The Whalebone Box


Director: Andrew Kötting

Starring: Andrew Kötting, Iain Sinclair, Eden Kötting

Words – Natalie Mills

“I found this piece of film. It was in the belly of a whale.”

The Whalebone Box sits alongside The Lighthouse as one of the strangest sea-related films of the year. An enjoyable, although hard to put into words, piece of work that feels fresh out of an art gallery.

The film is a collage of dreamlike sequences and documentary footage centred on the titular box – a mysterious object belonging to writer Iain Sinclair, made and given to him by Yorkshire-born artist and sculptor Steve Dilworth. Sinclair describes the box as his “animal battery”; if he opens it, his words will stop.

Sinclair, alongside his long-term collaborator Andrew Kötting, wishes to return the box to its birthplace on the Scottish coast.

The result is a fantasy quest, a road trip movie, and an intimate home video of director Kötting and his daughter Eden. The 16mm film of Iain and Andrew’s 800-mile journey from London to the Hebrides is interspersed with Eden recounting her dreams, bizarre animation, archive maritime footage, and pinhole photography from cinematographer Anonymous Bosch.

If you came here expecting a conventional plot, you won’t find it. The Whalebone Box is an art house stream of dialogue and imagery relating to whales, mythology, journeys and boxes. From musician MacGillivray (captioned as “MERMAID”) singing a whale-like lament, to the ancient British sites they visit, to the cloudbusting-esque idea of charging the box with energy – it’s folk horror without the horror. There is something magical hiding just below the surface.

There is plenty of thought-provoking, mystical dialogue about the whalebone box itself – “Today it has the extreme weight and depth of the oceans,” someone remarks, casually implying that the box is getting heavier a la The One Ring.

Spoiler: we never see what’s inside the box; although someone mentions it is “filled with calm water”. The film never glosses over the box’s grisly origins – you see plenty of living and dead whales. Dilworth’s art studio, which they visit, is like a charnel house. They have to treat the box with reverence to avoid unsettling the oil inside. It is a living, ageless thing of whalebone, honey, beeswax and lead. It sits menacingly on the dashboard as they drive, like a curse. Inside, it contains a coffin-like box made from the melted lead of fishing net weights. One of the group wears a hat saying “ANCIENT MARINER”.

The film has a sense of humour – you need one to get through it. One minute you are in the middle of a deep conversation about quantum physics; Schrödinger’s Box (as well as Pandora’s) is discussed. The next they are merrily trespassing on ancient stone walls, stating, “Wherever it says forbidden that’s where we need to go.” It is a road trip you’re happy to be a part of.

The film builds an otherworldly atmosphere and features an equally alien soundtrack. Its use of vintage 16mm and Super 8 film, saturated colours and woodland scenes are reminiscent of recent indie folk horror film Antrum. There is talk of witchcraft in The New Forest, spiritualism, and “all those other weirdnesses”. The film casts a spell as much as the box does. Eden dreams of two dead or sleeping people on the floor, reasoning, “they must have touched the box”. It’s unapologetically experimental, using offbeat digital animation (notably the box pulsing and an eye in a tree) alongside film and Bosch’s lo-fi pinhole photography.

Holding the film together are the box pilgrims themselves – Andrew, Iain and Anonymous. Eden Kötting does not physically join them, but the father-daughter relationship is at the work’s heart. She feels like the anchor of the film, keeping it grounded and providing some of its most interesting quotes.

Born with Joubert Syndrome and an artist in her own right, Eden offers a unique perspective throughout. Whether she is musing, “The box is a ticking bomb, whatever that means,” whispering, “I love your bones and blood and organs,” in the film’s opening, or watching the waves saying, “I’m cold. Papa, the whale sings. Papa home”, you feel invested in her experience.

The surreal dream sequences, alongside footage of her in places as familiar as London’s Natural History Museum or a swimming pool, elevate the film from being just a road trip movie.

A memorable vision from artists you want to know more about.






Must See Movies: March

At Reel Steel we want to make sure you’re getting the most of your cinematic enthusiasm, so each month we put together our short list of some of the best new releases, from popcorn munching explosion fests to the often weird and wonderful.
Take a look at the trailers below and see this month’s recommendations…


released Friday March 13th, 2020

Bacurau – a settlement in rural Brazil – is shaken by the death of its matriarch.

