Blood in the Gutter

I’ve just been to see Cloverfield, the monster movie from the creators of Lost (or so it’s billed). The gasps, screams (and on one occasion, sobs) from across the cinema started me thinking about what really makes a scary movie/comic book/novel.

As human beings, we’ re conditioned to respond in a certain way to particular stimuli; that’s why a flickering TV image will continually catch your eye (and also why those animated Flash/gif ad banners on some websites are so darn annoying) – our eye is drawn to anything that’s moving in an otherwise static environment. It’s a survival instinct, one that helped us hunt prey in the past and serves us well today by letting us know there’s a bus headed straight for us as we step blithely into traffic. It’s this same basic survival instinct that makes films such as Cloverfield so effective.

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Of sound design and small cinemas

Being a big Coen Brothers fan, I saw No Country for Old Men last weekend. We headed over to the Phoenix, a great little two-screen joint in Jericho (as in the Oxford suburb, not the ancient West Bank city) partly to escape the horrific doldrums that are the twin Odeon Cinemas in Oxford’s town centre, but mostly to take advantage of Jericho’s great pubs. Next time you’re in Oxford, visit the Gardener’s Arms for the world’s greatest I-can’t-believe-it’s-a-veggie-burger.

Anyway, the film was/is fantastic – another Coen triumph which sits a lot closer to Fargo in tone and style than anything else in the brothers’ oevre (I cannot believe I just used that word). It’s an adaptation of a novel by Cormac McCarthy which I’ve not read, but may just have to seek out having seen the film. But the thing that struck me most about it was the sound of wind that permeated each scene in testament to the film’s desolate Southern Texas setting.

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