Category Archives: bloody violence

‘There’s Blood on my hands from what you made me do.’ – Dead Man’s Shoes

Good Friday in Central London. Some people are are well into Bank Holiday drinking mode, namely downing booze as though it’s about to be banned. In Covent Garden, a young bloke wants to get a call and response thing going on, ‘When I say “chicken” you say “legs”!’ A slurred voiced joins in from across the piazza. ‘Chicken!’ ‘Legs!’ ‘Chicken!’ ‘Legs!’ All of this would be charmingly silly. Except I’ve just re-watched Shane Meadow’s splendid 2004 film Dead Man’s Shoes at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. So there’s a bit of an edge to the jollity.

‘Dance at my party!’ Richard (Paddy Considine – super intense yet also believable – he could be a real bloke brimming with anger in the pub, perhaps glancing satirically at the ‘chicken legs’ lads whilst supping a pint) demands, as the targets of his vengence as they flop about the room under the influence of spiked tea. He’s a former soldier, back in his small hometown to track down the fellas who mistreated his mentally handicapped brother.

It’s a Western, basically. Richard is the British of the Man With No Name. What the gang have done is horrific, but Richard finds it impossible to destroy them without turning into a ‘monster’.

Dead Man’s Shoes is an experience. It shook me up when I first saw it and seeing it again (with a live soundtrack, no less) on a big screen made my brain ache. In a good way.

The following clip is a 2008 live version of Vessel in Vain, the song that plays over the film’s opening credits, The soundtrack to DSM is marvellous – Americana really works over scenes of violence in the damp English Countryside.

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They mostly come at night. Mostly.

So let’s talk about Newt.

I recently rewatched the first two Alien films after quite a few years. Living in internet nerd culture as I do, I felt deeply familiar with these movies despite my relative lack of that familiarity. Game over, man! Get away from her, you bitch! There are aspects of the films that have settled deeply into pop culture. And one of the things that everyone knows, so much so that it makes people defend Alien 3 (ugh), is that Newt is apparently really annoying.

So sitting down to watch, I was expecting the kid to be shrill, or whiny, or badly-acted. Any of the things that can happen to make children irritating in film. And I was completely surprised. She’s well-acted, she’s amusing, she’s about the only rational actor in the whole film and she’s certainly less whiny than Hudson, brilliantly played by Bill Paxton as a combat veteran so completely unmanned by the failure of firepower that all he can do is cry about how they’re all going to die this time, really guys, he means it.

If the Sulaco’s marines had taken Newt aside and asked her how she survived for weeks without getting caught, maybe they would have been luckier. All I can suppose is that the ‘nerd narrative’ on Newt was written by people who, when they saw Aliens, were little boys. And there’s not much that reads as annoying to little boys as little girls. Would the child be so disliked if it had been the brother who survived instead of the sister? I doubt it, even if the girl does have a scream that can shatter glass.

Also, considering how powerfully feminist Aliens is, I’m amazed nerds like it as much as they do. The finale is two women fighting over a little girl, the men rendered helpless. You don’t see a lot of that.

