Saturday, 22 November 2014

Man Crates' Horror Survival Challenge

Man Crates gift crate opening crowbar
Today is a big day for me, dear readers. I have been asked very nicely by the people of at Man Crates, specialists in spectacularly extravagant, testosterone-fuelled gifts for men (or women/snake beasts, let's not be discriminatory here) who like unvarnished wood and sharp things, to partake in a little challenge. They have asked me, in my infinite mind-bending wisdom, to come up with my choice for the perfect horror movie survival crate full of the shit any zombie-bursting, serial-killer-thwarting badass might need to make it out the other end of the night. They maaaay have asked me to do this in time for Halloween, but I didn't notice their email until this week; I'm kind of shitty like that.

Now obviously this is a publicity thing for them, but it's all in good fun and I assure you that you're getting the same old me without any external influence/editing; I'm just handing out a free name-drop seeing as they asked nicely and gave me an idea for a post. So with that little disclaimer out of the way, let's fill our crate.

tetris gameboy game screenshot
"Doo-do-do-dooo-do-do-doo-do-do-dooo!" - Me when packing anything.
Hold on. Crates? Crowbars? Undiluted manliness? Where do I know of these things...?

half life 2 gordon freeman barnacle crowbar
Thaaaat's the ticket.
Many of the other blogs who have taken part in this challenge have noted that there are myriad horror movie scenarios that could play out, and have thus chosen one or a range of them to attempt to narrow down their means of survival. The only choice, however, is to make a crate that would help with getting through the invasion of Earth by an army of inter-dimensional hell-beings. It's what Gordon would want. So without further ado, here's what you'll need to survive Half-Life:

A Pickelhaube 

bismarck wearing a pickelhaube
My lovely assistant Bismarck modelling the latest in
modern headcrab-proofing.
The main danger in a world ravaged by nightmarish aliens is, unsurprisingly, the nightmarish aliens, getting up in your grill and trying to slurp on your precious brain juice and stuff. As such, you'll need something to protect your squishy head bits from what happens when you mix a facehugger with Christmas dinner. 
friends monica dancing chicken sunglasses head gif
Friends knew! They tried to warn us!
The Pickelhaube is not only dashingly fashionable in our polite modern society but also acts as an automatic headcrab skewer, making your epic quest across a warn-torn radioactive wasteland that little bit easier. If you've got a weird shaped head or are worried about losing your helmet when a Prussian antiques store isn't handy to get replacements, you could always opt for a more permanent solution: the Hellraiser puzzle box!

Light and easy to use, all you need to do is solve the box and ask the consent-friendly sadomasochistic demigods very nicely if they'll drive hundreds of nails through your skull. Voilà! Instant protection from any face hungry creatures that you might encounter. Plus, if you end up travelling through a wormhole to visit your alien invaders, you can finally answer the age-old question: what happens if you summon murderous inter-dimensional creatures while in the homeworld of other murderous inter-dimensional creatures?

hellraiser puzzle box
"There is no way this could not be a good idea!"

Suitable Shoes

The world is big, real big, and you're going to need to traverse pretty much all of it via an unnecessarily convoluted route if you're to save the human race. As such, a sturdy pair of hiking boots will make the long, hard slog a little easier on your wee tootsies. However, big, heavy boots are a tad stompy and won't do for those moments when sneakiness is paramount. You don't want to be shuffling through a dark corridor and have your steel toecaps clanging off handrails or be trying to pick your way lightly across a beach only to have your flat-footedness attract swathes of giant, blind bug monsters from deep underground.

half life 2 antlions
Antlions gave me nightmares.
For these occasions, might I suggest a pair of heavy duty water shoes? Not only are they lightweight and hug your feet to make for easier climbing, but they're also great for those times when you've got to get your wade one and want to keep those boots dry for later. Wet shoes equals blisters, remember. Oh, and on that note, spare socks too. They can even double as makeshift mittens if it gets cold or to store antlion grubs (they have surprisingly efficacious natural healing properties) for later use.

If you're feeling cheap, just get a pair of slippers and carpet-shuffle your way to victory.

A Garden Gnome

Take it everywhere you go and don't ask questions.

