Hello, world. I’m MacDara Conroy, and this is my blog.


Tag: Letterboxd

Film review — Leviathan: The Story of Hellraiser and Hellbound: Hellraiser II

There’s enough good material here for a 90-minute, maybe two-hour oral history of the making of these late 1980s horror classics. For some inexplicable reason, however, the makers of Leviathan decided they needed three-and-a-half hours, shoving in what seems like all of the material they gathered (whether it adds to the story or not, and even then it’s wanting in certain areas, like the Coil soundtrack), and topping it off with a voice-over that’s both poorly scripted and terribly recorded. Strictly amateur hour on the production front here, so, and it does the interesting anecdotes (of which there are quite a few) serious disservice. More…


Film review — Why Horror?

I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to watch this had it not been streaming on a service I just got a free month for, but it’s a fun little exploration of why horror cinema matters as a personal and cultural phenomenon. It’s breezy and light in tone, but also substance; there’s scope for someone else to pick up the baton and blow this into a series, investigating, say, whether mainstream aversion to horror as a genre is unique to the western context. Not just why horror, but how? More…


Film review — Suspiria

I’m not especially a fan of Argento’s original (stylistically it’s a winner; his giallos appeal more in substance) but this? It’s metaphor straining for meaning; hollow, pretentious. It’s a compendium of all the worst tendencies coddled by the art-housing of horror. More…


Film review — Le Mans ’66

Ford v Ferrari is not an inspiring title. It reduces the substance of this quasi-biopic to a mere clash between rival car brands, implying a corporate-driven monstrosity on par with, say, The Emoji Movie. If they’d used the title under which it was released over here, Le Mans ’66 – think French sophistication, retro chic, Steve McQueen and Paul fucking Newman – perhaps it would have fared better with those who’ve dismissed it out of hand. Turns out, it really is all about the image. More…


Film review — Hail Satan?

Very much like the group it depicts, Hail Satan? is less about contemporary organised Satanism as a thing than it is about highlighting the hypocrisy of an insidious theocratic Christianity and the people who buy into its bullshit. It doesn’t really add anything new to the thesis, but it’ll while away an hour and a half. More…


Film review — Doctor Sleep

Think of Doctor Sleep less as a sequel to an indelible Kubrick classic and more of an overzealous fan’s tribute to same. It’s got a different, lesser kind of obsessive attention to detail, with none of the aesthetic flair, and ultimately gets lost in the maze of its own references (not only to The Shining; the villains are straight out of Near Dark). But it also kind of works, if you treat it as a standalone piece with only a casual, if enthusiastic, connection to the original. Honestly, I’d mostly given up on Mike Flanagan — the good (Oculus, Before I Wake) is outweighed by the bad (Hush, Ouija, The Haunting of Hill House) — but this restores my faith a little. More…


Film review — Terminator: Dark Fate

I imagine a bunch of saddo men have moaned about the new Terminator requel (a new word I just made up*, a portmanteau of reboot and sequel) that it’s too political or feminist or whatever. Which is of course ignorant of the fact that the franchise is inherently political — Government contractors messing about with rogue AI? That’s politics, bozos! — and that since the second film, a woman kicking ass as much as if not more than the men has been kind of central to its thing. More…


Film review — Violent Cop

It’s remarkable enough that Takeshi Kitano made a film this good on his first go. But knowing he fell into the job by accident when Kinji Fukasaku had to pull out? That’s just taking the piss, like. More…


Film review — Stoker

There’s a bit in this film where Mia Wasikowska’s character comes to a stunning realisation, and the camera tilts to bring a lampshade fixture on the wall behind into frame: a literal lightbulb moment. I didn’t know whether to laugh or run away to join the circus. More…


Film review — Demonlover

Watched this based on its thematic comparisons with Videodrome (it’s kind of that crossed with In the Company of Men, if you want my facile elevator pitch) and… nah, not my bag. Too long and meandering for an espionage thriller, not engaging enough to work as a mood piece — and then in its final few minutes it devolves into some kind of live-action video game, which was probably interpreted at the time as saying something about yadda yadda but it’s nothing more than a provocative stylistic wheeze. Blah. More…


Film review — Videodrome

David Cronenberg must think back on this film, nearly 40 years after the fact, and get chills. Not so much for the prescience of the themes (the deleterious effects of life mediated through screens, sure, alongside hefty slices of transhumanism, dark enlightenment and totalitarian tendencies) but because his extremist depictions more or less came true. More…


Film review — It: Chapter Two

Three whole hours and they couldn’t even muster an ounce of the frights or the tension of its predecessor. Instead, they decided to make some kind of hamfisted tribute to Evil Dead II? I don’t get it. More…


Film review — Fighting with My Family

It’s hard to watch this as a wrestling fan, knowing that one can pull up Paige’s debut on Raw within a matter of moments on the WWE Network and witness the enormous pop for her entrance, and her effortless confidence in the ring — nothing at all like the timid ingenue before a dead crowd that the film would have us believe. There’s a lot of that revisionism here, pushing the credulity of kayfabe, but there’s also a lot of genuine rapport between Florence Pugh’s Paige and the rest of her fighting family that makes it worth sticking out. So, bad as a wrestling movie, but decent as an irreverent comedy-drama, I suppose? More…


