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Magicians have become old hat in 1806, the general masses consider that the art no longer has any worth. Mr. Norrell (Eddie Marsan) feels differently. He wants to return magic to the masses and be noted as the man who did so having his endeavours jotted down with the intention of publishing a book. Mr. Norrell is very serious about being taken very seriously and soon makes a name for himself after relocating to London from Yorkshire and has soon convinced the upper classes of his worth after spectacularly bringing back a government minister's fiancée (Alice Englert) from the dead.
However Mr. Norrell is not the only magician making waves. Young Jonathan Strange (Bertie Carvel) married, charismatic and a more naturally gifted magician is the complete antithesis of Norrell. He becomes the older man's novice and soon tensions rise between them as the younger magician voices out against the constraints the older man has on 'old magic'. Elsewhere Paul Kaye's Vinculus effectively lays out the plot arc in the first couple of episodes as Enzio Cilenti nails the role of Norrell's manservant John Childermass and Marc Warren steals the show as the deliciously wicked Gentleman with the Thistledown Hair.
Vacuous Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) has a lot going on in that empty head of his. He questions whether his wealthy Beverly Hills family is actually his family at all but why should he worry? He's popular at high school, has a cheerleader girlfriend and owns a new Jeep Wrangler to cruise around in. However this does little to abate Bill's seemingly erratic thinking. Matters are further muddied when his sister's ex Blanchard (Tim Bartell) plays him a tape recording. The recording is of a conversation Bill's parents are having with his sister. It talks of them having sex together prior to attending an orgy.
Bill gives the tape to his therapist Dr. Cleveland (Ben Slack) as evidence to substantiate his paranoia. At his next session the therapist plays Bill the cassette. The conversation that follows has no mention of incestuous sex or an orgy. Shortly after Blanchard appears to suffer a fatal accident and a funeral service is held. In the meantime our big-haired hero loses his virginity to the beautiful Clarissa (Devin De Vasquez).
Beyond the Grave (Porto dos Mortos) arrives on our shores laden with gongs! It's the winner of fourteen international awards to date and has been selected for more than eighty film festivals around the world including Sitges Film Festival, East End Film Festival, Portobello Film Festival, among others. Written and directed by Davi de Oliveira Pinheiro this Brazilian entry into the horror genre is deliberately paced and aiming more for a sobre arthouse vibe. It has some interesting flourishes but becomes bogged down with its own self-worth losing viewer interest.
Beyond the Grave opens with a solitary man 'The Officer' (Rafael Tombini) - rather smartly dressed given it's the apocalypse - enter a building in the arse-end of nowhere. The graffiti and blood splattered odds and sods from clothes-store mannequins that hang upon the wall leave 'The Officer' undeterred. He duels with the four men he locates within the building before leaving the premises the victor, albeit rather bloodied and a little worse-for-wear. He types out a report on a typewriter before filing it with others that he has in the trunk of his car.
Back in the car 'The Officer' drives off listening to the omnipresent DJ on the car radio who manages somehow to continue transmitting and relaying news if only for the sake of providing some explanation as to what could be about to come plotwise. There are zombies walking our earth. These are not the run-full-pelt-at-you-zombies but more pedestrian tying in nicely with the pedestrian pacing of the film. The zombies barely make an impact plotwise but are included as a useful selling point to ensure that this otherwise big-on-subtext-minimalistic-of-plot movie gets seen by a wider audience than the chin-stroking arthouse/festival crowd it ideally belongs with.
Writer/director Jeff Lieberman (Blue Sunshine), here making his feature film début, created Squirm to capitalise on the Seventies 'nature-gone-wild' craze that also gave audiences Spielberg's masterpiece Jaws and the rabbit nonsense that was Night of the Lepus. Squirm is neither the masterpiece that Jaws was nor the fun guilty pleasure that Night of the Lepus was either. Lieberman claimed his film's biggest influence to be Hitchcock's chilling The Birds. It's a great choice as birds suddenly, and inexplicably, attacking us is genuinely unsettling. Having worms turn against mankind just doesn't have the same shock factor.
The premise for Squirm is just as slippery as its hungry wiggly monsters. For starters apparently not only does electricity draw earthworms to the surface but it also turns them into screeching, squealing man-eating monsters. Really?
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