Animal Holocaust.

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Made during what many fans consider Italian exploitation cinemas golden era. Cannibal Holocaust remains one of the most controversial films to emerge from that period.

The film has two narratives. The first features Robert Kerman as anthropologist Dr. Harold Monroe who heads into the Rainforests of Central America to investigate the disappearance of a documentary film crew. The crew have something of a reputation for sensationalism and staging footage in order to help fuel that sensationalism. Arriving in the jungle Monroe soon discovers that the natives are in a state of extreme agitation. It takes him a while but eventually he manages to win the natives trust and discovers the crews films cans amidst a grisly totem of human remains. Returning to New York he sets up a screening of the recovered footage. Thus begins the second narrative as we witness the crew’s journey into the jungles through their documentary footage. As we get further into the material we see the crew becoming more antagonistic and cruel towards the locals. They begin staging the slaughter of local wildlife in a bid to present local customs and soon progress to rape and murder in a bid to frame the peaceful locals as the savage brutes in order that the film will play better back home in America. Eventually the crew push things way too far and the locals finally snap. They turn on the crew and kill them.

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On the film’s release, director Ruggero Deodato asked the films cast to disappear for a while. This was to help cement the idea in the audience’s mind that the footage of the crew’s deaths was in some way real and not staged. The stunt backfired a little and Deodato was forced to bring the cast out of hiding when Italian authority’s threatened to prosecute him. Cannibal Holocaust was not the first Cannibal movie to emerge from Italy, there was a whole sub-genre in Italy that produced such ‘classics’ as Man from deep river and Mountain of the Cannibal god. For the most part these seem to be derived from pulp adventure stories and featured a square jawed western adventurer encountering savages and falling in love with one of the tribes daughters. Cannibal Holocaust stands out from the crowd because Deodato, who had already contributed to the cannibal genre with the more traditional Last cannibal world, really takes the audiences expectations and shakes things up.

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The first thing to say is that Cannibal Holocausts main target is its own audience. It asks “so you want to see cannibalism eh?” and delivers the goods in such a realistic and unpleasant manner that the film is far more shocking than any of its contemporaries. The shaky, occasionally out of focus camera work that depicts the film crew’s final days adds a level of realism and authenticity not seen before. It’s a technique that modern film makers would borrow and create a whole sub-genre of found footage movies that attempt to add a layer of realism to their films. The crew’s unethical methods of getting footage stems from the western appetite for more and more sensational footage and the crew are clearly trying to help the film conform to the developed world’s notion of the primitive savage that in truth is far removed from reality.

One of the director’s inspirations for the film was the Italian ‘Mondo’ movies. Documentary footage taken from around the world that focused on unusual and on occasion extreme material. The Mondo cane  films proved popular and more followed. Including the infamous Africa addio, this managed to land the crew in court, under accusations that some of the footage of executions had been staged. Accusations that were eerily similar to the behaviour of the Crew in Cannibal Holocaust. In fact, when we see an example of the crew’s previous work The Road to hell, it looks very much like an attempt to recreate that film.

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Cannibal Holocaust could then be seen as a response to the Mondo movie craze. Certainly Deodato proves that allegedly real scenes of horror and brutality are not difficult to stage, and that the documentary nature of the footage can make what is happening on screen seem more real than a traditionally shot film. As I have already said as well, it’s a fairly stinging critique of the audience for those films and of the morality of film crews that seek to exploit the third world in such a prurient and often racist manner.

One of the major areas of contention surrounding Cannibal Holocaust is it’s use of real animal deaths. While there are a number of moments in the film where animal cruelty occur the two incidents most cited are the Turtle slaughter and the muskrat killing. With the former case, a turtle is dragged from a river and graphically slaughteredwhile in the latter a muskrat is held and slowly killed with a knife. The treatment of these scenes at the hands of the British censor gives a good example of how the law regards these acts. The Turtle scene remains intact in the UK edition because the animal was being slaughtered for food. The muskrat scene was edited down severely as it was more an act of cruelty staged for the cameras. For an otherwise smart and well crafted piece of cinema, the animal cruelty really lets the film down in my opinion as it makes the filming some respects as bad as the films it is attempting to critique. On a technical level they do help re-enforce the films impact on its audience as seeing the real animal deaths help fool the audience into thinking the deaths of the crew could also be real. However, this is a film made in 1980. The technology already existed to effectively fake scenes like this. Lucio Fulci’s 1971 film A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin offered a scene of animal death so realistic it was taken to court in Italy forcing the director to bring in special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi (who would later work on E.T) to demonstrate the scene was merely special effects and no animals were harmed.

 

Animal cruelty is nothing new in cinema. A lot of westerns are cut in the UK for ‘Horse falls’ which would often be staged by directors trip-wiring the horses. Esteemed art house favourite Robert Bresson used animal deaths. Sam peckinpah and Alan Parker’s films have both fallen foul of the censors. Animal cruelty in some of these films may not have been as graphic as in Cannibal Holocaust but it was occurring in a lot of more ‘respectable’ cinema. I read a recent blog that asked why Cannibal Holocaust was being re-issued. The writer thought the animal cruelty was too unacceptable. A lot of fans of horror cinema have been put of the film for the same reason. While mainstream critics may view horror fans as drooling borderline psychopaths I’ve spoken to a great many fans who are put off by real life violence and are well aware of the difference between a top quality special effect and real life killing. In fact, to appease these fans a lot of modern releases of Cannibal holocaust come with ‘animal friendly’ cuts of the film that remove all of the animal death.

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While I’m personally glad that film makers are required to have animal welfare specialists on set when dealing with scenes involving animals, and animal cruelty while not extinct is more and more a rare occurrence, I’m still uncomfortable with these scenes being removed from older films. To me films are not just a way of telling a story and a form of entertainment. Films are also time capsules of the era in which they were produced. I’m always reminded of the saying ‘those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it’ and animal cruelty in cinema is one of the darker parts of screen history that should not be forgotten. While the BBFC are cutting films with good intentions, its difficult to argue who it is they are protecting when they remove these scenes. Its like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. Personally I would much rather that all efforts were directed towards films coming in production today to ensure that animals on set are treated well and not subjected to any cruelty rather than what really amounts to whitewashing the past. I can still remember reading about Joseph Stalin, the 20th century’s biggest mass-murderer, who went back over his own history in photos and doctored the past to elevate his own importance and remove people who he wanted to ‘get rid off’. In terms of scale the censoring of films today to remove animal cruelty is not even close, however it has made me wary of anyone attempting to tamper with history. I would make the same arguments to people who want to remove the cigarettes from Humphrey Bogart’s mouth to George Lucas insistence that Greedo shot first.

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For better or worst we should preserve our past and learn from it. Not try and remove it however good the intentions.

 

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OOH-RAH!

