Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Abertoir 2016

I've just returned from the Abertoir Film Festival where I was presenting a paper on Times Square entitled 'Remembering the Deuce". The festival was great; Stephen Thrower presented a talk on Lucio Fulci, Fabio Frizzi's band played a new live score to The Beyond, and there were tons of great films on the schedule (and loads of other events happening - check out the website here). Sadly I missed Dearest Sister, as it screened before I arrived.
My personal highlight, however, was eating a KFC with Frizzi, both because he is a really nice guy, and also because it was so strange to be eating fast food with a legendary Italian composer in the middle of Wales. 

Here are some photos from the 42nd Street themed event. Thanks to Gaz, Nia, Rhys and everyone else involved in organising and running the festival.

Monday, 24 October 2016

New Article out in Porn Studies

My latest article “‘Extreme’ porn? The implications of a label” has just been published online at Porn Studies journal http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/23268743.2016.1196011.

Here is the abstract:
Despite its prevalence, the term ‘extreme’ has received little critical attention. ‘Extremity’ is routinely employed in ways that imply its meanings are self-evident. However, the adjective itself offers no such clarity. This article focuses on one particular use of the term – ‘extreme porn’ – in order to illustrate a broader set of concerns about the pitfalls of labelling. The label ‘extreme’ is typically employed as a substitute for engaging with the term’s supposed referents (here, pornographic content). In its contemporary usage, ‘extreme’ primarily refers to a set of context-dependent judgements rather than absolute standards or any specific properties the ‘extreme’ item is alleged to have. Concurrently then, the label ‘extreme’ carries a host of implicit values, and the presumption that the term’s meanings are ‘obvious’ obfuscates those values. In the case of ‘extreme porn’, this obfuscation is significant because it has facilitated the cultural and legal suppression of pornography.

Read the full article here.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Talk at Abertoir Horror Festival (15-20th November 2016)

AbertoirI'll be talking about grindhouse at this year's Abertoir Horror Festival Fest, which is being held in Aberystwyth (15-20th November 2016). I'll update when I know the exact date/time, but it will be on the closing weekend

Here is the abstract:

Remembering The Deuce
Now that the original American grindhouse cinemas have closed and 42nd Street has been sanitized, all we have left of “the grindhouse experience” are photos, film clips, memorabilia, and a handful of accounts written by those who were there. For anyone who didn’t have the chance to visit a New York grindhouse it is probably hard to imagine what the grindhouses were like, but that background is partially what makes the idea of grindhouse cinema so alluring. One of the main problems with trying to capture “the grindhouse experience” now it that the first-hand descriptions that remain sound like their authors are spinning tall-tales about these allegedly sleazy, dangerous locations. This frank talk will explore what we can know about the grindhouse, and how 42nd Street’s sordid reputation helps us to understand grindhouse movies today.

For more information please visit:

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Things I Learned from Watching the Human Centipede Trilogy Back-to-Back

For anyone who remains blissfully unaware, Tom Six has released a Blu-ray version of the Human Centipede trilogy entitled The Human Centipede (Complete Sequence): Tom Six Edition, which includes all three films stitched together as one long movie. Having previously seen the films in their original forms, I knew the 4.5+ hour epic would include a barrage of crude, offensive events. However, I did not expect that I would come away with an altered perception of the series as a whole.
On the surface, I did not learn anything new or notice much about the films that I was not already aware of (except that Peter Blankenstein appears in all three – that had passed me by). Some of the echoes in dialogue were more apparent when watching the series this way, but these were hardly revelatory. It is also abundantly obvious that Six’s attempts to shock become more overt with each film. Dieter Laser’s contrasting performances bookend that transition.
What did strike me this time around is how effective the three very different aesthetic approaches are when collated into a single run. The first film is coldly clinical; the second is relentlessly dreary and grim; the third is cartoonishly tacky. Regardless of one’s attitude towards these films, it should at least be acknowledged that very few film series are comprised of chapters that boast such wildly contrasting tones. It is certainly one of the only horror series I can bring to mind that prioritises form in this way, embedding those tonal elements in the lighting, cinematography, colour grading, script, performances, effects, and so forth. Arguably Six’s commitment to this formal approach is ultimately detrimental. For example, critics have universally panned the final film, and of the three – taken as stand-alone films – it is by far the weakest. However, given that the Complete Sequence stitches these films mouth-to-anus, it seems only fitting that the “end”, erm, stinks.
The sharp switches between each film are not exactly jarring when watching the series in one sitting, but they do illuminate one another. For a movie about forced coprophagia, the first film feels oddly restrained when juxtaposed with the second and third entries. It is also surprisingly tense at times; Lindsay’s early attempt to escape is a notably well-constructed sequence. The Human Centipede is a better horror movie than its reputation – which is preoccupied with the unusual, shocking premise – would suggest. The second film feels unspeakably bleak when sandwiched between the other two films. Complete Sequence’s second disc offers the opportunity to see the colour version of Human Centipede 2, but it is nowhere near as impactful as the (almost) monochrome version. The grey, rainy, dilapidated industrial environments are aptly drab in black-and-white; the colour version’s augmented palette makes the film much more palatable. Accordingly, juxtaposition with the other two movies – which are colourful, both in the literal and figurative senses – makes the second film feel much more morbid and depressing than it does in isolation. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I found Human Centipede 2 much more upsetting and unsettling when viewed as part of a running trilogy. The third film’s eccentric delivery verges on intolerable when viewed as a stand-alone film, but as part of the whole it is exaggerated enough to seem outrageously amusing, particularly after sitting through Human Centipede 2’s gloomy proceedings.
Moreover, each film embeds echoes of the others’ tones within it; the first two films hint towards the dark, crude humour that is foregrounded in the third part. There are moments of the bloody grotesquery and grave violence that are the second movie’s essence within the bookending films, and so forth.
In order to make the most of these comparisons, Complete Sequence has one further trick up its sleeve. Just as Bill Boss threatens to turn is ‘prison centipede’ into a circular perpetual (bowel) motion machine, the disc cycles without credits. Resultantly, the Complete Sequence can be “enjoyed” in an infinite loop (so, I suppose it is never really “complete” at all).

