Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Another disturbing film to keep me awake at night.

It's been 15 months since 'Paranormal Activities' (the first one) had pressed all the right 'scare- buttons' in my mind. So it was that yesterday I saw the next film to give me the most sleepless night for quite some time.
'Never Let me Go' is a British film about three young adults who, as children, had attended a kind of boarding school where all the pupils are reared (and this isn't a spoiler as it's evident in the early part of the film) with the sole intention of being organ-donors when they reach maturity. The story behind this frightening scenario has a fine pedigree - based on a book by Kazuo Ishiguro ('The Remains of the Day' etc) and given a screenplay by Alex Garland ('The Beach', 'Sunshine', '28 Days Later' etc.)
What I found particularly unsettling in this film was that the 'victims' accepted their fate without question and, furthermore, their highest aspiration was to survive long enough to denote as many as three varied organs over a relatively short period of time, while being progressively debilitated in the process. However, they are given to understand that they may, by demonstrating satisfactorily that they've 'fallen in love', defer their fate by being given a year or two's grace to enjoy their experience. Of course they don't know in advance which organs will be eventually removed from them. It could be something as survivable as the extraction of an eye or it could be their entire liver.
There is little, if any, visual 'horror' to be shown on screen. It's the very notion that is so disturbing and which made me almost break out into a sweat last night when all was still and quiet and my mind gravitated to where it wanted to dwell.
It's usually ideas, sometimes only suggested or implied, that tend to scare me more than full-frontal horror. For example, even though I don't care for the sight of blood I've never found the notion of vampires particularly frightening. Everyone has their own personal 'trigger-points'.
Incidentally, much has been made here that the trailer for 'Never Let Me Go' gives no indication of the seriousness of the storyline. If I hadn't known beforehand, when I first saw the trailer I thought it was just about a love triangle between two young women and a young man, and I wouldn't have bothered to go. But even though I was definitely disturbed by the experience of seeing it, I'm glad I'd heard about the reality of what it was about and I made the effort. So, if you're not entirely put off by what's involved, I'd say "Do see it. A good film."


  1. I'd thoroughly recommend the book too... or any novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

    I understand why the film not a huge success in the states but I was surprised that it's eventual release here was so limited. I loved it, but then it is right up my alley...


  2. Great that you liked the film too, Andrew. You say it was "right up your alley" - so I take it you didn't have quite the unsettling experience which I did. I hadn't realised it had already been released unsuccessfully in the States and that its release here was delayed. Pity it was so.
    I'd very much like to read the book. In fact I'm ashamed to say that the only Ishiguro I've read so far is 'Remains' and that was about 20 years ago. Must buy it again for a to re-read and also to read a lot more of his.

  3. Very good. I added it to my Netflix queue and can't wait to see it.

  4. Cubby, will be very interested to hear what you think of it. For some reason I'd assumed it wouldn't be your 'type' of film, but I may be wrong. But don't expect on-screen sensationalism. It's one where you've got to do a fair bit of 'joining up the dots' yourself.

  5. I haven't seen a horror film in years - just not my cup of tea. But your take on this film intrigued me and I watched it last night on Movies On Demand. You and I are in agreement on this film. Tonight will be "Paranormal Activities" on Nexflix Streaming. Heard so much about this one, but could not push myself to see it. Who knows, tomorrow evening I may watch "Paranormal Activites 2" on Netflix to see how it measures up to the original.

  6. Ray, we haven't seen the film yet, but I read the book, and like Andrew above, I would give it glowing reviews.

  7. Paul, I'm flattered that you thought so much of my opinion that you watched the film so quickly. I assume that it disturbed you too. If so I hope it didn't also give you a sleepless night.
    'Paranormal Activities' is a film I doubt I want to watch again. It just got too far under my skin. Although I'm ambivalent about believing in an after-life and the supernatural I think few could deny that there is 'something' going on there, the true nature of which we haven't discovered yet - and for me this film exposed my unease on the subject.
    I have to confess I deliberately avoided PN2 for what may be a silly reason. From the trailer I could see that a dog appeared, then I heard that in the film the dog is shown as being harmed in some way. Now even though I know that the actual dog used would not have been injured in the making of the film (there'd be one hell of a fuss if it was!) seeing animals portrayed in a vulnerable or hurt position pushes just one button too far for me so I didn't want to go through that discomfort. Having said that, I'm still curious and may watch it when it cones on TV, though all the reviews I've seen said it was nowhere near the standard of the original.

