Bonfire night. A night countless Brits huddle together en masse to enjoy the chill autumn evening and stare into blazing fire pits while attempting to successfully manipulate a pint glass whilst wearing mittens. We celebrate the fact that hundreds of years ago prior, an immaculately turned out gent loved Catholicism so much he tried to unsuccessfully explode a king.
In honour of all things combustive and bonfire-y, we give you our top ten films to get you in the mood for sub-standard incendiaries and freezing outside with an overcooked burger in hand.
1. V For Vendetta
In a dystopian England ruled by a totalitarian government, a freedom fighter inducts a young girl named Evey into his cause. Setting out with the gunpowder plot as its inspiration, the film stands head and shoulders above all other cinematic representations of Alan Moore’s work. Whilst the movie’s set in the not too distant future it’s representation of a world consumed by fear, and the corruption of those that wield it, make for a compelling watch.
2. Witchfinder General
Dressed up like Guy Fawkes, only significantly more intimidating, Vincent Price struts around 17th century England in a state of perpetual grump with murder and other unsavoury things in mind. The film is set forty years after Guy Fawkes’ failed assassination attempt but director Michael Reeves captures the era perfectly. The movie is infused with simmering tension, borne from Reeves and Price hating each other like the Black Death. It took years, and untimely demise of Reeves from a drug overdose for Price to reasses it as the classic it is.
3. The Wicker Man (1973)
Everyone knows the story of Sergeant Howie investigating the disappearance of young Rowan Morrison on the remote island of Summerisle. The movie is often praised as being the best horror film to have ever come out of England. The Wicker Man’s final scene is as harrowing today as it was in 1973. Has there ever been a more horrifying finale than The Equaliser burning alive in the most impressive bonfire ever conceived as Christopher Lee chants Pagan heresy in the worlds ugliest tweed jacket?
4. Final Destination 3
The third in the hugely popular, death fixated, franchise ends with a firework display going spectacularly wrong. The climatic scene in which fireworks aid Death in it’s relentless pursuit of nubile twenty somethings should be shown as a warning before every public display.
5. The Wicker Man (2006)
The original was a masterwork of tension and unease, the remake is comedy genius. Nicholas Cage tears into the film like lobotomised weevil with all of his overacting dials turned up to eleven. Cage is delightfully nonsensical playing the Edward Woodward role, even by his usual historic standards he must’ve paused to wonder if ninja kicking Leelee Sobieski into a wall was in character for a small town cop. He’s since said its purposefully played for laughs, the distributors presumably weren’t as amused when the film tanked miserably.
Drew Barrymore stars in this Stephen King adaption as young girl Charlie McGee, a girl with the power to set fire to things via the power of thought. Whilst not as up there with The Shining or carrie in the adaption stakes, it does have a blisteringly OTT performance as its heard from Oscar winner George C Scott as the demented Native American assassin, Rainbird. The climax is bat-guano crazy and the practical effects make it a nice change to see something actually blown up literally rather than just a CGI representation of it.
7. Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Gandalf rolls into Hobbiton with enough fireworks to ensure the raucous small-folk all have a good time. Merry and Pippin get eager and decide to set them off a little earlier than intended and it leads to one of cinemas most impressive fireworks displays. A huge firework explosion in the shape of a dragon, swoops at Frodo and Bilbo, the later of which will be going up against Smaug in the second instalment of The Hobbit, this winter.
8. The Towering Inferno
Although the 70’s was wall to wall disaster flicks, none of the others could boast both Paul Newman and Steve McQueen. It’s a film so big that it took two major studios to make it, a first in the history of film making. McQueen and Newman’s rivalry was at its zenith, McQueen even insisted the two stars have exactly the same amount of lines to ensure the film didn’t favour his competitor. They had to film additional scenes to ensure their line counts matched. Both fought over pay, billing and pretty much everything else. Despite this the movie is an enjoyable slice of Hollywood as its most decadently indulgent.
9. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
The greatly missed John Candy gives another of his towering comic performances as the loveable schlub, Del Griffith. before sentimentality became a dirty word, Planes, Trains and Automobiles offers up an ending both big-hearted and bereft of cynicism. It’s the cinematic equivalent of warming yourself in front of an open fire.
10. There Will Be Blood.
Lest we forget, November is also the time of year for Movember. Each year this charitable institute raises funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health. Masses of usually smooth-lipped men bravely attempt to cultivate growth half as impressive as the thick and deeply luxurious ‘tache Daniel Day-lewis struts around this film with. The baroque sense of dread that permeates the entire movie will send you running to the nearest diner for a milkshake.
Words: Neil Hudson @HudSlice