In sum: for anyone planning on revisiting any of these movies, Complete Sequence is the way to do so. For anyone who has no desire to re-watch these films… fair enough. They certainly are not to everyone’s taste. In fact, “taste” is not Six’s forte. I suspect that he might even be offended at the suggestion.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

15 Second Review: 31 (2016)

I understand why so many critics are disappointed by 31, but it is nowhere near as bad is being suggested. The movie is ultimately a decently made torture porn flick (NB: if you read that sentence as an insult, then allow me to direct you here). The main issue with 31 is that the plot is so paper-thin that the movie feels hollow, even flat. However, let’s put this in perspective. 31 is still more entertaining than most other movies that share the same plot ($la$hers [2001], for instance), and it is more coherent than Zombie’s debut House of 1000 Corpses, or even Halloween II. Thin plot might be a sensible route for Zombie given that storytelling is not his forte. As I have come to expect from Zombie, the direction is inconsistent, shifting between strong compositions and floundering disarray. The core problem here is shaky cam – a.k.a. the trend that refuses to die, a.k.a. the worst thing to happen to filmmaking – which amplifies the impression that the film is a wild, unfocused jumble of “stuff”. Obviously Zombie should not be singled out here, since so many directors seem enamoured with the technique, even if it means refusing to show the audience what is happening and hampering immersion. Nevertheless, it is frustrating to know that Zombie is capable of much better, as Lords of Salem demonstrates. It is also telling that by far the strongest sequence in 31 is the opening monologue, which is almost entirely constituted by a single static extreme close-up. Richard Brake steals the movie, both because it is a great performance and also because Doom-Head is the film’s only real character. The casting, it should be noted, is one of the movie’s highlights. It was particularly refreshing to see actors such as Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs and Meg Foster in roles that would typically be occupied by “pretty” 19 year-olds. In sum, this is a step backwards for Zombie after Lords of Salem, but unevenness is the hallmark of his oeuvre. If he stays true to form, his next movie will be a treat.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Trailer Trash: Sadhuram 2 (2016)

This one has me intrigued. Sadhuram 2 is clearly a Saw knock-off, so it is either really late to the party, or it is ahead of the curve (or at least ahead of Saw VIII
However, it claims to be "India's first Philanthropical Thriller" - I'm not at all sure what that means - and also "the first ever movie in India where the second part is getting released before the first part". As someone with a pet interest in horror sequels, that marketing strategy has hooked me. 
I'll definitely be checking this out, if only to find out how they will combine Saw's misanthropy with a "philanthropic" agenda.

Monday, 1 August 2016

15 Second Review: Natalie's Lose Lose

Natalie’s Lose Lose (2012) is a no-budget horror film that succeeds on a couple of fronts. First, unlike so many other ultra-low budget films, the performances are generally solid here. Second, the direction is well-judged; the tight close-ups create a claustrophobic atmosphere and even manage to mask some of the budgetary shortcomings that would otherwise be evident in the set-design, costuming and so forth. However, while Natalie’s Lose Lose prospers in areas where others flounder, it struggles when it comes to delivering the most essential aspect: its story. With a running time of only 80 minutes the film ought to feel brisk, yet it drags. Natalie’s Lose Lose is illustrative of a problem with feature filmmaking; if it had been viable to release the film as a 45-minute piece, it could have been edited into a taught, exciting tale. As it stands, it is bloated. The main reason it feels so sluggish is that the film is mainly constituted by dialogue. As a movie that clearly draws on the torture-horror boom of the era, it really ought to have contained more torture. The problem is not a lack of violence per se; after all, many reviewers complain about being “bored” by torture porn’s “endless” agony. Rather, some threat is needed in order to motivate the eponymous protagonist. Natalie never seems fazed by the challenges she faces, and that makes it hard to empathise with her situation. She just does not seem to care that she has been kidnapped. Perversely, one of the overarching reasons that Natalie’s Lose Lose is so uninvolving is that there is also no hope for the protagonist, however stoic – perhaps even blasé – she is about the whole affair. As the title overtly states, Natalie is in a “lose-lose” situation. Consequently, the narrative comes across as an exercise in prolonging the inevitable, offering no hint that Natalie might escape her fate (or indeed, that she will even bother to try). The most fundamental problem, however, is that the narrative ultimately makes little sense. The film offers a final “twist” in order to explain why the abductors would have motive to kill Natalie, but they are given no incentive to question or torment her. Since the film is entirely constituted by questioning and tormenting Natalie, the “twist” renders the film’s content redundant. Unfortunately, watching this movie is a “lose-lose”.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Godzilla @ Toho Cinema Shinjuku

The new Godzilla film Godzilla Resurgence has just been released in Japan. I would have loved to have seen it in the Toho cinema in Shinjuku, which has been designed as a shrine to Godzilla.

The cinema’s main feature is that it has a massive Godzilla head coming out of the roof. I'd read about it, but I didn’t expect that it would be this big/visible at street-level

The cinema also has a tasteful mosaic on the rear side

A few days into our trip, we discovered that you can visit the top floor to see the head up-close 

At the base of the head are these stone carved depictions of the monster in action

The top floor is a hotel, and they have capitalised on the theme. This display greets visitors as they arrive

The hotel also has a little gift shop area and a display of all the Toho Godzilla movie posters. Well worth a visit.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

15 Second Review: Hope Lost

Hope Lost (2015) draws on a premise so familiar that I genuinely spent the first 20 minutes questioning whether I had seen the film before. The story is a mishmash of clichés about sex trafficking rings, treading a path already taken by Eden (2012), Human Cargo (2011), Sweet Karma (2009), Slave (2009), Shuttle (2008), Trade (2007), Holly (2006), and numerous other horror/thrillers during the last decade. Even the cast list (Danny Trejo, Michael Madsen, Daniel Baldwin) reads like a warning that the film is likely to be generic. Yet, amidst its barrage of predictable, unpleasant, and admittedly effective incidents, Hope Lost has a trump card. It does not need an original storyline, because this is a concept movie. The conceit is revealed in the opening, during a scene that takes us to the film’s final set-piece; in voice-over, Gabriel (who is later revealed to be a snuff film director), states that ‘one of the golden rules of cinema’ is that ‘before inevitable doom, there must always be a scene of hope’. This is exactly what the film delivers across a series of increasingly grim events, each of which is preceded by a glimmer of hope: potential escapes, attempted rescues, promise of “a new life”, and so forth. Of course, all are thwarted, as Gabriel promises. None of this is surprising, given that the film is entitled Hope Lost, and we have already glimpsed the protagonist’s fate during the opening seconds. What is notable, however, is that the film is so relentless in its pursuit of this conceit and so irrepressibly bleak. This combination leads to a single question: why would anyone watch such a movie? This meta-commentary is presaged by the overtly cinematic language advanced by Gabriel, the director of the film-within-a-film. The lead protagonist suffers endlessly here, but the film is not designed to make her torment pleasurable for the audience: that is another cliché, one that is proposed by critics who fail to understand the genre. Pleasure stems from rooting for an ordinary person as they attempt to conquer extraordinary adversity. This is the ‘hope’ referred to in the title Hope Lost. It is such a powerful compulsion that, as Hope Lost demonstrates, the filmmakers can rely on the audience to keep hoping, no matter how unreachable the goal appears to be, how often hope is snatched away, or how blatantly the character’s fate is signalled. Hope Lost has its flaws, but the filmmakers’ insistent adherence to the core concept is admirable. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

