggles to play god and imprint a meaning on the chaos of existence. There are moments that truly silenced the audience with their intermingling of the animal and the human and will hopefully bridge the gap between where humans are now and potentially, from where we came.

Melancholia is the moniker, melancholia is the mood. Its most certainly a case of name reflects nature for the latest offering from Lars Von Trier. Anyone familiar with Von Triers body of work will be aware of his excruciating fascination or preoccupation with depression and mental illness. The landscapes he generates are rife with stark and often brutal imagery and depict a world of hopelessness and fatalistic nihilism. This of course mirrors Von Triers own trysts with depression, directing being his creative outlet. It’s interesting that he uses his vast imagination to conjure characters and situations bogged down with the weight of their own mental irregularities. Just like the old innocuous sign that reads ‘you don’t have to be mad to work here, but it helps’, you don’t need to have experienced mental health struggles yourself to appreciate Von Triers films, but it certainly turns them from pretentious to profound if you have. The slow, near-stasis of his films is not for all, but if you enjoy the journey as much as the destination, then it is quite appealing to lose yourself in his nightmarish worlds.  This film as a dystopian drama follows the apocalyptic fate of the family, and the planet as a whole.

Melancholia also announces the return of Hollywood fluffy bunny Kirsten Dunst, who has dabbled with the dark side with former films Interview with the Vampire and the Virgin Suicides but is more acquainted with lighter, sprightly roles, portraying the all American girl. What’s so appealing about Dunst in this role is that she recently experienced her own fall from grace when she suffered a bout of depression of her own and as such, the role of Justine, the manically depressed bride, takes on a reverence and a realism that Dunst conveys perfectly. If anyone doubted the star of such films as Bring It On or Jumanji was not up to scratch in such a contemplative movie, they are wrong entirely. Dunst is both beautiful and bleak as she brilliantly portrays the annihilating incompressibility and alienation of the fog of depression. Charlotte Gainsbourg makes a welcome return as Justine’s sister Claire. With her melodious, ethereal presence, Claire is the opposite of her sister, having achieved and been able to hold down a conventional life which she seems to find fulfilment in.

The film begins with what could be considered a prologue or prelude to the events which follow. We are shown a series of frames and sequences without dialogue which set up the characters and give us a taste of what may be to come. Justine in her wedding dress wanders across the green bound by creeping vines; Claire carries her son Leo whilst trudging across the lawn as though it were mud, leaving behind painstaking foot prints. This sets Justine up as the innocent, passive victim, the individual dealing with the ramifications of severe depression, who is trying to move forward with life but is constantly bound and pulled back by the bindings of her illness. Claire meanwhile, is perceived as the care giver, not only to Leo, but to Justine, but she is literally weighted down with the responsibility of having to look after Justine and an illness that she cannot fully grasp nor understand. By centering on the family, Melancholia explores the domesticity of depression and the ways in which it eats away at our ability to enjoy experiences and destroys relationships, establishing itself as a character in family life. In the end, Claire and Justine are equally consumed by the evils of mental illness.  As Justine, Claire and Leo slowly wander across the green, Justine is shadowed by Melancholia, Claire by the sun and Leo by the moon. The haunting and provoking music of Wagner, which builds to an intense and unsettling strain, introduces us finally, to Melancholia.

The story unfolds in two parts with two sisters, two stories and two reactions. The first follows Justine and her slow transcendence from a successful, accomplished newly promoted art director and wife (indeed Justine is on the cusp of endless potential), into the depths of despair and finally into a flat, remote acceptance. Justine transforms from sunshine itself into a husk of a person. There are many hints as to the origin of Justine’s condition. She has a bullying and cynical mother who does not believe in marriage – executed with convincing cruelty by Charlotte Rampling. Her father, though devoted appears brow beaten and forgetful. Her husband (Alexander Skarsgard), picture perfect, does not really understand the gravitas of her illness and thinks that by making an honest woman of her and locating for her the perfect home, he van vanquish her misery. Everyone is intent on reminding Justine that she should smile, he happy and not make a scene. In the splendid and succulent scenery of her opulent surroundings, neat and ordered and yet oddly devoid of warmth and feeling, Justine’s perfectly constructed facade begins to crumble.  The guests recreate a sense of staged happiness, money has been thrown at her, she has been done up to the nines, she has everything she could want for in terms of security and acceptance, and yet Justine, on what should be the best day of her life, begins to plummet and self sabotage in such a way that by the end of the night, she is left with nothing and seems peculiarly reminiscent of a young Miss Havisham in the making; embittered, hateful and exaggeratedly cruel. In her inability to feel happiness, Justine pushes herself into confrontations and adulterous situations, betraying those closest to her for some crumb of feeling. Through her we experience the deep expanse of her despair, with all its overwhelms and underwhelms – bored by her marriage and yet incapable of bathing, she acts with the feckless abandon of someone who knows the end is nigh. Whilst Justine sets about destroying her own future, she also begins to notice a change in the stars. A planet named Melancholia, previously hidden behind the sun, and expected to bypass the
earth, has emerged.