Film review — Leviathan

There was something in the water, pardon the pun, with 1989’s proliferation of subaquatic thrillers: The Abyss, DeepStar Six and this here Leviathan, where the pitch is more or less ‘What if Alien, but like The Thing, at the bottom of the ocean?’ Sounds alright, but these people exercise such poor contamination protocol, they deserve everything they get, so the only thing left to root for is the monster. More…


Film review — Gemini Man

As rote as it gets for an action movie, sigh. I don’t even have any witty remarks about the high frame rate nonsense as it saw it in ’normal’ HD. More…


Film review — Honey Boy

No time to write up a proper review of this one, but I have thoughts. Mostly around the idea of this being yet another narrative of familial abuse and estrangement where redemption is achieved through reconnection and forgiveness as if that path is mandatory. Honey Boy presents itself as something different, and to be fair it’s remarkably staged and beautifully shot, with performances that deserve awards attention for going where you might not expect. (And yes, I know it’s Shia LaBeouf adapting his own relationship with his father for the screen.) But in essence it’s as clichéd as the rest of ’em. And that cliché, an almost bullying edict (‘You must forgive your parents even if they’ve been extraordinarily shitty to you!’), is not something I care to stomach. More…


Film review — Rosemary’s Baby

It’s one of life’s great ironies that a film which ranks among the most affecting cinematic depictions of coercive control and emotional abuse was made by a man who later raped an underage girl and got away with it. More…


Film review — Paradise Alley

Sly was perhaps entitled to a little self-indulgence after the breakout success of Rocky, and the results very much betray the sense of a hungry talent desperate to get all his ideas on the page and on the screen. So, we get a schmaltzy period drama set in post-WWII Hell’s Kitchen, realised in all its ragged glory. And it’s kind of a mess of competing storylines, most of which are forgotten by the final reel, and with the main thread — the carny wrestling hustle that brings Stallone and his brothers the ticket out of the slums they so crave — not even getting out of the blocks until more than halfway in. But it’s clearly got heart, which counts for something. More…


Film review — Her Smell

If Vox Lux is ‘Lars von Trier does A Star Is Born’, then Her Smell, at least in its first half, is like Gaspar Noé having a go — if he were into stagey drama that’s over-enamoured with its own writing. More…


Film review — The King of Comedy

Robert De Niro blah blah blah — this picture really comes to life through Sandra Bernhard’s tangibly unhinged superfan. That more wasn’t made of her talent is an indictment of the era, I suppose. More…


Film review — Eli

This fairly rote haunted-house medical horror from the director of the fine Citadel and terrible Sinister 2 takes such a gonzo twist in the final act that it’s worth persevering. More…


Film review — Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy attempts both an affectionate tribute to Rudy Ray Moore, and to make amends for the casual homophobia and misogyny that marked much of his own rise to stardom, and more or less succeeds at both? I didn’t see that coming. (Mind you, we never do learn what happened to the vagrants that Dolemite nicked his act from, do we?) More…


Film review — Avengement

In all seriousness, who needs S Craig Zahler and his crypto-fascism when you’ve got Scott Adkins fighting his way through Belmarsh prison and an East London pub? More…


Film review — Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw

Where action movies often go wrong is not that they try to do too much — that’s pretty much what we expect — but that they never know where to end. Hobbs and Shaw is case in point. It’s poor enough that this squanders the chemistry The Rock and Jason Statham have undeniably displayed in previous Fast and the Furious outings; but a story that drags on past the point of caring, while rendering too many of its probably-cool-on-paper set-pieces as Michael Bay-esque screen noise, just isn’t forgivable. Sometimes, even for a bombastic action film, less is more. More…


Film review — In the Tall Grass

I looked up the synopsis of the original story, written by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill, and it’s King by numbers. Haunted grass? Check. Man who’s manipulated into sublimating his shortcomings as a husband and father into psychotic rage? Check. Unsatisfyingly denouement? Oh, you’d better believe that’s a check. But in the hands of Vincenzo Natali, who’d previously never really fulfilled the promise of Cube all those years ago, the story is something else. It’s an adaptation that adds a mind-bending twist to the premise while foregrounding its themes of power, patriarchy and toxic masculinity, though it does tend to get a tad too obvious about those for its own good. More…


Film review — In the Shadow of the Moon

‘Ambitious but flawed’ is a cliche, but it nevertheless applies to Jim Mickle’s follow-up to the hardcore Cold In July — a sci-fi mystery that holds its cards so close to its chest, I’d imagine it’ll lose many viewers before the reveal finally comes. Mickle’s previous was more successful at the bait-and-switch plotting move, and with its period depictions. There’s a jarring sense of not-quite-rightness here that ultimately distracts and detracts from the story. More…