15 Second Review: Marble Hornets

Marble Hornets is a found-footage web series comprised of 87 entries (or 133 videos, all told) that were originally uploaded to two separate YouTube channels between 2009-2014. One, the ‘Marble Hornets’ channel, hosted the main narrative. The second channel ‘ToTheArk’ uploaded sinister responses to the main entries. The series is split into three seasons of varying length, and the whole saga lasts nearly 91/2 hours. The no-budget series gained attention by becoming an early adopter of the Slenderman mythos, and for offering numerous secret messages (such as flash-frames of numbers that were avidly decoded by a Reddit group). Its success was also helped by the first few hours of footage, which are genuinely unsettling. On paper, the series replicates the techniques offered by other found-footage films such as Noroi (2005), for instance. However, the series benefits from the filmmakers’ inexperience; frequently, the early episodes feel “edgy” because they are made by people who do not quite follow standard filmmaking conventions. Consequently, as the tension rises, it feels like pretty much anything could happen next. Unfortunately, that feeling dissipates before the first season closes. The second series has an interesting premise – filling in details of seven months that the protagonist (Jay) cannot remember – but the series loses its unpredictability, becoming entirely formulaic. Virtually every episode in the season consists of the protagonists travelling to a location and spotting Slenderman (here referred to as ‘The Operator’) as the tape becomes corrupted. The second season also shows ‘The Operator’ too much, and so his presence loses impact. The first season makes effective use of Slenderman’s distinctive look by placing him in the background or in the corner of a frame during a pan; he is there, but only for an instant, and that is much more ominous than seeing Slenderman stood around directly in front of the camera. Perhaps the filmmakers also became more comfortable with how to film the series. The material feels “safer” than the early entries, in spite of the more overt threats faced by the protagonists. The filmmakers also rely on dialogue-heavy scenes in the second season. This was an unwise move as the lead performers – creators Joseph DeLage and Troy Wagner – are not up to the task (DeLage’s performance is particularly stilted). The latter problem continues into the third season, and by the seventh hour I was really wishing that they would start tying up the plot rather than stringing it out. It is also a shame that the final episodes were anti-climactic. Still, there are some nice moments buried in the running time for those willing to engage with it, and the makers should be congratulated for what they achieved with virtually nothing. The whole series is still available on YouTube (one user has kindly compiled a playlist of all the episodes in order for lazy folks like me), and the first two hours are certainly worth a look. I would advise digging into the message boards about the series in tandem to watching each entry: the enthusiasm with which new episodes and fragments of information were greeted by fans is more intriguing than the events depicted in the series itself.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Call for Film Submissions: Ted Bundy Had a Son

Shane Ryan is currently putting together a new film Ted Bundy Had a Son, which is part of his Amateur Porn Star Killer series. The film is a pseudo-documentary that reflects on the Amateur Porn Star Killer films as if they were depicting real-world events. 

Shane is currently looking for submissions from anyone over 18 (worldwide) who would like to contribute, even if you are just shooting on an i-Phone

If you are interested in submitting, full details can be found here:

The history of the series' killer (Brandon) can be found here: 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

15 Second Review: Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters is finally here, and it is exactly what it should be: a fun and funny movie. I mean that in the best possible way. Does anyone want a serious, thought-provoking Ghostbusters? I sure as hell don’t. I want to be entertained, and Ghostbusters absolutely delivers. The film zips along at a well-judged pace; it does not seem rushed, but it also does not feel like a two-hour movie. The script is a hoot, the story is appropriately cartoonish, and the cast are well-suited to their roles. The film’s secret weapon, however, is Kate McKinnon’s performance as Holtzmann. McKinnon manages to steal every scene she appears in – I mean that literally; every damn scene – and that is a truly impressive feat given the comic talent involved in this film. Is Ghostbusters perfect? Of course not; some of the jokes don’t land; the cameos are forced; and there are moments where the CG doesn’t quite work (in fact the “green screen” is apparent at several points during the climax). Was it “as good as the original”? What a stupid question. I have seen the predecessor dozens of times, and my fondness for it has been cultivated gradually over the last thirty years. No new Ghostbusters film could hope to dislodge my nostalgia goggles. On initial viewing however, I enjoyed the 2016 iteration of Ghostbusters much more than I have ever enjoyed Ghostbusters 2. I sincerely hope that the kids seeing this new Ghostbusters will come to regard it with the same affection that so many children of the 80s have for the original. Don't listen to the haters, Ghostbusters is a blast. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

15 Second Review: The Lesson (2014)

First, I ought to clarify that this review is about Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s The Lesson, not Ruth Platt’s The Lesson. I saw both in close proximity, and Platt’s film really did not cut it for me (so I'll say no more about it). Grozeva and Valchanov’s film, on the other hand, is a meticulously constructed tale. I have not felt so frustrated for a lead protagonist since watching Oliver Stone’s U-Turn (1997). As with Stone’s movie – and this is the only salient point of comparison – The Lesson’s central protagonist faces a n unrelenting series of misfortunes. Individually, most of the mishaps are relatively minor, but cumulatively they are torturous: I spent most of the film desperately yearning for one of the protagonist’s efforts to pay off. I will not reveal whether she ultimately succeeds or not (as that would spoil the “fun”). However, I will say that while the climax is somewhat outlandish, the final scene is an understated black comic masterstroke: not only did it make the slightly implausible precursor palatable, but it also offered a neat reward for making it through two excruciating hours of escalating calamities. The performances and cinematography are restrained, and that only adds to the film’s constricted atmosphere. Recommended, but only for those willing to hold their nerve for the movie's wry "lesson".

