Did the world need another Toy Story? No. Did Pixar’s original trilogy not feel perfect? Yes. But only because it was perfect. The perfect beginning, muddle and definitive end. Definitive. What’s more, surely the only thing rarer than a trilogy without a misstep is a quartet that never once drops the ball. Curiously, Toy Story 4 doesn’t drop the ball but still doesn’t succeed in self-justification. At least, not entirely Gloriously animated, richly constructed and brilliantly witty, there’s no denying the film is a charmer and cross-generational hit. It’s a tricky one though. For all the successes here, questions of necessity loom large over all, perhaps leading to a singular conclusion. 

The film opens in flashback to a time somewhere between Toy Story 2 and 3. Back when no one knew a third film was needed, never mind a fourth, It’s a stormy night – astonishingly animated, oddly reminiscent of It – and Andy’s race car has fallen fowl of a sharp curb side current. In line with the ‘no toy gets left behind’ philosophy that has driven him these past twenty-four years, Woody (Tom Hanks) throws himself into the rescue. Naturally, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Slinky (Blake Clark), Jessie (Joan Cusack) and company are all on hand to help. Most notable of these is Annie Potts’ Bo Peep, the porcelain shepherdess with a soft spot for Woody and ill fate ahead. Sure enough, no sooner than the car is secured safe and sound, Bo Peep is stolen away to a new home far, far away. 

Nine years on – two since the events of the last film, which saw Andy donate his toys to young Bonnie for a new lease of life – and Woody is no longer top toy in the playpen. Bonnie’s love spreads wide but only occasionally stretches as far as Andy’s old favourite, who is regularly left in the cupboard and stripped of his sheriff badge for Jessie. When Bonnie returns from a preschool orientation day with a homemade toy – spork, pipe cleaner, googly eyes and putty. – called Forky, his galvanisation is accompanied with existential crisis. In rye recall to the very first Toy Story, Woody is once again forced to utter the line: ‘you are a toy’ to a new friend, this time convinced he’s trash. So sure, in fact, that repeated escape attempts – hilariously montaged – eventually yield success on a road trip. 

There’s certainly familiarity in the plot of Toy Story 4, stitched together with a very recognisable structure: toy gets lost, rescue mission is launched, climactic action chases reunion. As before, themes appertain to the cruel rejection toys – well veiled metaphors for parents –  face as their children outgrow them. Whilst his friends have adjusted well to their new home, Woody was always Andy’s toy, no matter what sharpie on his foot says. But where does that leave him? Is he destined to join the dusty old toys in Bonnie’s cupboard, an intelligently cast trio of Mel Brooks, Betty White and Carol Burnett (voicing: Melephant Brooks, Bitey White and Chairol Burnett – ha!). Perhaps, Woody no longer represents parenthood after all, but instead channels the mature anxieties of grandparenthood, enforced retirement and the fear of the end. 

If this all sounds incessantly bleak, fear not. Whilst Toy Story 4 is the least narratively active in the series to date – being, arguably, the most grown up – it is among the funniest. Relegated significantly from his days as one half of the franchise’s buddy comedy dynamic, Buzz is treated to a delightful subroutine involving his ‘inner voice’, and there’s great comic value to be enjoyed from newcomers Keanu Reeves – as hopeless Canadian daredevil Duke Caboom – and Keegan-Michael Kay and Jordan Peele – as plush, fairground prizes Ducky and Bunny. One further addition to the fray – Christina Hendricks’ defective doll Gabby Gabby – offers an antagonist with empathy, whose villainy builds upon that of Lotso in the film before by striping back any sense of the cartoon and swapping evil for a grey area of misdemeanour. That said, her fifties ventriloquist henchmen spook pleasingly hard.

Toy Story 4 is an uneasy success. There’s certainly relief in the assurance that Pixar have no sequels to any of their roster due in the forceable future but that’s no guarantee. Much like Woody himself, the studio once renowned for their faultless ingenuity have much to learn about letting go.  For now, though, this fourth Toy Story really is a joy. Whilst masterclass visuals steal breaths, sharp writing continues to tug heartstrings with effortless efficacy.

