Tuesday 28 September 2021

Fatal Femme: Park Circus Guest Picks


Loved writing this - got to pick my favourite 'Fatale Femmes' for Park Circus in the lead up to Halloween.

There are so many characters to choose from but I think these women needed a special mention.

You can read the full list HERE.

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Cruella, feminist


There has been a multitude of controversies surrounding Disney films for years but in the light of the House of Mouse releasing (yet another) live action story, this time about notorious villain and Queen of murderous fashion Cruella DeVil, a few new controversies need to come to light. As we all know, Cruella isn’t the nicest person you’ll meet, she does like killing animals for their skin and fur but it could also be argued that she is a feminist and has been the whole time.

In the live action Disney adaptation of ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ released back in 1996, Cruella is introduced, dressed head to toe in fur but with a distinct style that feels lifted from the screen of a classic Hollywood film. She saunters to her office but stops at Anita’s workstation, mesmerised by the drawing but also, her talent. This first conversation between the characters is eye opening. Cruella asks Anita what she wants from her career, where she sees herself in the future, she wants to offer her opportunities, she wants to lift her fellow woman up. But Anita, when replies she wants to quit her job once she’s married as that is her goal in life, Cruella says, “More good women have been lost to marriage than to war, famine, disease and disaster. You have talent darling, don’t squander it.” Hearing those words at 7 years old meant nothing, hear those words at 31 years old, you immediately recognise who Cruella is. She is a feminist but she’s also a villain, a Disney villain. This is a message that Disney continuously sends out in their films.

The idea that a single woman in power is someone not be trusted and therefore vilified isn’t a new concept for Disney. Obviously, many of the studios’ films are adapted from fairy tales and folktales where women don’t come off as the heroine often at all. The women are witches, wicked step mothers, spinsters, shapeshifters, independent thinkers, they are the alternative to the normality. Through adaptations, these poisonous messages can be amended but Disney have chosen to go down a different path.

Back in 2018 it came out in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Keira Knightly said that she doesn’t allow her daughter to watch certain Disney films. Not adhering to the ‘damsel in distress’ story that makes it seem that girl’s lives are only complete when a man comes along to save them. Knightly did say that although she loves ‘The Little Mermaid’ she though it sent the wrong message to young girls. Ariel literally gives up her voice to be with a man who may or may not feel the same way about her. The response to Knightly’s decision was split between those who watched Disney when they were younger but can still differentiate between a fairy tale and how to act in real life and those who believe that some Disney films and the values they portray are outdated. Newer films such as Tangled, Frozen and Moana have been mentioned as progressive and moving beyond the simple Princess needs a Prince story trope. But really only Moana has gone further, with a story about a young woman on a self-discovery journey as one to save her community and family. She doesn’t have a love interest and nor does she need saving herself, but while watching the film, these story elements are not even missed. But before there was Moana, Ana, Elsa and to an extent, Judy Hopps, the Princesses and heroines of Disney faced off against the ‘other’ women. Disney making the main character a feminist, or as feminist as they are willing to go, has only been a recent development, before it was the villains who embodied these ideals but cloaked in evil deeds and wicked characteristics.

In the latest Disney efforts, the idea that Cruella is a feminist is continued. This story is about how Cruella came into being, having always had a ‘wild side’, she embarks first in a life thievery then breaks into the world of fashion. Her career is the most important thing, that is until she is consumed by revenge. The antagonist of the story is the Baroness, a wealthy and iconic fashion designer who rules her company with an iron fist. It is revealed she is responsible for the death of Cruella’s mother as well as other deep dark secrets (SPOILER) that is in fact Cruella’s birth mother and had actually ordered a servant to kill her as a baby would interfere with her own career. Of course, we know Cruella evolves into the dog hating, animal killing villain we love and adore but this new development that Disney dives deeper into the ‘feminist=villain’ trait with the Baroness. Not to say that the Baroness is actually a feminist but she shows signs she could be if she wasn’t so cold hearted. But the dig about her wanting to kill her own child just so she can have a career is, absolutely, ridiculous. This new story avenue paints Cruella in a different light yet she is still a villain at the end of the day even of she does want to elevate Anita’s career and she’s chose not have a conventional family. If Disney had chosen to mine these personality traits and given her a different background, her feminist ideals might have had a positive beginning, but no, villains must stay on a certain path and mustn’t deter from the formula.


