Film has been a FIxture of my life for as long as I can remember. The discovery of particular films, particular genres, even particular editions mark out periods of my life in much the same way as favourite songs.
While the theatrical experience has been and remains significant, home video was the gateway drug. I would have been ten or eleven when my parents first purchased a VCR, which was at the beginning of the video boom in the early eighties and makes me part of the first generation to have grown up watching films of their choosing, in their homes.
The first films I remember us renting were American comedies – Stripes, 9 – 5, Love at First Bite – but I think the more lasting effect came from films that I didn’t actually see until many years later – I Spit on Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, The Evil Dead, and so on. The initial video boom in the UK was served by independent stores and, for the most part, low budget features, as major studios were reluctant to embrace the new medium. Equally significant was the absence of any effective regulation of the fledgling industry, with the BBFC having no jurisdiction over home video and the broader legal framework around the new media not fully formed.
This is the backdrop against which my interest in cinema developed. Video libraries in the very early days didn’t even seem to recognise genres, so titles were ordered indiscriminately and screwball comedies sat next to American exploitation and Italian horror films. I was simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the covers of films which would shortly disappear from the shelves for decades – Anthropophagous, The Beyond, The Driller Killer and more. There’s no doubt my interest in horror films dates back to those days.
This blog is not really about horror films though, and it’s certainly not about me reminiscing. ‘Carnal Cinema’ is a moniker I conceived more than a decade ago when I resolved to chart the development of the American hardcore genre via a series of essays and film reviews. I will upload them here in due course, though I don’t really consider that an ongoing project. Perhaps I’ll finish it at some point. It’s largely done.
My plan for the next year, my plan for the Carnal Cinema blog, is to focus on Euro-horror, or ‘Euro-cult’, and specifically on the films of Jean Rolin and Jess Franco. These are film-makers who have captivated me for a quarter of a century and who remain divisive, even among fans of cult films. It’s curious that even as a longtime fan, it would be easier for me to articuate why some people loathe them than why others love them. I will endeavour to do the latter, albeit I’m not yet sure what form that will take. I’m leaning towards ‘long form’ appreciations rather than discrete film reviews, though I might post some of the latter as I work my way though.