When, one day, the big book of Richard Curtis is written, perhaps this will be known as his high concept era. Remember when plots were as simple as literally four weddings and one funeral? No longer. Since those bygone basic days, a dabble in Doctor Who has given way to linearity bending romcom About Time and now Yesterday, which practically science fiction in its exploration of a world without the Beatles. That said, sci-fi is rarely this cute, cuddly, warm and winsome. Nor so lacking in science. Regardless, Curtis’ way with quaint mannerism remains strong and his ear for comedy still tickles all the right bones.

Wiping the Beatles, their music and cultural significance from the face of the planet is a funny way to celebrate them, when you come to think about it. Still, surprisingly effective here. Naturally, it helps that someone – a man from Clacton-on Sea of all places – remembers them. It’s also useful that he can sing, is a dab hand on the guitar and piano, and has a near-perfect memory for Beatles lyrics. This is Jack Malik (Himish Patel), struggling musician, teacher trainee and dying optimist. Performing on piers, with only a fundraising squirrel for company, Jack’s morale is kept up only with a little help from his friend – and part time manager – Ellie (Lily James). But then comes the accident: a calamitous cycling collision with a bus that just happens to occur in the midst of a twelve second global blackout. When Jack awakes the next morning, in hospital, it is to a world for whom beetles are simply hard shelled, eight legged insects.

Before questioning the pseudoscience and rationale behind Yesterday, note that this is a film that encourages you to have fun with the premise and spend no more time scrutinising its plausibility than it does itself. Jack alone can remember the Beatles and that’s that. How it happened and why can go phoey. In Ellie’s own words, on the night of Jack’s accident: ‘miracles happen’. Sure enough, it’s not long before down-on-his-luck Jack gains traction with his Beatles routines. First local television, then the world. As ascents go, this one is exhilarating to watch but wisely balanced with discomfort. It is Jack’s moral, crippling anxiety that makes for a compelling watch, rather than simply witnessing the world experience the magic of ‘Let It Be’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ afresh. That said, there’s something ineffably splendid in director Danny Boyle’s execution of paired down Beatles hits, sung rather well by former Eastender Patel. Knowing James to be a vocal delight too, it’s a pity we don’t hear her takes too.

Less successful in the construction of Curtis’ Beatles-free parallel universe are playful attempts to grasp at the wider reaching affectations of a cultural epoch that was never exposed to the groundbreaking musical ingenuity of the group. Comic asides – tinged with mild horror – tear holes from the fabric of this alternative world, proclaiming that there would be no Oasis, no Harry Potter nor Coca Cola. And yet, self-proclaimed debtor to the band Ed Sheeran somehow survives the cull; here, enjoying an extended cameo cum advert cum in-joke. James Corden features too, suggesting that the 1960s British Invasion still happened regardless, perhaps led by a briefly mentioned Cilla Black? The film isn’t sure. As things progress, the increasing predominance afforded a more Curtis friendly will-they, won’t-they relationship between Jack and Ellie distracts from the conceit, which it seems was only ever that. There’s almost a sense that the lack of Beatles in Jack’s world is increasingly incidental to the point. This is a thoroughly decent romcom – brimming with Curtisisms: quirky families and glib middle-class friendship groups – but not one that rocks the yellow submarine.

Where Yesterday is at its sharpest is in its relationship with the contemporary music industry. Kate McKinnon is superb as vicious LA executive Debra Hammer – ‘you’re skinny but somehow still round’ – a seductive temptress and greedy hoover of talent. Curtis aims his script weaponlike upon her world, firing a handful of nifty shots along the way. His message is crystal clear – music is all that matters – but in contrast to an industry horrendously overpopulated by sycophants and suits. Image is everything for these people -even a lack of image can become one – and there’s no room for creativity where commercial viability is at stake. Without question, the strongest swipe in the film is Sheeran’s proposal that ‘Hey Dude’ would be so much better a lyric than ‘Hey Jude’. It’s close to the bone, very plausible and all the funnier for it.

With Glastonbury just days away, we’re counting the seconds to get suited and welly-booted again. But, be that as it may, a quick word of warning: the untrustworthy British weather might be the last thing you should be worried about. Or at least that’s what a myriad of rural horror movies will have us believe, with the countryside having proved fertile ground for all things heinous, murderous and supernatural on the big screen.