Saturday 18 September 2021

When the Screaming Starts


Mockumentary styled comedies, when done right, can use the fourth wall to great effect but other films use this handheld camera motion as just a way to dive deeper into what a character is thinking, sharing emotions and thoughts that wouldn’t be shared normally. As a dark comedy, When the Screaming Starts, excels with comedy found in looks and matter of fact-ness dialogue. But the mockumentary style muddies the blood-soaked waters and even becomes difficult to track in the final third of the film.


When the Screaming Starts follows Louis Theroux wannabe Norman Graysmith who has been invited to document the journey of aspiring serial killer Aidan Mendle as he sets out on his ‘career’. Going from bad to worse, Aidan decides to start a Charles Manson like ‘family’ cult of killers. But on the night of the family’s first kill, things don’t quite go according to plan for Aiden or Norman, who thinks he’s found the story that make his career.


The twist in events can be seen a mile off and some of the supporting characters don’t quite hit the mark in terms of comedy, coming off as genre beats in horror comedies. Then there are even scenes that are just uncomfortable and hard to watch, such as Mickey who auditions to join the family because he was brought up in care. Moments such as these are very jarring next the scenes where the family practice their killing skills. Switching back and forth between makes the film lose focus and ultimately confuse the audience. However, the film does have some merit in the form of the bloodiest and actually quite terrifying scenes in the film; the dinner party massacre and post massacre party where the ‘family’ celebrates. These are the stand out scenes most likely as there is nearly no forced comedic moments. The final scenes of the film try and replicate this atmosphere but, again, don’t quite work.


There is a lot of potential within the story and even the characters who are quite one dimensional, whether that is on purpose or not it’s unclear. But the film feels very much feels like a debut effort with a much more polished and well-rounded film to follow. Maybe be worth watching out for what the creative team does next.

Monday 6 September 2021



While reviewing the notorious video nasties that became popular with the arrival of home video, censor Enid goes about her day to day, until one day she watches a film that resembles the location her sister disappeared from years before. Triggering ger guilt over this past event, Enid descends further into the confusing and gory world of low budget horror film production. She soon becomes convinced that an actress in a film is her missing sister and is determined to bring her home.


Grief is meant to have five stages but when someone is stuck continuously in the denial, seriously bad things can happen. Denial gives people the excuse that they can justify almost any action. Being in denial makes you dangerous. This is one the lessons learned from Censor. The focus is pulled firstly to the video nasties era and censorship and whether we can be truly influenced by the films we watch. The film cleverly subverts this topic with a few lines of dialogue towards the end which could be the key to the madness. Enid’s grief is triggered not just by what she sees, but the hope and guilt that fuels her into believing her sister who disappeared years ago is still alive. 


The video nasties were an era when home videos were booming. Filled with gore, violence and over acting coupled with low budget props and red paint. Being almost forbidden, they were sort after, being passed round under counters of video stores. As some films were banned, the demand became higher, as viewers were curious and hungry for the next horror they could watch. But this setting is background dressing for the story. It could even be taken that Censor is a character piece presented in a horror mystery package.  The film does conform to reliable horror genre elements, which is not to say is a bad thing. There is a strange comfort in that you can feel the way things will play out at certain points, but it’s when Enid is in the woods which is where the story takes its most dramatic and bizarre turns, and it utterly brilliant. Commenting on how directors take a step too far in the name of their film, how no one can really understand where reality begins and the fakery ends. The woods are a gift to any horror film but here we blur the lines amongst the mist, the terrifying cabin, the blood and the in trees. 


While Enid is working as a censor, it’s almost like a default, this is how she lives until her mind is expanded by the past and present all laid out in front of her to watch. It’s as if she has been lying dormant all these years and now, she finally shows her true self. Even though there are terrifying aspects to this story, the ending, however you view it, has that sense of finality even without a solid conclusion.


Thursday 2 September 2021

Edinburgh International Film Festival - Stop-Zemlia

Sometimes the internet is so saturated that we don’t venture outside of our own bubble. We are given a stereotypical picture of what life is like elsewhere and we don’t try to seek out stories that we can relate to. Stop-Zemlia is a film that feels partly like a documentary and part teen drama that isn’t quite coming of age and isn’t the teen drama you imagine. There are moments of peace and tranquillity followed by reckless behaviour and words of wisdom shared between friends. Its feels like a scene from a film and from your own life.

Full review is over at Filmhounds HERE.