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


Tag: offsite

Film review — What Have They Done to Your Daughters?

It’s got all the makings of a giallo classic — an outrageously lurid plot, a masked marauder with a giant knife, and a bleak-as-anything ending — but doesn’t execute any of it to the high standard set by the genre’s most memorable offerings. More…

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Film review — Manhattan Baby

An ancient Egyptian curse? Child possession? A man pecked to death by taxidermied birds? It doesn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s a Lucio Fulci horror movie, so whatcha gonna do? More…

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Film review — Cobra

Cobra is brilliant, isn’t it? The first 40 minutes, and the hellish symbolism of the climactic fight scene, retain a powerfully unsettling weirdness even after all these years. The story does kind of lose its way once it’s taken out of the city and becomes more conventional Cannon action fodder, alas. If it had gone all-in on the murderous cult angle, we’d be talking about all-time classic; as it is, though, it remains criminally underrated. More…

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Film review — Blood & Flesh: The Reel Life & Ghastly Death of Al Adamson

I didn’t know who Al Adamson was before this, though his reputation (at least through titles like Satan’s Sadists) preceded him in my experience. Of all of these rose-tinted nostalgia docs about B-movie mavens, I think the Adamson story comes the closest to Roger Corman in terms of the end results living up to the passion that drove it all. And then it’s set apart by the man’s life ending in a manner that could be straight out of one of his own pictures. More…

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Film review — Xtro

It’s not your average Alien rip-off, that’s for sure. There is a very tangible sense of effort to make something meaningful here, beyond the often amateurish performances and other deficiencies, and I can see why that sticks with people. More…

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Film review — Chopping Mall

The better half of my ‘kids in the mall’ double bill, but only just. I’d say it was ripe for a remake, but do kids even hang out in malls any more? I mean besides the Covid lockdowns; it’s not really a thing these days, is it? Although Bee did tell me a while ago about hipsters hiding out in IKEA to have parties in the showroom after hours, so maybe there’s scope for a flatpack killbot flick… IKEA? More like I-KILL-YA amirite? More…

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Film review — The Evil

‘Geothermal activity as a sign of Satan’s realm breaking through’ is quite the conceit; shame this trumped-up haunted-mansion yarn can’t cash that cheque. Another disappointment from the vaguely recalled scary video rental shelves of my youth, so… Hell of a place they picked to set up a drug rehab centre, though. See what I did there? More…

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Film review — Society

The aesthetic epitomises the ’80s — from the fashions to the OTT effects work — but the theme is evergreen… depressingly so. More…

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Film review — Antrum

It’s the ‘Cigarette Burns’ episode of Masters of Horror except this time we get to see the movie! And it’s… OK. The film grain and wardrobe set the right tone for a supposedly unearthed filmic relic from the late ’70s. But the masks slips as it progresses, with the postmodern ‘subliminal’ edits, the lazy ‘vaguely Eastern Europeans are sinister’ trope and a bleak finale that echoes Lynch or Cronenberg or Von Trier more than Fulci and that ilk. If it wasn’t trying so hard to impress and disorient aesthetically, the strength of its more subtle themes — like the inscrutability of childhood grief — might be easier to discern. More…

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Film review — Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street

The rare retro horror documentary that’s nothing of the sort: it’s instead an affecting character study of a man whose burgeoning career in the movies was cut short by gay panic. It’s unflinching about the grind of the convention circuit, and the struggle for acceptance even this far into the 21st century. But it’s also inspiring and life-affirming: despite being thrown under the bus by the ignorant, and coming close to death with Aids, Mark Patton is still here — and hopefully more alive than ever. More…

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Film review — Dead Kids

Not quite weird or offbeat enough to work as the knowing homage it’s intended to be. But it’s got some memorably strange moments, and it serves as a distant cousin to the same year’s Dead & Buried in their shared sense of a small town gone awry under the influence of sinister forces. More…

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Film review — The Mourning Forest

The shame of living. That’s the prevailing thought I’m left with from Naomi Kawase’s The Mourning Forest. It’s a slow, slow, neorealist meditation on grief, centred on a young woman working in a nursing home (and who we shortly learn has lost a child) and an elderly widower with signs of dementia and jumbled-up memories of his late wife. The two make an unlikely connection before a spur-of-the-moment road trip becomes a trek through the woods as the man struggles to find something he’s lost, literally and figuratively. For all its glacial pacing in its first third, the film blooms when the duo disappear among the trees, with allusions to the joys and pains of motherhood, the meaning of what it is to be alive — and the hurt we bear when we outlive those who claim our hearts. More…

