All posts by Josh Slater-Williams

Josh Slater-Williams (@jslaterwilliams) is a freelance writer based in England. Alongside writing for Vague Visages, he is a regular contributor to independent British magazine The Skinny and has written for Little White Lies magazine, VODzilla.co, The Film Stage, and PopOptiq.

Zoo (Antonio Tublen, 2018)

When films open with establishing shots of a city, it’s normally to evoke a sense of place for a story that will, presumably, mostly take place there. When a horror opens this way, it can also be a way of setting up locations for third-act set-pieces.

Zoo, written, directed, edited and scored by Antonio Tublen, disobeys this. It establishes that London is the broad setting for its zombie outbreak story, but the actual film takes place almost entirely within the confines of one couple’s flat. And when it doesn’t, the shots are relegated to the immediate surroundings of their home – e.g. wreckage just across the street or fleeting glimpses of their floor’s corridor. It’s almost as though its characters are confined like animals in a… well, you get the idea…

Full review for SciFiNow

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Beats (Brian Welsh, 2019)

If the phrase ‘Rave to the Grave’ hadn’t already been used to title a Return of the Living Dead sequel, it would have made a fine alternative name for Brian Welsh’s Beats. That refrain pops up many times in the film, mostly in the context of a pirate DJ promoting a warehouse party in defiance of new restrictions on UK rave culture in the 1990s. But it’s a mantra appropriate to the journey of the film’s young ensemble…

Full review for Little White Lies

David Dastmalchian on poverty and abuse drama ‘All Creatures Here Below’

Since his striking film debut as a haunting henchman of The Joker in The Dark Knight, David Dastmalchian has built a strong resume of memorable supporting parts in blockbusters and auteur-driven projects. He’s a favourite of director Denis Villeneuve, featuring in PrisonersBlade Runner 2049 and the upcoming Dune, and a mainstay of both Ant-Man films.

He’s also a writer, now of a second feature in which he also stars. The first, 2014’s Animals, drew inspiration from his own history of addiction and homelessness several years prior to his acting career. All Creatures Here Below, also from Animals director Collin Schiffli, again explores poverty as well as sexual abuse which Dastmalchian says stems from revelations in both his own family and his childhood neighbourhood…

Full interview for Little White Lies

Philippe Lesage on his heartfelt coming of age film ‘Genesis’

Forget Xavier Dolan; writer-director Philippe Lesage may be the most exciting filmmaker to emerge from Quebec in the last few years. But unlike the director of Mommy and Heartbeats, Lesage has had some struggle getting his films wider distribution, at least in English-language territories.

Reportedly drawn from autobiographical experience, The Demons, his acclaimed narrative debut after a string of documentaries, earned strong notices – including at Glasgow Film Festival 2017 – and favourable comparisons to the thriller stylings of Claude Chabrol and Michael Haneke. In it, a young boy in Montreal begins experiencing the adult world, as he enters adolescence against a backdrop of local child kidnappings.

For his latest feature, Genesis, Lesage strays into autobiographical territory once more for a tale of teenagers in love. In fact, Genesis loops us back in with the filmmaker’s alter ego Félix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), the lead of The Demons, at an older age. This is not a literal sequel, though, which is perhaps wise considering the erratic distribution of Lesage’s films mentioned earlier. Think François Truffaut’s Antoine Doinel series, where seeing every entry isn’t required, but if you do seek them all out you’ll get a little something extra out of the experience…

Full interview for The Skinny

Bo Burnham on ‘Eighth Grade’, teens and the internet

Of all filmmakers to tackle the subject of the relationship of young people to the internet as it is now, Bo Burnham would be among the most qualified. After all, these platforms are responsible for where he is now. The 28-year-old American comedian, musician and actor began his performance career in 2006 with YouTube videos of self-penned comedy songs. The full trajectory of his path since is too convoluted to divulge here, but the important thing is that he has written and directed his first feature: a wonderful film called Eighth Grade that’s had a healthy box office run stateside and has gone on to receive numerous major awards wins and nominations, including a Golden Globe nod for star Elsie Fisher, a thrilling new talent, and a Directors Guild of America Award win in the First-Time Feature category for Burnham just days after our phone conversation…

Full interview for The Skinny

‘Cyrano’ meets ‘Harry Potter’: Toby MacDonald and Pauline Etienne on ‘Old Boys’

Loosely based on Edmond Rostand’s classic 19th-century play Cyrano de Bergerac, Toby MacDonald’s debut feature, Old Boys, transplants key elements of that story to a British boarding school in the late 1980s, albeit with some of the more tragic parts – the war and the bloodshed for starters – excised in favour of a more comedic update…

Full interview for the BFI

Ray & Liz: an exploration of family life in Thatcher’s Britain

In Ray & Liz, artist and photographer Richard Billingham makes his feature debut as a writer-director. A vignette-based portrait about a family falling apart, it’s inspired by his own childhood growing up in the Thatcher-era West Midlands.

It’s a period that he documented in the photo project that first brought him fame in the late ’90s. Titled Ray’s a Laugh, the series featured striking images of his parents (the titular Ray and Liz) as well as younger brother Jason, often in scenes of squalor reflecting the deprivation and isolation in which Billingham grew up. The film, however – which has since been nominated for a BAFTA  – goes even deeper.

“A film I was very interested in is The Terence Davies Trilogy [1983], which I saw in my 20s. A lot of that was shot from lived experience,” he explains…

Full interview for HUCK