But something strange is happening to the tight-knit village community – the water supply has been cut off, and the village has disappeared from satellite maps completely.
As they find themselves under threat from an unknown enemy, Bacurau braces itself for a brutal fight for its own survival.

An audacious, original and spectacularly violent blend of neo-Western, revenge thriller and political allegory, this Winner of the 2019 Cannes Jury Prize is one to explore for those who enjoyed the recent genre-blending thriller Parasite.


Calm With Horses
released Friday March 13th, 2020

Ex-boxer Douglas “Arm” Armstrong is the faithful, and violent, right-hand man to the drug-dealing Devers clan, ready to dole out punishment at the whim of his best friend, and the family’s unpredictable protégé, Dympna.

Arm’s struggle to find his place in the world has consequences on his relationship with his ex-girlfriend Ursula, as she strives to find a better life for herself and their young son Jack.
Torn between these two families, Arm’s loyalties are tested when he is asked to kill for the first time.

Set in rural Ireland, Calm With Horses is a gripping debut film from director Nick Rowland, based on the novella by Colin Barrett, starring Cosmo Jarvis (Lady Macbeth) and Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk, The Killing of a Sacred Deer).


The Truth
released Friday March 20th, 2020

From director Hirokazu Kore-eda – who brought us one of the best films of 2018 with the standout social drama ShopliftersThe Truth is his first film set outside his native Japan, and as with the director’s previous work explores themes of relationships and family.

Fabienne (Catherine Deneuve) is a star; a star of French cinema. She reigns amongst men who love and admire her.
When she publishes her memoirs, her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) returns from New York to Paris with her husband (Ethan Hawke) and young child.
However, the reunion between mother and daughter quickly turns to confrontation: truths will be told, accounts settled, loves and resentments confessed.

A sharp and funny battle of wits ensues between the mother-daughter duo, with Lumir taking issue with Fabienne’s rose-coloured version of the past, as their strained relationship takes a poignant journey toward possible reconciliation.

A charming, bold and relatable look at relationships with endless emotional insight, The Truth delivers a moving portrait of family dynamics with standout performances from its all-star cast, in the latest feature from masterful filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda.



ReelSteel 2020 event IMAGE

Reel Steel Cult Weekender 2020

Taking place Friday March 13th – Sunday March 15th, our film weekender brings cinema classics, 35mm screenings and cult movie favourites back to the big screen in the beautiful surroundings of Sheffield’s historic Abbeydale Picture House.

Opening on Friday the 13th, with a 40th Anniversary screening of Friday the 13th (1980).

Details here:

read our retrospective feature reviews on all the films screening over our weekender >here<.




Tetsuo: The Iron Man


Director: Shinya Tsukamoto

Starring: Tomoro Taguchi, Kei Fujiwara, Nobu Kanaoka, Shinya Tsukamoto, Naomasa Musaka

Words – Christian Abbott

Your future is metal!

This line hits two-thirds into the film, and after a series of deliriously disturbing sequences, you believe it.

It’s hard to grasp Tetsuo, it is as timeless as it is grotesque, and both those elements are used purposefully and knowingly. Like a controlled burn, its impact is chaotic yet assured, targeting and deadly, and totally unforgettable.
Released in 1989, the film was shot using a 16mm camera, producing a timeless quality – it creates an air of mystery, as though we have stumbled upon this footage and shouldn’t really be seeing it. The shaky, environmentally aware camera adds to this; released today, it would pass as a handheld film.

For those unfamiliar, you’d be mistaken in thinking this was shot in the sixties, only to find yourself corrected almost immediately as a man drives a metal rod into his leg, falls asleep, and awakens with maggots crawling all over him. Shocking? Absolutely, and this is just the beginning.
The mix of grimy realism and crazed body-horror gore instils this frenzied atmosphere, putting you at an ironic-ease while perpetually shocking you moment-to-moment. It bounces from stop-motion torment to freeze-frame montages with a playful confidence, drawing you in with its hypnotic insanity.

Yet, it isn’t only its visual style that creates this unique enterprise, but the sound design too. Not a moment goes by when we are not subjugated to the sounds of a scream, a wheezing joint or droning mechanical contraption. The sound editing fuses the visuals to the viewer, with a similarly unnerving effect that metal creates on the characters.