In 1998 Roland Emmerich directed a ‘remake’ of Japans greatest monster movie. It wasn’t as bad a film as some made out. It just didn’t do the source material any justice whatsoever and the iconic look of the creature was changed so instead what audiences received was an overgrown T-Rex running round New York being chased by attack helicopters. Godzilla fans are quite discerning when it comes to monster movies and the 98 film unfortunately didn’t live up to those standards. The films biggest mistake was changing Godzilla too much. Instead of an almost indestructible colossus as an embodiment of the awesome destructive power of nuclear weaponry/natures indifference to man, we got the T-Rex that hid behind skyscrapers instead of tearing them down.

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Now 16 years later Hollywood has tried again.  Directed by British film-maker Gareth Edwards, the new Godzilla film has been wowing fans with its awesome trailers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIu85WQTPRc

 

The film itself is drawing some mixed reviews. One of the reasons is the distinct lack of actor Bryan Cranston who is featured prominently in the trailer. This has led to some grumbles of misleading advertising in some forums. In fairness quite a lot of the cast are underwritten and underdeveloped that has led to complaints of them being boring http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/escape-to-the-movies/9210-Godzilla-Breaking-Kaiju?utm_source=latest&utm_medium=index_carousel&utm_campaign=all

 

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But for me, while I found the film to be mostly fine and faithful to its source material my main complaint was its ‘call of duty fetishism’.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Call_of_duty

 

The call of duty series started out as games inspired by Saving Private Ryan.  They were set during World War 2 and had the player re-enact famous campaigns of the war. As the series progressed they moved the action to the modern era and emphasised to the point of fetishizing modern military hardware. Add to this the seemingly endless flag waving jingoism the franchise seems to have metamorphosed into Team America World police…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhnUgAaea4M

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When a film needs the assistance of the U.S military, the assistance usually comes at the cost of allowing the military creative input into the films contents. While one would first assume that this would be to simply ensure a level of accuracy (and prevent the leaking of any state secrets) it seems that more and more the military seems to be keen on turning these films into recruitment tools.

 

In Godzilla the U.S military NEEDS to be present. The last half of the film has the monsters laying waste to the country in their pursuit of nuclear fuel which is basically food to them. So asking for the military’s assistance with the film would have been inevitable for the film makers. For the most part the scenes of the army and navy’s efforts to stop the monsters give us some impressive action scenes….

 

 

At a key point in the film the top brass develop a plan to stop the monsters that seems completely baffling. Not to give too much away, it relies on them forgetting several key facts about the Mutos (the monsters that are not Godzilla) biology. For a huge chunk of the film I thought it was simply bad screenwriting, a way to give the film a satisfactory ending. Then it finally reached the film’s final act. The sequence where the monsters duke it out in a major City causing untold property damage.

 

THIS IS WHAT I PAID FOR.

 

Instead, as the fight is starting, the film cuts away. The incredibly stupid plan the military concocted means the soldiers now must Halo drop into the middle of the monster infested city and heroically save the day.

Relegating the monster battle to something that’s happening in the background.

 

I did not pay for this call of duty shit. I know there would be some level of glamorisation of the military. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened. However it has started directly affecting my enjoyment of films. The monster battles in Godzilla when we see them are excellent. They pay real respect to the originals. But the battle scenes between the monsters are supposed to be about the monsters. It’s as if some jar head commander somewhere had read the script and decided that Godzilla might threaten to upstage the military and the film was altered to make sure that did not happen.

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Perhaps the army will get some more recruits out of this. The film is still fairly decent as well. I just worry that any film I watch from now on that involves assistance from Americas army/navy is just going to be one long recruitment tool with the actual film in there somewhere.  

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For the Children!

 

He looked down on the steps they were climbing. They were something of a novelty; each one was built out of large stone letters. The one he was stepping on to, for example, read: I meant it for the best.

The next one was: I thought you’d like it.

Eric was standing on: For the sake of the children.

“Weird, isn’t it?” he said. “Why do it like this?”

“I think they’re meant to be good intentions,” said Rincewind. This was a road to hell, and demons were, after all, traditionalists.

Eric. By Terry Pratchett.

 

One of the most insidious excuses for putting out draconian, poorly thought out legislation is Child protection. It’s a catch all excuse the morally bankrupt and the terminally stupid use to justify whatever idiocy their coming out with next, so perfect for politicians.

 

Take this recent example….

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/draft-video-recordings-act-1984-exempted-video-works-regulations-2014

 

The department for Culture, media and sports has decided, in its campaign against ‘the sexualisation of childhood’  to draft new regulations that bring titles previously exempt from BBFC classification, such as documentaries, music videos, sports, religious and educational DVD’s under the boards scrutiny. The Intention of the law is to target raunchy concert DVD’s from artists like Rhianna and Mylie Cyrus which might encourage the sexualisation of children.

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A noble intention perhaps, but then the road to hell is paved with such intentions.

 

Firstly, this legislation will do very little to solve the problem. The people who drafted this seem unaware that this thing called THE INTERNET has happened. This bill affects physical media only as what’s on YOUTUBE does not fall under the BBFC’s remit. A lot of todays ‘youth’ stream or download their media, so slapping age certifications onto DVD’s and Blu-rays simply means that the kiddies won’t be able to walk into HMV with their pocket money and buy the latest Mylie concert video. This does not stop parents walking in and buying it for their kids however. Nor does it stop them buying it off an on-line site like EBAY, AMAZON or PLAY.  So long as they know mummy or daddy’s account details and can navigate the site of course. However, streaming the concert on a tablet or mobile phone or downloading from a torrent site is incredibly difficult to regulate and this is where a lot of kids go to access their media.

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Secondly, it’s such a broad and poorly defined bill that it’s going to impact an area of British industry that is actually becoming somewhat successful. DVD and Blu-ray releases in Britain from cult labels like Arrow, Second Sight, Eureaka! Are for the first time in a long while actually selling. Previously a lot of collectors would import their discs, not paying any Tax not supporting British businesses attempting to make money. The imports were usually better quality, boasting bonus features and first rate transfers. Now thanks to a lot of hard work, time and effort UK releases are actually seen as worth buying. Fans like me are no longer looking to countries like America for our purchases, and while this may not represent a huge tax revenue for the country it’s an example of a British industry that is becoming a success story.

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More than anyone it’s these independent labels who will suffer at the hands of this bill. The bonus material included on these discs will need to be classified, even when they’re on a DVD or Blu-Ray that is already classified as 18.  BBFC   certification of a film costs a lot of money. Your average film can cost around £600 – £700 to get classified and this is a legal requirement that has been in place since the Thatcher government nearly destroyed the industry back in the eighties during the ‘video nasty’ panic. Classifying all the bonus material could double or even triple the cost of releasing a film in the UK. It’s an expense the American home video industry does not incur. This could make British collectors releases rise in price and lose out to imports, worse it could mean we revert back to film only releases and British titles back to being considered something of a Joke.  These smaller businesses simply cannot afford this added expense.

