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Being John Malkovich Blu-ray

Old, New and New Inside Out!

Out now, new 4K restoration of the 1999 movie from Arrow Academy, featuring a reversible sleeve (see above) and many new extras, including a featurette exploring the marionettes made for the film, the full Floor 7½ corporate video seen in the film, and the full pseudo-documentary “John Horatio Malkovich: Dance of Despair and Disillusionment”.

The first pressing includes a booklet containing archive publicity materials and an in-depth essay by myself, where I explore the phenomenon that is John Malkovich, the phenomenon that is Charlie Kaufman (screenwriter) and how they fused so marvelously in this piece.

Find out more here: Arrow Films

Midsommar: Folk Horror Trip of the Year

Welcome to Trippy Sweden!

With its many striking tropes, shocks and grotesque elements, the folk horror sensation Midsommar has become a big talking point among fans of weird and psychedelic movies, and my favourite of the moment. Here is an in-depth article I wrote for the excellent Sweden-based psychedelic culture site The Oak Tree Review, run by Henrik Dahl.


 

The noun ‘trip’ and the adjective ‘trippy’ have long been embedded in the language as generalised indicators of anything that is weird, far out, uncanny or whatever, and when it comes to movies they are customarily overused. But with regard to those genuinely trippy cinematic journeys, the ones which connoisseurs know, love, recognise and seek out, then we have to dust off those words once again because there are none better.

Movies which are simpatico with the psychedelic experience have been around long before alternative culture flourished in the 1960s, tapping into a collective unconscious thread, perhaps, from the shorts of Georges Méliès through to mainstream entertainment such as The Wizard of OzFantasia and fortuitously big budget art films like A Matter of Life and Death. The direct impact of the ’60s gave us 2001: A Space Odyssey and a slew of films featuring actual showcased trip sequences, including Easy RiderAltered States and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, together with hippyish alternative cult movies such as Performance and The Holy Mountain.

Those same terms of reference boosted the sci-fi sub genre cyberpunk, with the riffs of Philip K. Dick echoing through TronTotal RecallThe Matrix and A Scanner Darkly. Then there’s the freeform, madcap quality of early Surrealist films such as Un Chien Andalou and The Seashell and the Clergyman, pointing to the later works of Buñuel – notably Exterminating Angel and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. The French art film tradition, including Cocteau’s Orphée and Le testament d’Orphée, Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad and Rivette’s Céline and Julie Go Boating also project that same dream/fugue/ trip quality. With all this feeding through, by the early days of the twenty-first century, we had a clearly established phenomenon – the postmodern weird mind-bending movie that nods to psychedelic experience, regardless of whether drugs are present or absent.

Of these the standout example is David Lynch’s Möbius strip surreal-noir masterpiece Mulholland Drive, quite rightly voted the greatest movie of the century so far. Lynch has never taken drugs, but then neither did Salvador Dali, yet in the works of both of these artists the sensibilities are there to see, getting knowing recognition from those who are ‘experienced’. Lynch’s splendid dive into a hallucinatory netherworld where higher dream logic has supplanted quotidian cause-and-effect and linear space-time is, to coin a word, definitively trippy. There are many other examples from the last twenty years, too numerous to discuss, and each of us will have favourites. My own are Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.

Read more on: The Oak Tree Review

 

Reviews In The Machine : An American Werewolf In London (1981) by Roger Keen

November 10, 2018 Leave a comment

A retro review for the guys at Machine Mean, Thomas and Chad, looking fondly back at a favourite horror film of yesteryear.

Machine Mean

werewolf1An American Werewolf in London

Watching An American Werewolf in London now, one of the first things that strikes you is how long ago 1981 was, and how much the world – specifically England – has changed since then. This is partly due to the observational eye of American director John Landis, achieving a detached touristy perspective on the closed community of East Proctor in rural Yorkshire, with its shifty paranoid locals who talk in broad accents and fear strangers; and also taking in the sights and sounds of swinging London – Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, and not forgetting the seedy crepuscular interior of a Soho porn cinema. Notable too is the appearance of Jenny Agutter as love interest Nurse Alex Price, then still at the height of her nubility and fantasy material for legions of young men after a string of scantily clad roles in movies such…

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My Movie-Buff Literary Stalker

Guest Post for GetWordy on the Literary Stalker Blog Tour. Thanks to Laura James for hosting.


 

When I constructed my literary stalker, Nick Chatterton, I tried to make him unlike myself in many ways – ‘…so people won’t think he’s me’ – as Nick says about his own fictional creation, Jago Farrar. I made Nick thirty-eight, gay, unemployed, with a full head of long hair, borderline personality disorder and a criminal record – none of which apply to myself. I also gave him a different profile as a writer to my own, though there are some similarities (we both wrote horror short stories for small press magazines). But in one particular area I fashioned Nick very much in my own image – I gave him my taste in movies and made him a movie buff.

My own background is art college, film school, and work in broadcast TV and video production as an editor and director; and later I added film and DVD reviewing and feature writing to the skill set. I’ve loved ‘the movies’ since childhood, when I saw films such as Jason and the Argonauts and The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, way back in the early 1960s. Since then my tastes have developed along certain lines, and I’m known as an aficionado of the weird, surreal and offbeat in cinema, a tendency which touches upon art movies, horror and crime, science fiction and metafiction. I also love film noir and intelligent gangster and dark transgressive movies generally. So I bequeathed these interests to Nick, and thus I was able to add another layer to Literary Stalker, where the films Nick uses in his plots and references in his daily life become adjuncts to the storytelling, bouncing the ideas around the text as though in a hall of mirrors…

Read more on GetWordy

Theatre of Blood (1973) w/ author Roger Keen

‘Theatre of Blood and Literary Stalker’, my guest post for Machine Mean on the Blog Tour, deals with the key influence of the film on the book, whilst performing a review and an analysis of what we love about this classic. Big thanks to Thomas S. Flowers and Chad Clark.

