19 items from 2014
Before he spiraled into a critical nose-dive from which he’s yet to recover, M. Night Shyamalan was heralded as the next great American filmmaker. (No, seriously.) Before his gimmickry become obvious–all the twist endings, the important details withheld, trickery in lieu of genuine cleverness–Shyamalan crafted a genuine masterpiece that remains as potent as ever, regardless of the spoiling of its sneaky surprises. Bruce Willis has never approached the grace and subtlety of his performance here; his empathetic, sorrowful turn as a child psychologist searching for redemption deserved an Oscar nod. Maybe he woulda gotten one had this movie not come out in the insanely good movie year of our lord 1999. Willis is matched every step of the way by Haley Joel Osment, giving one of the great childhood performances, and lending credence to lines that could have »
- Greg Cwik
In this week’s episode of American Horror Story: Freak Show, the arrival of Ethel’s ex, hot-tempered strongman Dell Toledo (Michael Chiklis), set off a power struggle so intense, it left one member of Elsa’s troupe headed for the big top in the sky.
Who basked in the glow of the spotlight for the last time? Read on; I’ll tell you…
Misery Has Company | As “Massacres and Matinees” began, it seemed as if everyone was suffering. Tormented Twisty the Clown distracted himself from his woes by visiting a toy store to continue his murder spree. But there »
American Horror Story: Freak Show debuted last night, heir to a long legacy of stories built around the weird world of sideshows and human oddities. If Ahs has whet your appetite for more of the same, step right up and peer behind the curtain for 11 strange and splendid displays of fiction at its freakiest. Freaks Based loosely on Tod Robbins’s 1923 short story “Spurs,” Tod Browning’s 1932 pre-code horror flick stands alone as a subgenre of one. Freaks is notable mostly for its inversion of the traditional evil-freaks-versus-good-guy-normals: In Freaks, the human oddities and sideshow performers are sympathetic and humanized as they face off against a predatory trapeze artist and her strongman boyfriend. The movie was a spectacular flop — it all but destroyed the career of Browning, who had directed Bela Lugosi in Dracula the year prior, and was blamed for at least one miscarriage when it was »
- Rachel Edidin
"American Horror Story" has always been about one freak show or another; it's just that this season actually takes place in the sideshow. The characters and events from the previous seasons sound like a club that Stefon from "Saturday Night Live" would make up: a murder house with a ghost who wears a rubber suit; a former Nazi scientist who experiments on his patients in an asylum; a beautiful swamp witch who listens to Stevie Nicks and can bring the dead back to life; a Louisiana grand dame who used to torture and kill her slaves and bathe in their blood; a sexy collegiate Frankenstein; a tragic take on E. Jane Cochrane; a psycho psychiatrist with a taste for wearing human skin and drinking breast milk; and So. Much More.
It's breathtaking, invigorating, and utterly bananas. It's frankly insane that it's on a basic cable network. And I love it. »
- Jenni Miller
American Horror Show returns with a visually gorgeous episode that proves there's no other show like it on television...
This review contains spoilers.
4.1 Monsters Among Us
Tod Browning's 1932 horror film Freaks is a bonafide classic thanks in no small part to Browning's brilliant use of “us versus them.” On one side, you have the outwardly terrifying freaks and on the other side the so-called “normal” folks as represented by Cleopatra and Hercules. The freaks look scary, but deep down inside, they're the good people. They accept Cleopatra because Hans loves her, but when Cleopatra and Hercules betray the trust of the sideshow folks, the freaks protect their own in one of the most terrifying sequences in movie history. Terrifying yes, but also well-deserved in the end, as Cleopatra and Hercules prove themselves to be despicable.
Freaks is a film existing in a genre of one. If you've seen it, »
By now, avid TV watchers know that each season of American Horror Story is an entirely new plot but with much of the same group of actors. Each installment also most importantly stems from the brilliant and imaginative minds of co-creators Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk. For EW’s Fall TV Preview, on stands now, Murphy offered up some details from the New Orleans set of Ahs’s latest installment, Freak Show—about the titular group of entertainers in 1952 in Jupiter, Florida—which premieres Oct. 8 at 10pm on FX.