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Film review — Beyond Skyline

I knew going in this would be different from the first Skyline, but no one told me they Evil Dead II’ed it, and jazzed it up with yer ones from The Raid for good measure. More…

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Film review — Maniac Cop 3: Badge of Silence

Maniac Cop 2 isn’t streaming anywhere but this one is, so… Insert ‘Maniac Cop is a tautology’ gag here. Anyway, the relatively few kills are fairly inventive, given the limitations of its hospital setting. And it’s got a satirical bent that prefigures the moral degradation of Nightcrawler by decades. Ted Raimi replacing his more illustrious brother for the TV reporter cameo was a bad omen, I have to say, but nothing prepared me for the nutzoid finale. This one goes out with a bang, indeed. More…

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Film review — Unearthed & Untold: The Path to Pet Sematary

Perfunctory at best, with a real whiff of homework-done-on-the-school-bus from all the disconnected filler. Turns out there’s little remarkable to say about a horror movie that might deserve its positive reputation (it’s great, you should watch it) but is culturally irrelevant. And they really missed a trick not including the film’s sequel, which was made by the same director with a young star on the rise; that might have provided for some focus and a proper thesis to pull it all together. More…

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Film review — Melancholic

It doesn’t quite stick the landing, alas, but there’s something compelling about the strange clash of almost lighthearted deadpan comedy, social satire and grim violence here. It’s epitomised in the protagonist — an underemployed college grad who gets a job in a bathhouse and stumbles into shady goings-on — where it’s never quite clear if he’s just socially awkward or living with a more serious condition. More…

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Film review — Cure

Somehow never saw this one before, despite being all about Ringu and Audition back in the day. It’s a different beast, eschewing the supernatural and grounding its horror in arguably more disturbingly plausible psychological concerns. There’s a grim matter-of-factness and stark economy that work in its favour in this regard, at least until the final stretch when too much has to happen to wrap things up. More…

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Film review — Skyline

Props for not dragging down the action with exposition dumps about the invading aliens and letting the audience figure things out. Shame about all that conservative moralising, though. More…

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Film review — Downsizing

I read a thread on Twitter a few months ago that used the term ‘racist anti-racism’ — to describe efforts to express anti-racist sentiment, or do anti-racist work, that employ racist tropes, whether due to ignorance or hamfistedness or what. There’s a lot of it in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, a mess of a satire that consistently blunders into blind alleys whenever it tries to make a political point, and ends up doing more harm than good. More…

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Film review — Antebellum

It’s one bravura visual sequence at the end, and written backwards from there, such that even The Village stands up to closer scrutiny. It does an unforgivable disservice to the message when the medium is this poorly constructed. More…

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Film review — High&Low The Movie

I’m distracted by the veneer of toughness, the trappings of machismo on display here. The faces too handsome for more than a scratch or a blotted-on bruise; the clothes too expensive to get more than a scuff of dirt. The lit cigarette that never reaches the lips. The sheer absence of sexual tension (if there’s any eroticism, it’s of a profoundly chaste kind). I’d say it’s all an act, but the spirit of brotherhood seems real, and the fight choreography is impressively tight, so they’re not faking everything. More…

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Film review — Five Element Ninjas

As the 1980s dawned, the cracks were clearly beginning to show in Shaw Brothers’ studio-bound kung fu productions. As much as this one has all the action and intrigue you’d expect, the obvious soundstage setting and magenta-paint bloodletting mark it as a relic from a time since passed. It’s fine, but only fine. More…

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Film review — Ip Man 4: The Finale

The American white devil really gets a skewering in this final instalment of the Ip Man series, where a racist Scott Adkins beats up old people for kicks; more subtle is the anti-Japanese sentiment, but it’s also there. More…

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Film review — Ip Man 3

Too much story, too little time: this one takes a big turn in the third act, when the A plot evaporates (I guess Mike Tyson’s pretty expensive) and the B plot takes its rightful place, but doesn’t have enough breathing room for a satisfactory outcome. The hospital lift fight is a great touch, though. More…

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Film review — Penitentiary III

