Take it away, Alex:
The Dark Side of Cinema
One of the things I've always really loved to have in my working life is a bit of variety. Freelancing gives you the opportunity to explore lots of interesting things with a kind of freedom you don't often have in a regular working environment. And when, at the very start of this year, I noticed Ginger Nuts of Horror – a fantastic website if you've never been by – were looking for reviewers and writers, I decided to throw my hat in the ring with a pitch for a series looking at the most extreme of cinema. And so, Film Gutter was born.
I've always enjoyed things that are from the edge, alternative, a bit outre. And the same very much goes for films – I've rarely been one for a blockbuster, much preferring independent and world cinema. What first set me off thinking about Film Gutter was a quick trawl through Youtube at people's lists of 'disturbing films' or 'disgusting films' or 'controversial movies' and it struck me how many I had already seen and not been that affected by. And that started me wondering – is there a line I won't let a film cross? Is there a point where I would press the stop button and give up because something had disturbed me so much? If those things that really shook other people up had produced so little effect in me, was there something out there that would make me feel that perturbed?
So the rationale was effectively something akin to masochism, a movie-based Man vs Food – bring it on and see if you can break me. Six months in, I've taken in some absolutely horrendous movies, but it's been fascinating to explore what is out there and what people are doing in extreme horror. There are a lot of films I don't know if I would have checked out or not if I wasn't writing the column.
So here are a few highlights of the first six months of Film Gutter:
Best Film: Flowers, all day long. An astounding piece by director Phil Stevens, without a single word of dialogue in the whole piece. The visuals and the atmosphere are simply incredible, and the wordless performance from the six female leads are also wonderful. This one is on its way soon from Unearthed Films, and I can't suggest checking it out enough.
Worst Film: Yet to type up my review for this one, and I may yet not bother, because Chaos was so awful. Lazy characters, cliché violence and dialogue put into the mouths of teenage characters but clearly written by somebody many years out of touch. Just lousy from beginning to end, some kind of attempt at an informational film but not even achieving that.
Most Harrowing Film: Megan is Missing. A relatively simple found footage movie, but well played by all the teenage actors and having one of the most horrific, impactful finales you are ever likely to see. The last twenty minutes of this one left me absolutely shellshocked.
Most Reprehensible Film: Snuff 102. It's rare to find a film was so few redeeming features as this Argentinian piece. Flat out horrible and simply designed to upset from the get go, with graphic and realistically presented snuff violence and scenes that send me a bit queasy even to think of.
Hardest Film to Watch: Thanatomorphose. My hand lingered over the stop button so many times during this movie it's untrue. I made this stomach-churning body horror even worse by watching it while I ate dinner – very bad move indeed. The last few minutes of this one had me covering my ears with my hands and asking the screen 'Is it over?'
There are still plenty more disturbing films out there to watch, and I'm looking forwards – perhaps a little strangely – to maybe finding the film that can break me...
You can read the full set of Film Gutter reviews so far athttp://www.gingernutsofhorror.com/film-gutter.html. And, if you fancied something a bit gentler, you can check out my novel The Last War at http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00YQICMHQ