‘Where ARE my doggie-woggies?’: Theatre of Blood

1973’s Theatre of Blood is the prince of horror-comedies. And if it actually was a prince it would be an indecisive Danish one. The ‘haha’/’erk’ balance is a difficult one to get right, but this film manages it splendidly. The splendid story-telling helps – Vincent Price is prime ham Edward Lionheart, back from a faced suicide to take his blood vengeance on the pompous theatre critics who denied him a ‘Best Actor’ award.
The critics are offed in series of Grand Guinol Shakespeare homages. George Maxwell (Michael Horden) is stabbed like Julius Caesar. The fantastically named Horace Sprout (Arthur Lowe)* loses his head, Cymbeline style. There’s death by wine barrel, death by hairdo** and death by poodle pie***. And for all of the horrible things that Lionheart and his daughter Edwina (Diana Rigg) get up to, you can’t help but enjoy their villainous crusade.
Vincent Price seems to be enjoying himself so much that you can see the glee beneath his theatrical pan-stick. There’s a flashback sequence in which he recites the ‘To be or not to be’ speech whilst the Critic’s Circle sneer and applaud sarcastically. You can’t help but feel sorry for poor old over-acting Lionheart. Price’s version of the speech manages to be both suitably OTT and strangely moving. Prior to a bonkers fencing match (with trampolines) he sneers at the one vaguely decent critic Devlin (Ian Hendry), ‘What do you know of the blood, sweat and toil of a theatrical production?’
Early on in the film, Devlin receives a beautifully wrapped package apparently from his fellow critic, Dickman****. The attached note reads, ‘I am sorry to miss the meeting, but my heart is with you.’ Of course, the package is really from Lionheart and it contains – well, Dickman’s heart. It’s not subtle, but it is funny. And genuinely icky.
Director Douglas Hickox gets the right balance of camp and darkness, which fits Anthony Granville-Bell’s wonderfully. This film is a genuine one-off. ‘Lionheart is immortal!’ Price proclaims. It’s hard to disagree.
*Poor Devlin opens his front door the morning after to find poor Sprout’s head perched on top of a milk bottle. I felt a bit sorry for Sprout. He is Captain Mainwaring, after all. And in Theatre of Blood, he’s married to the 80s BBC incarnation of Miss Marple (Joan Hickson).
**Miss Chloe Moon (Coral Browne) gets electrocuted by a booby-trapped hairdryer, in homage to Joan of Arc’s death in Henry VI: Part One. Browne and Price later married. Insert ‘sparks fly’ gag here.
***Robert Morley’s character, Merridew, unwittingly eats his beloved poodles.
****Yes, Dickman. And guess what? The character’s a big old letch and is easily lured to his Merchant of Venice inspired doom by Edwina and her go-go boots.

E.M.

Under Siege!

What follows is a very silly thing I wrote some years ago. It was tempting to put it elsewhere on the internet and claim it was the first few pages of the original shooting script for Under Siege.

    Under Siege! (Or Under Siege 1: Siege Siege-ier)

ON BOARD THE BATTLESHIP UNCONVINCING, SHOUTY GARY BUSEY IS GIVING THE CREW THEIR ORDERS

Shouty Gary Busey: Hey! I want everything to be right for the Captain’s birthday party. I don’t want us to be UNDER SIEGE or anything.

Steven Seagal: I am a totally a chef. I worry about the pies I am cooking to hilarious comic effect. Plus, I am great at kicking ass. If we were ever UNDER SIEGE I would save us all.

Shouty Gary Busey: Right, that’s it. I’m locking the chef in the meat locker. Hey, Rooky cannon fodder sailor?

Rooky Cannon Fodder Sailor: Sir, yes sir!

Shouty Gary Busey: Lock him away away. And don’t let him out. Not if the pies are burning. Not if the ship’s UNDER SIEGE. You got it?

Rooky Cannon Fodder Sailor: Sir, yes sir!

Steven Seagal (From inside the cupboard): Grrr. What about the pies? They will soon be UNDER SIEGE from the heat in the oven.

LATER. TOMMY LEE JONES AND BAYWATCH LADY ARE ON BOARD THE UNCONVINCING.

Baywatch Lady: I hate boats! I only like kittens! Why have you brought me here? Why am I in this film?

Tommy Lee Jones: You’re here to flash your nips and shriek.

Baywatch Lady: Cool – I can totally do that. My body will be like, UNDER SIEGE from the eyes of the sex starved seamen.

LATER STILL. A CRAZY PARTY OF CRAZINESS IS HAPPENING WITH BEER AND EVERYTHING

Shouty Gary Busey (Who is in drag): Look! I am in lady clothes How hilarious!

Sailors: What fun! He is dressed as a woman, but is actually a man! Woo! I am so not attracted to him at all.

Tommy Lee Jones: (Playing the harmonica). Hey fellas! I love music! Soon you will all be UNDER SIEGE from my music.

Sailors: Yeah!

(ROCKING OUT COMMENCES).

Tommy Lee Jones: Hey. Who’s the most senior officer here apart from Shouty Gary Busey.

Unfortunate Extra: Yeah. That’d be me. If we were UNDER SIEGE I’d be in charge.

(Tommy Lee Jones shoots the Unfortunate Extra in the face).

Everyone: Oh fuck! We’re UNDER SIEGE!