Water Sterilisation

It's common knowledge that any invasion of the Earth by alien life-forms will inevitably result in lots of unexplained leakage of radioactive material in places where radioactive material would otherwise not have any reason to be. This means huge amounts of our drinking water is likely to be contaminated by the effects of radiation and human/alien corpses; very soon that'll make safe, clean water a commodity of great value.
homemade nuke cola bottlecaps fallout
Bottle caps as currency is soooo 2277.
If you've got yourself a means of producing clean water, you've got a lot of leverage when it comes to trading. To do that, though, you're going to have to find a means of distillation, ion exchange, or reverse osmosis; all three of which are useful ways of removing bad stuff from water, although they have varying effectiveness depending on what the radioactive isotope is. You can get portable distillers and reverse osmosis systems that are a reasonable size whereas ion exchange is somewhat chunkier, so the former is a better shout. Once you get you system working with a plentiful source of water nearby, you could curtail your world-saving activities in lieu of a career selling water to the masses for a sickeningly high price. Hey, gotta make the most of it, right?

fallout vault boy thumbs up
Three cheers for creating a capitalist dystopia!


Mankind is in ruins, society completely broken down. All anyone can spare the time to think about is how to stay alive for another day. Once worldly possessions have become fuel, a means for survival; and as a result, much of our history is lost. That doesn't sound great... How about helping keep humanity's rich heritage alive (and maybe preventing past mistakes being repeated) by bringing along a few good books. Some classic literature, engineering manuals, philosophy; anything you like that might be useful or entertaining. A war-torn future can be a depressing and occasionally boring place to be, particularly when you've got your feet up and pickelhaube/slippers on manning your water shop all day, so crack out some good reads to make the time fly by while you wait for events to hurry up and conclude themselves already!

half life 2 cinder block physics puzzle
They're also great for stacking on stuff to solve annoyingly obtuse physics puzzles.
That's my crate all filled up! Please let me know in the comments what you might add to your own survival crate and be sure to have a look at these other blogs who joined me in taking up the survival crate challenge.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Spain Month: Intacto

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo poster

Week 2 and my beard is pissing me off to no end. I like my face not covered in itchy hair bitsicles. Guh! Now I'm afraid things are a little busy this week, my lovely readers, so this'll be a speedy review; let's get started.

This week's review is looking at Intacto, an early film of Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, the director of one of the few truly, honestly, and unforgettably abysmal sequels ever made: 28 Weeks Later. Frankly, I was not expecting much; and if it turned out to be OK, I wasn't hoping for any more than an absolutely average movie. I'll be straight up and say that, surprisingly, that wasn't the case; it was slightly above average.

packet of hobnobs
It's the hobnob of movies. Better than a digestive, but still not covered in sweet, sweet chocolate.
It appears I've inadvertently ended up picking nought but thrillers for this month's movies (although can you blame me? Spain does them ruddy well), but shmeh, I'm not complaining. Right, the film. Intacto has a pretty standard tone and atmosphere for a thriller, but stands out a little thanks to its premise: lucky people. Yup. Lucky people competing in dangerous games to see who's luckier. Being a thriller there's obviously the usual court-mandated unnecessary plot twists and lack of coherent explanation as well but that's the gist.

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo blindfold bug scene
For some reason this involves smearing yourself with treacle and putting bugs on your head.
In retrospect, the whole thing is a mess. The premise is introduced nice and early, sure, but it feels like the goal posts are being constantly moved depending on what the film makers wanted to happen in that particular scene. The basic idea is that there are people in the world with supernaturally good luck, and they compete with each other to see who is the luckiest; simple. So it starts with everyone on a kind of scale of luckiness with the luckiest coming out on top, but then they bring in the concept of betting with the luck of normal people (and temporarily absorbing the luck of others by touching them) and the water starts to muddy. By the end you just have to go with it, the rules are forgotten and stuff just seems to be happening because reasons.

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo plane crash scene
Yes, it's lucky to survive, but it wasn't very lucky to be in a plane crash in the first place. Jeez.
That said, despite the poorly presented ideas it is still a fun movie. Some of the less convoluted challenges are that good mixture of silly and tense that keeps you nicely on the edge; the best being a moment when the characters are blindfolded and made to run through a dense forest towards a man's voice. Gah. I've leaned against a tree too hard and hurt myself, I don't want to think what it'd be like sprinting into one.