 

This bill does NOTHING to protect children.  Just like the draconian legislation that came through in the eighties (from a political party that claimed to support the notion of small government no less) this seems like nothing more than token politics to try and persuade the electorate that the Government is actually doing something. Like many poorly thought through pieces of legislation that have been drafted previously there will most likely be unintended victims of this governments good intentions.

 

  

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The collectors market.

The death of physical media has been predicted for some time now. With the end of CD singles thanks to MP3 downloads from services like ITUNES, the decline of the book shop thanks to kindle and the demise of Blockbuster to streaming it has seemed that this may be the case. These new digital formats are certainly easier and more convenient for users. I remember being out and about in Manchester last year during the heat wave. It got to dinner time and I was knackered. Fortunately I found a quiet Wetherspoon’s for a beer and burger, the air conditioning was at full blast and there was a socket to let me charge my phone. I sat with my beer watching A Comedy of Terrors on YouTube thanks to the solid Wi-Fi connection, the picture quality was superb and it cost me nothing. I also have several E-readers on my phone. One is Kindle, the other Cool reader and the memory card I use in my phone can store hundreds of books. Streaming services like Netflix offer me an even bigger library than some of the public domain material to be found on YouTube, so wherever I am if I find myself with a spare moment or two it’s easy to access a good book or movie.

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It’s easy then to believe that the day of buying a book or a DVD in a shop is over. However as a film collector I can state with certainty it isn’t.

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The trouble with a lot of online access is that we no longer own the things we pay for. It’s all too easy to access that kindle and find that for whatever reason those books have vanished…

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=book+disappeared+from+kindle&oq=book+dissapears&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.6780j0j8&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8 

 

Or the TV show you have been watching is no longer carried…

 

http://www.collinsporthistoricalsociety.com/2013/12/netflix-to-lose-dark-shadows-in-new-year.html

 

That means accessing the material you want is not going to be a certainty.

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For the casual viewer this is hardly a problem but for the ardent bibliophile or cineaste the idea of not being able to access that favourite book or film is a real issue.

 

So then, the market for physical media may shrink, but it’s changing into something else entirely…

 

Music has already been through this. You can still buy CD’s but the popularity of the format is not what it once was. There has emerged a strong market for Vinyl both through online sellers and the traditional record shop. The music fan who just wants something to play in his car, or the casual listener with a digital mix-tape of MP3 downloads may have shunned the physical format but a lot of serious music buffs are still collecting and still spending money.

As a collector of film I’ve seen the market for home video change rapidly in the last few years. The casual film-goer no longer needs the long waits at the video rental outlet; Netflix and its ilk have ended this. However dead the rental market may be physical editions of films continue to sell. A strong and relatively lucrative collectors market for DVD’s and Blu-Rays has emerged that is more demanding for a quality product and prepared to spend more money in order to get it. Buyers these days demand the very best transfers of films, with the best sleeve art available and are prepared to scour the globe to get it. Even the major studios are issuing their films in collectable Steel book editions in order to tap into this market.

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In America there are companies like Blue Underground, Vinegar Syndrome, Synapse, Criterion and Scream Factory resurrecting classics in stunning new transfers with plenty of bonus features such as audio commentary tracks, deleted scenes and even alternate edits of films as complete packages for the collector to buy and keep. In the UK we have similar outfits such as Nucleus films, Arrow, Eureka and the British Film Institute all vying for the collectors pound and across Europe and Asia there are many more following suite all trying to top each other with quality of transfer and bonus features. These fans still use services like Netflix and Love film, if only to see if they like a film enough to warrant a purchase, or for more stuff to watch when cash reserves are low after an expensive purchase.

 

Reaction when a product has not lived up to expectations can be severe. When Arrow first launched their Arrow video imprint to specifically target the collectors market early transfers were somewhat ‘lacking’ especially from product sourced from Italy and some fans were relatively unforgiving. However Arrow listened to its critics and has upped its game somewhat. Newer releases such as Zombie flesh-eaters, Brian De Palma’s Phantom of Paradise and Phillip Kaufman’s 70’s Invasion of the Body snatchers have all boasted better transfers than their rivals. Recently they took on restoration expert James White to ensure their future releases are all first rate.

http://www.homecinemachoice.com/news/article/aiming-for-perfection/15969/

 

For the dedicated collector the marketplace has never been better. Online access has helped things. Amazon marketplace as well as other smaller (bust still reputable) sites like D&T mail order, Diabolik.com and MovieTyme all allow the dedicated collector to source films from across the globe. This means local companies can no longer stick out a release and expect it to sell. It HAS to be a top quality release or the collector can go elsewhere. Certain rights holders do still insist that discs are ‘region locked’ which prohibits Discs from one country playing on another but with DVD this issue was solved long ago with players that could be ‘hacked’ with a simple code. Some budget players these days are not even region locked and play discs from anywhere. The situation has been somewhat more difficult with regards to Blu-ray as the continual need to update firmware (the software on the player to let you play your discs) has meant many overrides being reset as Firmware updates can actively look at what your machine is doing and actively stop it. This also applies to games consoles as well; it’s rather unnerving and not especially popular with customers. Less technically literate consumers dropped the Blu-ray format entirely at the frustration of having discs not work thanks to the need to constantly update your machine. A lot of collectors get round this by either buying an American Player from EBAY, or more recently seeking out players that are still hackable (they do exist). The most galling thing about firmware updates is that it’s an idea of Sony own the Blu-ray format but have all but abandoned it in recent years.

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The big question is, will future generations of films fans keep the collecting bug? I really hope so. If the number of sites offering streaming continues to grow, and the ability to find all your titles in one place diminishes there will always be a need for physical product. 

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Immoral tales.

ImageControversy has always been something of a boon for film-makers. It’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity and like artists working in any medium film makers can gain an audience for their work based as much on the controversy generated by their film as the quality of the finished work. Scorsese has been no stranger to controversy himself over his career. From the bleak hellish dystopian vision of New York as seen in Taxi Driver, a film where Jodi Fosters central performance as a child prostitute is alleged to have inspired President Regan’s attempted assassination, through the brutal unflinching portrayal of the Mafia lifestyle as seen in Goodfellas and Casino to political controversy for his underrated Kundun, which told the life story of the Dali Lama and in doing so managed to upset China. Let’s not forget the last temptation of Christ, a film that caused a major shit-storm both with Christian groups in America and the Catholic Church itself.

