A look at some of the highlights on horror platform Shudder. Here’s what to watch on Shudder this week…
What to Watch on Shudder: I Vampiri
Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava’s I Vampiri (also known as Lust of the Vampire) is an Italian gothic classic. The film combines a detective story with a horror movie. Like many gothic films, the scares do not come thick and fast. However, the wonderful atmosphere and gothic excess make up for this, particularly in later scenes. I Vampiri is about an investigation into a spate of murders of young women. Each of these women are found with the blood drained. Set in Paris, Pierre Lantin is the journalist hot on the trail of the perpetrator. The film combines a modern setting with some classic gothic tropes. Moreover, the visual effects are great for the period.
What to Watch on Shudder: Raze
Josh C. Waller’s Raze offers an enticing premise and a brutal execution. The film is about kidnapped women who are forced into fighting each other for survival. Raze combines a terrifying premise with some fantastic fight sequences. Waller injects a ferociousness to these sequences; the violence is hard to watch at times. He is ably assisted by the skills of actress and stunt woman Zoë Bell (a Quentin Tarantino favourite, and star of Whip It), who plays protagonist Sabrina. There are similarities with The Purge: Anarchy (released the following year), yet Raze is very much its own film.
What to Watch on Shudder: Venefica
Maria Wilson directs, produces and stars in short film Venefica. The film is about a modern-day witch who must complete a ritual to see how her magic will be used. Venefica offers sufficient intrigue and good production values. Maria Wilson’s film is worth eight minutes of your time.
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This week sees the release of John Slattery’s directorial debut God’s Pocket. Slattery is better known for his on-screen skills, notably in television’s Mad Men, as well as roles in The Adjustment Bureau and Iron Man 2. John Slattery’s debut is the latest in a long line of actors who have stepped behind the camera following an already successful on-screen career. Here I take a look at previous directorial debuts…
Robert De Niro
After two decades and numerous acolades for his acting skills, Robert De Niro turned director in 1993 with A Bronx Tale. Critically successful if not a commercial smash, A Bronx Tale saw De Niro taking cues from his long-time collaborator Martin Scorsese in terms of themes and style. De Niro’s only other directing credit is The Good Shepherd (2006).
After starring in numerous high-profile movies and winning an Oscar for his writing, Ben Affleck’s directorial debut arrived in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone. The film was well-received, although Affleck’s directing skills may have flown under the radar in the UK at that time as the film was not released due to similarities to a high profile case. However if anyone was in doubt of Ben Affleck’s directing abilities, he displayed them ably in 2010’s The Town and 2012’s Argo, for which he was awarded the Best Director Oscar.
Former child star and Hollywood stalwart Drew Barrymore directed a documentary for television in 2004. However it was her feature debut Whip It in 2009 which brought her to the attention of critics and audiences as a director. Since then, Barrymore has only stretched her directing muscles with a Best Coast music video, featuring an array of young Hollywood talent.
Another former child actor, Joseph Gordon-Levitt had reinvigorated his acting career with roles in 500 Days of Summer and Inception before turning his attention to directing. With a number of shorts under his belt, Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut came in 2013 with Don Jon, which he also wrote. Starring in the title role, Gordon-Levitt displayed a promising talent as filmmaker.
God’s Pocket is out in UK cinemas on 8th August 2014.
Whip It is a funny and entertaining movie – a promising start to Drew Barrymore’s directing career. “Be Your Own Hero”, the publicity for the picture asserts; a message the director certainly seems to have taken to heart.
Whip It focuses on misfit teen Bliss and her attempt to escape small-town drudgery by joining a roller derby league. In the process, as well as finding something she excels at, Bliss formulates a new life for herself. Her new life, friends and boyfriend, however, come at the expense of some of the more positive elements of her previous conservative upbringing…
In some ways the film is what one would expect from Barrymore; an independently produced picture, with a hip soundtrack and quirky but apt casting. Ellen Page is convincing as young Bliss, perfecting the rebelling teen attitude. Whilst there are great performances from all involved, it is Juliette Lewis who steals the show as ultra-competitive rival Iron Maven.
There is no doubt that Whip It is a female-centric film. Rather than taking a preachy tone pushing a feminist agenda, Barrymore keeps in light, advocating instead the positives of female friendship and having confidence in oneself. It is heartening to see that along with the positive female portrayals, the men are also depicted in optimistic light. Too often strong female characters are balanced with negative male portrayals, but thankfully Barrymore eschews this archetype.
Barrymore’s directorial debut accomplishes the rare feat of being both lighthearted and inspirational. It is an enjoyable film to watch, but there is also a real optimism to the messages it sends. Along with the strong female depictions, Whip It reinforces the importance of finding your own identity and having the confidence to pursue your goals. With this in mind, it is Drew herself who is also rousing, going from child star to wild child, from much-loved actress to producer and now director. Thus, her transcendence is encompassing enough to be inspirational to males as well as females.