What to Watch on Shudder: The Dead Zone and More!

Here is what to watch on Shudder this Bank Holiday weekend, featuring The Dead Zone, Let The Right One In, and In The Night

What to Watch on Shudder: The Dead Zone

The combination of David Cronenberg and Stephen King will surely delight horror fans. Whilst The Dead Zone fits more succinctly into the thriller category than the horror, the film nevertheless has enough to offer those looking for the supernatural. After waking up from a coma, accident victim Johnny discovers he has a psychic ability. Starring Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, and Martin Sheen, the 1983 film still feels resonant today. Cronenberg mixes supernatural activity with a tense drama. As the film builds to its conclusion, the themes feel both universal (asking viewers would they do the same if given Johnny’s ability) and politically contemporary. The Dead Zone does not trade on jump scares. Instead, it opts for an unsettling tone that lingers.

What to Watch on Shudder: Let The Right One In

2008 Swedish vampire film Let The Right One In has become part of the vampire movie canon for good reason. The horror-drama is about a young boy who befriends his neighbour Eli, although she cannot come out to play during the day. The film is about an endearing friendship, albeit one played out through the instrument of vampirism. Director Thomas Alfredson’s film was given an American remake in the form of Let Me In. Those who have not seen the original should rectify this, however, as it is the superior film.

What to Watch on Shudder: In The Night

This 2015 short is a tense little number. Directed by Joshua Erkman, In The Night is about a new mortuary worker asking his more veteran colleague about his strangest experience on the job. The short film is expertly paced, with tension building steadily to its climax. In The Night almost feels like a prelude to a feature-length film, and it a great showcase for writer-director Erkman.

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Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Philip Kaufman’s 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers gets a Blu-Ray release. The film is a decent update of the 1956 movie, slightly more concentrated on the science fiction aspects than its predecessor.

Health inspector Matthew Bennell begins to notice that a number of people around him are worried that their family members seem different. The people look identical, but are devoid of emotion…

In Philip Kaufman’s film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been transported from small-town 1950s to late-1970s San Francisco. The update is successful; with viewers of the time more likely to identify with the setting. The modern city setting could have been problematic with the themes of control and isolation inherent in the narrative, but W.D. Richter’s screenplay deals with this effectively.

Pacing is good in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Kaufman allows for a picture to be build of normal life before this begins to erode. The film builds momentum slowly but effectively, taking time for the narrative to develop rather than offering a series of set pieces.

Setting up protagonist Matthew as a health inspector is a wise move by Richter. It allows for scientific explanation to be brought into play in a plausible fashion. Similarly, the vein of paranoia and the uncanny that was so successful in the original film is utilised well here. The sense of isolation and distrust is exemplified by the anonymity of the big city.

Michael Chapman’s cinematography is excellent. The familiar is made uncomfortable in both the theme and visuals. Make up and effects are also good for the time. Invasion of the Body Snatchers features an enviable cast. Donald Sutherland offers a solid performance as Matthew, while Brooke Adams is believable as Elizabeth. Jeff Goldblum shows the beginnings of traits that viewers have come to expect from him.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a competent remake that combines science fiction with horror to create an unnerving experience.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is released on Blu-Ray from Monday 18th November 2013.

Film Review: Days of Heaven

Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven is a sumptuous picture that offers the director’s trademarks. Days of Heaven is exquisitely filmed, and absorbing throughout.

After losing his job in Chicago, Bill travels with his young sister Linda and his partner Abby (who poses as his sister) in search of work. The group manage to find work on a farm in Texas, which is owned by a wealthy gentleman. When Bill finds out that the farmer is ill, he convinces Abby to marry him so that they can benefit from his fortune…

Set at the turn of the twentieth century, Days of Heaven submerges the viewer fully into the period. The film appears utterly authentic in its setting. There is a curious mix of picturesque scenery and a grubbiness of reality. This is particularly true of the beginning of the film, as Bill works on an industrial site. The scene is grim with its dirt, yet it is still beautifully shot, testament to Malick’s attention to detail.

Days of Heaven features a story that has been told before, and since. Notwithstanding, the film stands out amongst its peers thanks to Malick’s superb execution. For example, the narration works well, owing in part to the choice of narrator. The decision to opt for a objective character to narrate gives the film a sense of balance. Although some of the characters have more questionable morals than others, but the filmmaker does not make strong judgements regarding this. Furthermore, there is an innocence to Linda’s narration that is endearing.

Days of Heaven has a timeless quality. This is in part due to the period setting. More critical than this, however, is the fact that nothing really ties the film to the late 1970s period it was produced in. The only thing that indicates the background of the 1978 film is the age of star Richard Gere. And in spite of the early twentieth-century setting, the themes are universal. This is particularly true of the observations on the rich and poor.

The film’s visuals are faultless. Malick engulfs his viewers in natural surroundings. Nature is so key to the film, which is depicted in part through the amazing microscopic shots. The imagery overall is fantastic, with the photography, lighting and art direction combining well. The beauty of the fields is contrasted effectively with later night scenes, which are striking in their use of colour and light.

Performances in Days of Heaven are also great. Sam Shepard stands out as the farmer, giving a suitably restrained performance. Richard Gere and Brooke Adams give solid performances as Bill and Abby, while Linda Manz also shines.

Days of Heaven is being screened at the British Film Institute from 2nd September 2011 as part of the Terrence Malick season, as well as selected venues across the UK.