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Scorsese has never been afraid of presenting things in film, be it images or ideas that provoke his audience. He’s an avowed cinephile who is well versed in the tricks and techniques employed in the medium of film and he knows exactly how to deploy them. This is one of the reasons so many of his films are considered classics. He is one of cinema’s master craftsmen. Wolf of Wall street is a classic example of Scorsese in action. Stylistically it bares most resemblance to Goodfellas and Casino as it moves through its story at a brisk pace with an eclectic mix of classic Rock and pop music from various eras. Like his two Mafia pictures the film is based on a true story and follows the rise and eventual fall of the lead characters empires as a result of their transgressions. Where wolf of wall street differs however, is that unlike Henry Hill for example, Jordan Belfort, the lead character played by Leonardo Di Caprio never really paid any kind of high price for his crimes outside a short stint in a fairly luxurious white collar jail reserved for the mega rich.

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And here in lies the problem for some of the audience. Belfort’s tale is one of excess. Starting out as a broker on Wall street, he soon found himself unemployed when Black Monday hit and the whole system crashed. Keen to get back to doing the job he enjoyed he soon found himself working in a boiler room (http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/boilerroom.asp) operation out in New Jersey selling worthless penny shares to gullible blue collar workers looking to invest their savings. A natural salesman Belfort soon found himself making large sums of money and when he went self employed and hit upon the idea of selling the same stock to rich investors, he quickly became incredibly wealthy on the back of a business model that was pretty much illegal from the get go. As the money poured in, Belfort and his employees began to wallow in excess with copious amounts of drugs and prostitutes along with the other trappings of Conspicuous consumption. Belfort is an unlike-able little shit. An awful human being with the moral compass of a rabid hyena. His company is the very reason stripping away financial regulation was such a poor idea. Ultimately though, while he does get caught he makes no bones about the fact that he’s rich enough to avoid any real consequences for his actions in spite of his appalling criminal behaviour. Ultimately there is no moral resolution to the story.

 

As an audience we are very familiar with our films providing comeuppance to the ‘bad guy’. The structure and rules of the Hollywood formula, and for a lot of storytelling before that, dictate that there should be a moral resolution to the story of some kind. Belfort’s story offers no such ending. As a director Scorsese COULD have offered up some sign to the audience that Belfort has learned some kind of Lesson. Print the myth rather than the facts as John Ford may have argued, but instead he resolves the story exactly as it did in real life. An unrepentant Belfort effectively getting off the hook.

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Critics have argued that this makes the film itself immoral. That by not offering some kind of moral retribution Scorsese is legitimising and glorifying Belfort’s behaviour. I disagree.

 

The films ultimate message is directed at the system. Belfort GOT CAUGHT. It was up to the system to punish him. Instead just like many other City crooks who make big bucks he received a fine and a short stay at white collar prison that resembles some kind of holiday camp. Belfort’s story is one of grotesque excess but the man is an imbecile. A good salesman but not much else. The sad fact is there are many like him in the financial services industry. Super rich, entitled ass-holes earning huge money for doing very little of value and producing nothing. So why focus the moral rage we should be feeling at Belfort’s ‘punishment’. The film argues it’s the system itself we should be angry at. Not the monsters it fails to punish. The one mistake the film really makes is trying to make that point subtly. There is nothing Subtle about Jordan Belfort, so the ultimate message of his story need not be subtle either.  

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It’s Grimm up north!

 

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The second to the third of October this year saw the fifth anniversary of the Grimm up North film festival in Manchester. Dedicated to cult and Horror cinema, its been a staple of my life for the last four years. (I missed the first year by virtue of not knowing it was on) I’m a huge film fan as anyone who knows me will testify and I especially love the kind of films shown at Grimmfest as it’s more commonly referred to.

 

Film festivals are nothing new of course. The festivals at Cannes and Berlin have been going on for years. FrightFest in London, which is more specifically tailored to these kinds of films has been the major horror festival in the UK for some years now. It was about time that Manchester got its own festival and since 2009 Grimm has been delivering the goods admirably.

 

Located for most of its run at the Dancehouse theatre on Oxford street, a wonderful theatre with a great Gothic atmosphere. (one year they relocated to a multiplex, it was more comfortable but lost a lot of the ‘personality’) Grimmfest offers the option to either buy tickets for individual screenings or, like I do, get a full festival pass and see EVERYTHING. This is the real endurance test and one I have passed every year of attendance. All day, every day in a cinema watching countless weird and wonderful films. Some people like to spend their holidays on the Beach, this is how I spend mine.

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This year, as usual I arrived early in Manchester by Train with my friend Adam, both of us carting our heavy luggage. Normally Grimm doesn’t start until the evening but this year they were holding screenings all day at the Lass o’gowrie pub located just down the road from the danchouse. It’s a great little pub with a nice selection of Ales and some retro arcade cabinets including an original Pac-man. The dilemma for us was that the hotels don’t allow check in until the afternoons so with heavy luggage in tow we headed straight to the pub to begin the four days of film. We did miss Wednesday nights preview night but we always miss that one. It’s held over in Stockport and is quite awkward to commute to.

 

To Jennifer: First up for the fest was this ‘found footage’ film from the director of HATE CRIME, a film that caused some minor scandal at a previous Grimmfest. Hate crime was a nasty piece of work about a group of neo-nazi skinheads doing a home invasion on an upper middle class Jewish family. Director James Cullen Bressack is a young director and doesn’t have the self restraint to know when his work is going ‘too far’ as a result Hate Crime is still without meaningful distribution. I sat down to watch To Jennifer with some hesitation. Were we going to be thrown another nasty, harrowing piece of work straight away?

Actually no. It’s a much more restrained piece of film making with more emphasis on character development. The film starts off with a young lad starting a film to his girlfriend Jennifer who he thinks is cheating on him. As the film progresses it emerges that what we think is going on is very far removed from the truth. To Jennifer was a nice surprise, flawed in places but a real step up from the directors previous work in storytelling and maturity.

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The Gloaming: One of the great things about film festivals is that it lets you watch a variety of short films. Normally shorts are the preserve of you tube, but any film festival worth its salt will programme a few to play in-between features. This first one was enjoyable enough, with some great creature effects but was more just a short atmosphere piece. The narrative, location and characters were not well established and the dialogue was in Gaelic without subtitles so about 99.9% of the world wont have a clue about what’s going on.

 

 

Next exit: This next short was much better. A tongue in cheek horror about the dangers of sat-nav mixed in to a tale about organ harvesting was great fun to watch. Like the best short films it told its story within the time constraints well, the characters were reasonably developed and it looked great. The story was fun as well.

 

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Home sweet home: A couple who have recently moved out to the arse-end of nowhere return home to find someone is in their home stalking them. A taut, superbly directed little chiller is a master-class in how to direct a low budget horror. Three characters and one location over 85 minutes Home sweet home is a tense and claustrophobic horror that really kept the audience gripped. Its co made by French and Canadian producers and the French director David Morlet previously made a very underrated zombie film called Mutants. This is a film well worth checking out if you get the chance.