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo blindfold running forest scene
I'm not sure what it says about the whole film when the best scene is of people running at trees with their face.
Where it has it, Intacto does tension very well; helped along by some skilful cinematography that gives the movie a weird, pseudo-dreamy atmosphere. There's a lot of Lynch and Kubrick influences in here, and very obviously so. Although that's not a bad thing; it works and it adds to the overall tone of the movie, making for some lovely shots that compliment the tense/weird scenes.

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo good luck red hallway
Case in point.
There's little to say about the acting and even less about the music; they exist, but don't occupy any more space than is necessary. Plus the characterisation and exposition is sloppy at best, character's back-stories being introduced with as much delicacy as flying a plane using only your balls. It may have the style and suspense, but on a whole Intacto felt like it lacked that extra bit of substance necessary to make a memorable movie. It's fun and interesting but don't go looking for Nolan-esque moral exploration or third act twists (excluding Interstellar in all its glacial-paced, predictable glory), you'll end up disappointed.

Intacto film 2001 juan carlos fresnadillo russian roulette
And yes, of course there's a game of Russian roulette.
 Here's a fun drinking game to play while you watch this movie: take a drink every time someone refers to luck, being lucky, or the luckiness of someone else. You'll get smashed faster than a Faberge egg being held by a Parkinsons sufferer.

Moustache Rating

v for vendetta guy fawkes mask
The "V" -
It appears to be trying to make some sort of statement, but gets too caught up in its own style to say anything at all. At least it's fun though.

Sunday, 16 November 2014


Hello hello!

So this week I've been awfully arty farty and attended a premier screening of the debut feature film from Rob Brown: Sixteen.

Sixteen (2013) Poster
Sixteen is an urban drama/thriller about soon-to-be sixteen year old Jumah, who lives in London with his adoptive mother Laura, an aid worker who managed to get him out of the Congo where he lived as a child solider. Trying to start fresh and to leave his violent past behind, Jumah dreams of being a barber; however a spanner gets thrown into the works when Jumah finds himself with a target on his back when he and his best friend witness some events they shouldn't have involving the resident drug dealer.

I think the technical term for the plot for this film is: "shit goes down." Shit hits the fan very quickly and things begin to escalate out of hand at an alarming pace and at the centre of this is Jumah. He is the main character of this story, and the story relies heavily upon actor Roger Jean Nsengiyumva to tell it. Roger, whose acting credits on IMDb is shockingly small, is a name to watch. A few years down the line, he is going to be a household name, I'm calling it now. For someone who had only acted in one project preceding Sixteen, he commands an impressive screen presence; one that says 'I am here now, shut up and watch me.', but not in a loud and brass way, in a subtle way that means that you can't help but be drawn in by him. Jumah is a character who finds it difficult to express himself vocally, meaning Roger has to rely on his body to communicate to the audience everything that is going on in his head, to great success. 

Fluffy jacket looks fluffy.
The film itself looks gorgeous. Despite the small budget raised through a Kickstarter Campaign, the film was shot using the camera and lens from the latest Bond film, director Rob Brown disclosed during a Q & A after the screening, where he really hammered home the importance of connections within the film industry. It's all about who you know. With a bleak palette of the concrete jungle in which the film is set and the, well, bleakness, it reflects greatly on the subject matter. This isn't a happy film, it is quiet, understated and it takes its time, with just enough pockets of unexpected violence to keep you on your toes. A tough watch for a half-awake Rhona at ten in the morning. 

The characters for the most part are well developed and well written. Occasionally I felt the audience might lose touch with Jumah as, like I mentioned earlier, he is a character who doesn't rely on words particularly often, so his actions may not be immediately understood by the viewers, which does get frustrating at points, but is quelled by a satisfying pay-off. The drug dealer emits a quiet sinister quality which, when things start to unravel, becomes very unsettling. I wanted to have a special mention for the performances by Jumah's best friend and the minion of the drug dealer who attends Jumah's life, both of whom I unfortunately cannot seem to find either of the actors or their characters names on IMDb, but I felt both of them gave great performances, and both of which were also very well written. I also found Jumah's tentative relationship with his new girlfriend Chloe (Rosie Day) an interesting watch, as she begins to realise that this person she has always perceived as 'gentle' may not be accurate. 
I'd say this was an accurate depiction of the colour palette.
Of course this is not to say that the film is not without it's flaws. Like I said earlier, there are times where Jumah becomes disconnected from the audience - he has decided that there is no-one in his life he can confide in and so actions often come without explanation. Similarly, the mother and the girlfriend trotting behind him shouting, "Don't do anything stupid!" in despair does become weary. However Brown is a highly celebrated short film maker, and this being his first feature length does predict good things for the future. A highly respectable stepping stone between the two forms. Also, quick mention for the score for this film as it is out of this world. Hats off to you. All it all, a good film with some great gems in there.