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Sion Sono's Whispering Star Exhibition

While I was in Japan, I got chance to visit Sion Sono's first solo art exhibition at the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (for info, follow this link). The exhibition is designed as an accompaniment to his film Hiso hiso boshi (The Whispering Star, 2015). I love Sono's films, so I'm really glad I got to see it (the exhibition finishes tomorrow). 

Here are some photos of the exhibition:

Hachiko is a National symbol of loyalty (for anyone unfamiliar with Hachiko's story, here is a video - be warned, it is a sad tale). The statue is modeled leaving its stand, which is particularly powerful in context (the Watari-um is in Shibuya):

Concept work and screenplays:

The exhibit included every storyboard from the film (555 in total), which Sono sketched 25 years ago. Sections of the film were playing in the room, serving to demonstrate how gifted Sono is in terms of bringing his vision to the screen:

The yellow boxes are parcels that are being delivered by the film's lead protagonist. Each box was sealed and contained a mystery object.

Here is the trailer for The Whispering Star. I cannot wait to see the full film. The sections I have seen are really intriguing

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Now on Twitter

I've finally buckled and joined Twitter: my handle is @DrSteve_Jones
I plan to be more active on there than I have been here of late, although I'll still be posting longer pieces and updates to this blog.

Thanks to my colleague Sarah Ralph, we also now have a Twitter account for the Media group at Northumbria: our handle is @Media_Northumbr

Monday, 30 May 2016

Publication Updates

I've been quiet lately because I've been in Tokyo for three weeks. In the meantime, a couple of my articles have been accepted for publication

'"Extreme” Porn?: The Implications of a Label' is forthcoming in Porn Studies. Here is the abstract:

Despite its prevalence, the term “extreme” has received little critical attention. “Extremity” is routinely employed in ways that imply its meanings are self-evident. However, the adjective itself offers no such clarity. This article focuses on one particular use of the term – “extreme porn” – in order to illustrate a broader set of concerns about the pitfalls of labelling. The label “extreme” is typically employed as a substitute for engaging with the term’s’ supposed referents (here, pornographic content). In its contemporary usage, “extreme” primarily refers to a set of context-dependent judgements rather than absolute standards or any specific properties the “extreme” item is alleged to have. Concurrently then, the label “extreme” carries a host of implicit values, and the presumption that the term’s meanings are “obvious” obfuscates those values. In the case of “extreme porn,” that obfuscation is significant because it has facilitated the cultural and legal suppression of pornography.

'Preserved for Posterity?: Present-Bias and the Status of Grindhouse Films in the "Home Cinema" Era' is forthcoming in the Journal of Film and Video. Here is the abstract:

Despite the closure of virtually all original grindhouse cinemas, ‘grindhouse’ lives on as a conceptual term. This article contends that the prevailing conceptualization of ‘grindhouse’ is problematized by a widening gap between the original grindhouse context (‘past’) and the DVD/home-viewing context (present). Despite fans’ and filmmakers’ desire to preserve this part of exploitation cinema history, the world of the grindhouse is now little more than a blurry set of tall-tales and faded phenomenal experiences, which are subject to present-bias. The continuing usefulness of grindhouse-qua-concept requires that one should pay heed to the contemporary contexts in which ‘grindhouse’ is evoked

I'll post updates here when the articles appear in print

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Government Consultation on Age Verification for Porn

Deadline for responses: 12th April 2016
Proposal document: 

The UK government are proposing to enforce age verification for porn websites, under the mantra of protecting children. Regardless of one's stance on porn itself, the proposals are fundamentally flawed in various ways. For example, the current proposal is to implement a system of age verification (by entering credit card details, for instance). The regime (their term, not mine) will target the most popular websites (or, as the survey puts it, sites most accessed by children - good luck substantiating that claim). The survey posits that there are over '5 million' websites hosting porn. Restricting access to a major, visible website like PornHub won't protect children; it will fragment traffic, redirecting users to a host of smaller, less visible websites. Blocking a handful of sites will not prevent access per se.
Even if the restrictions were imposed on all porn sites (which is impracticable), the government would be faced with the same problems that plagued their attempt to block porn at ISP level. For instance, all manner of non-porn websites would be erroneously targeted (recall that sex education sites and even the government's own website were blocked by the previous filter). Moreover, the system would almost certainly be circumvented; the previous filter was bypassed via a browser extension within 24 hours of its implementation. The previous filter attempt failed; that much is evident from this attempt to find a new restriction system. One of the reasons it failed (even before being branded 'illegal' by the EU) is that the uptake for filtering was so small; most users opted out. This might not signal that the public want porn, but it certainly suggests that the public do not want a poorly implemented system that is unfit for purpose.
Even anti-porn campaigners should be worried about this proposal on the grounds that it stands little chance of being effective. If anything, anti-porn campaigners should be insulted by the proposal since it appears to be a superficial gesture aiming to placate complainants rather than a genuine attempt to protect children. 
If the agenda really is to protect children - and I remain unconvinced that it is - then the implementation of age verification is a waste of money that could be better spent elsewhere. Personally, I would rather that time and money were invested into improving sex education rather than creating a number unnecessary and short-lived legislative changes. 
I have registered my concerns via the consultation survey, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