 

Girl at the door: Another great short film. This one is Groundhog day as made as a supernatural revenge thriller. It’s about a man literally haunted by a one night stand. Like Next exit it tells its story economically and uses the short time it has to deliver its story and characters effectively. It’s got a twist ending you will guess almost immediately but the film still works well enough.

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Attack of the Brainsucker: Another short. This one uses a homage to fifties B-movies to develop a story about the real world cases of the misuse of pre frontal lobotomy by the medical establishment. A lot of short films we saw were content to simply tell a short story. It was nice to see one dealing with actual real world horror for a change. Nicely done as well.

 

Angst, Piss and Drid: The final short on Thursday at the Lass ‘Gowrie. This one is from Norway and is a gory and twisted tale about two young serial killers falling out of love. Harrowing and funny at the same time, this was a well made short film and set the mood for the final film at the Lass…

 

House with 100 eyes: A low budget horror set in Los Angeles, this one is a tale of a suburban couple keen to make it big shooting snuff movies at their home. It’s an excellent critique of You Tube culture, with the main characters that really exemplify the concept of the Banality of evil. The tone of the film is erratic to say the least. Just when you think you have a handle on where the film is coming from, a pitch black comedy, the tone suddenly switches to absolute horror and real discomfort. It was a tough watch for some in the audience but its the sort of weird, clever, oddball cinema that the programmers at Grimm have a real gift for unearthing.

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After the afternoon of programming at the Lass’ there was a two hour break that gave me and Adam the opportunity to head to the hotel, drop off our luggage and head out for a bite to eat. The gaps in the programming give us the opportunity to sit and discuss the films we have seen. We opt for a local wetherspoon’s. It’s Thursday so curry night. After the Curry we head to the dancehouse theatre where the evenings entertainment continues…

 

 

Crazy for you: The evening kicks off with a comedic short about a serial killer who meets the girl of his dreams and decides he needs to stop his nasty habit of murdering people every time he see’s polka dots. It’s an entertaining and genuinely funny little black comedy and director James Moran is there to answer questions after the next feature.

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The Borderlands: Another ‘found footage’ film, this one is possibly one of the most effective examples of the style I’ve seen. A group of investigators from the Vatican head to a small church in the south west of England to investigate ‘miracles’ Instead they find an ancient pre-Christian horror that has lain buried beneath the church for centuries. Like Wicker man in its use of Pagan British folklore as a source for its horror, The Borderlands is a highly effective slice of horror that relies a lot on suggestion and the viewers imaginations. It also boasts some of the most impressive sound design from any film in the festival. Highly recommended.

 

 

After that the makers of Borderlands and Crazy for you come to the stage for a Q&A with the audience. Another perk of film festivals it lets the audience engage with the film makers and find out more about the films their seeing.

 

After that it’s time for the final film of the evening…

 

 

ON AIR: A fun German homage to American horror. This one is about a German pirate DJ being terrorized by a serial killer intent on playing mind games. The DJ must play along with the nut case in order to save the woman he has hostage. Not especially scary, the film has some great plot twists and was a great end to the evening. Borderlands managed to scare enough of the audience that anything that followed was going to feel a little underwhelming, but On Air was entertaining enough that I plan to watch it again.

 

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After we get out of the Dancehouse the first port of call is the IL PADRINO kebab house. Oxford street is student territory so there are plenty of reasonably priced takeaways all competing for the student pound. Good quality and low cost its one of the traditions of the festival for both Adam and myself to head to the kebab house before making our way across town to the hotel.

 

 

The next morning is an early rise to take advantage of the ‘continental breakfast’ (basically toast and coffee) before heading out to do a little early morning DVD and blu-ray shopping around Manchester. I picked up a couple of Arrow bargains in Fopp before it was time to head over to the Lass O’Gowrie for the start of the days films..

 

My Amityville Horror: Possibly one of the most infamous ‘haunted’ house tales around the Amityville story still provokes a lot of discussion. The multiple films that have been made on the alleged true story have helped reinforce its notoriety. This documentary on Daniel Lutz, a young boy when the events occurred is fascinating and insightful and offers a new perspective on what we know about the story. It’s more about Lutz himself than Amityville, about his perception of events, the nature of memory and the effects of growing up as a survivor of one of the twentieth century’s most notorious paranormal incidents. Even if your not a horror fan or are one of those people who has never heard of Amityville this is still a fascinating film.

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Smiley: The biggest disappointment of the festival. The trailer for smiley and the creature design for the monster have become a major YouTube sensation. It’s sad to say though, its a case of great trailer bad film. Banal is possibly the best description of the film. It rehashes plot twists from late nineties slasher films and does it poorly, the monster concept tries to go for Candyman for the internet generation but the film isn’t a patch on Bernard Rose’s classic. It’s not even up there with the increasingly poor quality Candyman sequels. Very unimpressive.

 

The Plan: Perhaps I was simply in a bad mood after smiley but this short film left me cold. Its a somewhat pretentious and dreamlike tale where I honestly had no idea what was going on. Nice imagery I suppose.

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Antisocial: Like the dreadful smiley, this film tries to bring a classic monster tale into the age of the internet. Unlike Smiley however it mostly succeeds and was very entertaining indeed. It’s a zombie story where the infection is spread through social networking. It’s a concept that’s a tough sell but the film makers pull it off and as a result Antisocial ended up being one of the freshest Zombie films I’ve seen in a while. Highly recommended.

 

We unfortunately miss the make-up workshop with SFX whizz shaune Harrison. We need to use the gap in the schedule to make our way back across town and change hotels. The slightly tatty looking one were at is fully booked all weekend but fortunately we snagged cheap rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn. The rooms are much nicer, the beds are comfy and there is a full English breakfast thrown in each morning. Once were settled we once again head back across town to the Danchouse for the evenings films.

 

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Hellraiser 2: Every year there is at least one screening of an old classic. This year fans got a choice of one of the Hellraiser films and the overwhelming vote was for part 2. Not the choice I personally would have made, its a much more inconsistent film than the first. A large portion of the first third seems to rehash the first movie and it takes some liberty’s with the mythology. That said its still an entertaining film in its own right and was nice to see on the big screen. It’s followed up with a Q&A session with two of the actors who played Cenobites and was a real treat for the fans.

 

 

Next up was a Q&A session with Shaune Harrison. We missed his demonstration earlier in the day but his talk about working on practical effects and how the industry changed with the advent of computer generated imagery was genuinely fascinating and informative.

 

The Guest: Another short. This one was a well written and punchy little tale about a wanted man who takes a young woman prisoner and gets way more than he bargained for. A fun little short, the director Bryan Ryan was in attendance to answer a few questions.

