Top 10 – Modern masters of horror cinema

26 Aug

James Wan made one of the best horror movies of recent years with The Conjuring

It’s easy to take a look at the state of horror cinema and say that its best days are behind it. It feels like a long time since the likes of David Cronenberg, Wes Craven and John Carpenter were creating instantly iconic movies in the genre.

Now, the genre seems full of a glut of below-par found footage movies and lame haunted house flicks. However, there are a number of people working in horror that stand a cut above the rest.

These people are the new “masters of horror” and they show that the genre still has a bright future. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the cinema…

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Review – Hector and the Search for Happiness

24 Aug

Poster for 2014 dramedy Hector and the Search for Happiness

Genre: Drama
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 15th August 2014
Runtime: 120 minutes
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Peter Chelsom, Maria von Heland, Tinker Lindsay
Starring: Simon Pegg, Rosamund Pike, Stellan Skarsgård, Toni Collette, Christopher Plummer 
Synopsis: A disgruntled psychiatrist embarks on a trip around the world to discover what it is that makes people truly happy.


On the strength of his career so far, it’s easy to assume that Simon Pegg can do little wrong. His trio of cinematic collaborations with Edgar Wright are excellent and he has made some smart blockbuster choices. He returns to his low-key, light-hearted roots in Hector and the Search for Happiness, but the film is far from plain sailing.

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Review – Planes: Fire and Rescue

24 Aug

Poster for 2014 animated comedy sequel Planes: Fire and Rescue

Genre: Animation
Certificate: U
UK Release Date: 8th August 2014
Runtime: 84 minutes
Director: Bobs Gannaway
Writer: Jeffrey M Howard
Starring: Dane Cook, Julie Bowen, Ed Harris, Teri Hatcher, Stacy Keach
Synopsis: Former racing plane Dusty Crophopper discovers that he cannot race any more and pursues a new career fighting forest fires.



When straight-to-DVD production company DisneyToon Studios released Planes in cinemas this time last year, I complained that it was a shameless attempt for Disney to cash-in on the success of Pixar. It made in excess of $200m at the global box office, setting up Planes: Fire and Rescue as something of a depressing inevitability.

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Review – The Nut Job

24 Aug

Poster for 2014 animated comedy The Nut Job

Genre: Animation
Certificate: U
UK Release Date: 1st August 2014
Runtime: 86 minutes
Director: Peter Lepeniotis
Writer: Peter Lepeniotis, Lorne Cameron
Starring: Will Arnett, Katherine Heigl, Liam Neeson, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph
Synopsis: An outcast squirrel is exiled from his pack when he accidentally destroys the supply of nuts they had collected for the winter months.



With many of the heavy hitters in animation absent this summer, the kiddie fare has been rather lacklustre. In fact, The Lego Movie is the only real success story in the genre this year. Unfortunately for fledgling studio ToonBox Entertainment, The Nut Job is not the film to turn this blockbuster season around for animation.

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Review – The Purge: Anarchy

23 Aug

Poster for 2014 horror sequel The Purge: Anarchy

Genre: Horror
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 25th July 2014
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: James DeMonaco
Writer: James DeMonaco
Starring: Frank Grillo, Carmen Ejogo, Zach Gilford, Kiele Sanchez, Michael K Williams
Synopsis: An unfortunate couple, a struggling waitress and a man with a score to settle find themselves thrown together as the annual chaos of Purge Night unfolds.



James DeMonaco’s home invasion horror movie The Purge was a prime example of how lazy execution can derail an excellent concept. The notion of all crime being legal for a brief period every year remains an interesting one, but The Purge wasn’t the film to showcase that idea. In a rare example of a worthwhile sequel, The Purge: Anarchy pushes the concept a little further and benefits as a result.

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Review – Guardians of the Galaxy

19 Aug

Poster for 2014 superhero action movie Guardians of the Galaxy

Genre: Action
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 31st July 2014
Runtime: 121 minutes
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan
Synopsis: A mismatched team of criminals must keep a powerful orb from the clutches of a malevolent leader and his maniacal boss.



It’s easy to forget how much of a risk Iron Man was for Marvel in 2008. He was a superhero that few people outside of the comic book world recognised, lacking the star power of someone like The Incredible Hulk or DC’s Superman and Batman. Since then, however, Robert Downey Jr’s arrogant businessman has been at the forefront of the hugely successful Marvel Cinematic Universe.

So, six years later, Marvel has taken another risky roll of the dice with bizarre space opera Guardians of the Galaxy. Somehow, they’ve played a blinder yet again.

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Q&A – The Borderlands producer Jennifer Handorf on British horror films

16 Aug
The Borderlands is a creepy, atmospheric British horror

The Borderlands is a creepy, atmospheric British horror
Photo: Colin J Smith


This year, micro-budget British horror film The Borderlands made a real splash in cinemas. Despite its limited release, the dark, atmospheric tale of two priests and an agnostic techie sent to investigate paranormal goings-on in a church really affected audiences. The found footage premise sounds like it could have been copied and pasted from hundreds of identical movies, but The Borderlands works because of some excellently crafted scares.

As well as audiences, the film impressed critics. Noted horror junkie Mark Kermode said in a video blog that he even considered leaving the cinema because the film had so successfully got under his skin.

Jennifer Handorf, previously best known for her executive producer credit on The Devil’s Business, produced The Borderlands and spoke to The Popcorn Muncher about the state of British horror films in 2014.

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