While October is generally a month given over to horror and the Johnny-come-lately’s who didn’t quite make it to a summer release, in the strange world of the UK film industry it’s mostly beholden to as many international film festivals as you can shake a structurally robust clapperboard at. You’ve got the Crystal Palace International Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival, Leeds International Film Festival, Manchester International Film Festival, Black International Film Festival, Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival, Raindance, and NOISE to name but a few. I’m not saying you have to visit all of these festivals in the next 31 days, mainly because if you did you might not get the chance to see all the startling array of films due to arrive at the same time. We’ve got stark portrayals of modern life on either side of the pond, greased-up serial killers, corrupt cops, a Korean zombie apocalypse, Ugandan chess champions, Benedict Cumberbatch’s American accent and Louis Theroux staring vacantly at Scientologists. Something for everyone!
The Girl on the Train – October 5th
I’ve seen billboards for this popping up almost everywhere of late; giant, concerned images of Emily Blunt’s face staring out of a poorly-framed train window. Why so pensive, Emily? What did you see? Was it crime? Given that it’s based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, it’s probably something regarding a missing person’s case, divorcees and a resulting media explosion. If you’re sensing similarities to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, then you’re not the only one, but more of the same kind of sexually-charged thriller-y goodness can hardly be a bad thing, now can it? I mean, except for the people who get kidnapped, poorly treated and manhandled by the media that is.
War on Everyone – October 7th
It’s a sad truth that eventually everyone ends up in Hollywood, such is now the case for the excellent John Michael McDonagh, writer/director of The Guard and Calvary. First of all, if you haven’t seen either of those two films, stop reading this and go sort that out. Literally, go now. If you have then you’ll be glad to hear that in War on Everyone, McDonagh has taken his molasses-like style of comedy to something more problematic than the war on drugs or the Catholic Church: the American Buddy Cop Movie. Two unapologetically corrupt cops (Alexander Skarsgård and Michael Peňa) find that their blackmailing, scheming ways can only go so far before they find someone who can blackmail and scheme just as good as they can. Oh such blackmail. Oh such schemes. When will corrupt cops learn?
The Greasy Strangler – October 7th
Just a warning about this one, folks, there is literally no way we can talk about The Greasy Strangler without skirting the borders of NSFW. If you’re of a nervous or easily-offended disposition, then just jump to the next film in the preview. Trust me.
So The Greasy Strangler sees a father-son walking tour business get torn apart by their mutual graphic sexual relations with the same woman. Just when things can’t get any worse for the two, a serial killer covered in grease starts to terrify the neighbourhood, principally by violently killing everyone in it. It’s schlocky, exploitative, gory and crude and just the kind of over-the-top horror-comedy October needs.
My Scientology Movie – October 7th
Oh Louis Theroux, with your face like a lost English pony, how do you keep finding yourself in these situations? Well, actually, to be fair you have been prodding the unhinged psychotic Hollywood bear that is the “Church” of Scientology for the past 5 years, and only after having been denied access for the umpteenth time did you set about making this here motion picture. With the help of former high-ranking Scientologists and a load of young actors, Theroux recreates scenes of the Church’s “auditions” amongst his usual expose documentary-style. Naturally the Scientologists take this in their usual good humour, what with the bullying and attempts at psychologically abusing poor, old, equine Louis.
Tonight She Comes – October 9th
If The Greasy Strangler was too much for a first foray into October horror, then hopefully this more straight-forward affair is more to your liking. Tonight She Comes is about as blatant a love-letter to 1980s slasher films as one can get these days, complete with drunken teens, cabins in woods, missing friends and a whole heap of moider. Moider most foul. Don’t expect big names, don’t expect star turns, just expect a shameless homage to all things Friday the 13th. Simple really.
