Saturday, 27 December 2014

What's to Come - 2015 Sort-of-Resolutions

Hello one and all! Dear faithful readers, I shall be honest with you right now; much like dear Benjamin, I am not going to be setting up a real post today, but instead I am weaselling out of my blogging duties with a post about what kind of posts you might expect from me in the new year. I am of course simply posting in reference to myself, I have no idea what Ben might have planned for 2015, and I am excited to see what he comes up with.

Computer Generated Goodness.
Despite being a film student, I feel like I slacked a bit on my film watching duties in 2014. I don't know if it's the procrastinator inside me viewing film-watching as a form of work or studying, but I didn't really venture outside of the films I was required to watch for uni. Of course I did watch some, I love films and I wrote about them here, but I think I could have been better. Even the films I did watch, I sometimes opted out of the heavier thinkers for the shittiest film I could find so I'm going to up the ante on my film watching activities. I feel like I'm perhaps selling myself a little bit short here, so have a disclaimer: I love watching films! I did watch some bloody fantastic films in 2014! I want to watch more bloody fantastic films in 2015, and so on and so forth for the rest of my life!

Buzzfeed wrote an article of 24 Movies You Probably Missed This Year so I endeavour to view all of them, thoughts on them pending for Pop Culture Cynic, 2015. Yaknow, after I watch them. Film4 also has a list of 50 Films to See Before You Die. This list features more classic films, so I have seen a fair chunk of them already, but I aim to polish off the rest of the list. I'll probably find some more lists to crawl my way through, but by all means, if you have a film you think oughtta be watched, do let me know! 

I couldn't find a non-cringeworthy representation of music,
so I just rolled with it.
This year I introduced the topic of music blogging to Pop Culture Cynic way back in May, and I really enjoyed it! So I do aim to do more posts about music, however I'll probably need to refine the way I talk about it. I know how to talk about film and television because it's what I do at university every day (the quality of my posts may not indicate that, so I do apologise), but talking about music is still something I need to get better at rather than just saying, "Yes, this is a good song, listen to it!" which is the basis of a lot of my musical themed posts. So do bear with.

The way this person is cutting their pepper is going
to keep me up at night.
Okay, so cookery posts are nothing new here, Ben has been offering up tasty blog posts to keep your hungry bellies filled. Hell, there's even a whole tag dedicated to Food which both myself and Ben's posts feature in! However, the difference is is that Ben shows you how to make a delicious treat, I talk about delicious treats I probably ordered online, because talking to people on the phone makes me wanna kill myself. Especially hairdressers. Hairdressers are at the top of my "speak on the phone and get reduced to a crippling awkward mess and wanna kill myself" list and I have no idea why. Anywho. Moving on. I feel like this gives you kind readers an inaccurate representation of myself, because I actually do cook. Quite a lot. And I think I'm not half bad either. So I definitely want to dip my finger into the cooking post pie.

I feel like there's a pun here and I just can't think of it. 
I used to read so much when I was younger. I would start a new book every other day. I loved reading then and I still do now, but I have slowed considerably in my book reading. So much like my film watching, I wish to regain my ability to read a lot in a year. So once I begin to read more, I'd also like to talk about those books, but much like my music reviewing skills, that'll be something that takes refining. So do persevere, I feel like I could have some good stuff to say about books. 

So those are the three main things you may expect from me in 2015, but the biggest thing that I'll be working on is the overall quality of my posts. I know things got a little rough towards the end of the year - balancing university, a part time job and trying to write posts for here got pretty tough, and it was The Pop Culture Cynic that suffered. I'm doing one less module next semester than I was in the first semester, so hopefully I won't be quite as horrifically busy and actually be able to spend time working on stuff that you guys are going to enjoy.