15 Second Review: Faces of Snuff (2016)

Faces of Snuff is difficult to contextualise since the film has no credit sequences (at least in the version I saw). There is a website associated with the film, but it contains no identifiable production information (at the time of writing). The film itself is a compilation of unrelated clips, each of which is snuff themed. As the title suggests (with its direct reference to Faces of Death (1978)), this is the faux-snuff equivalent of the mondo film. The premise works well given the crossovers between mondo and pseudo-snuff, both of which typically include ostensibly real death footage.
The implicit question haunting Faces of Snuff is whether any of its footage is genuine. Most of it (as with Faces of Death) certainly is not. Some of the sequences are clearly staged, and some of the acting is unconvincing (although those sequences highlight just how realistic other parts of the film are). Other segments have overt narrative arcs and even “twist” endings. There are also some familiar faces here; some clips are derived from existing faux-snuff films, and a public information film provides a leitmotif throughout: I won’t name these familiar assets here, since identifying them will be part of the fun for fans of the subgenre. Still, the inclusion of pre-existing footage  - which is one of the mondo film's common tropes - and the lack of credits might suggest that this is a compilation of clips sourced from the web (as with MDPOPE (2013)), and in that case there is a possibility that some of the footage might display genuine death, even if that was not the compiler’s intention. Again, despite my natural scepticism, the room for doubt is part of what makes such films (and the snuff mythos) intriguing.  
What I will say is this: the compilation certainly hasn’t been pieced together in a sloppy, accidental fashion. Faces of Snuff has a clear internal logic. I doubt that the film has been created by a single director since it appears that while most of the footage is American, some has been sourced from other countries (one being the UK). Yet the film has been arranged by individual/s who understand how to carry the viewer through a compilation that is over two hours in duration. The film encompasses clips of various lengths and the aesthetic continually shifts. Faces of Snuff does not just contain hand-held POV material. Aside from the aforementioned public information footage, Faces of Snuff includes inserts from a fictional 1970s film (again, I won’t name it here in case readers want to identify it themselves). One of the early clips is a talking-head interview with an individual who discusses the snuff myth. The film also encompasses (what is presented as) tube site streaming, digital cam footage, analogue VHS, and grungy 8mm (complete with projection noise). The final, highly stylised sequence is even reminiscent of a music video. Rather than being jarring, the continually shifting aesthetic makes the film easier to watch.
This strategy is also what sets Faces of Snuff apart from Murder Collection V.1 (2009), another contemporary mondo-style faux-snuff/death footage compilation. While the latter was linked together via a host (Balan) waxing philosophical about the nature of life and death, Faces of Snuff is akin to a video essay on the snuff myth. The public information footage refers to the kinds of panics surrounding horror comics and pornography that led to snuff paranoia (and which fed into “video nasties” panic in the UK). Simultaneously, the ostensibly genuine death images contained in that public information film were intended to shock viewers into following ideological and behavioural norms; by recontexualising that footage as part of Faces of Snuff, the hypocrisy of that “public service” agenda is underscored. The 1970’s fictional movie inserts are reminiscent of Snuff (1975), evoking the outrage that followed from the release of its infamous and (obviously) contrived final sequence. The inclusion of explicit sex in Faces of Snuff highlights ways in which contemporary hardcore horror draws on pornographic tropes in order to distinguish itself as “extreme”, reifying the unfounded complaints some feminist protesters charged Snuff with at the time of its release. The ‘talking head’ interview segment is reminiscent of the various documentaries that have been made about the snuff myth, including Snuff: A Documentary About Killing on Camera (2008) or, perhaps more perversely, J.T. Petty’s boundary blurring snuff fauxumentary S&Man (2006). The ‘2 Girls, 1 Victim’ sequence refers to a popular mode of titling genuine murder footage (‘3 Guys, 1 Hammer’, ‘1 Lunatic, 1 Ice Pick’) for distribution on the internet. Although the latter will age incredibly quickly, Faces of Snuff also underscores the potential anachronism of such contemporary references; one segment is built around Y2K panic, for example.
It is not the place of a film like this to dissect and critique the snuff myth, but Faces of Snuff is clearly compiled by individual/s who are cognisant of the origins of the myth it builds upon. Rather than reproducing faux-snuff in 2016 – which would feel especially tired after a decade of found-footage saturation – Faces of Snuff steps back, takes stock, and forges bridges between past and present, shining a light on the hysteria that perpetuated and has continued to sustain the snuff myth. Faces of Snuff is not strictly an enjoyable film, and most viewers are likely to be repulsed by it. This is to be expected given its format and content. Nevertheless, there is a self-awareness underneath the gore that sets it apart from other films of its ilk.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Offscreen 2016

Below are some photographs from Offscreen 2016, most of which were taken at the Nova Cinema in Brussels

The festival is amazing - many thanks to Dirk van Extergem and the Offscreen crew for inviting us and for extending such a warm welcome (as always).

The conference element included talks from David Church, Elena Gorfinkel, myself, Johnny Walker, Jamie Sexton, and Ernest Mathijs. The event also included an industry Q&A featuring Frank Henenlotter, Pete Tombs (Mondo Macabro), JJ Marsh (Erotic Film Society), and Joe Rubin (Vinegar Syndrome)

My colleagues Sarah Ralph and Jonathan Mack were also at the event conducting audience research for an ongoing project. If you attended the festival, please help us by completing a survey about your experience: http://www.offscreen-survey.com/

For more details about the festival, click here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Research Fellow Post at Sussex: Sexual Violence at Universities

Research Fellow (Fixed term, part time or full time)
Part time, fixed term (approximately 25 hours per week for approximately 24 months ending 1 March 2018)
OR Full time, fixed term (37.5 hours per week for approximately 14 months)
OR More than 25 and less than 37.5 hours per week will also be considered, for a shorter fixed term duration than 24 months

Salary range: starting at £31,656 and rising to £37,768 per annum, pro rata if part time

Closing date for applications: 30 March 2016

Expected interview date: 20 April 2016

Expected start date: 3 May 2016 or as soon as possible thereafter (if full time, start date may be later)

The Department of Sociology, within the School of Law, Politics and Sociology, is looking to recruit to a temporary Research Fellow post in Gender. The person appointed will be part of the European Commission-funded project Universities Supporting Victims of Sexual Violence, which focuses on developing ‘first response’ training for university staff who may receive disclosures of sexual assault. The Research Fellow will be responsible for developing and supporting the delivery of a ‘first response’ training programme at Sussex, and for sharing the learning from this with our project partners across Europe. Applicants should be able to demonstrate evidence of high quality research engagement, experience of developing and using qualitative and quantitative methods, and a background in gender issues and knowledge of gender/feminist theory. The successful candidate will show commitment to the aims and success of the project and a willingness to contribute to the research culture of our dynamic, friendly department.

For more details and application form visit: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/aboutus/jobs/667

For informal queries contact: Alison Phipps, Director of Gender Studies, email a.e.phipps@sussex.ac.uk

Dr Alison Phipps
Director of Gender Studies and Reader in Sociology
University of Sussex
Freeman G45
Falmer Campus
Brighton BN1 9QE
t: (+44) (0)1273 877689

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Off-Screen 2016

On 12th March 2016, I will be delivering a paper entitled ‘Grindigital: The Ghost of Grindhouse Present’ at the 42nd Street Forever conference, which is being held as part of the Offscreen Film Festival, Brussels. The other speakers are David Church, Elena Gorfinkel, Jamie Sexton, Ernest Mathijs, and Johnny Walker - abstracts below. The festival guests are Lucile Hadzihalilovic and Frank Henenlotter. Really looking forward to the event. For more details about the panel and the festival, click here.

