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SIX OF THE BEST #20 – FILM DOPPELGANGERS

SIX OF THE BEST #20 – FILM DOPPELGANGERS

While I haven’t seen it yet, I was slightly intrigued by the release of Will Smith’s action film, Gemini Man (2019). Any film which examines the nature of the double or doppelganger always interests me. As you may be aware the word doppelganger is of German origin. It means “double walker” or “double goer” and I just love it. I love the way it sounds and the mysterious connotations it conjures up. It kind of sounds evil as well; like nothing good can come of it.

There have been many films, books and television programmes featuring doubles. They can occur for various reasons such as: twins, clones, shape-shifters, split personalities, mental breakdown and ghostly or other fantastical elements. We must not forget time-travel or inter-connected timeline plots either. Different versions of the same character existing simultaneously in alternate or exact timelines are very prevalent in fiction also.

In this occasional ‘Six of the Best’ series, I would like to consider six “double” or doppelganger films which are definitely worth watching. To make it interesting I would like to consider the more symbolic, fantastical and unexplained kind of films out there. I cannot avoid the twin or clone plots in certain examples, but the temporal double stories have, sort of, been explored here in an article about time travel films.

***CONTAINS MASSIVE SPOILERS***



THE ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992)

Having done some online research of films featuring doubles, Sam Raimi’s riotous Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness (1992), is cruelly missed from many of those lists. In this gory and over-the-top medieval horror romp, Ash (Bruce Campbell), finds himself in battle against hordes of Deadites. This is all because he gets a spell wrong and splits in two. He then comes face-to-face with his vicious double, Evil Ash. I hate it when that happens – don’t you! While not the deepest of the films listed here, it’s worth watching because you get TWO Bruce Campbell’s for the price of one!



THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991)

The antithesis of the genre joy that is Army of Darkness, can be found in this profound study of identity, directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. It concerns two identical women, Weronika and Veronique (both Irene Jacob), who live in Warsaw and Paris, respectively. Aside from one fleeting moment they never meet, but somehow, telepathically, artistically and emotionally, they are connected to each other. A beautiful, yet obtuse narrative, allied with Kieslowski’s poetic style make this a difficult film to understand. However, it contains fine symbolic power and is open to a myriad of interpretations.



ENEMY (2013)

Denis Villeneuve’s directs this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s book called The Double or The Duplicated Man. In it Jake Gyllenhaal plays both a college professor, Adam Bell and his exact lookalike, actor, Anthony Claire. Their two lives become entwined and that’s not the weirdest thing about the film. Part Kafkaesque nightmare and part Freudian examination of the subconscious, this film quietly unhinges the viewer with a slow pace and collection of striking visual motifs. Gyllenhaal is as mesmerizing as ever in this existentially challenging urban horror tale.



THE PRESTIGE (2006)

The doppelganger trope is integral to the story here and uses both twins and clones in its compelling thematic and visual system. Yet, these are not revealed until the very end, as the screenwriters Jonathan and Christopher Nolan literally dissect the characters’ souls within the fascinating world of magicians and their mysterious secrets. At the heart of the story we witness the tricks of warring magicians, portrayed by Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, and the lengths they will go to amaze an audience. By the end, the film becomes a chilling and fantastic warning about the dangers of obsession and rivalry.



US (2019)

The incredibly talented Jordan Peele delivered one of my favourite films of the year. It did not contain just one (or is it two) doppelganger(s), but a whole family of them. Working in the horror genre is an ideal setting for the “double” thematic, as the fantasy elements coalesce perfectly with the psychological ones. Symbolically the film is very strong. It can be interpreted on many levels, including as a critique of the United States (U.S. = US – get it?); and a powerful exploration of split identities. Indeed, in Us (2019), the lead protagonists battle external and inner demons, both political and personal, which can plague all of us during our lives.