Anyway, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and I wish you all the best for 2015! See you next year!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

A Very Merry Christmas from The Pop Culture Cynic

'Tis the season, readers! I hope you've all got yourselves nice and ready for the big day, when families and friends gather together to celebrate the birth of that guy at the beginning of The Life of Brian.

life of brian film 1979 graham chapman crucifixion always look on the bright side of life
"Any of you guys know what happened to that Jesus bloke?"
I've taken the convenient opportunity of a public holiday to fob off on writing anything worthwhile, so instead I thought I'd let you know what I'm been doing for Christmas so my loyal band of crazy stalkers can emulate my festive cheer to the letter.

crazy one direction fans girls screaming
The standard reaction whenever I go to the toilet with the door open.
Presents are all wrapped and food is all bought for the big day, so the main task for today was making the trifle. Ooo, challenging. Sponge fingers, half a bottle of sherry, a little dash of the stuff actually in the trifle, and you're good. As for the rest of the day, family tradition calls for the need to get pleasantly pickled and watch the original Alistair Sim version of Scrooge. Screw this Muppets crap, you canny beat the bug-eyed glory of the original.

alistair sim scrooge 1951 film jacob marley scene
All hail the mantis king!
I'm on dinner tomorrow what with me dearest mammy having to work Christmas Day (I know, pray for her), so it'll be a busy afternoon slaving over a hot stove before pressies in the evening. But the real awesome stuff ain't until New Year. We be going on a cruise! At New Year; with the big Christmas tree and everything. Wait, hold on. Ah shit, we're doing The Poseidon Adventure; I'd best befriend an ex-Olympic swimmer.

the poseidon adventure 1972 film capsize scene christmas tree
"We should really stop sending cruise liners out around this time of year."
Seens as I'll be away for New Year there won't be any posts next week; so this was really just a long way of saying you're getting nothing for two weeks.

Merry Christmas. Love Ben.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Office (US)

Well hello there! It's been a while since we've spoken! I hope your festivities are going well and that life is treating you excellently! I did get awfully busy/stressed with university, hence the lack of decent posting, but for now at least, we are back on track with your usual broadcasting!
So, as I mentioned, I was getting rather bogged down with university work, which only leaves one question: what TV series did I marathon whilst I should have been doing university work?

(P.S I am highly aware that I should probably be doing some kind of Christmas related post, but I am neither crafty nor anything else like Ben is; my skills don't translate well into the festivities. So suck it.)

Between season one and season two, Steve Carrell changes physically so
much, just a heads up. It's startling. 
I, like most of you probably, have been aware of The Office for some time now, but never really felt the urge to sit down and watch it properly. It was till I was chatting to a friend on facebook that she urged me to watch it, from the start and right the way through. Considering that I knew it was all on netflix and with the dread of having to write an essay, I figured that it would be the perfect time to start a new show!

The Office is based on the British sitcom of the same name and same premise. Set in a documentary style, a camera crew follow the lives of a group of people in a paper company trying to avoid downsizing in a world where mega companies like Staples and Office Depot threaten their existence. I think that the way The Office is presented to us, the audience, is interesting because oft times the camera is outside a room peering through blinds or across the way from a car window giving us the feeling of candid camera. The genius in the actors is in the way that they, especially Michael, play to the camera; the subtle glance to the camera often brings about a performance of some nature knowing that they are On. Just as often they notice that the camera has caught them in some kind of compromising position. One on one time with the camera also gives a new dimension to the comedy from the characters. [Editor's Note: Is it just me or does it sound like Rhona's still in essay-writing mode? Poor thing...]

There are some times where I do think to myself, "erm, no, there is no way the cameras would have been able to be there or to have not caught another camera-person on camera" etc. but it's not hugely irritating and if I don't think about it too much, then it's not something that is too blindingly obvious.
Everyone always looks this grim. It's great.
It's not a show that you're going to want to marathon straight away. You'll watch the first few episodes and think, "ha! that was amusing, now on to other things." and you'll repeat that process for a few days. Then it happens. You'll watch an episode and say, "Hey, wait, they can't end on that. I'll just watch another, just to see how that goes." And then suddenly you're on season five and you've not slept in so many days, you've lost count. It takes you by surprise. My friend asked me what season I was on and I thought I was on season two, but when I went to check, I was an episode away from finishing season four.