Shouty Gary Busey: (Removing his wig) You’re UNDER SIEGE. I am not UNDER SIEGE. Cos I’m in on the whole thing! I am a baddie! And I’m still wearing a skirt. And bad lipstick. But now I have removed my wig. Cos it was making me look ridiculous. Therefore, might lead you to forget that you are UNDER SIEGE!

(MEANWHILE)

Steven Seagal (Having just escaped from the cupboard using the twin powers of Buddhism and being fighty): My pies are burning!!! Damn you Shouty Gary Busey! What’s all that noise…surely we’re not…UNDER SIEGE!

E.M.

Video Nasty: Playground nightmare fuel

When I was very young, a trip to the video shop was like a trip to Narnia. A somewhat dingy Narnia with no snow, no fauns and a strong smell of plastic, but an exciting place to visit all the same.

I’d peruse the children’s films, looking for some Disney or a compilation of Bugs Bunny cartoons. When I’d picked out something suitable and whichever parent I was with queued up to take it out (along with their own choice) I liked to sneak over into the grown-ups’ section and examine the covers of films that I’d never be allowed to watch.

The horror films had an appalling fascination. I’d look at the covers of films such as Children of the Corn (an artsy cover rather than an icky one, but I knew it involved decapitation and thanks to Alice in Wonderland and various junior history books the idea was very much in my mind. And nightmares.), Creepshow (a campy looking skeleton), Vamp (glamourous lips with vampire fangs) and Basket Case (Eww). I’d look at those, feel a bit weird and then go home and wash my brain out by going home, eating fishfingers and watching Disney’s Robin Hood for the fifth time.

Long before I ever saw any scary movies, I formed some clear ideas in my mind of what such films would be like based a mixture of the video covers, descriptions in film reviews in the newspapers and playground hearsay.

As I’ m sure was the case for a lot of children back in the 80s, my Primary School class contained several kids who liked to claim that they’d seen films on holidays to America that were a long way off being released in the UK. They’d claim to have seen ‘Jaws 6’, thus implying that we were so behind in our cinematic releases that ‘Jaws 5’ hadn’t even made it over yet. And what did the shark in ‘Jaws 6’ get up to? Horrible things, involving heads and guts and eyes. Things that made events in the original Jaws (which most of us hadn’t been allowed to watch yet) seem fluffy and innocent.

There was also one boy in my class who claimed to have seen all of the big horror films because his parents were happy to let him. I’m not sure if this was actually the case or if he’d just done the same as the rest of us and made up his own versions of these films. Certainly, his version of A Nightmare on Elm Street sounded far more frightening than the actual film possibly could be. His versions would go something along the lines of, ‘And then Freddie rips out this girl’s eyes and there’s ALL BLOOD and then he turns into a tongue and comes out of the phone and squashes someone’s guts and then he eats a dog and turns into a robot and eats another girl and there’s ALL BLOOD everywhere.’

Years later, when I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street, I wasn’t too surprised to find that nothing in it was quite as icky as it had seemed when it was described (and embellished) by an over-imaginative eight year old.  

There were some supposed grown-up films that kids were drawn to despite the ominous circled ‘18’ on the covers. In 1988, Robocop became a classic example of this. One lunchtime, one of my classmates proclaimed, ‘If I was Prime Minister, I’d have Robocop as my bodyguard.’

This prompted me to write a ‘satirical’ newspaper story describing the shock appointment of  Robocop as the PM’s personal security. Strangely, it didn’t really go on to explain why a ten year old lad from Hertfordshire came to be the Prime Minister. I think I was assuming that all of this was happening in a world in which the appointment of children to public office was fairly commonplace.

I don’t remember too much of what I wrote, aside from the quote from The Blob (a remake had recently been released) who in the world of the story was Chancellor of the Exchequer (his comment was something insightful along the lines of, ‘Blobba blobba blob blob’. The inventors of Mr Blobby must owe me a lot of money in royalties.) was the final sentence, which was as follows: ‘The Home Secretary Freddie Krueger was unavailable for comment, as he had to go and kill Kylie and Jason.’

I showed the story to our would-be PM and he told me to ‘Shut Up.’ So he must have liked it.

E.M.