VERTIGO (1958)

Alfred Hitchcock’s classic psychological thriller is very complex and actually reflects the directors’ obsession with the moulding of an individual to look a certain way. On the surface, the story of a burnt out cop, Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) attempting to overcome his fear of heights, while tracking a friend’s wife, is initially quite simple. But in Hitchcock’s and his writer’s hands it become a tour-de-force of mistaken, double and theft of identity. A tragic figure, Scottie Ferguson is exploited and left bereft of love and comfort as he attempts, like Hitchcock himself, to find that perfect, yet elusive, blonde.



SCREENWASH – SEPTEMBER 2016 – PART ONE – TV SHOW REVIEWS

SCREENWASH – SEPTEMBER 2016 – TV SHOW REVIEWS

I love watching TV shows and films. Mainly to fill a void in my soul, or put it another way, stop me drinking myself to death. Oh, also because I just enjoy escaping reality by watching stuff on a screen.

I have split my September Screenwash reviews into television and movies, because I watched so much damned stuff last month. Here are the TV shows I watched with marks out of eleven.

**THERE MAY BE SPOILERS AHEAD**

ASH V. THE EVIL DEAD (2015) – SEASON 1 – STARZ/VIRGIN  

This 30-years-later-sequel to the original Sam Raimi Evil Dead trilogy featuring Bruce Campbell is a gory, cheesy and bloody delight. It brings back one of the most iconic-blue-shirted-wise-cracking-big-chinned-chain-sawing-action-horror-dudes ever in Ash Williams.

Having accidentally conjured up the Deadites from the Necronomicon – Book of the Dead, Ash heads cross country battling demons and ghouls with his trusty chainsaw and boomstick. He finds new friends and enemies along the way and Campbell is on wonderful form as the sexist, ageing demon-killer.

Plot wise the story is flimsy and generic, yet the bloody and bone-crunching gore is brilliant and Bruce Campbell is hilarious as usual. Ignore the evil and abominable reimagining from 2013 and get on board this silly and superb horror nostalgia trip with Ash Williams and co.  (Mark: 9 out of 11)

BLACK MIRROR – WHITE CHRISTMAS (2014) – NETFLIX

Charlie Brooker is pretty much a genius in my eyes and as well as being a bastard-funny TV critic, he is also a formidable storyteller. The Black Mirror stories echo the short-sharp-shocking plots of Rod Sterling’s The Twilight Zone and Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected; yet with a very contemporary and technological twist. Season 3 Black Mirror is imminent on Netflix yet this Chrimbo special provided some darkly imaginative tales for the season.

Brooker presents a triptych of stories including: a Dating Coach (John Hamm) guiding – via contact-lens-style-Go-Pro – a naïve lad on a sexual conquest; a spoilt and demanding rich bitch (Oona Chaplin) who buys the ability to digitally clone herself so she can be her own personal ‘slave’; and a story of a doomed relationship between Rafe Spall and Janet Montgomery where an app allows a human to physically BLOCK them in reality. Safe to say all the narratives criss-cross to fiendish effect as cyber-technology is presented as initially a positive thing but ultimately something horrific which undermines humanity and hinders emotions and physical contact. Brooker is of the view that the future isn’t orange but very black indeed.  (Mark: 9 out of 11)

FARGO (2015) – SEASON 2 – NETFLIX

Was Season 2 Fargo any good? It sure was – darn tooting!  For me this was almost perfect television viewing. It had a great story, memorable characters, and brilliant dialogue and is filtered, like the first season, through the twisted eccentricities, imagery, sounds, music and narrative style of the Coen brothers.  Having said that, the writer and showrunner Noah Hawley has taken the Coen’s football and sprinted away with it and almost transcended the primary source material.

Season 2’s plots – and there’s some serpentine shit going down – are set in Fargo and surrounding counties, mid 1979.  We focus on country gangsters the Gerhardts and the attempted takeover by some Kansas City “business” people who think they can run the hicks out of town. In amongst the bloody hits, kidnapping and badassery we have Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson as the good cops who, having seen the horrors of war overseas, just want an easy life. Thrown into the mix by the dark lords of fate are self-improver Kirsten Dunst (amazing)  and simple butcher Jess Plemons who get out of their depth very quickly.