Oh, Michael.
Season two is probably where The Office really hits its stride, so do persevere (season one is only six episodes, i'm sure you'll manage). The real draw of the show is the characters; it is really a character-based show than a plot-based one. The Jim/Dwight rivalries are always hilarious (see above gif; pranks galore) and the Jim/Pam relationship is simultaneously heart warming and heart breaking. I just love Jim, okay. I do sometimes go in waves on Michael Scott, portrayed by Steve Carrell. Scott is so insensitive and awkward and weird that I just want to shake him into normalcy; however, in an episode where he is being particularly insufferable, something happens that reminds me that, at his core, he's just a lonely guy who wants some friends, and his heart truly is in the right place; he just has trouble expressing himself.

There! Is this Christmassy enough for you? Gah, there's no pleasing you people.
It's the supporting cast that really makes the show come to life though. Kevin, the somewhat slow accountant; Angela, the stern and judgemental office worker; Oscar, the gay guy who suffers at the hands of Michael's crippling awkwardness and need to make things not weird (which ends up making things weird) when it's found out that he is gay; Stanley, the no nonsense salesman who has little to no time for Michael's antics; Phyllis, the older woman who just wants to get some work done; Kelly, the customer rep who won't stop talking; Toby, the HR representative that Michael hates for inexplicable reasons; Creed, a creep; and Ryan, the temp, who can't seem to digest the insanity going on around him.

Nope. No context.
I'd love to go further into the finer details of the plot and the development of the characters, but I'd hate to take anything away from your viewing experience, so I'll wrap things up there. There are some great faces to look out for in some of the seasons and just yeah. Stopping now before I ruin things.

What have you guys been watching?

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Get Yo Pickle On! - Making Chilli Jam and Lime Pickle

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle chilli jam mango chutney

It's nearly Christmas once again and that means I've got even more yummy things to show you this year for you to make for your loved ones instead of getting them what they actually want. Last year I made mango chutney and this time around I thought I'd up the ante and make a set of three pickles/jams for my dearest fambam. The chutney recipe can be found here, so let's go straight on to the other two, starting with...

Lime Pickle

Difficulty - 2/5
Duration - 3/5
the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle jar finished

We'll begin proceedings with the more time consuming of our two products for today: the lime pickle. Stolen gracefully from this lovely website, this is a traditional Indian recipe which uses a few unusual ingredients; I had to order some of the spices online so there might be a little more time needed to prepare for this one. Luckily, step one takes 3 weeks, so you've got ages to get all of this stuff together:

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle ingredients
All of the ingredients hanging out with what looks like a bag of heroin.
- 4-5 juicy limes; a necessary ingredient what with this being lime pickle
- A rather unhealthy amount of salt (around 150g)
- 3 finely chopped cloves of garlic for anti-vampiric properties
- 6-7 green chillis (they match the limes), also finely chopped
- 2-3 tbsp Chilli powder (plus more or less depending on how many plys your toilet paper has)
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 2 tsp Fenugreek
- 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 1/2 tsp Asafoetida (this is nearly impossible to find, I suggest Amazon if you're not near a particularly big Tesco)
- A couple pinches of Curry Leaves
- Some oil

That's a rather imposing list of ingredients so we'll start with the pickling process and come back to the rest later. Give the limes a wash and pat them dry with kitchen roll before cutting them up into eighths. Then take some big jars (it's probably easier if these aren't the ones you'll eventually be putting the pickle in) and layer the limes with a good sprinkle of salt. The salt aids in the pickling process but remember that it will also alter the flavour at the end; you want a good dose of the stuff without going too overboard. Around 3-4 tablespoons per large pasta-sauce-sized jar should do. Give the jars a jolly good shake and leave them on a windowsill in the sun for 3 weeks.

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle limes in jars windowsill
Wish I could lay around soaking up the rays for a month. Lucky limes...
Be careful when you're putting the limes in the jars to keep the rims clean. Salt, fruit and fresh air over time don't exactly mix nice and you'll end up with nasty looking salt deposits on the side of the jar if you're not careful or don't give the rim a good wipe before closing the lid.