    Kyle, now I really HAVE to read the book! I think I heard somewhere that the film captures the creepy atmosphere of the novel, though, of course, there have to be omissions, amalgamations etc.

  8. Thanks for the warning on 'Paranormal Activities2'. It also disturbs me when I see an animal harmed. I won't be watching this

  9. Paul, I wonder how many more people like us there are. One rarely hears of those upset by such things. I also can't watch nature programmes on TV where an animal suffers, even though by being a natural prey to other animals. And I go even further than that - I can't watch fish or crabs, lobsters etc being dragged out of the sea to die by suffocation or, in the case of the latter, to be kept alive for an even more grisly fate. I could accept such things easier when I was young but it gets harder and harder as I age.

  10. Ah, it was right up my alley in that is was a pretty bleak film wish made no attempts at a happy ending - although there is a sort of resolution.

    While the concept is rather disturbing, it wasn't to me at least, keep-me-up-all-night material. I think the book probably had a greater effect in this regard, especially as the reason for their seperation from the world not made known from the start.

    I didn't find Paranormal Activity all that scary either - I did enjoy it but it didn't leave a huge impact.

  11. I had it in my hard drive some weeks ago but I haven't had time to watch it.

  12. Andrew, I think British (and European) films seem to be more ready to take the risk of depicting UNhappy endings than some American films where, I get the impression, that a number have their endings re-shot because the audience in test screenings demand a clear, positive resolution and a good degree of satisfaction in order to send them out of the cinema with a feel-good afterglow. (There are exceptions, of course).
    Re P.A. - I believe quite a number of people also thought it wasn't particularly frightening. It all depends on what 'buttons' one possesses, and everyone is different (thank heavens!), but it certainly did it for me.

    Tai, do let me/us know what you think of 'Never Let Me Go' after you've seen it. I can't quite guarantee that you'll like it, but I'll be more surprised if you don't.

  13. Ray, Must reply to your last comment. I go just as far as you go. Your last thought, "being kept alive for a more grisly fate" struck a chord with me. I always think about the Billy Crystal movie, "City Slickers" when they struggled to get the herd through and everyone cheered when they were successful. Nobody gave a thought to the fate they were being driven to.

  14. Paul, it's so reassuring to know that I am completely on the same wavelength as you. I fear we are a rare breed. Yes, I know how you feel about scenes such as in City Slickers (not to mention the opening bull-run scene too!). But on TV here we've had a glut recently of cooking shows which show off animals, poultry, shellfish etc before they are slaughtered and eventually end up on the plate. I find such progs absolutely impossible to look at.
    I do think that a lot of this 'animals-are-dispensible' attitude originates in religion which promotes the notion that they put there to be 'used'. In fact nearly all religions (with the honourable exceptions of Buddhism and some branches of Hinduism) look on the presence of animals for this purpose as being a 'gift from God'. Makes me very sad indeed. Maybe a subject for a future blog.

  15. Dan Zukovic's "DARK ARC", a bizarre and disturbing modern noir dark comedy called "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different..." in Film Threat, was recently released on DVD and Netflix through Vanguard Cinema (, and is currently
    debuting on Cable Video On Demand. The film had it's World Premiere at the Montreal Festival, and it's US Premiere at the Cinequest Film Festival. Featuring Sarah Strange ("White Noise"), Kurt Max Runte ("X-Men", "Battlestar Gallactica",) and Dan Zukovic (director and star of the cult comedy "The Last Big Thing"). Featuring the glam/punk tunes "Dark Fruition", "Ire and Angst" and "F.ByronFitzBaudelaire", and a dark orchestral score by Neil Burnett.


    ***** (Five stars) "Absolutely brilliant...truly and completely different...something you've never tasted
    before..." Film Threat
    "A black comedy about a very strange love triangle" Seattle Times
    "Consistently stunning images...a bizarre blend of art, sex, and opium, "Dark Arc" plays like a candy-coloured
    version of David Lynch. " IFC News
    "Sarah Strange is as decadent as Angelina Jolie thinks she is...Don't see this movie sober!" Metroactive Movies
    "Equal parts film noir intrigue, pop culture send-up, brain teaser and visual feast. " American Cinematheque