Overall, the drama, humour and suspense are incredible as is the cast, notably: eloquent hitman Bokeem Woodbine and brutal rural gangsters Jean Smart and Jeffrey Donovan. Philosophically and thematically the writing is very strong too with an existential bent which makes the whole show gold-plated genre TV of the highest quality.   (Mark: 10 out of 11)

THE KILLING (2007) – SEASON 1 – NETFLIX

I recall when this first hit the TV screens the Guardianistas shitting bricks over how good this Danish cop-procedural-politico drama was. The moody atmosphere, murky lighting and winter jumpers were all the rage with the lentil-eaters; as were the performances of Sofie Grabol, Soren Malling and the formidable Lars Mikkelsen. In the cold light of day and almost ten years later there is still much to like about this Scandi-genre-cop-thriller. Over twenty gruelling episodes we find ourselves amidst the investigation of the vicious murder of a young woman called Nanna Larsen. Simultaneously a mayoral election is taking place in Copenhagen and the two events become fatefully entwined.

Ultimately, it is pretty generic stuff with the device of “red herring” suspects and characters revealing information later than they could of being over-used. Also, it could’ve have been wrapped up WAY before the twenty episode run, yet, it was gripping throughout with some terrific suspense. I especially liked Grabol’s intuitive cop who could see past the surface and into the psychology of a situation or person. Her obsessional cop was flawed but brilliant at her job even though her family life was threatening to implode. Also, exceptional is Lars Mikkelsen as mayor candidate Troels Hartmann, a man trying to do the right thing, yet with ghosts of the past haunting him. The best scenes were with the Larsen family whose lives were about-faced by the death of their daughter. Their grief brought a real depth to proceedings with many heart-breaking and emotive moments surrounding their ordeal. Perhaps over-hyped on first release, this remains a tremendous cop drama with loads of twists to keep you hooked.   (Mark: 8.5 out of 11)

ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (2014) – SEASON 2 – NETFLIX

What started, in Season 1, as an ensemble prison drama with the focus mainly on spoilt-brattish-over-grown-Prom-Queen, Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling), has developed quite brilliantly, by Season 2, into a sexy-black-comedy-drama of the highest quality. Piper is of course still there driving me mad with her bouts of narcissistic wants but this time she’s toughened up and is now bouncing off the inmates, walls and screws with a bit more spunk and verve.  However, the power of this narrative is now driven by the ensemble characters – both inmates and guards – who all get a chance to shine in a collection of stories, flashbacks and vignettes which the writers weld together expertly over thirteen brilliant episodes.

Season 2 develops further the histories of, among others, love-struck Morello, cancer-sufferer Rosa, Taystee, Black Cindy, Poussey and Sister Ingalls; as well revealing more about crooked Assistant Warden Figeroa, prison Counsellor Sam Healy and ambitious head screw Joe Caputo. Also, entering the prison was a cracking antagonist Vee Parker brilliant portrayed by Lorraine Toussaint and her battle to control rackets in jail saw her on a collision course with ‘Red’ Reznikov (Kate Mulgrew). Overall, there was SO much going on in the show yet it didn’t feel cluttered. The characters  were drawn so well, relying on archetypes and human definition rather than soapy stereotypes. I was just going to give it one more season but the drama, dialogue, performance, humour and pathos delivered here made me want to go in for Season 3 and beyond.  (Mark: 9.5 out of 11)

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU #3: FOUND FOOTAGE “FILMS”!

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU:  FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS

**CONTAINS SWEARING AND SPOILERS AND OVER-USE OF CAPITALS**

Usually I’m very positive on this page but on occasions I feel the need to let rip at things that irk me. Loss of the Voice-Over Guy in film trailers pisses me off as does the generally poor expositional style of many trailers which TELL the whole story or give key plot points away IN THE TRAILER!!!  E.g. Terminator: Genocide (2015). But there is one sub-genre of movie-making which has me tearing my nuts off with rage and that is the continued proliferation of FOUND FOOTAGE style films. And here are TEN reasons why!!!

1) THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT (1999) – I hate this fucking film!  Because of its ridiculous success it undoubtedly gave birth to an army of other bastards that have been stinking up the cinema and TV screens for the past few decades. Firstly, this film sucks!  As both a story AND a horror story.  If this film scares you then you are a moron!  It’s an okay short film padded out to an overlong bore-fest which was only topped for boringness when Paranormal Activity (2007) came out.