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle salt deposit
I make mistakes so you don't have to.
As they pickle in their own juices (how lovely) the limes will start to turn brown, like so:

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle pickled limes
This looks delicious.
After 3 or more weeks you're ready for the cooking and the spices; aw yeah. First things first, get your jars (you'll just about manage 3 reasonably sized jars with this recipe) sterilising in the oven at 120 degrees Celcius for an hour or so. Then heat a glob of oil in a pan until its nice a warm, throw in the mustard seeds and wait until they start losing their shit and popping all about the shop. My new phone has a feature that lets you essentially make gifs (yay!) so this is what you should be looking for:

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle sizzling mustard seeds gif
Film it in portrait, they said. It'll look great, they said.
Add the chopped garlic and fry it until it goes brown, then put in the chopped chillies and curry leaves and sauté it for a minute. For the uninitiated, sautéing means to cook something on a really high heat while shaking the pan around to look like you know what you're doing. Then come the lime pieces; chuck 'em in with the juice at the bottom of the jars, stir well, and let it simmer for 2-3 minutes. 

Now the only thing left to do is add the rest of the spices (that would be the chilli powder, fenugreek, turmeric, cumin, and asafoetida) one at a time by sprinkling them evenly over the whole pan and stirring well. The resulting heavily aromatic brown and green mush is your finished pickle!

the pop culture cynic tpcc lime pickle cooking spices
Give it a wee taste and sprinkle in any extra spices you think you might need (I added a little cayenne pepper because I hate regular bowel movements). Once you're happy, spoon the pickle into the sterilised jars and pop them somewhere to cool down. Hey, while you wait why don't you try making some...
the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam me toothbrush wooden spoon
To make this segue slightly less obvious, here is me cleaning my teeth whilst holding my jam spoon.

Sweet Chilli Jam

Difficulty - 1/5 
Duration - 1/5
the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam finished jars books
Redder than a well-spanked tomato.
This stuff is easier to make than an embarrassment of yourself at a poetry reading and it tastes fabby; sweet with a nice little hint of spice. The recipe is courtesy of Nigella Lawson, but I've regurgitated it in all its concise glory below for your convenience. You'll need:

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam ingredients
The whole recipe in a sentence: Throw all of these in a pan and wait.
- 150g fresh red chilli peppers (buy them as hot as you like)
- 150g fresh red not-chilli-just-plain-normal peppers (you know, the ones that go nice with hummus)
- 1kg jam/preserving sugar or normal sugar with pectin added to it
- 600ml cider vinegar (this does not mean Strongbow mixed in with chippy sauce)

See that picture to the right? All those peppers? The veritable stack of the things? I'm a fucking ninny cause that's how much I thought 150g of pepper was. It's not. It's really not. One does the job pretty comfortably so that's closer to a kilo. I was way off; although it does make for a nice photograph.

Once again you'll want to start by sterilising your jars. The recipe will fill about 4-5 250ml jars so either tailor the quantities to fit your needs (bearing in mind that cooking times will also change as a result) or get your mitts on every jar you can find and fill them until you run out of jam.

Now you'll want to start dissolving the sugar in the vinegar. Get a big saucepan, pour all of the vinegar into it and turn the hob onto a low heat. Add the sugar gradually as as the vinegar heats up and let it dissolve; this can take a while so it's best to prepare the two types of pepper while you wait. Do this thing of which I speak by lopping off the ends of your peppers and deseeding them.

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam chopped peppers red
Fun fact: Doing this is essentially castrating a vegetable. Have a nice day.
Next, chop up the chillis and peppers into tiny bits. Because I'm awesome and a budding domestic goddess, I got a cool new food processor/whisk/blender combo thing for my birthday so I used that. It's awesome. I also forgot that I had been handling chillies and rubbed my eye. Although unrelated I thought I ought to remind you that real physical pain and stupidity went into making this.