With that in mind, to help psych you up for the long weekend of festival frivolity ahead (and, while we’re at it, the impending release of Ari Aster’s Midsommar), what follows is a selection of some of the most shocking moments in rural horror movie history. Moments that captured the wildness, weirdness and wonder of the English countryside…

A sense of wild, joyful abandon

The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971)

There’s nothing quite as infectious as the feeling of joy that spreads around Glastonbury’s party people. Except, that is, the plague that reared its ugly head in The Blood On Satan’s Claw. Piers Haggard’s fiendish tale sees droves of youth infected by the devil, ultimately retreating deep into the woods to play what they refer to as “their games.”

A confrontation between a local priest and the cult leader, Angel Blake (Linda Hayden) is easily one of the most graphic depictions of paganism’s toxic potency. A teenage girl is raped and the fact it’s played out through the lascivious gaze of onlooking cult members makes it all the more repulsive. It’s just as shocking now, almost 50 years later, and even Haggard went on to admit that he went about that scene in all the wrong ways.

Killer music

The Wicker Man (1973)

Music is king at Glastonbury. If a rural horror film was ever defined by its music then it’s got to be Robin Hardy’s genre-defining staple, The Wicker Man. The film follows Sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) who visits a pagan island to investigate the disappearance of a girl – only to realise he’s been lured there as a human sacrifice to “bring forth a good harvest”.

The film’s most overwhelming moment is the hauntingly erotic “Willow’s Song” scene. Here, Willow performs sexual black magickery of sorts, strutting around naked whilst banging on Howie’s adjoining wall in an attempt to break his Christian code of conduct. The scene soon becomes inescapably exploitative and gratuitous, turning into an ordeal, not just for poor Howie, but for the audience as well.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/The-Wicker-Man.jpg

The simple joy of camping

Sightseers (2012)

What would Glastonbury be without some quality tent time? But, wherever you do camp, be sure to stay away from a couple going by the name of Chris and Tina, the love-birds in Ben Wheatley’s Grand Guignol road movie that gives dark tourism a whole new meaning.

Whisking us off on a camping trip with the world’s most casual serial-killer and his girlfriend, Wheatley wallows in the brutality of all manner of mordant murders as the couple spiral completely off the rails. Despite just how unrelenting the lovers’ killing spree is, by far the most shocking moment is the film’s climactic scene atop Cumbria’s Ribblehead Viaduct – but explaining why would spoil the entire film for anyone yet to see it…

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/Sightseers.jpg

Mixing with your fellow man

Straw Dogs (1971)

The sense of community is key at Glastonbury, but not in Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs. Despite every length David (Dustin Hoffman) goes to to fit in with his new neighbours in , they’re having none of it.

A despairing view of machismo and human incompatibility, this English “wild wild west” tale sees American astrophysicist David relocate to a Cornish village where his wife, Amy (Susan George) was raised. Rather than getting some much-needed peace and quiet, Amy’s ex-boyfriend still lives there and he and his band of lecherous mates can’t resist tormenting the new arrivals; psychologically at first – and then quite terrifyingly literally. Without a doubt, the most discomfiting moment is the merciless and protracted gang rape scene; all the more controversial when ambivalence seems to show through the cracks on Amy’s face. Moral panic ensued on the film’s release; its power to shock hasn’t diminished one jot.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/Straw-Dogs.jpg

A communal society

Village of the Damned (1960)

There’s a constant vibe of everyone feeling connected at Glastonbury as everyone’s there for their love of the same things. Cue Wolf Rilla’s Village of the Damned, one of the creepiest slices of ’60s science fiction. Taking place in a quaint English village, for some unexplainable reason all women and girls of childbearing age suddenly find themselves pregnant, and it’s not long before strikingly similar-looking babies-cum-instruments of destruction are conceived, all sharing some kind of telepathic connection. Shrewdly eschewing special effects, Rilla created a smart and eerie tale that shows no signs of losing its patina even now, more than fifty years (and one duff remake) later. By far the most notorious scene here sees David Zellaby and his cohort command a man to shoot himself point-blank in the skull while they stare him down with those evil, glowing, white eyes.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/village-of-the-Damner.jpg

Comeback performances

Wake Wood (2011)

Glasto’s played host to its fair share of revival performances so there’s no way we couldn’t include David Keating’s Pet Sematary-inspired shocker. Following the untimely death of their daughter, a couple move to a seemingly quaint village only to discover pagan roots growing in them there woods.

