Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Director: Michel Gondry (2004)
Starring: Me, Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Elijah Wood
Find it: IMDB

Over the years, I have come to think of this humble blog as more than just a collection of silly movie reviews and Eli Roth/Twilight/Uwe Boll-hating rants (see also: love letters to Zooey Deschanel, Bruce Campbell or Timothy Olyphant); no, to me, it has become something of a diary - an excuse to use movies as a way to whine about my crummy life or talk about that guy I used to work with who made time travel rape lists and read The Sun newspaper, without shame.

Rarely has a review been so Big Brother Diary Room as this write-up of Michel Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I watched following a particularly crushing break-up while also being named Joel and looking slightly like Jim Carrey does here. Viewing this film recalled that other Jim Carrey effort, The Number 23, in that I saw parallels - parallels everywhere!

Carrey plays Joel (which is also my name) - sometimes, affectionately known as 'Joely' (which is also what some people call me), a man undergoing a terrible break-up (something I have also recently undergone) with his girlfriend (which I also had!) who had dyed red hair (which she also... aw, fuck, you get the idea). Broken and depressed, he tries to wipe his every memory of his one-time girlfriend (which I also did, with whiskey) using advanced new brain-tinkering science (not whiskey). We enter Joel's memories, both good and bad, for better and worse, watching it all fall apart in a series of arguments and bickerings that will be painfully familiar to anyone who's ever been in a long-term relationship on the rocks.

With all this in mind, watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was either a really good idea or a really fucking awful one. Thankfully, although I did bawl like a baby, it turned out to be the former. This first-time watch (I know, shut up, I was busy with shit horror) of Gondry's unique, beautiful and fascinating movie emerged as one of the more therapeutic viewings of my life.

The film's been out for over ten years now, so don't worry, I shan't harp on about the (not even that subtle) meanings and messages that everyone has been dissecting since 2004. Suffice to say that it does a great job of emphasising its "better to have loved and lost" message, while also finishing on a note as hopeful or melancholy as you want to make it. It helps that it's brilliantly acted, from the lead pairing of Carrey and Winslet (the latter never better in my eyes) through to Elijah Wood (easily as revolting as he was in Sin City), a surprisingly good Kirsten Dunst and a young, likeable Mark Ruffalo. The story twists and turns, breaking and warming the heart in equal measures.

This review is about as subjective they get - it hit that many buttons for me - but I suspect I would have loved it even if it wasn't a film about me.


The Number 23, by the way, I re-watched the very next day, in an accidental serious-Jim-Carrey double bill. Fair to say that one wasn't such a transformative experience.

Visiting Hours

Director: Jean-Claude Lord (1982)
Starring: Lee Grant, Michael Ironside, William Shatner
Find it: IMDB

"Hey asshole, what gives?" you say, impatiently, "I come here for up-to-date reviews of the most recent horror releases, and yet here you are talking about a stupid psycho film no-one has ever heard of from 1982! I need found footage and mobile phones - not this irrelevant eighties bullshit." While there is a distinct lack of found footage and mobile phones (it was the eighties - only Gordon Gekko could afford one) is as depressingly relevant as ever. If not more so, given recent events and movements of our time.

I refer, of course, to the surprisingly popular practice of threatening to kill and/or rape women who say things that one might disagree with. Made in the early eighties, Visiting Hours doesn't even have its leading lady criticising Super Mario Bros (or whatever it is the kids are playing these days) to justify their killer's behaviour. Which just goes to show that some men will find any excuse to go around threatening to murder and rape women. In this case, it's feminist telly personality Deborah Ballin railing against domestic violence in one of her TV spots. Fantastically named psychopath Colt Hawker (Ironside) doesn't take too kindly to this woman having opinions and sets about hunting Deborah down. Well, without Twitter, the trolls of the 80s had to find alternative outlets for their aggression - like writing horrible semi-abusive letters to newspapers, for instance.

Related photograph.

After Colt's first attempt at murdering Deborah goes wrong, the pair of them wind up at the local hospital - she incapacitated with a broken arm, he determined to finish the job. It's just a shame about all those nurses and other patients that keep getting in his way - mostly down to Colt's inability to kill anyone without making a massive racket and alerting anyone and everyone in the nearby vicinity.