 

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Jug Face: Final film for the evening managed to alienate some of its audience. The rest seemed to love it. It’s a bout an isolated backwoods community who worship a strange creature in a pit in the woods. Every so often the creature demands a sacrifice and possesses a local man to have him craft a clay jug in the likeness of the next sacrifice. A young woman in an incestuous relationship with her brother discovers the jug with her face on it and decides to hide it. This triggers off a devastating set of events. Director Chad Crawford Kinkle delivers a moody and atmospheric horror that relies far more on great writing than gore. The characters are well developed and interesting and the score is excellent and sticks in your head long after the film is done. It also delivers a great opening credit sequence that manages to deliver the entire back story in a way that economical and well delivered. It prevents the film from being bogged down by tons of exposition. Also worth noting is the producers credit for Lucky McKee, a talented film-maker in his own right who has delivered smart creepy classics like THE WOMAN and MAY.

 

After a Pizza at Il Padrino we make our way back to the hotel. Its always good when the final film really delivers and Jug Face did just that.

 

The next morning we wake up late, not sure why but we get ready in a hurry and head straight to the Lass O’Gowrie for the mornings screenings.

 

Modus Anomali: Thanks to the football there’s just the one screening at the Lass. It means unfortunately missing out on the Chris Fowler Q&A. He’s an excellent writer and it was one of the things I was looking forward to, but after Modus we need to head straight to the Dancehouse. Modus is the one and only Asian film of this years festival. Previous years had seen quite a few films from Korea and Hong Kong. Modus is a dark story that uses the well worn tool of amnesia for its set up. A man wakes up in the woods with no clue who he is or where he is. Following a set of clues he soon discovers he’s being hunted by a mysterious killer who may have his kids. The film manages to deliver a really neat twist to the tale that rescues it from becoming to stale and generic. For a while the sense of having seen it all before starts to creep in, then it throws a shocking reveal and the film suddenly redeems itself. Not a perfect film perhaps but one that’s well worth a look. Weirdly despite being Indonesian its shot with English Language. I can only assume to give it more international appeal.

 

 

We head straight over to the Dance House for the next two shorts. A little gutted we missed the Chris Fowler Q&A. Glad we did in the end though as the next two shorts screened were fantastic.

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Out there: Once again Amnesia is used as a narrative tool to leave the audience as confused as the protagonist. Here a young man wakes up and finds the entire world has gone to hell. The film cuts back to the story before the man wakes up and we see him in his seemingly idyllic relationship with his girlfriend. This short skilfully ties everything together to present a cynical look at a relationship that comes under strain in the worst possible circumstances. This is a great short film with a creative use of sound to build up atmosphere and excellent use of location. Worth checking out.

 

Sleep working: This second short presents a convincing and terrifying look at a future where new technology allows people to work while asleep allowing a workforce that can work seven days a week, twelve hours a day. Having worked plenty of low pay, long hours jobs this would probably classify as a porno for certain companies but as a worker this was a chilling tale with a nasty sting in its tail.

 

The directors of both shorts came on stage for an informative Q&A on the making of both shorts. Both directors were happy to discuss the making and inspiration for their work and provided some interesting insights into the film-making process.

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The Human Race: Next up was the genre-bending film from director Paul Hough, son of esteemed director John Hough http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0396421/?ref_=fn_al_nm_1 who also acts as producer here. A group of 80 strangers find themselves transported to a mysterious location and forced to run a Marathon. The rules are simple and failing to abide by them is deadly. There can only be one winner so things get deadly rather quickly. Like the films its inspired by (Running man, Battle Royale) The Human Race presents a dark tale of human behaviour in the face of possible death. Seemingly nice people turn very nasty and more than a few of the runners find themselves murdered by their fellow racers. This is a very interesting slice of Sci-Fi/horror that is worth seeking out. It has a genuinely interesting script, great acting and though the ending was a little disappointing the film was gripping right from the get-go.

 

Samuel and Emily vs The World: Another short. This one is about a young couple doing whatever they must in order to survive in a decimated post apocalyptic world overrun by Zombies. This was a great, dark little film that told its story effectively. It uses location and effects economically to create a world on a small budget and it works. The director was in attendance to introduce the film and as with the previous short we also got an informative Q&A afterwards.

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Found: This feature length film is about a young twelve year old horror movie obsessive who discovers his older brother may be a serial killer. This is an excellent film that avoids cheap scares in order to present an increasingly dark tale of a boy whose world is slowly falling apart. Found is an excellent character study and human drama. It can get very dark and bloody in places but only as a natural extension of the story it is telling. The ending is genuinely haunting and this is a film I’m happy to recommend to fans.

 

 

Kiss of the Damned: Vampires have had a rough time of late. Once upon a time they were considered one of cinemas greatest monsters. The recent Twilight films have reduced them to simpering, shiny teen idols with any sense of horror or dread. Kiss of the Damned is a nice change of pace. A very grown up tale of a writer who falls for a mysterious woman who turns out to be a vampire. Very European in style, it does romanticise the Vampire. It does so, however, Lyrically and effectively without softening their monstrous nature. If your at all familiar with the works of Jess Franco or Jean Rollin then you will have some idea where this film is coming from. It boasts beautiful cinematography and an excellent score.

 

There is enough of a break after KOD to head down to Il Padrino for a pizza. We eat quickly and head back to the Dancehouse. Such is the nature of film festivals that on occasion Dinner is a rushed affair.

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The Conspiracy: Another found footage film. This one is a documentary being made on conspiracy culture that becomes progressively darker as one of the film-makers becomes drawn in to the subject he is investigating. It really does a fine job of studying the conspiracy culture that is huge in America and looking at how simple coincidences can become more in the mind of the paranoid. In the end it allows the audience to be drawn into the paranoid world it is presenting and leaves you asking questions about how much is real. Not as good as The Borderlands, this is still a cut above a lot of found footage films I have seen.

 

Big Bad Wolves: Israeli cinema is perhaps not as world renown as other countries national cinema. It was a pleasant surprise then, a year ago, to encounter RABIES a dark horror that took a cynical look at human nature and behaviour. This year Grimm provided us with the directors follow up effort Big Bad Wolves and I’m pleased to say its even better. A serial killer is abducting and murdering children. The police are fairly certain they know who did it but are having a hard time proving it. After getting filmed torturing their suspect, the footage is uploaded to YouTube and goes viral. The officers are dismissed from the case and it looks as if the suspect is going to get away with it. However, the lead detective takes it upon himself to continue the investigation and then both he and the suspect are kidnapped by the grieving father of one of the victims. What follows is a twisted psychological mind game which uses the doubt over the suspects guilt as a tool to play with audience perception and sympathy. BBW is an excellent film, witty dark and beautifully shot with a killer twist in the tale. Highly recommended.