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam food processor peppers red
See how the pepper is now tiny and in bits? This is what you should aim for.
Put the peppers to the side until the sugar has fully dissolved (the recipe says you shouldn't stir the pot while dissolving the sugar, but I see no reason why you shouldn't. Only God can judge you now). Once the sugar is all gone, bring the pot to a rolling boil and throw the peppers in:

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam boiling pot gif
Roll, roll, roll your boil, gently on the heat...
Top tip: Don't leave the pan unattended for even a second. We had people round while I was making this and I left the kitchen for a matter of moments to see them to the door and the whole thing boiled over spectacularly.

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam pot boiled over
I am not a good cook.
If you're not looking to make a nice, nigh-unliftable layer of jam on the surface of your hob, be vigilant and turn the heat down if the boiling gets too rough. You want the jam to start thickening up a good bit before you think about dishing into jars; a handy guideline is about 10-15 minutes of boiling will give you a runnier sort of sauce (which I made) while around the 20 minute mark will start giving you a much more jelly-like consistency. Go for what your heart tells you and, when you're ready, decant into a clean, dry jug and pour your jam into the hot, sterile jars from the oven. Put the lids on tight, leave the jars to cool and you're done.

the pop culture cynic tpcc chilli jam finished cooling
"We is chillin', y'dig?"
As you can see, all the bits of pepper have stayed floating at the top, but if you invert the jars a few times and leave them the flakes should settle nicely throughout as it cools.

Hooray! Even more pickles and preserves to add to my ever-growing arsenal of crappy home-made gifts. Got any great recipes for stuff that I might like? Let me know. For now, I shall bid you good day.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Film Favourites: The Rocky Horror Picture Show

rocky horror picture show richard o'brien tim curry film 1975 poster

The Film

The Queen of cult movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an adaptation of Richard O'Brien's sensuous musical aliens I guess? I've known no-one who liked this film the first time they watched it, and yet most will always find themselves drawn back into this fabulously weird world. It must be Tim Curry's eyes.

rocky horror picture show richard o'brien tim curry film 1975 frank surgeon speech creation
There's nothing I wouldn't do to that man...

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Terrible Netflix Movies That Are So Awful They're Not Even Worth Watching

WARNING. This is not going to be well written at all. Expect spoilers and sentences that go on forever. Also lots of swearing. [Editor's Note: The management would like to apologise sincerely for the high concentration of the word 'like' and the presence of harmful levels of anguish in the following post. Please consider sending money to the Rhona Netflix Rehabilitation Fund]

Uni. Deadlines. Not doing so well. Netflix. Procrastination. Some of the worst fucking movies i've ever seen in my entire pathetic existence. Probably spoilers because these aren't legit reviews, this is just a list of terrible movies and things about them that make them terrible. These are all pretty exclusively gay movies because the LGBT section of the Netflix categories has the worst films I've ever seen and I'm trying to find the worst. Like, I'm sure the other sections have terrible films, I feel like horror has some gems, but nothing tops the "Jesus Christ this movie is so bad, I'm gonna rip my face off, how did this get made" like the lesbian films of Netflix.

Jack and Diane
Bullshit movie with a shitty font.
So Juno Temple is like a werewolf and also a lesbian and then her sister gets raped at college or something and it's posted online and that story goes fuckin' nowhere, and you know what other storyline goes fuckin' nowhere, the fuckin' werewolf one. No context or anything, she just occasionally gets a nosebleed then it shows like hair moving around a brain and then she attacks Jack but then it's just a bullshit dream or something but then at the end Jack becomes a werewolf? Also Dane DeHann is in this film for like three seconds? Also Kylie Minogue is in this fucking film? Like Jack is meant to be hot shit or whatever but she looks about twelve and Kylie looks like a million year old skeleton masquerading around in a human costume and they make out for reasons (???) and then there's this really awkward scene where Diane is trying to shave her pubes or whatever but gets shaving foam everywhere and her aunt has to help her (??!!!???) and then Jack and Diane have some of the worst, awkward, cringeyist non-sex scenes I've ever seen in my life. Nearly gave up on this film every three minutes, but it was a matter of sick curiosity. Like, this film can't get worse, can it? And then it does. Would not recommend, don't watch it, it's fucking awful.

