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Under the Shadow (2016)

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Under the Shadow is the slow-burning and intensely creepy feature directorial debut of Iranian filmmaker Babak Anvari. It is ripe with socio-political commentary. And utterly terrifying. Utilising a culturally specific entity from Iranian mythology, Anvari confronts uncomfortable truths of certain cultural realities, particularly those experienced by women. By setting the story in Tehran during the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), when the city was repeatedly targeted by airstrikes in which thousands of civilians lost their lives, Anvari also addresses the traumatic realities faced by ordinary people living in a war-torn society.

When her doctor husband is suddenly transferred to treat the injured at the frontlines, Shideh (Narges Rashidi) and her young daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) remain at home. As missile attacks on the city occur almost daily, mother and daughter spend long periods of time in the bomb shelter beneath their building. Their relationship soon becomes strained as the stre…

Crawl (2019)

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With Haute Tension (Switchblade Romance [2003]), director Alexandre Aja supplied one of the most intense and stressful home-invasion horrors of the 21st century and instigated a wave of transgressive, brutally violent French films collectively known as New French Extremity cinema. Crawl, while nowhere near as searing as Aja’s early work, does see him return to home-invasion territory; albeit with an irresistible man vs nature element. Truly refreshing in its minimalism and back to basics approach, it boasts a rollicking and extraordinarily simple premise (it’s a concept movie, basically): when a massive hurricane hits their small Florida town, Haley (Kaya Scodelario), her father Dave (Barry Pepper) and their dog Sugar (Cso-Cso) find themselves trapped in their basement and have to contend with rapidly rising floodwaters and several giant alligators.

The screenplay by Michael and Shawn Rasmussen takes what is familiar, mundane and even sentimental (a family home, full of memories, bot…

Curtains (1983)

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When she has herself committed to a psychiatric hospital to prepare for a film role, Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) is abandoned there by treacherous director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon), who then invites six other actresses to an isolated mansion to audition for the role. One by one, they are stalked and murdered by a mysterious killer sporting a creepy old crone mask and seemingly seeking revenge...

Curtains is an interesting, if not always effective slasher film that possesses a few untypical aspects, such as an older cast, higher production values, snide asides at the superficiality of the film industry and celebrity culture, and some light commentary on the downside of over-ambition. The first act focuses on the duplicitous actions of Samantha as she is determined to snatch that starring role. When it appears she actually slips into catatonia during her stay at the facility, and is abandoned by the director, the stage is set for murder and mayhem as the action relocates to…

Color Out of Space (2019)

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"There was something of stolid resignation about them all, as if they walked half in another world between lines of nameless guards to a certain and familiar doom." HP Lovecraft, Color Out of Space.

Adapted from a short story by HP Lovecraft, Color Out of Space marks the return of cult director Richard Stanley, whose last directorial feature was Dust Devil in 1992, though in the interim he has also directed documentaries, short films and written/doctored screenplays, including creepy doppelganger chiller, The Abandoned (2006).

There have been many filmic adaptions of Lovecraft’s work throughout the years, most notably from director Stuart Gordon, who proved quite deft in treading the line between the sort of pulpy exploitation and hallucinatory cosmic horror Lovecraft is renowned for. Lovecraft’s work has often been described as ‘unfilmable’ as his narratives tend to focus on conjuring atmosphere, and describing the dread and fear felt by his narrators. Many of his stories c…

The Flesh and the Fiends (1960)

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This month marks the centenary of cult screen legend Donald Pleasence, and to celebrate I went along to a special screening of The Flesh and the Fiends as part of the BFI’s Projecting the Archive series.

Based on the Burke and Hare murders that horrified early 19th century Edinburgh, The Flesh and the Fiends blends morbid gallows humour with violence, shrewd socio-political commentary, and a dank and sombre atmosphere. When he cannot legally obtain cadavers for his research, Dr Knox (Peter Cushing) turns to resurrectionists Burke and Hare (Donald Pleasence and George Rose), who use whatever means necessary to ensure the corpses they procure are as fresh as can be... including murder!

While the dark deeds of these nefarious individuals have been adapted for cinema quite a few times throughout the years - Burke and Hare (2010), The Body Snatcher(1945), I Sell the Dead (2009) - The Flesh and the Fiends stands out due to vivid performances from Peter Cushing, Donald Pleasence, George Ros…

Giallo Book Update

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I have contributed to a new Spanish language book on Italian giallo films. Giallo: crimen sexualidad y estilo en el cine de género italiano (Giallo: Crime, Sexuality and Style in Italian Genre Cinema) is the latest publication from Buenos Aires-based Colectivo Rutemberg (Rutemberg Collective), a multidisciplinary group of artists, journalists, academics and writers dedicated to the creation of audio-visual and journalistic content. This publication, which features work from over 20 authors from Latin America and Europe, is particularly unique as it is the first ever Latin American book solely dedicated to Italian genre cinema, with a specific focus on the giallo.

Edited by Natalio Pagés, Álvaro Bretal & Carlos Pagés, Giallo: crimen sexualidad y estilo en el cine de género italiano features content on many of the filmmakers who are renowned for their contributions to the giallo: there are essays on the work of Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, Lucio Fulci, Luciano Ercoli, Mario Bava,…

Book Update: Review by Emily Turner

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The latest review of my Devil’s Advocates book on The Company of Wolves comes courtesy of journalist and academic, Emily Turner. According to Turner, 'Gracey is adept at identifying key themes in the 1984 film and exploring them in an accessible but thorough manner, forging links between images and ideas, and wider theoretical concepts [...] a useful and interesting overview of the myriad references and inspirations which conjured the film from the minds of Jordan and Carter.'