 

John dies at the end: Finally for the evening we get the midnight screening. Midnight is the perfect time to watch weird and outrageous films. The midnight movie is a long standing phenomenon that launched many cult films over the years including El Topo, Eraserhead and Pink Flamingo’s. The festival has made it a tradition to deliver one midnight movie experience each year and this year we get the latest film from Don Coscarelli director of the Phantasm films and Bubba Ho-tep amongst others. Coscarelli was a cinematic child prodigy, directing his first feature while still a teenager. With Bubba Ho-Tep he proved he could adapt a seemingly ‘undadaptable’ short story. This time around he’s adapted the weird as hell début novel from Cracked writer David Wong. There’s no point trying to describe the plot to the film. It’s very much a ‘you have to see it’ kind of deal. What I will say is that Coscarelli has done a fine job bringing the work to the screen and fans of the novel are very pleased with the results. It’s a perfect midnight movie but worth seeing even if you decide to give it a watch at a more sociable hour.

 

With that we head back to the hotel through the Saturday night night life of Manchester somewhat dazed. We hit Il Padrino first of course. Tired as hell, I drift of as soon as my head hits the pillow and have some very unusual dreams. One of the side effects of midnight movie watching!

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The next morning we have breakfast then head round Manchester for a bit. It’s Sunday morning and lots of places are still closed. After a while we head over to the Lass O’Gowrie for the first film of the day.

 

Thanatamorphose: So your still groggy from the beers and late night movie screenings. You settle down in a dark room to check out a film while its still relatively early and you find yourself watching this. Thanatamorphose is a dark, Canadian tale of a young woman in an abusive relationship who discovers one day that she’s beginning to decompose. It’s like Kafka and Cronenberg collaborated on a pet project and delivered this grim, low budget tale of someone’s mental decay manifesting physically. It’s harrowing, gruesome stuff and there were more than a few walkouts. After it was done, the people who managed to sit through it staggered out into daylight wondering what exactly was it that they had just witnessed. It’s a well crafted film but approach with extreme caution!

 

 

We head over to the Dancehouse for the rest of the evenings screenings. My mind is somewhat reeling from what I’ve just seen so I take a minute to compose myself before heading in.

 

 

The Butterfly room: This actually came as something of a relief after the previous films bleak nastiness. This one stars Barbara Steele, something of a legend in the cult film community for her work in Italian cinema with great directors such as Mario Bava. In this film she plays an ageing woman living alone in an apartment block and collecting butterflies. She’s somewhat unhinged and looking for someone to ‘mother’ and the little girl next door fits the bill perfectly. This is an odd little film where characters are seldom what they seen and has a plot that keeps offering surprises for its audience. Made by someone with a clear love for the classics of cult cinema its a classy well directed and entertaining slice of cinema that’s worth seeking out.

 

 

Wither: The EVIL DEAD is something of a legendary cult movie that launched the career of director Sam Raimi who went on to bigger things ultimately helming the Blockbuster Spider-man films. When a remake was released earlier this year, fans like myself went rushing to cinemas to see it leaving somewhat disappointed that the end result fell short of expectations. It was something of a surprise then, to see this low budget Swedish Homage to the evil dead and find a film that would have worked far better as a remake to the original classic than its bigger official cousin. Plot wise its fairly similar to the Evil dead with a group of teens heading off to the cabin in the woods for a weekend only to unleash demonic forces that possess them one by one leaving their friends into a desperate battle for survival. It’s very entertaining if somewhat unoriginal and fans of the evil dead films are advised to give this a try!

 

Stalled: A zombie film for anyone whose ever been to an office Christmas party. A maintenance man finds himself trapped in a toilet stall after a zombie plague decimates the rest of the staff. Played as a dark comedy the film follows the maintenance man’s desperate and often ludicrous attempts to escape from a bathroom full of Zombies. Stalled is a witty and enjoyable film that had the whole audience laughing and cheering. A real crowd-pleaser.

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The Body: Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) plays a hitman who finds Halloween is the perfect night to dispose of a corpse only to find his plans interrupted by drunken revellers. A short black comedy that really hits its marks this was a lot of fun as well and worked perfectly straight after Stalled.

 

Shellshocked: Last year Dominic Brunt (Emmerdale) wowed Grimm with his début BEFORE DAWN. A bleak and terrifying Zombie film set in the Yorkshire Dales. This year he presented another, shorter crowd pleaser set during world war 1 where an English and a German soldier find themselves trapped and forced to work together against a more deadly menace. The question being, can they set aside their differences in order to survive? Another top quality short for Grimm, Shellshocked was a witty and clever film with a pessimistic view of human nature. I enjoyed it.

 

After the last three had screened we got another Q&A with all the creative teams involved. We got to hear some more interesting insights into the creative process and got a few laughs along the way as well.

 

The Machine: The final film of the festival is a dark, dystopian sci-fi about computer programmers working on artificial intelligence only to find their work being perverted by the military looking for combat applications for their discovery. When one of the researchers is murdered her colleague uploads her consciousness into the machine and develops the first functioning A.I. However as the millitary becomes more aggressive in its approach things begin to unravel and the first A.I uprising begins. Using modern film techniques THE MACHINE delivers an experience that feels like it’s a film ten times its budget. Intelligent, thought provoking and with great action scenes hopefully when this gets an official launch it’ll be the breakthrough hit its deserves to be. Either way, keep an eye out for director Cardog W. James who should have a very bright future ahead of him.

 

So that was it. Another year down. Time to head back to the Hotel, get some sleep and then back to Barrow. Waiting in anticipation of next year.

 

Anyone interested in Grimm should check out their site. http://grimmfest.com/grimmupnorth/

They hold smaller screenings all year round. I don’t often get the opportunity to attend all of these thanks to work commitments and finance but i’m making it my new years resolution to find a way next year. Either way though if you enjoy films, especially cult films. Check them out!

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The Dummy’s guide to shopping on Amazon.

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http://www.financemarkets.co.uk/2007/02/16/report-uk-online-shopping-to-grow-by-40-percent-by-2020/

Every year, more and more of us are shopping online. Be it booking your weekly grocery shop to picking up the latest game, as Broadband becomes faster and cheaper we are abandoning the high street for the convenience of online ordering and knowing the goods will show up on our door within a few days. As someone currently unemployed due to this trend one might think that I would shun online shopping, but honestly I love it as much as anyone. As someone who has worked in a shop and now spends a large portion of his time online I also see plenty of people who seemingly don’t know how to use these sites correctly and making some glaring errors in the process.

So, out of the kindness of my heart I present to you The Dummy’s Guide to shopping on Amazon.

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  1. Know who your buying from.

This one should be easy right? Well if you buy OFF Amazon it doesn’t mean your buying FROM Amazon. Amazon marketplace allows anyone with stuff to sell and a bank account the opportunity to sell their stuff on marketplace. As a result, more and more small businesses are listing their goods for sale on Amazon. Once you find the latest book, DVD, CD or Games system your looking to buy there is the option to buy it used or new. Clicking either option will give you a whole list of prices to choose from. There are four columns PRICE + DELIVERY, CONDITION, SELLER INFORMATION and BUYING OPTIONS.