The Guest House
The Guest House (2012) Poster
This movie got a lower rating on IMDb than Jack and Diane. Yeah. So I couldn't actually make it through this film, it was that fucking awful. The look of the film is hard to describe. Like, "LETS LIGHT EVERYTHING SO IT'S SO GODDAMN BRIGHT AND THEN LETS MAKE THE BACKGROUND OF EVERY SHOT BLURRY AS FUCK AND NOT HAVE ANY KIND OF VARIATION AND EVERY SHOT IS A MID SHOT AND FUCK YEAH ARTLJKSRTLIGDJN". So a goth gets dumped by her boyfriend and then her pervert of a dad is like, "I'm away on business, make sure our new house guest gets eeeeeeeverything she needs. AND NO BOYS." so then he leaves and the houseguest arrives and then they drink wine and fuck. There's stuff in between that like shitty handheld camcorder stuff where the characters get "deep" and the actresses really have a chance to shine as they look wistfully into the camera and ask each other increasingly sexual questions. The goth also stole her boyfriends phone as like revenge or whatever and then she's making out with houseguest naked in a jacuzzi  and the boyfriend shows up and like "where the fuck is my phone?" whilst not being a little phased by the naked ladies having sex. Oh and the goth is like a singer/songwriter or something. I HATE THIS FILM SO GODDAMN MUCH.
Okay, there's only 20 minutes left of it, I'm going to try and finish it.


UUUUURGH. So they go get matching tattoos of a key and heart shaped locket after only knowing each other for like twelve hours. Also it's so painstakingly obvious that every person who isn't the main characters are not actors, they're just random people. And calling the women who play goth and houseguest actresses is pretty fucking generous. ALSO I'M LEGITIMATELY CONCERNED THAT THESE ARE REAL TATTOOS??? Oh god, goth girl just got out of bed to light some candles, play the piano and sing naked. I'm so done. Oh god the song is so bad. So bad. Ahahah, so it turns out Houseguest and the Dad slept together.

Just watch the trailer I found, it is literally the entire film:

A Perfect Ending
A Perfect Ending (2012) Poster
If this poster alone doesn't clue you into how terrible this film is
then you must be legally blind and/or the director.
So this old lady who has never had an orgasm decides to hire a prostitute to help her get one. Jesus fucking Christ. I watched this ages ago and all I really remember is that it's fucking terrible, don't watch it.

Going to end it there because I should be doing uni stuff. If you do want to watch a good movie in the LGBT section, I will recommend (results may vary depending on whether you're using UK or US Netflix (US for life though)):

Blue is the Warmest Color
The Childrens Hour
Stranger by the Lake
Heavenly Creatures
Boys Don't Cry
And maybe Another Gay Movie - it's a fucking ridiculous film but it is entertaining. Graham Norton is in it. What the fuck,

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Spain Month: Hierro

Shhh. We've not posted a thing in nearly two weeks, but don't tell anyone. It's been a busy while; Rhona's got exams and I stupidly installed Skyrim on my PC. Things should be back to normal soon.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez poster

Elena Anaya is a force to be reckoned with. Three weeks ago I reviewed her performance in The Skin I Live In and today, as the last post of this year's (slightly extended) International Month, I'm reviewing one of her earlier films: the stylish pseudo-supernatural thriller Hierro.

Anaya plays Maria, a woman who very recently lost her son under mysterious circumstances on a ferry to the titular El Hierro, a tiny Spanish-owned island in the Canaries. Months later she's called back to the island to identify a washed-up body that may be her son; but when she arrives it feels like something isn't quite right. Maybe her son is still alive, and maybe someone has him on the island. *dun duuuun*

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez island landscape pier ocean
"Gee, this sure sounds like a zinger of a mystery. Let's split up and search for clues!"
We'll start with the setting. Golly, the Canaries are beautiful. Why do people not film stuff on tiny sort-of-tropical islands more often? It looks lovely and adds a lot of unique character to something that would otherwise have been swept out to a sea of banal modern horror-thriller tropes. The overcast, close weather really lends to the atmosphere of the film too; you could even say there's themes. Like nature, and stuff being all unclear and foggy and shit, and I really can't be arsed with that artsy symbolism stuff today. 

