Tag Archives: Alien

Damn Your Spoilers

15 Jun
Image by Chris, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

Image by Chris, shared under a Creative Commons Licence

My spoiler story begins in 1999, not long after the dot-com boom, when the internet was seen as a luxury, not a necessity, and social media was in its infancy. Back then, Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist, the mainstream press were becoming aware of blogs and broadband was a distant dream. In my day, we had to rely on a dial-up internet connection for our kicks, baby.

In 1999, we feared the Millennium Bug, Y2K was something people genuinely said, and one of the films that dominated the UK box office that year, besides The Matrix, was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. Being a teenager with an obscene amount of free time at the weekend (oh, those were the days) I was meant to see the film with some friends, but for some reason that has vanished in the sinking sands of time, I couldn’t go.

At school that Monday, my dear friend Paul, who had gone to the cinema that weekend, bounded over to me at registration. I forget what he said exactly, but our conversation went something like this:

Paul: “The Sixth Sense was amazing!”

Me: “I’m sorry I couldn’t make it.”

Paul: “It was one of the best films I’ve ever seen!”

Me: “Cool, I’ll try to see it this weekend.”

Paul: “It was amazing, the ending, Amy, the ending! Oh my God, I have to tell you…”

And that was how my dear friend Paul hurled the ending of The Sixth Sense into our conversation like a fraternity pledge on an Ipecac bender, and burned it into my memory. The ending was, at the time, a surprise and is, by now, one most people will be very familiar with, but I’m saying nothing, just in case.

I told him that I now wouldn’t be able to see the film, because he’d just given away the ending, to which he answered with all the innocence and confusion of a hungry toddler caught with their hand buried deep inside the cookie jar:

“Yes, you can! It’s still at the cinema.”

Spoilers don’t just come up in conversations with overly enthusiastic friends these days. They lurk in careless tweets, they are revealed in late night Facebook statuses, and they wait in poorly written reviews by inexperienced writers.

Unlike 1999, it’s now never been easier to have an online platform where you tell the world your opinions, and it’s the immediacy of the internet that has spawned a culture that thrives on not just new information, but the speed at which we can receive that information. It’s the ultimate competition, where those who hesitate instead of posting will not get those extra visits to their website, and they won’t have their thoughts retweeted hundreds, if not thousands, of times.

We have created an online culture that is saturated with opinions on just about everything, and the more controversial the article, the more notoriety and more attention it creates for the writer. But this yearning for affirmation on the part of the writer lacks something vital and human: empathy.

When my dear friend Paul told me the ending to the film, he did it because he was so amazed by what he’d seen. He wanted to share his experience of being in the cinema with me, because in his mind, I had missed out. However, by spoiling the film for me, he robbed me of the experience entirely, because it meant that I would never be able to view the film as he did when he watched it with no expectations. To him, and others who spoil things, he wasn’t in the wrong for giving the ending away; I hadn’t seen the film, therefore, it was my problem.

Spoiling a film is not the same as a real robbery in the street, nor can it ever equate to the violation of having your home burgled, but when someone spoils a film, it’s theft. It’s not a violent act at all, but they have taken an experience from you ensuring that it can never be yours.

I saw The Sixth Sense many years later, and although it’s no Citizen Kane, The Usual Suspects or Alien (films which, thankfully, all remained spoiler free until I saw them) I couldn’t help but wonder if my reaction to it would have been different if I hadn’t been aware of the film’s definitive scenes.

While we now know that Shyamalan’s movies typically contain some sort of twist, and his subsequent films have received very mixed reviews, whenever I think of The Sixth Sense, I remember that morning, in school with my dear friend Paul, telling me the ending to it, first, before the memory of actually seeing the film.

I want my memories of watching a film or TV show to be about that film or TV show, not of the person that spoiled it for me. I remember when I went to see Star Wars for the first time when the Special Edition was released in 1997. I knew nothing about the film, I sat there, mute and still as the action played out before me, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

I went back to that galaxy again to watch The Empire Strikes Back and again to watch Return of the Jedi with an identical sense of wonder and ignorance, and there I realised the true joy of discovery. There was no friend desperate to tell me their opinion, and no spoilerific review waiting for me in the paper, I saw the films as they were meant to be seen; for the first time, by someone with no preconceptions.

I want to be that child in the cinema once more, with no preconceptions, no prejudices, no bias. The child that walked home on air, her head full of the memory of seeing a film that I loved, a film that hadn’t been ruined or tainted by a careless comment or selfish tweet. But, in our post-digital world, where we value the immediacy of our content, over the accuracy of our content, can we learn to be silent once more?