EW: Where did this come from? I know it’s something »
- Tim Stack
Following call sheet-based rumors earlier this summer, American Horror Story creator Ryan Murphy has now confirmed the anthology series’ fourth run will make its first connection with another season: Naomi Grossman returning as Asylum favorite, Pepper. If Asylum’s microcephalic character Pepper was a nod to Tod Browning’s classic Freaks—there’s never a shortage of nods on Ahs—then she’s […] »
- Samuel Zimmerman
Another Tuskegee Experiment: Smith’s Latest Creation Odd But Not Audacious
Sure to garner all the Wtf exclamatory delights that it’s had its grotesque little heart set on since the initial inspiration, Kevin Smith’s podcast borne film project, Tusk, at last arrives with a queasy trill. Though it doesn’t live up to certain perverse levels of strangeness that it promises, it’s a wacky, weird, and fun jaunt, especially considering this was a film that originated off the cuff. Certainly the most successfully entertaining film from Smith in quite some time, it may turn off or underwhelm after the initial bloom passes, especially as it’s narrative is a familiar cobbling of certain well known titles that have attained cultural iconicity (for better or worse). Still, it’s a great piece of weird pie to watch with an audience hungry for its bizarre spoils.
Wallace (Justin Long »
- Nicholas Bell
Before R-ratings, anti-heroes and gratuitous violence and nudity in mainstream Hollywood movies, there was the Hays Code. As a form of self-policing the industry, virtually every movie released up until 1968 needed that stamp of approval if it wanted distribution. And while it helped produce all of Old Hollywood’s true classics for several decades, it often included ridiculous rulings like not being able to show or flush a toilet on screen, not allowing married couples to be shown sleeping in the same bad or always making sure criminals, even protagonists of the movie, got punished in the end.
But before the Hays Code was nothing, and it was a gloriously weird, scandalous time for the movies. Certain Hollywood films in the early ’30s as “talkies” were rapidly taking hold have since been labeled “Pre-Code” films that never received Hollywood’s stamp of approval.
Every Friday in September, »
- Brian Welk
Per Wikipedia, Amge (born 16 December 1993), a resident of Nagpur, India, is the world's smallest living woman according to the Limca Book of Records and Guinness Book of Records. On her 18th birthday she was officially declared the world's smallest woman by Guinness Book of Records with a height of 62.8 cm (2'6").
Her restricted height is due to a growth anomaly called achondroplasia.
Jessica and our newest cast member Jyoti Amge...the world's smallest woman. pic.twitter.com/SIPhd4V0pQ
— Ryan Murphy (@MrRPMurphy) August 13, 2014
- Debi Moore
Anyone who’s interested in vaudeville, burlesque, sideshows, and the fringes of 20th century show business will know of The Hilton Sisters, Violet and Daisy. These attractive “Siamese twins” (as they were called in those days) were headliners on stage, appeared in Tod Browning’s movie Freaks in 1932 and starred in their own exploitation feature Chained for Life twenty years later. But while they’ve long been on my radar, I must confess that I knew virtually nothing about their lives. Leslie Zemeckis, who explored the backstage world of burlesque in her last documentary, Behind the Burly Q, now offers a straightforward and thorough biography of Violet and Daisy. She has diligently...
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- Leonard Maltin
It was back in 2012 when we first heard about Bound by Flesh, a documentary focusing on the lives of Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who were featured in Tod Browning's classic film Freaks. Here we are years later with an exclusive clip and lots more.
From the Press Release
Sundance Selects will open the new documentary Bound By Flesh, about conjoined twin superstars Daisy and Violet Hilton, theatrically in Los Angeles on June 27 and on VOD. The award-winning film was directed by Leslie Zemeckis (Behind The Burly Q).
American sideshows were in fairs, circuses, and carnivals. There were acts such as glass blowers, musicians, and also the freaks. Most freaks just stood there while the audience wandered past. The Hilton sisters, however, were trained to put on a winning performance. They sang, danced, and played a variety of musical instruments. Once they quit the carnival world and started playing vaudeville houses, »
- Steve Barton
The big payoff moment. The money shot. The Omg/Wtf/Nsfw scene in horror. These are the moments that define films. The moment that either grosses and disgusts or shocks the audience in such a way that they have to come back for the sequel. Here are our Top 13 Wtf Moments in Horror.
We're going to try to keep this to relatively mainstream films. That's not to say that some lesser known indies haven't had some shocking moments, but things seem that much more disturbing when the movie in question reaches a wide audience.