My final thoughts are that it is definitely worth a trip out to the cinema when it is given it's release. Enjoy, and let me know what you think if you do go to see it! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Spain Month: The Skin I Live In

The Skin I Live In 2011 film Pedro Almoldovar poster
It took a long time before I realised this was a drawing.
It's November peepsicles! Those of you who've been about a while know that last year, to celebrate Movemver (a really awesome cause that you should donate to), I spent the month looking at movies from Italy, the land of fabby face fuzz. I've decided to continue the tradition this year, thus officially commencing an annual International Cinema Month, by moving a little West and looking at the produce of another country of moustachioed greats: España!
gladiator 2001 ridley scott russel crowe the spaniard shout screenshot
An accurate representation of all Spaniards, ever.
They may not be as great in number as other countries, but the classic Spanish moustache has become an iconic image for top lip overgrowth worldwide, and for that they get this month dedicated to them. Let's get going then; we're going to start things off with Pedro Almodovar's creepy body horror/thriller/drama, The Skin I Live In.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

17 Thoughts Everyone Has During Bootcamp

Thought I'd try this week to do a post a la Buzzfeed, "(insert number) thoughts everyone has during (insert activity)!" Because here at Pop Culture Cynic, we're all about trying new things, and one of those new things you may have decided to try is Bootcamp, based off my post last week! If that is the case, check these out and be prepared.

[Editor's Note: This article is a piece of satire. We totally don't regularly use list articles and a heavy concentration of stock photos to hide our poor journalistic style. We are artists, we're much better than that! That is all.]

1. Yeah, doing the exercise, this is going to be great!

I'll look like this in a week, right?
2. Oh no. This is not great. This is the opposite of great.

3. Wait, it's only been five minutes? How does time move this slowly?

This is how science works, right?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Medical School: A Survival Guide - Part 4

Apologies for the lateness of this post, what with being a whole week late. Last week was, if you happen to have forgotten because you're a loveless monster with no regard for happiness, Halloween; the best not-really-a-holiday of the year. Now I could do the usual "let's review a classic horror movie that's been done to death a million times over", but *sharp exhalation of breath indicating both exasperation and can't-be-fuckeditude*, so...nah. Instead, to commemorate the occasion, I thought I'd share with you some insider gossip on the creepiest and kookiest part of my course: anatomy dissection. It's quite a mysterious practice, not helped in any way by the small number of universities which actually have it available, so let me lead you through the strange world of cutting up dead folks.

rembrandt anatomy lesson 5 painting
Here be I demonstrating my prowess to a gathering of identical bearded clones.
Here's the obligatory links to parts 1, 2 and 3; let's do this.

Saturday, 1 November 2014


I literally started two different posts to put on The Pop Culture Cynic this evening, but my brain is so fried from various different things that I can't really string together a coherent sentence let alone an insightful review of the film and the TV show I was going to look at. So what am I going to write about now? I'm going to take a note out of Ben's book and fill you in on what I've been up to as of late. Sure, maybe not as good reading as a film review, but at least it'll help you guys to get to know me a little better rather than a semi-faceless reviewer on the other side of your computer screen.

Flashbacks to two years ago.
As some of you may or may not know, I study theatre and film at university. My current projects are as follows: a film essay discussing independent cinema vs Hollywood mainstream using a film of my choice as the case study (I went with Boys Don't Cry because I hate myself), coming up with an idea for a ten minute film, another film essay, a drama essay of a close reading of a play that I've not read yet and a ten minute screenplay. I do upload the films that we made as exercises during the week to YouTube if you want to check them out - my channel mainly consists of my films from second year (we don't talk about first year, eugh) and these exercises that I mentioned not a moment ago. These exercises are just to help us get familiar with the new editing software that we get to use in third year and to help us think about things like continuity and editing a bit better, so don't be expecting epic stories or anything.