I’ve copied the full review below, and you can also check it out over at Emily’s blog...

Cinematic lycanthropy and monstrous femininity: a review of James Gracey’s The Company of Wolves 
By Emily Turner

The Company of Wolves is a title in Auteur Publishing’s Devil’s Advocate series, which showcases a range of critical approaches to horror cinema. James Gracey’s text explores how the 1984 Neil Jordan film of the same name evokes fairy tales, horror, werewolf films, Freudian symbolism, and the Female Gothic…

A Decade of Blogging, Horror & Wine

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Behind the Couch turns ten years old today. Ten years old! I can’t believe it. That's a whole decade of watching and writing about horror films. Usually while guzzling wine.

I started blogging after I’d submitted the first draft of my first book (a guide to the films of Dario Argento) to the publisher, and I wanted to keep busy while I awaited editorial feedback. I was unemployed at the time, and while I felt a little directionless, I was keen to continue to build up a body of written work. A couple of friends suggested setting up a blog. I had a little stash of horror film reviews I’d already written for a website I was dying to contribute to, but as they never used them, I decided to make them a home of their very own. Before long, blogging became a huge part of my daily routine, and I soon found myself part of a little community of horror bloggers, some of whom I am still friends with today.

But enough about me. This blog is a decade old. While it has been fairly quiet over the…

The Wireless Mystery Theatre Presents Frankenstein

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With their frequently spooky and always spirited productions, which conjure the ghosts of vintage radio suspense plays, the Belfast-based Wireless Mystery Theatre have been delighting audiences for almost a decade now. A ‘typical’ performance takes the form of a live radio drama 'recording’, as the actors speak their lines directly into microphones placed around the stage, create their own sound effects and perform their own music. Previous productions have included adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue, Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s Guest and Sheridan Le Fanu’s Green Tea. Their latest production is a nifty adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel of Gothic horror and science-fiction, Frankenstein.

Shelley’s ground-breaking work tells of Victor Frankenstein, an ambitious young scientist whose unyielding, unorthodox experiments result in the creation of a living, sentient creature assembled from parts of stolen human cadavers. Horrified by his creation, Victor rej…

The Strangers: Prey at Night

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Coming 10 years after Bryan Bertino’s haunting home invasion horror The Strangers (2008), this belated sequel offers the same taut suspense and chillingly downbeat domestic horror as its predecessor. When a family of four stop off at an eerily deserted trailer park for the night, they fall prey to three masked psychopaths. Those who admired The Strangers will find much to enjoy in this lean, mean, terrific exercise in nerve-wrecking tension.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Book Update: Film International Review

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The latest review of my Devil’s Advocates book on The Company of Wolves comes courtesy of Jeremy Carr over at Film International, and it’s another really positive one. According to Carr, 'Gracey does his part to add to the legacy of The Company of Wolves, strengthening the film’s importance with a thoughtful monograph that is detailed and accessible, presenting arguments with deliberation and validity, never forcefully or self-righteous. Jordan’s film isn’t perfect by any means, but Gracey’s ultimate achievement is in making the case that it still warrants and welcomes further examination.'

I’ve copied the full review below, and you can also check it out (along with a wealth of other film related reviews, news and features) over at Film International...


Review (by Jeremy Carr)

James Gracey’s Devil’s Advocates entry on The Company of Wolves (Auteur Publishing, 2017) does everything a book of its scope should do. In about 120 pages, Gracey takes what is a generally regarded cult …

Giallo Book & Crowdfunding Project

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I have contributed an essay to a forthcoming book about Italian giallo films*. Giallo un libro sobre terror italiano (Giallo: A Book about Italian Terror) is the latest project from the Buenos Aires-based Colectivo Rutemberg (Rutemberg Collective), a multidisciplinary group of artists and writers dedicated to the creation of exciting audio-visual and journalistic content. This publication, which features work from over 20 authors from Latin America and Europe, is particularly unique as it will be the first ever Latin American book solely dedicated to Italian terror cinema. Exciting!

With Giallo un libro sobre terror italiano, Colectivo Rutemberg will contribute to the dissemination and critical analysis of the giallo, which, at present, is the subject of a very limited bibliography in the Spanish language (the only other Spanish language book specifically dedicated to analysing the giallo was published in Spain in 2001 and is currently out of print).

Giallo un libro sobre terror itali…

Knockbreda Cemetery

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Situated on a long, sloping hill between Church Road and Saintfield Road in south Belfast, Knockbreda Cemetery is one of the oldest cemeteries in the city. I lived quite close to this cemetery for five or six years and, naturally, found myself wandering through it fairly frequently as, rain or shine, day or night, it not only offered peace and quiet, but pretty views of Belfast city, Black Mountain and Cave Hill. The cemetery is built around the little parish church nestled on the pinnacle of the hill, which was consecrated in 1737. It was designed by Richard Cassels, a lauded Palladian architect, and built by Lady Middleton, mother of the first Viscount Dungannon, Arthur Hill-Trevor. According to a nearby information board, Knockbreda Cemetery was a ‘fashionable place to spend eternity’ as it became renowned for its funerary monuments and exquisite mausolea which were erected by some of the wealthiest, most influential families in Ulster at that time. 

Amongst those buried here are…