Tag Archives: monsters

Monsters: Dark Continent

Monsters Dark Continent
Monsters: Dark Continent

Format: Cinema

Release date: 1 May 2015

Distributor: Vertigo Films

Director: Tom Green

Writers: Tom Green, Jay Basu

Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie

UK 2014

123 mins

Gareth Edwards’ 2010 Monsters was a little gem, extracting maximum effect from very minimal resources to deliver an offbeat genre film that was at once a fragile love story and an ambiguous monster movie with much to say about First World/Third World dynamics. A lot of people like it. Tom Green’s sequel pisses that goodwill up the wall with a meat-headed Iraqistan allegory compiled from the Big Book of War Movie Clichés.

Our heroes, who I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to actually like, are a bunch of blue-collar would-be workers from burnt-out Detroit who have little option in life but to join the army, and thus find themselves somewhere in the Middle East, which has become an Infected Zone, just as Mexico was in the first film. This means that massive herds of wandering squid-like beasties are rampaging across the deserts and through the cities. Trouble is, the US army’s attempts to keep the areas quarantined and stop the aliens spreading has resulted in a hell of a lot of collateral damage, an angry population and thus an army of local insurgents intent on repelling the human invaders from their soil. Amidst this mess, our Detroit crew, now christened ‘Team Tiger Shark’, is assigned to veteran Sergeant Noah (Johnny Harris) to rescue a lost platoon.

What follows is a series of scrapes with both the beasties and the locals, wherein Team Tiger Shark get severely whittled down, Noah begins to lose his mind and the remaining grunt (Sam Keeley) goes a little native and realises that maybe bombing the living crap out of people is wrong, that the monsters are occasionally quite pretty, and that Arabs, like, have children too. To be fair, there is a fair amount of visual spectacle, the action sequences are quite well mounted, and the last act is admittedly more interesting than what has preceded it, but honestly, by that time I was past caring.

There are two main problems. One is that, from the moment we meet them, Team Tiger Shark are such a bunch of ‘bro’s before ho’s’, ‘I’ve got your back out there, man’ coke n’ hooker-using macho dick-swinging arseholes that, frankly, couldn’t die fast enough. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t Green’s intention, at least if all the music that kicked in any time one of the pricks got injured is anything to go by.

Problem two is that the monsters of the title have an oddly underwritten, undefined and minimal role to play in their own film. Sure, we see a lot more of them, and beautifully realised they are too. It’s just that, well, you could remove them entirely from the story with very little effect on things. Their part in the narrative could be replaced by sandstorms or unexploded bombs. Surplus to requirements, they are reduced to decoration, as the unremarkable sub-Platoon dynamics take centre stage.

A horribly misjudged, irritating film.

This review is part of our LFF 2014 coverage.

Mark Stafford

Watch the trailer:

The Golem

The Golem

Format: Cinema

Screening date: 28 November 2012

With live piano duet accompaniment by Robin Harris and Laura Anstee

Venue: Barbican

Directors: Cark Boese, Paul Wegener

Writers: Henrik Galeen, Paul Wegener

Original title: Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam

Cast: Paul Wegener, Albert Steinrück, Ernst Deutsch

Germany 1920

85 mins

Despite the best efforts of writer, actor and director Paul Wegener, the Golem has never quite achieved the status it deserves, lagging behind the vampires (F.W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, 1922), insane scientists (Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, 1920) and disfigured fiends (Rupert Julian’s The Phantom of the Opera, 1925) that occupy the ‘first tier’ of silent movie monsters. Inspired equally by Hebrew mythology and 19th-century literature, Wegener’s 1920 classic Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam (‘The Golem, and how he came into the world’), is the last of three Golem films he starred in, and the only one to survive. Like many of the iconic films of silent cinema, Der Golem has appeared in a variety of running times and print qualities, but restored and remastered versions are readily available.

Der Golem begins in 16th-century Prague, in the Jewish ghetto, where the Rabbi Loew foretells disaster for the Jewish people. Sure enough, the emperor announces that the Jews are to be driven from their homes. In order to protect his people the Rabbi creates the Golem, a stone being reanimated by the demon Astaroth. The Rabbi takes the Golem to the imperial court, where the assembled company are suitably impressed. After the creature prevents the palace roof from falling on their heads, the emperor agrees to let the Jews remain in their homes. Unfortunately the Golem is later possessed by Astaroth, who allows it to rampage through the streets of Prague, burning and destroying.

Although he co-directed Der Golem with Carl Boese, Wegener’s most important contribution to the film is his performance as the Golem itself. Despite portraying a creature made of stone, he manages to create a surprising level of emotional expression, primarily through his eyes. A victim of man’s weaknesses, the Golem is the archetype for all subsequent tragic creatures, most obviously Boris Karloff’s monster in James Whale’s classic Frankenstein (1931). After Wegener’s Golem, architect Hans Poelzig’s set design is the star of the film; his portrayal of the sprawling Prague ghetto is nothing short of incredible. A riot of lopsided angles and bizarre shapes, it’s one of the finest cinematic cityscapes ever created.

Like a great deal of Der Golem, Poelzig’s designs have been tremendously influential. Edgar G. Ulmer’s surreal horror-noir The Black Cat (1934) appropriated both the architect’s images and his name for Boris Karloff’s satanic villain, Hjalmar Poelzig. It has sometimes been claimed that Ulmer worked on Der Golem – often by the man himself – either as a set builder under Poelzig or as a cameraman under visionary cinematographer Karl Freund, but corroboration for such assertions is scant. Already one of the most sought-after cinematographers in Europe, Freund would later work on Fritz Lang’s science-fiction masterpiece Metropolis (1927), as well as several of F.W. Murnau’s greatest films. After moving to Hollywood in 1929 Freund shot Tod Browning’s genre classic Dracula (1931), before directing The Mummy (1932), a sombre mood piece that has much in common with Wegener and Boese’s Der Golem.

Periodically, news surfaces of a possible remake of the story of the Golem – Italian special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti has often said he would love to direct a new version – but so far nothing has become of such rumours.

This screening is part of the Step into the Dark season of films exploring dystopia, the sublime and the surreal at the Barbican throughout November.

Jim Harper