The Best Of 2014

Who does a best of the year show before the year’s up? Not us, hombre! We’ve made sure 2014 is good and dead before we drop our verdict.

Join Rob and Clive. with Speakeasy playmates Graham Williams, Keith Eyles, Chris Rogers, Simon Aitken, Neil Myers, Dominic Wade and Stuart Wright in our epic exploration of the art and events that made 2014 the fourteenth year of the 21st century.

Settle in. This is gonna be a long trip.

Download the podcast here (right click)

Movies Unwrapped: MOTHER OF TEARS

I have a good example of a film-maker who has, without question, destroyed every scrap of credibility he once had. The writer and director of some of the greatest horror films ever made, his output in the last 20 years has lurched from barely competant to outright laughable.

Continue reading Movies Unwrapped: MOTHER OF TEARS

Liable To Deprave And Corrupt

The UK Government's attempts to nanny up the images that we are allowed to make and view just took a new and twisted turn. Under amendments to the outdated Obscene Publications Act, which have already passed the Lords and become law on December 1st, there's about to be a major clampdown on the legality of extreme imagery—one that should worry every British film-maker.

I've made my disapproval of state control on the moving image clear in the past. If people want to bring a camera into the bedroom, that's their business. But, in using worries over child porn to pass ever more restrictive legislation, lawmakers have gone too far.

The existing rules are already open to abuse, and cases with laughably thin evidence have already gone to court—thankfully, usually to be thrown out. A recent case featuring an unfortunate young man found to have a beastiality video on his phone hit the headlines when the animal in question turned out to be a bloke in a tiger suit, who finished off with a cheery thumbs up and a Tony The Tiger-style “that's grrrreat!” Hilarious, right? Not for the poor sod in question, who lost his job and suffered two years of approbrium. Turns out the film was sent to him by a mate. I wonder how strong that friendship turned out to be…

The new amendments seek to legalise (gee thanks) the depiction of normal sexual activity on screen. And therein lies the problem, of course, because we now have a government intent in codifying what constitutes normal sexual activity and criminalise anything that isn't—at least, on screen. God help you if you like a bit of bondage and the rules and safe words that you and your partner worked out in advance aren't on there at the beginning as a kind of censor's warning.

So let's look at those amendments, just in case you think I'm over-egging the pudding. The new restrictions make it illegal to show torture with instruments, bondage with no clear sign of consent, realistic depictions of rape, and dismemberment. Which are terms so vaguely drawn that they could describe almost anything. Certainly, most horror movies made in the last 50 years fall into those definitions in one way or another. As does art-house fare like Gaspar Noe's Irreversible and Lars Von Trier's Anti-Christ. As does the work of prominent directors like Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. As does last week's episode of Marvel's Agents Of SHIELD. As do recent episodes of Eastenders. At a rough count, thirteen nominees for the Best Picture Oscar over the last 20 years would be illegal under these new laws, including five winners and the current holder of the award, Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave. In short, any film that shows any gore other than a gunshot squib or a blood-pack stabbing, or any captive tied up against their will will be subject to prosecution under these new laws.

Except, of course, there's a handy little out-clause. Anything with a BBFC certification is exempt from the rules. Hollywood breathes a sigh of relief. But where does that leave the film-makers who choose not to go through the hoops and expense of the Soho Square tango for a short film they made for zero budget in their shed? Where does that leave the horror enthusiasts who show at festivals like Horror-On-Sea or Grimm Up North? Where does that leave talented film-makers like my mate Mike Tack, whose work is based on just the kind of extreme imagery that Westminster wants to ban?

The law as it stands has sent innocent people to jail and ruined their lives for entirely consensual activities. Now that law is tightening its grip on independent film-makers who choose to use rubber and corn syrup, or CGI, to create films that will shock and disturb, but also get us to think about our lives and the frequently fragile grip we have on them. I could talk at length about the importance and history of horror, and how we love to be shaken and stirred by the dark arts. There should be no need.

There should also be no need for legislation to reach this far, or be worded so vaguely that it can be used on nearly anything on which the police care to prosecute. It appears that in fact, police are increasingly using the Act when they can find no other way in which to charge people, as Jane Fae points out in a recent article (which at least opens up a little hope that this law may be quashed in the court). In the meantime, indie and underground film-makers are on the verge of discovering that their work has made them lawbreakers.

Let's end with a fun game. Take a look at the Charging Practices section of the new Obscene Publications Act, and see how many films you can prosecute!






Retro LadyLand: First class cult!

I wanted to push a site that I’ve been a fan of for a while. If you like cult movies and TV, you’ll dig this too. 1467460_10152165045539319_1349466104_n

Retro Ladyland is the brainchild of Charlotte Cooper, an old friend of mine. She runs a vintage shop, Missy Lil’s, and writes for vintage fashion magazines. But she’s a big movie buff, and has poured her passions into Retro LadyLand. She’s managed to snag exclusive and slightly twisted interviews with all sorts of interesting figures from the world of cult and trash film and TV, making the site a bit of a must-read if the notion of reading exclusive interviews with Heather Langenkamp or Betsy Baker floats your boat. 

I caught up with Charlotte recently and asked her to explain herself.


How did you come up with the notion for Retro LadyLand?


I was and still do write for a vintage fashion magazine and love it, but sometimes talking endlessly about floral designs and skirt lengths can be a bit… I hate to say it, but a bit dull…

I have always been a celebrifile (I have just invented that word) and thought, lets try and contact someone and interview them and to my amazement the first person I asked said yes! Then I thought about the format, something that would make my interviews ‘stand out’. I had never written fan fiction before, but knew the market was vast, so I thought, why not incorporate both? An interview with a back story and viola, Retro LadyLand (Two capital L’s) was born.


What’s the philosophy behind the site. Or rather, to put it in a slightly less wanky way, what is Retro LadyLand designed to do?


I see it like your favourite band singing all your favourite hits at a concert, instead of going to see a band and them playing their new album, which you don’t know and frankly aren’t there for (I think we can all relate to that). In the majority of my interviews, although I do skim over the more up to date aspects of their career (as in Adrienne Barbeau talking about her time in Argo), I like to concentrate on why we love them, their heyday… How we remember them. But most importantly, Retro LadyLand is designed to entertain.


You’ve snagged some great interviews with some amazing figures. How on earth did you get hold of them?


I just e-mail them, politely and sincerely and once I got one ‘biggy’, they all started to say yes… Although the Krankies asked for money!!!


What’s the favourite interview you’ve done for Retro LadyLand?


My favourite is hard, as they are all such lovely people. Listening to Shani Wallis talk about Sinatra, Liberace and Garland was a rush and Heather Langenkamp was a teenage hero of mine. But I think it has to be David Bradley (Kes). He was so lovely and sincere and was so young when he played Billy, but still loves to talk about his time filming with Ken Loach, plus it is also one of my all time favourite films.


We love spoilers here at Excuses And Half Truths. So, are there any upcoming treats you can let us know about?


I have a festive treat for our Christmas special: an interview with Eileen Dietz. Now horror fans will know that name straight away, but if not, she was the Pazuzu, the devil in The Exorcist. The face that gives you nightmares! Also coming up we have Dana Barron, who was the first Audrey in the Vacation movies and I’m very excited about Nancy ‘Robocop’ Allen, coming soon too! Happy reading!

Well, that’s a sack full of goodies. Retro LadyLand is a solid read, and full of interesting material for those of us that love a bit of cult. Thanks to Charlotte for chatting to us. Check out the site, and say hi. Tell ’em I sent ya.