Look, I guess this Rocky-in-prison flick (which is also technically a wrestling movie, thanks to the Haiti Kid’s big supporting role) is probably a labour of love, and its cheapness is not unrelated to Cannon betting the house on Masters of the Universe that same year. But if ever one’s reach exceeded one’s grasp… watching this is such a chore. Let’s just say I’m thankful for YouTube’s variable playback speed setting. More…

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Film review — Apollo 11

This didn’t really need to work hard to inspire awe — the archival footage does it all on its own — but it’s the unnecessary embellishments, those moments where the soundtrack takes over the atmosphere, that pull it back from being a perfect document of a moment in history. More…

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Film review — Initial D

Here’s a real misstep from the writer-director partnership responsible for Infernal Affairs: a curiously low-energy adaptation of the popular boy racer manga that doesn’t transplant the action to Hong Kong despite using an all Cantonese-speaking cast (bar one Japanese woman whose lines are clumsily dubbed, and whose character falls into misogynist tropes). I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin Lin watched this while making Tokyo Drift and felt the pressure lift. More…

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Film review — The Heroine

This one’s on Netflix as Young Tiger. Why, I couldn’t tell you. What I can tell you is that it’s a frustratingly haphazard crime thriller, with a missing purse McGuffin, that feels every moment of its hour and 20 minutes and then some. It’s got Jackie Chan in a minor role as a heel with a comedy mole stuck to his cheek, and he only busts out one stunt: a car roof grab performed at a sedate 10mph or so. It’s also got taxis like the Toyota Corolla my grandad drove in the ’80s so I didn’t entirely waste my time. More…

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Film review — Changing Lanes

Putting the film’s core macho rivalry aside, there’s a real whiff of MRA fantasy bullshit from Samuel L Jackson’s hard-done-by working stiff, and a depressing resignation to late-stage capitalistic amorality surfacing the road to Damascus for Ben Affleck’s Wall Street lawyer type. More…

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Film review — Hollow Man

After a string of important (if not always financially successful) Hollywood statements, Paul Verhoeven made this, an adaptation of The Invisible Man where the title could also reference its conspicuous lack of substance — on first impression, anyway. The script and structure are at least partly to blame; two or three minor setups or dialogue tweaks could have avoided mounting confusion with character motivations that makes this film seem overly hurried and much sillier than it ought to be. More…

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Film review — Rambo: Last Blood

Rambo goes Taken as a western, with surprisingly satisfying if gratuitously visceral results. It’s also got the smarts to keep its right-wing politics in its back pocket, though there’s no mistaking its racist, imperialistic worldview. More…

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Book review — Mutations: The Many Strange Faces of Hardcore Punk by Sam McPheeters

Mutations is right, as Sam McPheeters’ collected essays shapeshift between wry criticism, wistful but not rose-tinted reminiscences, self-excoriations and determined opinions on any number of topics: consumer culture, scene politics, the worth of art. It concludes on a rueful note, with a vignette from the early Noughties on the closing of a longstanding record pressing plant that’s by happenstance a treasure trove of US independent punk history, one read some 17-odd years later with the keen understanding of a contemporary vinyl revival that has made little room for the small labels that kept the format breathing when there’s some bullshit classic rock reissue to put out or whatever. More…

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Film review — An American Pickle

The BiTiNg PoLiTiCaL sAtIrE will age faster than the artisanal scooter hipster shtick, and don’t think no one noticed the not-a-Sodastream-but-definitely-a-Sodastream image-sanitising product placement. But this is better than I’d expected. More…

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Film review — She Dies Tomorrow

If the performances were better (with the exception of Jane Adams, who is always worth watching), I might be more forgiving that this film cuts a sizeable cheque its story does not cash. More…

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Film review — Blue Vengeance

I do not get what others see in this. As a scuzzy thriller with urban decay as a metaphor (or not), it’s not a patch on the likes of Deadbeat at Dawn. And honestly I was out as soon as I realised the hitchhiking scenes were likely filmed on the pathways of a local park or something. The passion behind the project is clear; the results are what they are. More…

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Film review — Villains

Villains just about leans the right away between enthusiastic sampling and blatant rip-off of ideas, recycling its list of tropes and references into something that I think fairly counts as new. It also helps to have a co-lead as good as Maika Monroe is here, not to mention Kyra Sedgwick’s gleefully hammy turn. More…

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