In Part two, Justine has regressed to an incapable, terrified child and the nature of her harrowing dependency on Claire is clear. Claire does her best to juggle the needs of her resolutely scientific husband John (Kiefer Sutherland) and son, whilst patiently tolerating Justine’s extremes of behaviour. Justine speaks of the earth being evil and of knowing that there is nothing outside of their existance.

There are endless scenes of movement for movement’s sake; the sisters ride horses, but Justine can never pass the bridge (she can never escape her depression), she drives the golf cart, trudges through mud, all with the hope that her movement will generate some sense of purpose.  As Melancholia comes closer, the sisters’ roles begin to reverse. Justine calmly accepts and wills the end of Earth to be, whilst Claire falls into a chasm of fear, dread and panic. Justine comes to represent the perfect embodiment of depression, whilst Claire becomes anxiety. In between rests Leo, passive and outside of either’s direct influence, instead a naive, even optimistic observer. Excited as he is to witness the passing of the planet, he cannot will himself to stay awake. This is because whether the world ends or not, this does not really concern him. He is not consumed by inertia, or terror, he is protected by a child’s sense of wonderment and hope. If we take Claire to be represented by the sun, she has literally been blind sighted by the arrival of Melancholia, and in not expecting it, cannot accept that Earth is coming to an end.

Meanwhile Claire, who long ago made peace with her own depression, can accept the eradication of both herself and the wider world. Once it becomes apparent that Melancholia will collide with the earth, Claire wishes to partake in a human ritual; she wants to sit and drink wine on the terrace whilst Justine sings. Justine knows such rituals are meaningless, just as her marriage was. They are hollow shams to create the illusion of happiness, but the gravitas of life does not change. Instead, Justine creates a ‘secret cave’, which evokes childlike magical thinking but also alludes to the faith we place in religion, where the three sit and wait out the impending disaster. Claire hyperventilates in animalistic fear, Justine serenely accepts what is to come, and Leo faithfully closes his eyes and places his trust in their secret cave.

The films angle is interesting. The profound impact of the end of the world is revealed through the vacuum of the fragmented family. We know nothing of the wider world’s perceptions; we only witness Justine and Claire’s experiences. The looming ball that is Melancholia is symbolic of the feelings of depression sufferers – they literally feel the planet is falling down on them and there is nothing left to live for. The collision may destroy the world, but Justine’s life is already ended – she is unable to enjoy it. To further complicate a straight reading of Melancholia as a story about a depressed girl facing the end of the world, Justine seems to be able to tell the future. It is inferred that although Justine has always been predisposed to depression, what may have triggered her extreme episode is the awareness that the world was due to end. She grows preoccupied with the stars, tries to tell her mother she fears something outside of her direct life and seems to promise Leo they will build secret caves long before there is a need to. She can predict the number of holes on the golf course, and the number of beans in a jar. She too can tell that life will end, and that the end is coming. Driven crazy by this knowledge at first, she grows familiar with it with the cool, cold glaze of depression. It also seems poetically ironic that Claire wishes to die out on the terrace drinking wine. The film seems like an ode to the death of capitalism and the self-destruction of the affluent world, represented by Claire’s husband and their luxurious home. The symbolism, colour and visuals of the film are gorgeous and remind me of some of the haunting images concocted by Kubrick.

Bizarrely life affirming, Melancholia is a perfect depiction of the malady of depression, at times feeling poignant, as if solid blocks of despair have been hacked off and held up for all to see. Maddening, infuriating, illuminating, claustrophobic, many sufferers will see themselves in this film, and many well wishers will recognise themselves in the role of care taker Claire. Its not all doom and gloom, there is a dark and subtle kind of humour to be found in this tale, particularly from Udo Kier as the wedding planner, but essentially we are dealing with a beautiful end of the world film, from the eyes of two sisters experiencing two very different realities.