I’ve gone out of my way to ensure that my social networks stay spoiler free; muting specific hashtags, keywords and even the names of characters in shows or a new film that I want to watch. This works, but because I can only control my own behaviour online, and nobody else’s, the odd spoiler slips through.

So, how do we stop the spoilers spreading? The answer is simple: shut up. Seen a film and can’t believe the ending? Be quiet. Did your favourite character die in Game of Thrones? Grieve quietly. Writing a review? Then be mysterious and subtle when writing the synopsis. Don’t assume that everyone you know has seen what you’ve just seen, let them discover it for themselves.

Be silent, or be damned.

The ‘This is Not a Best of List’ Film List of 2012

3 Jan

Films of 2012

I have a confession to make. Actually, I have two confessions to make. First of all, I hate these ‘Best of 2012’ lists that have been popping up everywhere since mid November. I find, for me, that they get very tiresome very quickly; especially if they are published before the end of the year; Christmas isn’t the only thing that happens in December, lest we forget.

My second confession is about the films themselves. The truth is, when I sat down to write this list, I realised that while I had seen lots of films in 2012, they were either new, and as yet, unreleased films shown at festivals, or they were one-off screenings of classic films that I hadn’t seen before, so they weren’t exactly ‘new releases’.

So after much thought, here is my ‘not a list, don’t call it a list’ of my three favourite films of last year.

The Shining (1980)

Ok, I know that Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation Stephen King’s most famous novel, The Shining, isn’t a brand new piece of cinema, but the release of the extended US cut of the film in the UK in November brought a new dimension to Kubrick’s cult horror. While the US cut, which features an extra 24 minutes of footage, which were omitted from the European release, wasn’t Kubrick’s favourite version of the film, this cut brings something else to the familiar plot. Initially ignored and misunderstood upon its release for its ‘Art House’ style, and also due to Kubrick’s many changes to King’s story – which King didn’t approve of – The Shining has now become a right of passage for almost every film fanatic.

Featuring Jack Nicholson’s infamous turn as the out-of-luck writer with a dark past, this film showcases both Nicholson’s performance and Kubrick’s ability to create real, lasting tension and unease. In part, King’s tale of a haunted hotel and the evil of the spirits contained within, The Shining is also a piece that explores a family at breaking point, and analyses the effects of isolation whilst delving into the more extreme aspects of mental illness. Intriguing, masterful and still chilling more than 30 years after its original release, the extended version of the film is an unforgettable piece of late 20th century horror cinema.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Prometheus (2012)

Ridley Scott’s long-awaited addition to his Alien franchise, Prometheus was released to great fanfare in June, and quickly split the critics and the viewing public. Featuring an all-star cast, the film was initially marketed as a prequel to Scott’s highly influential 1979 sci-fi horror, however, Prometheus, while featuring terrifying creatures like ones featured in the original film, was designed to be a companion film, and not a prequel.

Although the film came under some harsh criticism for its somewhat unexpected back story, and a few other plot points – Guy Pearce’s make up, anyone? – Prometheus is, at its heart, a film that’s less about sci-fi and more about horror. Exploring Alien‘s existing themes of body horror, gender, and perhaps, most importantly, of violence, rape and unwanted pregnancy, Prometheus is concerned with humanity, and our fears. It taps into our most basic terrors; the fear that we are not alone, that our bodies are not our own, and that we are powerless and important when compared to the vastness of the universe.

Best viewed as a companion film to Alien, rather than a direct relation, the thing to remember about Prometheus is that while it can’t emulate the shock  created by or be the game changer that Alien was, it doesn’t have to, it’s concerned with deeper things.

You can read my review of the film on TVBomb.

Killer Joe (2012)

When I saw Killer Joe at the 2012 Edinburgh International Film Festival, I couldn’t speak properly for a few minutes. I hate writing in clichés, but William Friedkin’s film adaptation of Tracy Letts’ 1993 play of the same name does everything film is meant to do. It entertains, it unnerves, it terrifies, it shocks and, most importantly, it gets into your head and stays there. A tale of a dysfunctional family hiring a contract killer that they can’t afford – the ‘Killer Joe’ of the title, expertly realised by Matthew McConaughey – to kill their mother for her life insurance takes the viewer on a number of twists and turns throughout. But the real power of the film lies in its overarching theme of exploitation, and of course, the film’s final scenes, which culminate in an explosion of violence so unexpected and so frightening, that they really has to be seen to be believed.

A true return to form after Friedkin’s last few films, Killer Joe was not only one of the highlights of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, but also one of the strongest new releases of the year. For me, this tale of contract killings, exploitation, selfishness and greed is perfectly realised and completely and utterly disturbing. A must see.

You can read my review of the film here.

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