Andy Serkis at Jameson Cult Film Club

Last Wednesday, Jameson Cult Film Club returned to London with a screening of Jaws at Greenwich Yacht Club. Prior to the screening, we were able to speak to Jameson Cult Film Club Curator Andy Serkis about the Club, Jaws, and directing…

What does your role as Curator of Jameson Cult Film Club entail?

I basically had input into choosing some of the films that are going to be screened. Just to introduce them, and be part of the event.

What is it about Jaws that you like so much?

I think it is one of the most complete films ever made really. In terms of writing, in terms of the tension, in terms of individual performances, in terms of the camera work. It’s just brilliant storytelling, it’s absolutely, totally immersive. The way it was shot was revolutionary, the use of animatronics was revolutionary. For all of those reasons it really moved filmmaking on.

If you were going to make Jaws now, would you use animatronics or motion capture?

What I love about Jaws is the fact that it still holds up today. Even though you know it’s an animatronic shark, your mind is tricked in such a way that you’re still terrified of it. If I was to shoot it now, it would probably be a combination. I would still want some real physicality of an animatronic puppet. It would probably be CG-enhanced, but I would probably use the basis of that still. The human brain, the way it is tricked in modern-day filmmaking, sometimes it can be flattened out. What is interesting is where you are just not sure what is real and what isn’t.

You are getting into directing, can you tell us a bit about that?

I have just come back from directing the second unit on The Hobbit, directing is an arena I have been getting into for some time. I have a company called The Imaginarium, which is a performance capture studio. It does live action films as well as visual effects and performance capture for films. Over the course of the next year, I am going to be directing two projects which will be announced quite shortly.

Find out more about Jameson Cult Film Club here.

Report: Jameson Cult Film Club Monsters Screening

Those who braved the arctic conditions queuing outside the Royal College of Surgeons in London were rewarded with liquid treats and an entertaining evening. After warming up inside and enjoying a complementary drink or two, Jameson Cult Film Club members and guests were invited to take their seats for Monsters. The event featured some nice touches, such as actors dressed up as characters from the film, face masks on every seat, and wristbands embossed with a logo from the film.

The screening was preceded with an introduction from writer and director Gareth Edwards and editor Colin Goudie. The pair shared anecdotes about Monsters, including the film’s working title. Edwards in particular seemed overwhelmed by the large turn out (apparently the screening was oversubscribed and people were turned away). As the majority of those in attendance had not seen the film before, Edwards felt it apt to suggest that Monsters is a film that divides audiences. Edwards was bashful when asked about his next project, a reboot of Godzilla, preferring that the emphasis remained on the low-budget critical success Monsters.

Read the I Heart The Talkies review of Monsters

Film Review: The Amityville Horror

For a film with the word ‘Horror’ in the title, The Amityville Horror is not a very frightening film. Although the 1979 film is effective in building atmosphere, it is let down by the lack of frights.

George and Kathy Lutz and their three young children move into a house in Amityville, New York. The scene of a multiple murder, the couple begins to experience strange occurrences in their new home. After their family priest attempts a failed exorcism, things seem to get worse, especially for George…

Adapted from a book by Jay Anson, which is apparently based on true events, The Amityville Horror offers plenty of stock horror conventions. Influence from films such as The Haunting and The Exorcist are clear, in both theme and on-screen devices. Young Amy’s apparent connection with a spirit evokes William Friedkin’s 1973 film, while the moving chandelier can be compared to Robert Wise’s 1963 haunted-house classic. Nevertheless, The Amityville Horror perhaps has also influenced later films in the genre itself. The scene where George attempts to break through the bathroom door with an axe instantly recalls 1980’s The Shining, although Stephen King’s novel was published two years before in 1977.

The Amityville Horror is not usually remembered with such fondness as other horror pictures of the era. There appears to be two main reasons for this. Firstly, despite the supernatural context, there are very few actual scares in the film, and those that do appear are mild rather than shocking. Secondly, the pacing of Stuart Rosenberg’s film is awry. The film builds very slowly, and in comparison the ending feels rushed. The slow momentum of isolated incidents each day suggests a major pay-off, but sadly this never occurs.

Where the film excels is in generating a pervading atmosphere. George’s slow decline enhances the sense of unease, coupled with the gentle release of information about the house’s past. By far the most effective tool in building tension is Lalo Schifrin’s fantastic score. Given Amityville Horror‘s low budget, the filmmakers are wise to keep special effects to a minimum; the ones that are featured have not aged well.

James Brolin and Margot Kidder both do well as the unlucky couple, despite the material they have to work with. Rod Steiger brings passion and urgency as Father Delaney, while Helen Shaver is jarringly over the top as friend Carolyn. Natasha Ryan is well cast as the young Amy, providing both innocence and an air of menace in the role.

Although The Amityville Horror was a big box office success on its release, the film has not really stood the test of time. Sadly, there are plenty of other haunted-house movies that are far more affecting.

The Amityville Horror was screened at Union Chapel by the Jameson Cult Film Club, as part of their Chills in the Chapel Halloween event.

Film Review: Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver is one of Martin Scorsese’s best films, featuring one of Robert De Niro’s finest performances and Paul Schrader’s excellent screenplay. Simply put, it is one of the greatest films in cinematic history.

Insomniac Travis Bickle drives a taxi in New York City at night. Gradually, Bickle’s instability is revealed as his disgust with the city grows, leading to him making some life-changing choices…

Taxi Driver is an affecting film because it works on numerous levels. It is both a study of violence and a violent film. Taxi Driver depicts Bickle’s disgust at the violence that surrounds him, yet later reveals his inclination to turn to this same method to make his stand. Whilst the climax of the film is famously desaturated to lessen to the effect of the gore, this does not detract overly from this incredibly violent scene. Although the graphic nature of the climax may be shocking to viewers, it is depicted as an act of heroism by the media in the film. Thus, Taxi Driver offers a view of violence in society but remains refreshingly ambiguous in passing judgement.

To describe Travis Bickle simply as an anti-hero does a disservice to the complexity of the character. Schrader has constructed such an intricate protagonist in Bickle. He elicits both sympathy and aversion from the audience. Bickle exhibits in awkwardness in social situations which is sometimes difficult to watch. At the same time, some of his actions appear antagonistic for both other characters in the film and the audience watching. Bickle describes himself as “God’s lonely man”; a very perceptive description of his isolation. This facet of his character is quite relatable, and stands in contrast to other aspects of his personality.

Robert De Niro gives an exceptional performance as Bickle. He truly inhabits the character, portraying his mental disturbance through more subtle tics as well as the troublesome nature of his narrations. Jodie Foster is convincing as young prostitute Iris; she is remarkably solid considering her young age. Cybill Shepherd’s Betsy is the other woman is Bickle’s life. There is quite a divergence between these two females; each of them fuelling his motivation in different ways.

Taxi Driver offers us the final score of legendary composer Bernard Herrmann. And what a score it is. Ranging from a laid-back sax solo to a thunderous rumble, Herrmann’s music is the perfect accompaniment to the visuals, setting the tone for the film.

As a tale of urban alienation, Taxi Driver remains unrivalled. Often movies are described as “must-see” films. In the case of this 1976 classic, that really is the most fitting label.

Taxi Driver was screened at Brewer Street Car Park by the Jameson Cult Film Club. It was introduced by Riz Ahmed.