Keating spreads on the mood for the hour of the film, arguably capturing the parental grief of King’s “Pet Sematary” novel remarkably better than both official movie adaptations. And this whole build-up really hits home when Keating cranks the violence up to eleven in the final act.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/wake-wood.jpg

The fun-loving coppers of Glastonbury

Hot Fuzz (2007)

The long arm of the law has been known to get in on the fun and games now and again at the festival – with plenty of online selfies to prove it. This serves as the perfect excuse to include Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz, especially given the fact it wears its Wicker Maninspirations proudly on its woolly jumper sleeves. This second entry in Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy follows overachieving officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), the very best on the force, so good at his job that his superiors feel the need to unceremoniously relocate him in the quaint little village of Sandford. Forced to walk the beat with the inept PC Butterman (Nick Frost), Angel is bored out of his mind… until the locals start getting dispatched in the most gory fashion.

Lashings of blood are spewed left, right and centre throughout, but the highlight here is Timothy Dalton’s brutally fun death-by-model-village-church-spire.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/Hot-Fuzz.jpg

Psychedelic experiences

Woodshock (2017)

Glastonbury is an absolute assault on the senses, just as is Kate Mulleavy and Laura Mulleavy’s Woodshock. Headed up by Kirsten Dunst, this psychedelic horror-thriller finds Theresa (Dunst) deep in the jaws of depression after the passing of her mother. Out of exasperation, she ends up indulging in a potent cannabinoid drug that elevates her onto a whole new level of consciousness. It’s all as bizarre as it sounds and most of the film basically just shadows Dunst as she forages her way though guilt, loss and the wilderness that surrounds her. But it all builds up to an unexpected final explosion of violence that’ll leave you on edge, confused and begging for more…

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/woodshock.jpg

The Udder Side of Worthy Farm

The Witch (2016)

The Glastonbury site is decidedly less busy when serving its day-to-day function as a dairy farm. But even the apparently tranquil herds of cows are a cause for concern given they form a part of the bovidae family: a biological family of cloven-hoofed, ruminant mammals that includes, amongst others, goats. And rural horror plus goats only equates to one thing in my book: Black Phillip.

For most of The Witch‘s running time, Phillip appears to be just a background ruminant in a story relating the trials and tribulations of a family striving to forge itself a decent life. But then, in a gut-punching final act twist, we discover the goat was in fact Satan’s assumed mortal form. Metamorphosing from a rambunctious goat into a deadly ram, Phillip plunges the film into outright chaos, gorging Ralph Ineson’s God-fearing patriarch in the process.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/the-witch.jpg

Making new friends in the woods and fields

Eden Lake (2008)

Serendipity is a festival goer’s strongest ally, as long as you’re having a great time that is. But that’s far from the case in James Watkins’ brooding tale of revenge that sees a couple’s romantic weekend in the woods evolve into a bloody struggle for survival when they’re forced to deal with a group of savage, feckless striplings.Jordan Peele interview: the ‘Get Out’ director on his terrifying new movie ‘Us’

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Things turn brutal on more than the odd occasion but the most torturous moment – not only for poor old Steve (Michael Fassbender), but for the audience – is when he’s taken captive and tied to a tree stump with barbed wire. But it doesn’t end there. Not by a long shot. Goaded by the leader of the group, each of the adolescents then proceeds to take it in turns to torture their “new toy” with knives. This is peer pressure at its most hard core.

image: https://ksassets.timeincuk.net/wp/uploads/sites/55/2019/06/EdenLake.jpg

Read more at https://www.nme.com/blogs/the-movies-blog/field-screams-10-horror-films-set-british-countryside-2512502#hCUh4FLvj3KdqkQ9.99