Film, Horror, Reviews

DASHCAM is the gonzo found footage horror satire to end them all (Film Review)

Anyone who saw Host during lockdown will have been damn excited to see DASHCAM.

Rob Savage exploded onto the horror movie scene with his hour long, super low budget but highly effective slice of Zoom-based terror which dropped right at the apex of Covid-19 paranoia and fear, mid-2020, as the world watched, waited and worried. Host was ragged around the edges but enormously creepy and played a set of new beats on the now well played tune that is found footage horror. It brought that fear into not just the computer screen but the home in an even more acute way than Unfriended or Friend Request etc… films with a bigger budget playing with that intersection between the online and the unfathomable.

DASHCAM is an altogether different beast. Though deliberately still lo-fi, Savage is graced with a bolstered budget thanks to a three picture deal with modern horror maestro production house Blumhouse and a transatlantic approach and appeal, not to mention a fusion of fiction and hyper-reality. Fronted by Annie Hardy, playing a firebrand version of herself—albeit not too dissimilar by all accounts to her actual persona—DASHCAM feels less about trying to scare and designed more to throw audiences into a frenzied world of relentless chaos, in which technology allows voyeuristic patrons the chance to watch true carnage unfold in real time.

To his credit, Savage doesn’t try and repeat the trick of Host with DASHCAM. He just decides to go completely off the leash.

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Film, Jurassic Park, Reviews

JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION should never, unlike life, have found a way (Film Review)

It feels a genuine missed opportunity not to delay Jurassic World: Dominion a year in order to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Steven Spielberg’s seminal introductory film to this box office chomping franchise.

Granted, thanks to Covid-19, it had been shunted back a year once already much like most pictures made in the pandemic period, however Dominion so desperately works to pay homage to Spielberg’s film it would have, to fans, been worth the direct birthday tie in. For anyone who doesn’t love the original Jurassic Park, well, a) I don’t believe you exist and b) if you do, Dominion is not about to convince you to jump into this franchise 65 million years in the making.

The clear eyed truth of the matter is that Dominion wants to be Jurassic Park so damn much, it entirely forgets to do anything else across the weighty two hour plus running time. Colin Trevorrow’s fan credentials of Amblin, Spielberg and this era of the movie making have always been in evidence and he—the man who, lest we forget, for a long time was directing what became Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker—wears that adoration on his sleeve in everything he does.

The problem here is the same problem you find whenever someone produces a weaker cover song years after the fact: it just makes you wish for the original.

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Books

SCREEN CAPTURES: FILM IN THE AGE OF EMERGENCY by Stephen Lee Naish (Author Interview)

Earlier this year, writer Stephen Naish reached out to me with his book Screen Captures: Film in the Age of Emergency, which I can report was a fascinating read covering a wide range of pop culture and modern political subjects, some very personal.

Here’s the blurb:

A spirited, far-sighted guide to politics, Star Wars, the Avengers, David Lynch, and the lost highways between them, for today’s capitalist-realist age.

We’ve met before, haven’t we? The grand illusion of our era is that we’re at the end of history and cinema is now no more than tranquilizing entertainment. What we’ve lost sight of is the political undercurrent running through movies and their potentially redemptive power, whether they’re Hollywood mega blockbusters like Star Wars or off-kilter indies and art films like Blue Velvet. This is the premise and the challenge of the wide-ranging essays that make up Screen Captures, in which Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Cage, Valerie Solanas, and even Donald Trump all have a starring role. The book tells, as much as it shows, what lies just out of frame: the impacts of COVID on theatres, the class war of the 1% upon the rest, the climate crisis, the ongoing Disney-fication of franchises, and the audience’s active participation in the rewriting and reproduction of their capture by screens. Throughout, subliminally, Stephen Lee Naish rings his urgent call: occupy the screen!

It was a genuinely interesting piece of work to digest and Stephen was kind enough to talk to me, subsequently, about his creative process and how the book came to be.

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Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars, Uncategorized

Your Powers Are Weak: OBI-WAN KENOBI and Tiring Intellectual Property

A curious thing happened to me while watching Obi-Wan Kenobi, the latest piece of event television to emerge from Disney’s wider Star Wars universe.

Part III contained what is arguably the singular momentous storytelling beat for Star Wars since Rey found an old Luke Skywalker at the end of The Force Awakens. Ewan McGregor’s middle-aged, beaten down ‘Ben’ Kenobi faces down his former protege Anakin Skywalker at the peak of his Darth Vader transformation, long before any kind of redemptive beat we will eventually see in Return of the Jedi. They draw lightsabers. They fight. Vader, in his immortal James Earl Jones-style drawl, tells Obi-Wan he is weak. It is pure Star Wars catnip.

Yet I felt nothing. Granted, Star Wars isn’t exactly ‘my’ franchise. I’ve always enjoyed it but the passion for it doesn’t exist as it does for Star Trek or The X-Files or James Bond etc… That being said, I am as readers of this blog will know, someone who laps up popular culture in many forms and frequently the return of characters, or existing franchises, does excite me. Vader’s reappearance properly for the first time since 2005’s Revenge of the Sith, to fight Obi-Wan Kenobi no less, should have thrilled me. Except it just left me numb.

It felt like an example of just where mainstream IP has taken us, and is continuing to take us, in the age of the streaming service. Back to a lesser re-tread of a classic, beloved moment in cultural history.

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