Isabelle Huppert is outstanding as Michéle Leblanc in director Paul Verhoeven’s French thriller. There are very few actors that would take on such a controversial role as Huppert does in Elle. Provocative from the get-go as Leblanc is violently attacked and raped in her own home. The result of the encounter is that she starts to fantasise about it happening again. Verhoeven’s raw subject matter feels like a delve inside the mind of a modern day sexual deviant. Yet it is not the rape that throws off the viewer rather it is the comedic moments of the film that almost shock as Leblanc continues to be so nonchalant and humorous even after the despicable act has occurred. You could be forgiven for thinking this is a comedy of manners rather than a brutal thriller. This is a film that will divide viewers – it will either be hated or loved. One thing is for sure, Verhoeven still knows how to make films that demand attention.
This Australian horror film written by comedian Craig Anderson is a great slasher flick. However, it’s not the Santa slasher you’ll remember, instead it’s all about the family’s dark secrets that come to light that are at times quite disturbing & other times truly heartbreaking. A brilliant turn from Dee Wallace (The Howling, E.T.) ensures that this is one holiday horror film that really should be seen.
Starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh this little known RKO movie is an absolute gem of a Christmas flick. The two leads bump into each other in a department store and slowly their love affair starts to blossom. Mitchum and Leigh look to be having a lot of fun as they tease and provoke each other with plenty of jokes. It’s the type of classic Hollywood rom-com that any other time of the year would be accused of being too schmaltzy, but at Christmas time it is the perfect “love can be found in the strangest of places” heart-warming film
Never has being a pub singer been more terrifying than in Fabrice Du Weiz’s Calvaire. Set in the lead up to Christmas as Marc Stevens, a travelling singer, is stranded in the woods after his van breaks down. Plenty of dark humour is sprinkled throughout; however it’s the on-going sense of dread that truly grips the viewer. None more so than the bar room dance sequence that invokes The Wicker Man and dials it up to 11. A surreal comedy/survival horror that might be a bit too controversial for the average viewer.
Set on Christmas Eve, this depraved French horror film is one of the best of the past decade. Sarah is being tormented by a woman who comes to her house looking to cut out Sarah’s unborn baby. It’s suspenseful and ladled with blood. Directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury were given the thumbs up by Clive Barker and it is easy to see why in this disturbing home invasion movie.
Another French horror film, this time starring Vincent Cassel as Joseph an eccentric housekeeper-cum-shepherd who introduces a group of young revellers to a night of pure insanity. Cassel, as usual, is in full-on sadistic mode here as he befriends and then scares the youngsters. An erotic horror with touches of comedy that recalls early Wes Craven spliced with Deliverance.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
It wouldn’t be Christmas in the UK without a classic Bond film on the TV. Vastly underrated George Lazenby is James Bond is the snowy Swiss Alps. Lazenby probably gets as close to realising Fleming’s vision for James Bond as any other actor has. On-set tensions between Lazenby and director Peter Hunt didn’t help production. It wasn’t well received upon release, however On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has finally ripened into one of the best Bond films there is.
All Aboard! The Sleigh Ride
A two hour journey on a sleigh through the snow covered lands of Norway. A wonderfully chilled film that has no soundtrack about from the real noises of the snow being crunched under foot and the reindeers snorting occasionally. With outstanding camera work making it feel like we are right there on the sleigh this is a film to become hypnotised by. If there was a Koyaanisqatsi for Christmas then this would be it.
Wong Kar-Wai’s loose sequel to Days Of Being Wild and In The Mood For Love constantly makes reference to Christmas Eve. At first the chronology of the film can be confusing however with repeat viewings (and it does stand up to multiple views) it becomes easier to understand where all the pieces fit together. It is a non-linear love story split into several character arcs that oozes eroticism amongst the Science Fiction themes. Kar-Wai’s visual stunning film is almost like a heartbreaking poem to modern day society.
Santa With Muscles
Consistently ranked one of the worst films of all time. This atrocious “comedy” about an evil businessman who wakes up after an accident thinking he is Santa Clause is made worse by the fact the lead role is occupied by Hulk Hogan. Never really known for his acting capabilities, Santa With Muscles asks The Hulkster to act rather than flex the giant pythons and it is not pretty. If you want to get rid of the in-laws early at Christmas then just stick this on, they will be reaching for their coats & scarves before you can say “Wrestlemania”.