Image for post
Image for post

“Funny how there’s so much blood abounding in such a lifeless movie” — Dara Higgins on Nicolas Cage revenge flick, Mandy

There’s no redemption for Nick Cage. The idea that he makes dross movies studded with the occasional, unintentional classic is a misnomer. He just makes duff movies. His milieu consists entirely of gurning and shouting, adding the gravitas of niche to whatever celluloid he’s numbly loping across. The accidental Oscar win has done him no favours. Nick appears to prefer sparkling dully in bad movies than anything else, like a zircon dropped in a cowpat. And yet we seem to need him, sucked towards his empty maw as if across the lip of an all obliterating black hole. …


Image for post
Image for post
Ellen Page in The Cured

Dara Higgins on post-virus outbreak horror The Cured

The ‘post-mysterious virus outbreak’ genre isn’t new. The sight of martial law on the streets as a society tries to rebuild, or of a ruined metropolis that failed to fight the creeping death are seeming less and less like entertainment and more like documentaries from the future. It feels, right now, as if we are in the backstory of all future apocalypses. All we need is some megalomaniacal simpleton with no actual human empathy in one of the highest positions of world power and we’re sorted for near obliteration. Oh.

David Freyne’s The Cured offers a morsel of hope. The virus that infected huge swathes of the Irish population turning them from top-o-the-morning pig thieves into blood streaked, rage infused mentallers has been cured. The government have a hold of the situation. Those still infected are locked up and those who were infected, wreaked havoc and killed before capture, have been cured. The Cured have to go through a transition before being let back into society. After all, these are the people who roamed the streets ripping out throats with their teeth. And what’s more, despite being in the throes of infection, they can remember all the violence they perpetrated. …


Image for post
Image for post

‘Up down, X O O O, left. BOOM. Exposition. Fight. Exposition. Bit of climbing. Oh oh, Boss fight’ — Dara Higgins on Tomb Raider

Lara Croft’s legend is 20 odd years old now. We thought we knew it all, but here it gets a retelling. At the beginning she was a moneyed toff who enjoyed robbing artefacts from graves and smashing up old stuff for her, and our, enjoyment. A more innocent time. As time went on she became more nuanced and less pneumatic, but the premise never really changed. Jump, shoot, nick that, move on.

In this reboot film we met a 21 year-old Lara before she’s gone on her first adventure. Refusing to believe her missing father (McNulty, a simpering mess here) is dead she’s living as a millennial bike courier who, like, knows Hamlet and stuff? To make ends meet she races around London’s streets and gets lifted by the law, bringing her back to the attention of her family’s company’s trustee (Kirstin Scott Thomas with bills to pay). You’re a gazillionaire, girl. Why live like a crusty? This unexplored minor detail is tossed to one side when circumstances lead Lara to uncover her father’s secret study, full of intriguing stuff. Intriguing enough to pawn a family heirloom and travel across the world in search of daddy, like a backpacker and not a heiress. …


Image for post
Image for post

“The accent is good, the hair looks real, that sense of derangement is never far from the surface” — Dara Higgins takes notes from The Disaster Artist

There is no shortage of bad art. In fact, it proliferates. Blockbusters are stuffed with duff dialogue and dodgy looking CGI. Acting and directing are as fallible as any of us. Some stories veer dangerously away from logic, some avoid common sense, others eschew all accuracy to serve a facile plot. So what makes one movie, specifically Tommy Wiseau’s 2003 and artistic litter-tray The Room worse than all those other bad movies out there?

For sure, the script is bad. The dialogue laden with non sequiturs and emotive bullshit. The story, ostensibly a simple tale about an all American white collar hero dude with a heavy, at times incompressible mid-European accent, trying to deal with the fact that his best mate is getting it on with his fiancé, is all over the shop. It’s not even in the shop. …


Image for post
Image for post

‘We all go through it, one way or the other, but usually with fewer gory deaths’ — Dara Higgins can relate to the lost in the woods horror of The Ritual

It’s a lads’ night out and Luke (Rafe Spall) is getting the frustrated. His old college muckers don’t want a mad one. It’s a school night, Dom points out. Luke looks as if those days and nights should be behind him. His friends are acting their age, wives, kids, careers. Luke wants them to hit the party zones for a lads’ holiday. Rob suggests a hike through Sweden. Cop on, right? Where’s the fun in that?

Having convinced Rob to extend the night they enter a local off licence, wherein a violent robbery is taking place. Rob cops it, but Luke, showing his true colours, cowers and hides. He’s haunted from then on by the vision of his friend lying on the floor of the fluorescent-lit shop, his blood pooling underneath his mangled head. …


Image for post
Image for post

Dara Higgins on his time as an alfresco purveyor of live audio recordings of questionable quality and legality

The first time I was arrested was invigorating, thrilling, a rite of passage. All the lads on the bridge went through it, it was a necessary evil, a badge of comradeship. Us versus them. You entered the cell a boy, you exited a man. This of course wasn’t true. I entered 14 years old, and exited 14 years old but with a lot of explaining to do and many months of being grounded to look forward to. Totally worth it.

I didn’t need to get collared, but in my naïve (and still persisting) belief that experience equalled knowledge, I took the bullet. Garda “raided” the Bridge, as if it were some dingy speakeasy, with the impish tactic of approaching from both ends simultaneously and removing their caps so they couldn’t be easily seen. Lads scarpered. Cases of precious C60s and C90 were lost to the evidence room of time. Unless some brave warrior stepped forward and took the fall. Getting arrested with your box meant it was your property and you could get it back. You might have 30 tapes in a case. 3 or 4 pounds a pop? What’s a brush with the law against that kind of cheddar? Also, being a minor, I wouldn’t get a permanent record. …


Image for post
Image for post

‘You might be scared of clowns by the end, or you might just be scared of everything’ — Dara Higgins on It

A deluge rains down on Derry. Young Georgie chases a paper boat as it speeds away, carried on a torrent of rain water and down a drain. Worried that his brother will be annoyed, Georgie tries to retrieve his toy. But the storm drain contains more than just the child’s errant boat. Every 27 years a malevolent, child eating menace returns to Derry, the kip of a gaff in Maine, you see, not the one atop of Ireland’s crown. So, there’s plenty of jokes in there you can make, but I’m not doing the legwork for you. No, in this ‘burg, a staple in the Stephen King canon, the rate of missing children is 6 times the national average. …


The forgotten song and the hidden grief.

Where does the music go, the stuff that you dream or imagine? Why is it so hard to remember? It’s an ephemeral thing, an ululation or a rhythm that seems briefly important, and then it’s gone. You can whistle a line and think that you’ve given it life, but you haven’t really. You need to get it down, record it, make a record of what it is. Because if you don’t, did it ever exist? Like all those great stories and tunes you’ve dreamt but couldn’t pin down in time; An idea without a body, a mere skeleton, fleshless. A memory, like your first kiss or the first time you held hands with someone or your first cigarette. Things that happened, but have left no corporeal trace. But still in there, somewhere, rattling around your many-roomed brain, always kinda-sorta just on the edge, somewhere in the fog. Where do they go, these things that you made real once, but neglected to get down on tape? Floating out there in the ether? In the heads of others? …

About

Dara Higgins

Writer of television and fiction. Bassist for hire. Dodgy knees.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store