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez nude beach ocean
Here's Elena Anaya's boobs again. Now leave me alone.
It's not just the island that look gorgeous though, the cinematography is plain yet stylish and very effective. Whoever was behind this really took the time to set up some nice frames for the viewer to chew on, making Hierro enjoyable even just to stare blankly at. You could happily turn it into a screensaver; in a good way. Maybe the desaturation could have been lifted just a tad to let the greenery and water stand out a bit more, but generally it's a treat to look at.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez car crash birds landscape
" Ahh...A car crash never seemed so peaceful."
"I think I hear people shouting for hel-"
"Shh. Don't spoil it."
A horror-thriller wouldn't be complete without two things: a recurring animal motif and weird trippy dreams. Oh, well would you looky here, it appears some cheeky devil has snuck both of those into Hierro. What are the chances...? Maria (Anaya), having suffered the loss of her son, appears to have gone a bit...distant, and begins experiencing some rather unusual visions, often accompanied by one of my favourite uses of animals as horror icons in a long time: a flock of birds. Not shit-flying-at-your-face kind of birds, but the formation of them in the sky, much like the above picture. Or the below gifsicle.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez nightmare birds gif
"O hai."
It's a much subtler use of nature than the usual "let's throw crows at you until they stick" mentality of horror imagery; there's a subtle finesse to it that's that perfect mix of surreal/haunting and natural. The rest of the nightmare sequences follow suit, making for some great sequences that straddle the line between creepy surrealism and outright nonsense with skill, never dipping too far but still managing to be surprisingly iffy-makey.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez nightmare son diego doll bath
Doll heads should be outlawed in all places for ever and ever.
OK, the setting is my next holiday destination, the camera work is, as you can see, up to scratch, and it brings a little much-needed tact to an otherwise heavy-handed genre; now to the acting. It's...really good too! Oh mai, you're getting all the praise, Hierro, aren't you? Who's a good movie!? You are! You are!

'hem. Yes. Elena Anaya is, as my pull at the beginning of the post said, a force in this film. I don't know if it's her creepily pretty eyes or that half-there look she gives, but she captures someone who's maybe a little too close to becoming unhinged so well it's scary. For once in a horror film, it's not the supernatural or scary stuff that makes the film creepy, it's the way the lead reacts to and interacts with the world around her that does it. Anaya's wanders all over the island with wide-eyed unease and you're scared (even when you normally wouldn't be) because you can tell that she is; Maria is terrified and confused and so are you.

Hierro isn't exactly cast heavy and the other characters who do appear all take up but a fraction of the run time, but they're all pretty good too. Interestingly, looking at the IMDb page, a lot of the character names end in 'a': Maria, Laura, Tania, Julia, Elena. Weird. Interesting, but of completely no consequence.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez caravan fight
"Wait, are you Laura? Or am I Elena? Shit."
Here comes the criticism. Despite all of the things it does right, Hierro falls down right where it counts: being unoriginal. Yes, it's pretty and well shot and has good acting, but there's nothing new here; there's the obligatory twist at the ending and the credits arrive and that's it. You're done. It's entertaining, but you'll finish feeling unfulfilled, like there should have been more. I can't fault it on a technical level, it's great; it's just too bad it's another landscape of a mountain in an art gallery full of...yeah, you get the analogy. If you've the time/inclination to spend watching Anaya once again being awesome, then it's worth it, but don't hold your breath for any revelations.

hierro 2009 film elena anaya gabe ibanez hospital ants
Bonus Screenshot! I just really like this one; there's ants.

Moustache Rating

daniel craig ginger moustache

The Daniel Craig -
Yup. Did you even know he had one? I didn't. This is a moustache that exists on something beautiful, but is itself marred by its own ennui. Short lived and eventually forgotten.