I’m happy for the filmmakers for garnering such success but given they have not released anything of note since shows this was a fluke success. I mean the characters were awful and dumb; notably when one moron threw away the map and got them LOST!  The ending isn’t bad but I was just so relieved when they all died!  Verbal Kint once said, “The greatest trick the Devil pulled was convincing you he doesn’t exist.”  I disagree: it was making this film so phenomenally successful.

2) UNNECESSARY!– Found footage is unnecessary to tell a story. I can see some benefit in perhaps framing your story like that if it’s Cannibal Holocaust (1980) and it’s documentary film crew blah-blah-blah!  But in my opinion it ADDS NOTHING to the story as a stylistic device.  Use flash-backs, montage, flash-forwards, voiceover, non-linear structures etc. but found footage is like one of those Chihuahua dogs: irritating, totally lacking in charm and completely pointless.

3) POISON – Like Hitler, Gangnam Style, Miley Cyrus, Adam Sandler, Ugg Boots etc. found footage films are inexplicably successful yet also poison humanity!!  I admire low-budget/independent filmmakers and DO NOT begrudge any success these people have had BUT THE FILMS ARE RUBBISH!! The cinematic epitome of the Emperor’s New Clothes.

4) CLUMSY – It’s just SO clunky!! Even the best ever found footage film Chronicle (2012) which uses the device imaginatively suffered because they had to make up some reason for one of the characters to be filming.   Oh, it’s my sister’s mum’s birthday and funeral and we need to film it for future posterity. Oh, I accidentally left my phone camera on while in the woods and am now being hunted down by my own shadow! No!  STOP IT!!

5) THE FILMS LOOK SHIT!  Need I say more?!?  Low budget does not mean the film needs to be shot through CCTV or infra-red or in low-grade digital footage grainier than hamster shit. Ten minutes or so is bearable but a whole film like that is just too much to handle!

6) LAZY – Oh, we’re gonna make a horror film shall but we don’t have much money: shall we use our imagination like say Sam Raimi or James Wan and construct a proper story with nasty monsters, witty dialogue, funny and horrific set-pieces OR shall we set up a fake camera and have doors move slightly or faces suddenly appear on screen or it’s quiet and then a shadow moves!  Yeah, don’t bother with characters you may connect with or creating suspense through something called a story let’s make a found footage film because WE ARE LAZY!!

7) INSULTING – Occasionally, found footage is used well such as in Creep (2014) with Mark Duplass or REC (2007), but overall the films are an insult to the horror genre. I love horror films and there have been some really good ones recently such as: Insidious (2010), Saw (2004), The Conjuring (2013), The Babadook (2014), It Follows (2014), You’re Next (2011), Let The Right One In (2008), The Descent (2005), Cabin in the Woods (2012), Shaun of the Dead (2004) to name a few.  And were any of them found footage films:  HELL NO!!!

8) MORONS – It’s an invite for every talentless, breathing moron with a camera who think they can become a filmmaker.  Don’t bother writing a script or creating decent characters or storyboarding imaginative cinematic moments – just don’t bother because you can just tripod a camera and PRETEND its close-circuit TV or a cameraman or videographer! Even horror legend George Romero got sucked into the talent vortex with the atrocious Diary of the Dead (2007) and Oscar winner Barry Levinson too with The Bay (2012).  Stop the world I’m getting off!!


9) VERMIN – Like rats in London you’re never too far away from a found footage film.  There’s too many of them – they are a plague upon the culture and humanity overall. Please STOP watching them because as they are cheap to make they spawn rubbish sequels! They are like the appendix; utterly pointless but when they burst on the cinema screen they are poisonous, painful and one must immediately seek medical help.

10) FOUND FOOTAGE FILMS ARE NOT SCARY!  Perhaps in the darkened cinema you could be tricked into THINKING they are scary when a shadow, door or tree moves but they’re not. Overall they are as scary as a Panda in a bib!