Beginning with our honorable mentions, we've got to include I Spit on Your Grave, one of the most censored and banned films of all times. Camille Keaton played Jennifer Hills who was raped for the better part of the first half of the film. Plenty of Nsfw moments there. Also those infamous shit-eaters in Salo: 120 Days of Sodom were certainly shocking. »
- Scott Hallam
The San Francisco International Film Festival, now in its 57th year, will pull several silent treasures out of the vault to accompany live performances by indie pop band Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt, and by Thao Nguyen of Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.On Tuesday, May 6, Merritt will present a new original score to "Freaks" director Tod Browning's mind-bending, circus-set crime classic "The Unknown" (clip below). A match made in heaven for Merritt who, back in 2010, performed a wonderful live score to "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." A week earlier, on Tuesday, April 29, Thao Nguyen and her band will perform alongside a selection of silent shorts, with a presentation of her own short films. Both musical events will go down at Sf's beloved Castro Theatre.This year's edition of Sfiff runs April 24 to May 8. We'll be there covering films and festivities. It was previously announced that Richard Linklater will »
- Ryan Lattanzio
Word on the interwebs is that American Horror Story season 4 is going to be set in a Carnival or play with the idea of a Circus-theme. I’ve been craving the Ahs touch on a carnival ever sense the appearance of ‘Pepper’ in Season 2. If you don’t think she was modeled by something out of Tod Browning’s Freaks, you need to do your homework. While there is still no “official” word from Ryan Murphy confirming the season’s theme, the Internet is already swarming with theories, fan art, and dream casts. Circuses and Carnivals play a very prominent role in the history of American entertainment, but it’s sadly becoming a dying art form. I can’t even remember the last time a carnival came to town and allowed me to get funnel cake drunk before trying to pretend I couldn’t see the missing screws on the Tilt-a-Whirl. »
- BJ Colangelo
The rumors were right, or nearly so. Season four of American Horror Story will be: Carnival.
Technically, it won't necessarily be called American Horror Story: Carnival. Writer/producer Douglas Petrie confirmed: "Yes. It doesn't have a title, but that's the idea. Very roughly, that's the idea."
Naturally, I am excited about the idea of setting the show in a carnival. Since this is Ahs, I imagine that they will take a path similar to Tod Browning's Freaks in that I suspect the show will be filled with real "freaks," humans with genetic anomalies. Let the casting calls for conjoined twins and glass eaters begin! Maybe we will see Naomi Grossman reprise her role of Pepper the Pinhead from Asylum.
Okay, let the theorizing commence!
- Alyse Wax
A boy born on the coldest day on earth survives only by the grace of a magical ticker in “Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart,” a steampunk-rock musical reverse-engineered from an album by French band Dionysos and the popular tie-in book written by its frontman, Mathias Malzieu. Co-directed by Malzieu and musicvideo helmer Stephane Berla, this charming, yet oddly miscalibrated computer-animated fairy tale combines gothic, Tim Burton-esque elements with a younger-skewing porcelain-doll look, confusing auds as to who’s being targeted exactly. The answer: no one in particular, as Malzieu seems to be making this idiosyncratic, overly precious film mostly for himself.
After saving infant Jack’s life by installing a mechanical apparatus where his frozen heart had been, a well-meaning witch makes clear that he must closely follow three rules or risk irreparably damaging the high-maintenance thingamabob that’s keeping him alive. First, Jack should never touch the hands of his heart. »
- Peter Debruge
Slapstick Festival | The Loco London Comedy Film Festival | Rybczynski: Exploring Space | CarnyVille
Slapstick Festival, Bristol
With Buster Keaton back in cinemas (The General is on reissue and there's a retrospective at London's BFI), it's a good time to brush up on silent comedy, and this festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary, has done much to spread the word, or maybe the subtitle. This year Charlie Chaplin takes his turn in the spotlight and marks the 100th anniversary of his Little Tramp incarnation, with Omid Djalili introducing an orchestra-backed screening of City Lights at Colston Hall on Friday. The seen-it-all crowd will be more intrigued by celebrations of forgotten stars such as Constance Talmadge, Raymond Griffith and Max Davidson. More up to date, Tim Vine explains why he loves Benny Hill (Watershed, 26 Jan), and Phill Jupitus asks Paul McGann and Ralph Brown about the making of Withnail & I (Bristol Old Vic, 26 Jan).
Various venues, »
- Steve Rose
There is such a ton of rubbish out there in the horror cinema realm, it can be a very hard job to separate the wheat from the chaff. I see a lot of McHorror films on specialist satellite channels – real yawn fests that are as interesting as watching a nice shade of beige dry on a wall. On the other hand, little gems get lost in the mulch and may lie dormant for decades.
Tod Browning directed one of Horror’s great classics – Freaks – back in the 1930s. A pioneering movie which was far ahead of its time, critics were shocked and appalled when they watched it and it wasn’t for many decades that Freaks’ full artistic greatness was appreciated.
The films on this list are not as dramatically neglected as Freaks, but on the other hand they deserve more appreciation than they get. Some of them, I would »
- Clare Simpson
19 items from 2014
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