Ironside is fantastic as the mysoginist serial killer of the piece, his magnetic, snarling psychopath enthralling as much as he repulses and terrifies. I particularly enjoyed his leather vest, which sort of makes me wish Ironside had been cast in an early Die Hard sequel as some sort of anti-Bruce Willis, maybe also set in a hospital. Lee Grant does a sterling job as Deborah, although she's in it less than you might imagine - most of our time being spent with either Ironside or the young nurse he also has his eye on throughout. Still, when she does get to kick ass, she does so in a manner befitting Laurie Strode herself. It speaks volumes that William Shatner is in Visiting Hours and winds up being one of the least memorable things about it. Well, as set dressing goes, you can do far worse than William Shatner, whether he does anything or not.

There's an impressive atmosphere to Visiting Hours, being one of the more vicious and unpleasant pscyho-thrillers I've ever seen. It's sleazy and frequently nasty - the amount of time we spent with Colt quickly getting under the skin and keeping the audience unsettled throughout. He's deliciously unpredictable and oh-so beautifully 80s era Michael Ironside.

As effective as it is, the most notable thing about Visiting Hours (Ironside aside) is how predictably relevant it remains. It's only a YouTube or GamerGate reference away from modernity. The leather vest (shut up, it's great) and lack of mobile phones may date it a little, but, for some, violent misogyny never goes out of fashion. 


Kill Keith

Director: Andy Thompson (2011)
Starring: Marc Pickering, Keith Chegwin, Joe Pasquale, Tony Blackburn
Find it: IMDB

It's the Keith Chegwin horror movie, and it's a thing that actually exists. "Pooh," you say, "that's old news." To wit, I am not talking about his nudist game show Naked Jungle (link not suitable for work, or anywhere). Kill Keith stars British TV face and Twitter joke thief Keith 'Cheggers' Chegwin as himself, in a movie about a serial killer who busies himself knocking off rubbish celebrities. Kill Keith will be utterly meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with the likes of Chegwin, Joe Pasquale and Tony Blackburn (lucky you) - and only half-relevant to those who know who the particulars actually are. It's a movie with a very limited audience, but is all the better for it.

The celebrities play darkly skewed versions of themselves, making the whole affair seem like a gory version of Extras (although the jokes are a little less cruel than those you might have seen in Ricky Gervais's star-studded sitcom). The celebs do well, although they are in it a lot less than the film would have you believe. Squeaky Pasquale pops up just long enough to call someone a "minge" and die to a Monkees soundtrack with a cereal packet on his head. Even Cheggers himself isn't in it all that much, although he is one of the better actors assembled here. Tony Blackburn simply looks bemused - well, he is playing his own lookalike - while Russell Grant is only marginally less annoying than he is when doing his so-called day 'job' for real.

The story has lowly TV studio runner Danny (Pickering) lusting over breakfast telly host Dawn (Susannah Fielding), attempting to protect her from the violent overtures of the Breakfast Serial Killer (geddit). She of course hosts a show called The Crack of Dawn, which should give you an idea of the level of humour at work here. Geddit again. The style and direction only barely hides the fact that it really, really wants to be an Edgar Wright joint. The story, part Giallo part sitcom - struggles to be interesting despite some fun death sequences and its bizarre cameos. It's advertised as 'Saw meets Richard & Judy', but is never as horrifying or gruesome as either part of that sentence suggests (true story: Horrifying and Gruesome was the original working title for Richard & Judy).

Talking of horrifying and gruesome.

Best of the non-celebrities (and better than the celebrities) is David Easter as Dawn's acerbic co-host. Joe Tracini plays another Tony Blackburn well, while Pickering and Fielding are quite good as the leads. And you know what, I found the romantic subplot to be sweet. It's neither funny or scary enough to work as a horror, comedy or horror comedy but I enjoyed the film far more than I thought I would enjoy any movie which stars Keith Chegwin.

Like Cheggers himself, Kill Keith is a thoroughly acquired taste. If you'e unfamiliar with the intricacies of British breakfast TV and the regular faces therein, you'd be best off giving it a miss. It's weird, silly and horrendously naff. But then, so is its titular star. That's why (parts of) Britain loves him, and that's why I love Kill Keith.