Machine Mean

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I had the basic plot idea for Literary Stalker – a bad writer with grudges who takes revenge on selected colleagues – many years before I wrote the novel, but it remained on the back burner because it seemed too simplistic. Then I had the further idea of making the work a pastiche, with showcased references to films and other novels, very much in the style of Quentin Tarantino. Having fun developing this, one film in particular popped into my mind – one I hadn’t actually viewed for decades, but which I remembered fondly from way back in the 1970s and ’80s. It was Theatre of Blood, and I got the DVD and re-watched it, several times. The rest, as they say, is history. 

The blueprint of a vengeful actor, dispensing justice to the critics who’ve disparaged him, using Shakespeare’s plays, matched my idea; but rather than simply copy…

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Strange Brew: DMT Cinema goes Mainstream

November 14, 2016 Leave a comment
Marvel's DOCTOR STRANGE..Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel’s DOCTOR STRANGE..Doctor Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch)..Photo Credit: Film Frame ..©2016 Marvel. All Rights Reserved.

 

My latest piece for Reality Sandwich explores the notable psychedelic elements in Doctor Strange, linking it to Avatar, Inception, The Matrix and other cyberdelic movies.


 

Back in 2009, Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void appeared to herald a new era in psychedelic cinema, where increasing awareness and appreciation of DMT states fused dramatically with rapid advances in visual effects technology, to give rise to a better, more subtle and sophisticated film iconography that transcended the shortcomings of earlier years and got much closer to depicting the actuality of these fugitive and evanescent states. Noé’s lengthy extemporised sequences, involving fantastic voyages through fractal geometries and transmogrifying amoeboid forms, evoked both internal and external space adventure, and for the initiated he very much had it cracked. But despite high critical acclaim in some quarters,Enter the Void bombed at the box office and abjectly failed to kick-start a tryptamine-cinema renaissance. Seemingly by being so completely focussed on the arcane realms of the psychedelic inscape, it was too purist for many, lacked sufficient narrative underpinning and didn’t press enough buttons in the vital area of entertainment as well as enlightenment.

Cut to 2016 and in the latest Marvel blockbuster, the eponymous Doctor Strange – played assuredly by Benedict Cumberbatch – has his rationality and scepticism smashed by shamanic ninja the Ancient One (Tilda Swinton), and after first discovering his astral body, he is then hurtled onto an cosmic roller-coaster ride that more than uncannily resembles Noé’s void. The Doctor whizzes through a world of eidetically coloured planetary bodies, black holes, fractals and kaleidoscopic visions, coming to witness his own fingers sprouting hands whose fingers sprout yet more hands, and so on, and he finally becomes a true believer in alternate dimensionality. And in many other discombobulatingly trippy sequences, using further advanced generations of visual effects and 3D technology, the latest psychedelic fare is once again delivered successfully to the masses – by wrapping it in the entertainment-friendly foil of science fiction.

Read more on Reality Sandwich.

Psychedelia in the Movies, Part 2 – Reality Sandwich

Psychedelia in the Movies Pt2

Part 2 of my article Psychedelia in the Movies, originally published in the Psypress UK Journal 2015 Vol IV, has been republished on Reality Sandwich alongside Part 1, including the illustrative video clips. So the the whole story, including text and imagery is now available online!


 

Once the late ’60s boom in acid culture and acid cinema had dissipated, the psychedelic movie became another component of the fringe and the experimental, something to recur and be revived at intervals, a pattern that continues into the present. As we saw in ‘Part 1’, a principal avenue of this tendency involved name directors, associated with the weird and offbeat, taking on solid psychedelic literary properties – such as Ken Russell, the work of John C. Lily and Altered States; and David Cronenberg, the work of William Burroughs and Naked Lunch. The next big milestone in psychedelic cinema occurred in just the same fashion, with Terry Gilliam, Hunter S. Thompson and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998).

With his track record in mind-bending fantasies such as Time Bandits (1981) and Brazil (1985), Terry Gilliam would seem the ideal director to tackle Thompson’s tale of madcap psychedelic debauchery, where the ‘effects’ are already ‘scripted’, rendered in electrifyingly graphic prose. But Gilliam came into the difficult pre-production process late, having to produce a new script in a short time, and the filming itself proved as chaotic as the movie’s contents. The end result achieved a disappointing box office performance and very mixed reviews, with many critics understandably attributing the characters’ qualities of waywardness and incoherence to the movie plot itself.

Whilst falling short of being a totally satisfying adaptation of the book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is nevertheless a very worthy effort in the reification of psychedelic effects and head spaces for the screen. Gilliam wanted the film to feel like a trip from beginning to end, and with cinematographer Nicola Pecorini, he designed a catalogue of techniques to match the qualities of each of the many drugs that are consumed, such as melting colours and flare effects for mescaline, and wide angles and morphing for LSD. Voice-over narration from Johnny Depp’s Raoul Duke provides much-needed structure and grounding, bringing us back to the novel and Thompson’s original vision as a bulwark against drug chaos swamping everything.

Read more on Reality Sandwich.

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