Dr David Church
'42nd Street Forever? The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Grindhouse Theaters'

In the popular imagination, New York City's 42nd Street at Times Square has become ground zero for remembering the bygone theatrical exhibition of so-called 'grindhouse cinema.' But where did grindhouses come from, and how did they gain their continuing reputation as sleazy spaces for sleazy films and audiences? Focusing on the history of 42nd Street, this talk traces the century-long evolution of the term 'grind house' from an exhibition policy to a genre label to a latter-day marketing concept. With the disappearance of actual grind houses from the physical landscape, these lost theaters have gained renewed relevance as ghostly spaces for fans to imaginatively inhabit. Moreover, the recent boom in grindhouse nostalgia has emerged as a reaction against both the increased accessibility of exploitation cinema on home video and the ongoing decline of physical media altogether.

Elena Gorfinkel (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, US)
Skin Flick Cinephilia: Sexploitation Cinema's Scenes of Looking

This talk surveys the 1960s US sexploitation cinema, exploring its location between low budget filmmaking and art cinema, pausing to analyze some of its aesthetic and reflexive fixations. It will offer a cinephile account of the aesthetic value of the sexploitation image as an archive of bodily gestures, textures, faces and places (including the scene of the grindhouse and film theater itself).

Dr Steve Jones (Northumbria University, UK)
Grindigital: The Ghost of Grindhouse Present

What does “grindhouse” mean now that virtually all of the original American grindhouse cinemas have closed? Most of us now watch “grindhouse movies” from the comfort of our own homes on DVD and Blu-Ray rather than viewing grainy old prints in sleazy cinemas, but that change in context alters our experience of watching such films. That shift in context is particularly problematic for a younger generation who never had chance to experience a grindhouse first-hand, and who still use the term “grindhouse” to describe a genre, a location (the grindhouse cinema), or a set of aesthetics (scratched celluloid, “missing reels”, etc). Those aesthetics are flaws that are usually removed from digitally re-mastered DVD/Blu-Ray releases of the films. Preserving the films essentially means “de-grindhousing” them: the damage sustained from being shown in grindhouses is removed, leaving a pristine, digital replica of the film. Contemporary “grindhouse-style” films do the opposite, using filters and effects to replicate celluloid damage even though such films are shot digitally. Neither provides an authentic experience of “grindhouse” film. The more we try to preserve the grindhouse, the further away we seem to move from the real thing.

Dr Jamie Sexton (Northumbria University, UK)
The Allure of Otherness: Distributing, Marketing and Consuming Global Cult Cinema

While books on cult cinema are largely dominated by American films, there are nonetheless a number of films from outside English-speaking regions and Western contexts which also gain cult status. Such movies have tended to gain their reputations via fan networks as opposed to more formal, critical channels. Since the emergence of DVD and Blu-ray there have emerged a number of companies who have started to cater to Western cult fans through marketing various forms of cult and exploitation cinema. Such companies include Arrow (specifically the Arrow Video imprint), Blue Underground, and of particular importance – due to their exclusive focus on world cult cinema – Mondo Macabro. In addition to a number of companies distributing global cult cinema in the U.S. and U.K., there are also a number of websites, blogs and web fora that provide information and commentary on global cult cinema.
Academic research on the transnational reception of non-Western films has, however, been restricted by a predominant focus on the idea of exoticisation and otherness. Many scholars have accused Western cult fans of forming attachments to such films in a rather superficial manner: that cultists tend to celebrate films which appear ‘weird’, but such weirdness stems from a lack of understanding of the cultural context(s) from which the films emerge and is often underpinned by imperialist assumptions. In this talk I will redress this overemphasis on exoticism and stress how home video distributors actually provide newer fans with a wealth of contextual information about the films that they release, which can act as a gateway for fans to discover more about such films and their production and exhibition histories.

Prof. Ernest Mathijs (University of British Columbia, CA)
A Room for The Room: the Viral Chain Distribution of Bad and Exploitation Cinema.

There are mythical stories about how now-celebrated horror films such as The Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre found audiences only gradually, after their filmmakers and producers took to the road and shopped their films around, almost like the door-to-door vacuum-salesmen of lore. Similarly, Daughters of Darkness Belgium’s infamous lesbian vampire film, relied on point-by-point distribution to become an international success. In each of these cases, the availability of grindhouse theatres in cities such as New York, Pittsburgh, or Chicago, helped these films reach stunned viewers (or jaded viewers, depending on their stamina, or the time of day).
Today, grindhouses are gone, and the fare they once screened is now streamed, downloadable, or made available via online retailers. Yet, significant traces of that step-by-step distribution remain, albeit in a changed form. I will use the unlikely duo of The Room (from 2003), arguably one of the worst films ever, and offensive to the extent it assaults all sensitivities, and Dude Bro Party Massacre III (from 2015), a tongue-in-cheek exploitation splatter film, to argue that today’s viral chain of theatre-to-theatre distribution has moved to ‘faux grindhouses’: multi-functional venues for the performing arts, that combine live performance activities with screens.
As such, a picture emerges that shows these films’ reception as a performance event, similar to stage and café atmosphere acts such as stand-up comedy or mock award ceremonies. There is also a heavy reliance on digital interactive stage technology to conjure up ambiance, enabling a fan-directed freak-show. It is through these channels that viral chain distribution lives on. I will speculate that the live and stage performance routines force these events into a dense ‘nowness’, in which participants are ‘suspended’ in the moment of the performance – a moment whose meaning is wasted as soon as it occurs. Oh, and look out for the combination of a chainsaw and a crazy rabbit!