American Honey – October 14th
You know who have it bad these days? Young people. Jobless, directionless, disenfranchised young people. If they’re not too careful they’ll end up touring around the American Mid-West as part of a magazine crew with Shia LaBeouf, losing themselves to an ever-deepening pit of hedonism and spiritual despair, which is exactly the plot of American Honey. Directed by Andrea Arnold, responsible for such things as the 2009 indie hit Fish Tank, the 2011 edition of Wuthering Heights as well as several episodes of the Amazon hit Transparent, American Honey takes a good harsh look at the modern struggles of young people in America, as well as finally finding a use for Shia LaBeouf. Wait isn’t he meant to not be famous anymore?
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back – October 20th
The idea of Tom Cruise saving the day as some kind of an action spy-guy is a road so well-travelled it’s a mystery how it hasn’t been developed into a highway or some other major tarmac-based conduit of transport. Should the familiarity of Tom Cruise’s acting choices be used as means of connecting places of trade? Probably not. Despite sounding like a Justin Bieber tour, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back seems to be a safe continuation of the Jack Reacher franchise, this time having to save his bestie (Cobie Smulders) and prove his innocence in the face of conspiracy. But not just any conspiracy, MILITARY INDUSTRIAL CONSPIRACY! The fiends!
Queen of Katwe – October 21st
If I told you that Disney were releasing a film about the life of Ugandan chess champion Phiona Mutesi starring the award-winning duo of Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, would it surprise you? Given Disney’s propensity for making heart-warming, underdog-centric sports films these past few years, it really shouldn’t. It also shouldn’t be a surprise that chess constitutes as a sport, but it is nice to be reminded of that fact. In this month of horror, heart-ache and flash-boom-bangs it’s welcome to have something more personal and warm, the kind of uplifting, inspiring feel-good marshmallow of a film that we need to fall onto every now and then. Thanks for the supply, Disney.
I, Daniel Blake – October 21st
Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake finally sees the light of day and the dark of cinema this month, and personally it strikes closer to home than anything I’ve heard about in a long while. A 59-year-old joiner from the North-East, Daniel Blake (David Johns), is forced into the horribly-constructed and overly- bureaucratic world of Employment and Support Allowance. In his fight to be respected by the system, he finds a kindred spirit in Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother of two who has just moved to the North from London and is stuck in the exact same situation as he is. Having been on ESA in the past and being from the North-East myself this film is not only a personal perspective on the series of systems that plague modern society, but one that resonates with me especially.
Doctor Strange – October 25th
Another year another Marvel-film-that-wasn’t-as-anticipated-as-the-other-one-that-came-out-this-year-and-whilst-it-does-have-decent-star-power-behind-it-is-currently-the-biggest-gamble-in-the-continuing-Marvel-Cinematic-Universe-that-we-hope-can-deliver-on-it’s-promise-of-epic-game-changing-continuity-driven-superhero-adventures-because-you-know-what-when-you-really-think-about-it-these-films-are-harmless-colourful-fun-that-adheres-to-a-kind-of-formulaic-structure-regardless-of-their-delusions-of-grandeur-and-occasional-self-important-pomposity-so-we-probably-shouldn’t-rag-on-it-nor-praise-it-overmuch-sort-of-thing. This one tackles the magical spooky adventures of Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) as he tries to out-wizard the tricky dimension-melting schemes of Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen). I think it’s pronounced Kay-silly-us. I think.
Train to Busan – October 28th
I don’t believe we’ve had an October in recent memory that didn’t have a zombie film in it. There’s probably evidence stating that at any given moment, somewhere a zombie film is being made, premiered or shown in cinemas. Well out of all of those potential, possible zombie films I went for Train to Busan, a hyperkinetic, South Korean zombie film about a group of survivors trapped on a speeding bullet train to business hot-spot Busan. When you’re travelling at several hundred miles per hour there’s no way zombies can get aboard your train, right? First rule of zombie films: nowhere is safe, not even speeding trains. Expect a ridiculous, undead spectacle of terror, gore and a redefinition of your average South Korean commute.