A slasher movie wearing a very stylish stetson.
This blood curdling, splatter-house western is not for the faint hearted. It’s a hyper-violent trudge through the last days of The Old West, following a rag-tag group of moustachioed gunmen and concerned townsfolk as they attempt to rescue their kin, who’ve had the severe misfortune of being kidnapped by a group of subterranean, cannibal cave-dwellers. The film makes an effort to draw a clear distinction between these inhuman antagonists and the actual Native Americans of the period, but the almost cartoonishly monstrous “troglodytes” seem to be a clear extrapolation of the white settlers’ own notions of the “uncivilised savage”.
There’s a real attention to detail in the look and feel of the film; the beautiful costume design, ramshackle frontier sets, and bleak, wide open exteriors never fail to impress. But there’s little in the way of historical accuracy and the period’s stereotypes go by largely unchallenged. The dialogue between these stock western characters, though, is coarse, snappy and pleasantly pulpy, and their regular griping and frontier-philosophising help keep the film trucking along at a steady pace.
Things lead to a truly climactic third act where the sound design really comes into its own, hammering home the ultra-violence with bone-shattering thuds and sickly, wet crunches. Much like Cormac McCarthy’s seminal novel, Blood Meridian (a definite influence on film), Bone Tomahawk revels in bloody excess. The unrestrained violence ends up acting as a sort-of condemnation of itself, with the unflinching, visceral gore, the oppressive weight of brutality heaped upon brutality, working overtime to rid us of any notion that the horrors committed during this era of American history could ever be justified.
You can stream Bone Tomahawk for free on channel4.com until this Friday.
For today’s Feels Good Sunday Hyde Park Pick, we’ve selected the marvellous meme-based documentary Feels Good Man (2020).
Way back in 2005 – which already feels like a lifetime ago, and in internet time it definitely is – a cute cartoon character called Pepe the Frog hopped up on Myspace in a copy of American indie comic Boy’s Club. Created by San Franciscan artist Matt Furie, the innocent Pepe quickly became a huge internet meme, co-opted by a variety of forums and user groups with their own very different agendas.
Hijacked by anonymous users on community websites such as imageboard 4chan, Pepe became a symbol for the far-right, used for abuse, antagonism, misogyny and racism, and was eventually added to the Anti-Defamation League’s hate-symbol register. Powerless in the face of this monolith of hatred, how is an individual artist to respond, regain control and reclaim the rights and meaning of their work, both legally and creatively?
This fascinating and eye-opening feature debut by Arthur Jones is in part a salutary lesson on the speed of our increasingly digital world. It’s also a cautionary tale of the constantly shifting and expanding cultural meanings of images, the use of technology by extremism and how this intersects with society, politics and real life.
Feels Good Man is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months.
Available for 24hrs from 6pm today (Sat 28th Nov), our friends at Leeds Film Festival have a very exciting preview of Wolfwalkers (PG, 2020, 103min) – the latest film from Oscar-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea).
Wolfwalkers tells the story of a magical, unlikely friendship between two girls in 17th-century Ireland. A young apprentice hunter and her father journey to Ireland to help wipe out the last wolf pack. But everything changes when she befriends a free-spirited girl from a mysterious tribe rumoured to transform into wolves by night.
If its predecessors are anything to go by, this film will be a dazzling visual feast, rich with imagination, mystery and wonder, dealing with prevalent issues from today by exploring Celtic myths and tales from the past.
You can stream Wolfwalkers via the festival's Leeds Film Player for £6. It is also included in their £30 Fanomenon pass, along with other fantastical feature delights!
“In Lovers Rock, Black joy exists without restraint nor tragedy”
Kambole Campbell’s piece for i-D about the second film in Steve McQueen’s incredible Small Axe series, is a beautiful piece of writing that celebrates the unique facets of Lovers Rock as a standalone work while also helping us place it within a whole.
Great film writing isn’t just a means to get bums on seats, it’s a tool to help the audience understand what they’re seeing or what they’ve seen, to celebrate and help appreciate an artist’s vision.
Lovers Rock is one of our favourite films of this year and we can’t wait to see where it and the whole Small Axe series will come to sit in the story of film going forwards. In the meantime, thank you to Kambole Campbell for your words.
You can find the review for i-D here and Lovers Rock is currently available to watch on BBC iPlayer along with Mangrove, the first part in the Small Axe series. Part three, Red, White and Blue, will be released on Sunday at 9pm.
Last month, as part of Black History Month, author and film scholar Josiah Howard shared with us an exclusive new essay on Basil Dearden’s 1959 film Sapphire (UK, 92mins, PG).
For today’s pick we wanted to revisit that film and re-share Howard’s fantastic essay.
From the director of The Smallest Show on Earth (1957) and Victim (1961), Sapphire tells the story of Chief Inspector Hazard and his bigoted Inspector as they unravel the mystery of Sapphire, a young student found murdered on Hampstead Heath.
Sapphire is a fascinating insight into prejudice in multi-cultural London just as it was on the cusp of the more permissive 1960s.
Today’s Pick is Perfect 10 – part of the British Film Premiere season from BBC Film and the BFI.
The debut coming-of-age tale from Scottish director Eva Riley explores the delicate yet complex relationship between teenage gymnast Leigh and her newly discovered older half-brother Joe. Her brother introduces her to an exhilarating new underground world which brings excitement and attention but also risks her gymnastic dreams.
This pertinently vulnerable film is lit up by the first-time raw performances of the sibling protagonists, which hooks in audiences immediately. The glorious imagery and the endearing sensitive portrayal of the core relationship is delicately balanced with the gritty sensibilities of social realism. Audiences are assured to be equally mesmerised through the perfect mixture of tension and sentiment.
Perfect 10 is available to watch via the BBC iPlayer for the next 11 months.
A special introduction to the film, from writer and critic Leila Latif, is also available here.
Who remembers Obama’s amazing Favourite Movies of 2018 list? It had so many brilliant films – from outstanding American indies like Leave No Trace and The Rider, to foreign language triumphs like Burning and Roma.
Many of the films on the list have already been featured as Hyde Park Picks throughout this year. And tonight we're recommending another – Koreeda’s Palme d'Or winner, Shoplifters.
Full of heartfelt emotion and characters of unassuming depth, this superb family-drama from legendary Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda (Like Father, Like Son, Our Little Sister) is available to stream for free on Channel 4 until 16th December.
And here's the full list of Obama's Favourite Films of 2018:
- Black Panther
- The Death of Stalin
- Eighth Grade
- If Beale Street Could Talk
- Leave No Trace
- Minding the Gap
- The Rider
- Support the Girls
- Won’t You Be My Neighbour