Dr Johnny Walker (Northumbria University, UK)
Snuff love: real death and horror film culture from the grindhouse to your house

This talk charts the legacy of grind-house classics such as Snuff (1976) and Faces of Death (1972) on underground horror video cultures from the 1980s to the present day. It will demonstrate how a swelling interest in gory paracinema in the late ‘80s coincided with the emergence of an array of contemporary, direct-to-video “death films”: all of which collated sequences of genuine human tragedy and atrocity for the purposes of entertainment. The talk will consider some of these films in detail, and gauge their influence on contemporary amateur horror production.
Drawing on a variety of case studies—including the little-acknowledged Traces of Death (Various, 1993–2000) series and its producer, Dead Alive Productions, as well as from examples of contemporary “faux snuff” from the twenty-first century—the talk will show how horror fans of the video age have gone to great lengths to obtain explicit and gory exports of uncensored horror and death films, and how small production companies (such as Dead Alive and Brain Damage) have sought to align themselves with these interests, and produce an array of “extreme” films obtainable through specialist websites.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Documentary on Shane Ryan

The documentary "A Boy, A Girl, & A Camera" - which is about the filmmaker Shane Ryan - is currently available to watch on YouTube. The documentary was previously available on the 2014 Mongolian Barbeque release of the Amateur Porn Star Killer trilogy. It features interviews with other filmmakers (such as Ryan Nicholson), and even includes a quote from my book Torture Porn.

Check it out below:

My chapter on the Amateur Porn Star Killer films is available in the new book Snuff: Real Death and Screen Media (edited by Neil Jackson, Shaun Kimber, Johnny Walker, & Tom Watson), which is available from BloomsburyAmazon and other retailers.

Update: both Torture Porn and Snuff also feature in this video:

Friday, 1 January 2016

2015 Viewing in Review

As part of my work, I consume an enormous amount of visual media. This year I conducted an experiment to find out just how much. Since 1st January 2015 I have been recording every film and television series I have seen. In total, I have seen 121 TV series, 61 short films and 464 feature-length films (65 of which I have seen previously). I'm not going to include a list of everything I saw here, but given that this is the season of “best and worst” retrospective lists, here are some of the highlights and low-points of the year.

The feature films that I’ve seen previously were mainly staples such as Die Hard, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Taxi Driver, Alien, Back to the Future and so forth, which do not really need commenting on. Some of those were Blu-ray remasters. I heartily recommend the Masters of Cinema remasters of Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as well as the restoration of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: they each offer notable improvements over previous DVD editions.

Perhaps less “obvious” films I repeat-watched this year include May (2002, Lucky McKee), Triangle (2009, Chris Smith), Evil Dead (2013, Fede Alvarez [review]), and Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse #41 (1972, Shunya Itô), each of which are must-see films in my opinion. I also have a soft spot for The Heat (2013, Paul Feig [review]), which I saw twice this year… needless to say, I am looking forward to the Ghostbusters reboot.

The short films were mainly dominated by the Astron-6 collection and Buster Keaton’s two-reelers. I enjoyed both collections (with the exception of the Roscoe Arbuckle shorts, which are far less effective than Keaton’s work with Eddie Cline). However, the highlight of the year is the extraordinarily fun Kung Fury (2015, David Sandberg), which is available to view online here.

The feature films that I saw for the first time in 2015 include a number of movies that I ought to have seen before now, but I have only just managed to catch (or at least only just managed to see all the way through). These included Waiting For Mr Goodbar, Death Wish V, City Lights, Timecop, Top Gun, The Apple, Code Unknown, Fight For Your Life, Lost In Translation, Rain Man, Performance, The Sorcerers, Rebel Without A Cause, and Abbott And Costello Meet The Mummy. My nominee for the worst of the bunch is Robocop 3 (1993, Fred Dekker): I should have listened to the general disdain for this scrap-heap. For the first 15 minutes or so it is fine, but it quickly degenerates to a level of cartoonish absurdity that is more than even the Robocop franchise can handle. My favourite of this bunch was Blind Beast (1969, Yasuzô Masumura), which is a powerful psychosexual horror classic.

Many of the films I saw were mediocre, which is unsurprising given the volume of features I saw in total. This year, my time was wasted by a variety of bland horror movies (the Carrie remake, The Curse, Old 37, Cooties, Smiley, The Last Showing, Tales Of Halloween, the Poltergeist remake, Camp Dread, The Exorcism of Molly Hartley), found-footage flicks (Paranormal Asylum: The Revenge Of Typhoid Mary, Sx_Tape, The Houses October Built, The House On The Hill, Afflicted, American Guinea Pig [review]), derivative thrillers (Fissure, Green Zone, Pound Of Flesh, 12 Rounds 3: Lockdown, The Roommate, Kill For Me, Say Yes, ATM, Grand Piano, Cornered), disappointing comedy-dramas (Baby Mama, Behaving Badly, The Interview), British crime films (The Guvnors, Jack Said, Payback Season, We Still Kill The Old Way), and dull dramas (A Dangerous Method, Gerontophilia). 

There were a number of films that disappointed me, principally because I was expecting more from them. These include:
  • The Stray Cat Rock series (1970-71, Toshiya Fujita and Yasuharu Hasebe): there were some highlights, but the series is best consumed as a curio. Revel in the spectacular fashions of the era rather than the tame thrills on offer
  • The Green Inferno (2013, Eli Roth): the narrative is straight-forward enough, but Roth’s film is so tonally erratic that it is unsatisfying to watch. The Green Inferno’s combination of FGM, poop jokes and (supposed) economic satire comes off as the product of indecision and immaturity.
    The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani): aesthetically stunning, but utterly vacuous. This is a series of extremely pretty images in desperate need of a substantial story.
  • The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) (2015, Tom Six): after the grotesque but commanding second entry, this was disheartening. Six appears to have either pulled his punches here or he has forgotten how to play the “shock” card.
  • A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014, Ana Lily Amirpour): stylistically and visually interesting, but I was taken aback by how sparse the narrative was (particularly given how favourable the reviews have been). Maybe it is just that I am not interested in vampires. I need to revisit this one sans preconceptions.
  • Tokyo Tribe (2014, Sion Sono): I love Sion Sono’s movies and kung fu flicks. I also have a partiality for rap, so Sono’s “battle rap musical” should have been right up my street. It just didn’t grab me. It didn’t help that many of the cast members cannot rap on the beat.
  • Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (2015, Gregory Plotkin): this is nowhere near as bad as the critics are making it out to be, and it has some neat moments. Still, having re-watched the series this year, this entry is noticeably stale compared with the first three movies.
  • The Conjuring (2013, James Wan): after hearing so many good things about this film, I was deflated by its standard ghost yarn. As is the case with virtually all contemporary supernatural movies of this ilk, I found the first half hour creepy (particularly the ‘clap hands’ sequences), but as soon as the investigative team enter the house, the whole project falls flat. This may be one reason that I enjoy the Paranormal Activity films more than others; without the sustained presence of figures who understand and know how to handle the entities, the protagonists remain relatively helpless and the unknown remains a mystery.