Price and delivery simply tells you how much your paying, below it tells you the cost of postage. Condition is VERY important, you need to look closely at that before you place your order. For instance, if you were looking for IRON MAN 3 on DVD, you might see one that seems a lot cheaper than the rest, if you look at CONDITION you might find there’s something wrong with it. The conditions go NEW, USED-LIKE NEW, VERY GOOD, GOOD and ACCEPTABLE as well as ones for COLLECTIBLE which might denote the item is signed or rare or in some way better than the regular listings. Now IRON MAN 3 might say USED ACCEPTABLE and then below it give a brief description saying ‘Disc only, no box’. So not reading that, and simply ordering the item you might find an envelope turn up several days later with nothing but an IRON MAN 3 DVD in it. In other cases it could indicate that there is some damage or other fault with the product and the bargain might not seem so much of a bargain.

Seller Information tells you a bit about the person or company your buying from. It gives the name in big blue writing. Below it it might say ‘fulfillment by Amazon’ but this does not mean your buying from Amazon. With Fulfillment a business can send its goods to an Amazon Warehouse and Amazon themselves will ship them when ordered, After that it gives you the sellers feedback rating. This is also important to look at, someone with 5 stars and a 100% feedback rating has very good customer feedback so has developed a good reputation, when this gets lower it means customers might have been less satisfied with either the goods or the level of service. Its also important to look at the amount of feedback a seller has as if they have a good level of feedback but a very small number of sales they have had less opportunity to upset their customers and accrue bad feedback.

So, if your buying that product cheaply off MADMIKE64 and he has an average of 3 stars and 47% feedback you are running a greater risk of getting a piece of junk through the mail. If you click your mouse on the feedback or the seller name you can look more closely at the feedback and get more details about the company your buying from such as address and a list of other things they stock. Going into the feedback and reading it is VERY USEFUL and highly recommended as you can get a much better idea of what customer complaints are about. For instance, I bought a DVD set cheaply off someone with 0% positive feedback. They had only sold the one item and the customer who bought it didn’t seem to understand the purpose of feedback and had given a review of the film itself they had bought. I ordered the DVD and got excellent service. The person I bought it off was a great seller who had some really bad luck. The final column BUYING OPTIONS merely gives you the option to put the item in your cart to buy later or one click order there or then. Be careful with one click ordering as if the item has a free postage option, you can still end up paying postage this way as it goes to the dearer option for postage.

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  1. Give Feedback.

Feedback on your purchase is something you should do once your order has arrived and you know you are happy with it. Go into YOUR ACCOUNT and then click on YOUR ORDERS. This will give you a list of the products you have ordered with options to contact the seller, file a claim and leave feedback for third party sellers (you can’t leave feedback on Amazon itself) If you have an issue don’t leave feedback until you have dealt with the seller but if its all good then click LEAVE FEEDBACK and tell people how your experience with the seller was. The Feedback system lets other consumers know more about the reliability of the people they are ordering from. It’s how scam artists don’t last long on the site as it helps Amazon pick up on problems and helps other customers know not to trust that seller. Whatever you do don’t try and leave feedback in the product review section. The seller wont see it, Amazon won’t see it and you will get nowhere.

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3.Know how to complain.

So you have ordered that DVD and its not turned up. Or it’s turned up badly damaged. Or perhaps it doesn’t meet the product description. Well the best thing to do is go on to your order history click the CONTACT SELLER option. Before you escalate things with Amazon it’s always best to give the seller themselves a chance to respond and rectify the problem. Often they will offer a full or partial refund or a replacement for the goods. The vast majority of Sellers on Amazon are honest and don’t want bad feedback so are prepared to jump through whatever hoops necessary to ensure customer satisfaction. If you don’t hear back within a day or so CHECK YOUR SPAM FILTERS. There has been occasions where Sellers have been desperately trying to contact the customer and not getting through because the customers spam filters are rejecting the e-mails. If your confident your being ignored however then it’s time to escalate things. One of the biggest misconceptions regarding ordering off Amazon is that you will somehow lose your money if you get burned. Amazon guarantee every sale and take poor customer service very seriously, they will make sure you get your money back and penalise the seller in question. So people selling goods and not sending them, people shipping faulty or defective items or people who try and ignore customer complaints tend not to last very long on Amazon. Below the Contact Seller option is a FILE/VIEW CLAIM button that lets you file an A-Z claim on your order. This moves the complaint to Amazon themselves who look at the sale and decide who is at fault. The seller is given the opportunity to put their side of things across before Amazon comes to a decision. On most occasions the decision goes in favour of the customer. However, if the claim is lodged 90 days after the purchase it can be turned down. Amazon also look at the history’s of the Seller and customer as well, so if you have a habit of ordering things and then claiming they never arrived or constantly demanding money back on every order placed, eventually they will catch on. The system tends to be fair on everyone. Lodging an A-Z claim is basically like contacting head office if you walk into a shop and buy a defective item, the sensible thing is to try and deal with the store directly so remember that the A-Z option is there for when the seller fails you. Please give sellers the opportunity to respond and be patient if they don’t respond immediately.

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  1. Customer reviews.

    You may get an E-mail from Amazon asking you to review an item you bought. Alternatively you may buy a product and find it somewhat disappointing. Amazon gives you the opportunity to review the products you have bought and tell the world what you thought. Say for example you bought that DVD, it turned up exactly as described, fully working and no problems. You sit and watch the film and it turns out to be total rubbish. You wouldn’t give the seller bad feedback for this as the quality of the actual film is not the sellers responsibility. They didn’t make the film, their just buying and selling goods. This is what the reviews are for. Equally the reviews are not for giving your experience of shopping and how good or bad the seller was, that’s FEEDBACK’S purpose. The option to review your product is also located on your order history. It asks you to rate the product out of five and say a few words about it. The reviews are there to help the customer decide on a purchase. Because with online shopping you cannot see the goods in front of you, knowing what other people thought is very useful. You could have avoided that bad film for example, if you had read all the customer reviews and realised a lot of people who had bought it before you thought it was garbage. Like Feedback it’s not compulsory, so don’t feel you have to do it, its more a helpful thing for other consumers and if everyone pitches in then the system works better.

    5. And finally….

    I hope this has been of some use. I know some people may read this and think “well…duh!” but as someone who has bought and sold stuff on Amazon for a while now I have seen plenty of people who don’t and this was for them. Apologies for the Dummy title, its meant in jest, like those yellow guides you see in book stores. I know for some people shopping online can be daunting. I would like to say as well that of course there are lots of other sites you can buy from, I chose Amazon because it’s the one I use the most myself and a lot of the points I made here could easily apply to Play.com or any other site.

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