Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Mind the doors!

So I've just watched Deathline, the classic British horror from 1972. It's a decent little film, fairly gory considering it pre-dates the Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the infamous horror flicks from the 70s, and it does a better job with characters and building tension than the similarly themed mutant cannibal picture, Wes Craven's The Hills Have Eyes.

Apparently a group of 8 men and 4 women were buried when digging a section of tube tunnel between Holborn and Russell Square in 1892, but the tube company (these were the pre-London Transport days) went bust and couldn't afford a rescue operation. The survivors lived on, had children and feasted on human flesh, as you do.

The film succeeds where many horror films fail, having you empathise with the villain whilst simultaneously being terrified-you get genuine dread thanks to not being able to easily predict what will happen, unlike in so many of the horror films churned out by the dozen since. A long, unbroken shot prowling round the larder/lair of the cannibal murderers is a stylish touch that also shows up many of the horror films of today, its slow pace working to rack up the tension.
The 70s setting is a joy, getting to see bits of London and the hideous barnets worn by the suspiciously old 'students' at the centre of the story, so even aside from the plot itself the film acts as a time capsule curio. Plus, as a london film, it's heartening to note that black people are a normal part of life in London in '72, using the tube and having normal jobs, it's a fact easily forgotten when watching some more recent films set in London.

Like Match Point. I would say see for yourself.

But then you'd have to see it.

But the reason that you should see Deathline is Donald Pleasance. Playing Inspector Calhoun, the copper who takes on the case of a missing Ministry of Defense bod at Russell Square tube, Pleasance is wonderful, a rounded character who is witty, charming, sarcastic, short-tempered and threatening all at once. That a character which would usually be played with one dimension is given such depth is a testament to Pleasance's acting ability, which does not have the chance to shine in his more high profile horror parts-in Halloween and Prince of Darkness, for example.
The sniping at class, relaxed acting and real locations all go toward boosting this film above the bloodthirsty gaggle of 70s horror, in fact the only wooden part is that of the token American student Alex who only ever seems to be able to frown and get annoyed, though to be fair it could be that the part doesn't give much to work with.
I'll give him the benefit of the doubt because Alex is played by David Ladd, who more recently produced A Guy Thing starring Jason Lee and Julia Stiles.

Yeah, Donald Pleasance is really good, the monster/villain is well realised and all-in-all this makes for a very enjoyable movie. Provided you can stomach movies where people die violent deaths.

To avoid confusion, I'll state that this is not a still from Deathline.

Nana is one of many series that are airing in Japan right now.
Two young ladies named Nana fall in love but their boyfriends move to Tokyo. They follow, but decide to be independent which is where they meet and end up sharing a flat. One Nana is a cute girly-girl, all frilly dresses and swoony eyes over pretty boys, whilst the other is a cigarette-smoking goth singer-girl, and each have their pasts, friends and character traits which unfold over the course of the series. Will they find love? Will they be happy without it? I don't know because it hasn't finished yet.
Still, as shows about women finding themselves in the big city it's really good, and thankfully doesn't have the lesbian subtext that mars many other anime series.
Yes, mars.
Once the subtext is written in cleverly and is relevant to the plot, I will embrace the lesbianism.
But so far, no joy and no-go, tittilation for its own sake does not for good TV make.

I was tempted to rant on the evils of free-market capitalism, but then I watched Deathline and here we are.
Still, I know the promise of political diatribes keeps you all coming back.

Mind the doors!

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