Few films annoyed me as much as the pretentious, morbidly self-absorbed semi-documentary Tarnation (2003, Jonathan Caouette), which was easily the worst film I saw all year.

Others swing so far as to land firmly in the “so bad they are entertaining” camp (and they are all pretty camp):
  • Basic Instinct 2 (2006, Michael Caton-Jones): which contains one of the boldest opening sequences committed to film, and manages to squeeze abysmal performances out of a surprising number of (usually) good actors. The film maintains a gloriously hysterical pitch throughout. Much more entertaining than Fifty Shades of Grey (2015, Sam Taylor-Johnson).
  • Nativity 3: Dude Where's My Donkey? (2014, Debbie Isitt): which has a plot so nonsensical that the film-makers do not even try to resolve its gaping holes. The smartest thing about the film is that it demonstrates how ludicrous tales of Santa and the nativity are by having children explain those narratives to an amnesiac: by establishing that we readily accept those barmy sounding Christmas stories, the writers ask us to accept Nativity 3’s load of old cobblers too. Still, even Martin Clunes (who puts on a brave, blank face throughout) looks embarrassed during the climax. A cult classic in the making.
  • The Asylum (2015, Marcus Nispel): which has one of the most bizarre opening halves of any film I’ve seen this decade. It has the feel of a movie that suffered some terrible technical or financial mishap leading to much of the footage being lost, and leaving an editor to piece together what remained in the edit. An entertaining mess.

Some of the films were “near misses”:
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010, Oliver stone) is quite compelling considering that it is a film about economics and the depressing financial meltdown that we are all too familiar with, but the ending is a disaster: in order to close the film, the writers manufacture what looks like a resolution, but the reunions simply do not follow from the preceding events. A down-beat ending would have been preferable. As an aside, I obtained a copy for free by eating Pringles, then bought the Blu-ray for 50p: go capitalism!
  • Predestination (2014, The Spierig Brothers) deserves points for ambition. For the most part it works well, but it relies on the audience failing to spot a plot-twist that is fairly obvious from the early stages of the narrative.
  • Open Windows (2014, Nacho Vigalondo) is also overly ambitious. The conceit is refreshing (especially compared with the glut of insipid found-footage films around at the moment), but the plot stretches too far, spiralling into convoluted madness by the final reel. Until that point, it is enthralling in spite of its ludicrousness.
  • I Spit on Your Grave 3: Vengeance is Mine (2015, R.D. Braunstein) tries to provide an alternative to the first two films, swapping from rape-revenge to a vigilante plot. The film’s most problematic aspects stem from how this film undercuts Jennifer’s resilience in the first movie. Its cack-handed commentary on coping with victimisation is also quite disturbing.

I will not comment in detail on my favourite films of the year, simply because it is probably best to watch these without preconceptions. They range from the thematically rich to the formally adventurous, from the sweet to the disquieting, from the smart to the fun, from the poignantly life-affirming to the emotionally devastating, from the exciting to the intriguing. Each is worth visiting on its own merits if you get a chance:
  • Air Doll (2009, Hirokazu Koreeda)
  • Amour (2012, Michael Haneke)
  • Babycall (2011, Pål Sletaune)
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014, Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • Black (2005, Sanjay Leela Bhansali)
  • Brain Damage (1988, Frank Henenlotter)
  • Call Me Kuchu (2012, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall)
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009, Phil Lord and Chris Miller)
  • Coherence (2013, James Ward Byrkit)
  • Confessions (2010, Tetsuya Nakashima)
  • Cop Car (2015, Jon Watts)
  • Dead Snow 2 (2014, Tommy Wirkola)
  • Enemy (2013, Denis Villeneuve)
  • Fast and Furious parts 5, 6 and 7 (2011, 2013, 2015, Justin Lin and James Wan)
  • Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuarón)
  • Hiruko the Goblin (1991, Shinya Tsukamoto)
  • Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax)
  • Kotoko (2011, Shinya Tsukamoto)
  • Locke (2013, Steven Knight)
  • Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976,  Jimmy Wang Yu)
  • Miss Meadows (2014, Karen Leigh Hopkins)
  • Nightcrawler (2014, Dan Gilroy)
  • Oculus (2013, Mike Flanagan)
  • Senna (2010, Asif Kapadia)
  • The Decline of Western Civilisation 1-3 (1981, 1988, 1998, Penelope Spheeris)
  • The Final Girls (2015, Todd Strauss-Schulson)
  • The Editor (2014, Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy)
  • The Equalizer (2014, Antoine Fuqua)
  • The Scribbler (2014, John Suits)
  • Tokyo Sonata (2008, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
  • We are the Best! (2013, Lukas Moodysson)
  • White God (2014, Kornél Mundruczó)

The series I saw include narrative and sketch comedy (five seasons of South Park, nine seasons of The Office, three seasons of Inside Amy Schumer, two series Fist of fun, five seasons of Key and Peele, two seasons of Regular Show, Louie season 5, Lucky Louie, Veep season 4, Sean's Show series 2, Wilfred season 1, Campus), drama (seven seasons of Californication, Girls season 1, Wentworth Prison season 1, Justified season 4, Better Call Saul season 1, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit season 15, This is England ’90), action (24: Live Another Day, Hunted, Daybreak, seven seasons of Burn Notice, four seasons of Nikita), and various horror/fantasy series (The Strain season 1, five seasons of Being Human, two series of Black Mirror, five seasons of Warehouse 13, four seasons of Game of Thrones, Scream season 1, The Walking Dead seasons 4 and 5, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles season 1).

The highlights were Community season 6 (return to form), Hannibal Season 3 (R.I.P.), two series of Inside no.9 (brave), four seasons of Arrested Development (witty), seven seasons of 30 Rock (bonkers), and Orange is the New Black season 3 (consistently brilliant).

All in all, it has been an interesting experiment working out just how much I consume in a single year, and it has helped me to recall exactly what I have seen over the last 12 months. I won't will repeat the experiment next year as I will be drafting my next monograph, and so I will be repeat-watching numerous films and sections of films. I haven’t posted as many updates as I would have liked to in 2015, so I will endeavour to post more “15 second reviews” in 2016.

In the meantime, happy New Year.