Tetsuo is often compared to the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, a fair assessment but also one that undermines what this is. At 67 minutes, there is simply no reason not to experience this unrelenting horror of technological advancement and obsession.
While the line mentioned at the beginning of this piece serves as a warning in the film, everything is clear now – the future is metal.







Director: Bong Joon-ho

Starring: Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, Park So-dam, Jeong-eun Lee, Hye-jin Jang, Ji-so Jung

Words – Rhiannon Topham

Rarely does a film defy all cinematic conventions and pull it off flawlessly. Even more rare is for a film to please so many different genres, yet seem almost completely genre-less.
There is so much to say about Parasite, none of which should be discussed openly in a one-way format such as this: it is highly recommended going into this film without any prior knowledge of what it is or where it will go. So how to go about describing this artistic feat, aside from the obvious statements that it is undeniably Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece, and easily one of the best films in decades?

Let’s start with painting as simple a picture as possible. Whereas Bong’s previous films, the irreverent Okja and dystopian future incision Snowpiercer, focussed on alternative realities, the social skewering in Parasite is distinctly tangible.
The Kim family live in a small semi-basement and all struggle to hold down employment. They rush around their squalid home trying to connect to free WiFi and leave their windows open when the fumigators spray the streets to try and clear the stink-bugs moving in.

One day, the Kims are visited by son Ki-woo’s friend Min-hyuk, who gifts them a mysterious rock which is said to bring wealth to those who possess it. When Min-hyuk suggests Kim-woo pretend to be a university student and take over his job tutoring the daughter of the wealthy Park family, what follows is an opportunistic snowballing plot devised by the Kims which is equal parts genius and dangerous, rational and absurd.
By exploiting the credulous Park matriarch, using a creative variety of props from underpants to peaches, the Kims find a way for each of them to secure work within the concrete walls of the Park’s modernist mansion, a risky endeavour which involves usurping the family’s loyal housekeeper.

After all of the Kim clan have secured their posts in the Park home, the latter depart for a camping trip to celebrate their son’s birthday. While they’re away, the Kim’s spend the night in the luxury of their employers’ home, enjoying the kind of food and beverages they would seldom have access to back in their semi-basement. This marks the transition into the film’s second act; the Kim’s gestation period has been successful, remarkably so, and the rug is about to get violently pulled from under them.

Bong’s commitment to the nuances of social reality allows Parasite to not only traverse the audience’s constantly changing expectations (are the rich going to use their wealth and resources to outsmart the poor? Are the Kims going to overthrow the house?) but also shift gears from jaunty comedy to a white-knuckle thriller as faultlessly as Ki-taek turning corners on a busy road, smooth and confident as the ignorant but judgemental Mr Park looks on haughtily from the backseat.

As the story unravels and your jaw gradually makes its way to the floor, you quickly come to realise that it’s hard to distinguish who the ‘bad guys’ are here—an intentional move which speaks to the title of the film. There are the haves, basking in their fortune in the comfort of their sun-lit houses in the hills, and the have nots, confined to chthonic basements and subservience to the thankless demands of their employers.
Everything here is ‘metaphorical’, to steal a frequently recurring term from the film, but it is also everything you could ever want from a film: suspenseful, beautiful, at times hilarious, and always compelling.






Godzilla (1954)


Director: Ishiro Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Akihiko Hirata, Takashi Shimura, Fuyuki Murakami, Sachio Sakai

Words – Rebecca Kirby

It took fifty years for the original, uncut version of Ishiro Honda’s “Godzilla” (or Gojira) to receive an official release for western audiences. In that time the films powerful message has not diminished.

“Godzilla” may be the first Kaiju (literally translated as strange creature) movie and it might feature a man in a rubber suit crushing a miniature version of Tokyo, but this is so much more than the standard B movie creature feature western audiences were accustomed to. Made less than a decade after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the USA, Godzilla explores a very complex set of emotions.

With an air of dread and a bleak theme, “Godzilla” embodies the destructive atomic realisations of the Japanese nation, the worlds first post apocalyptic society. It’s a window into the soul of a nation that had it’s psyche crushed in unimaginable horror, rebuilding under US occupation and trying to come to terms with it’s past and future.

Director Ishiro Honda, who had been drafted into the Japanese Imperial Army during wartime, not only witnessed the firebombing of Tokyo in 1945 but also saw first hand the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. It’s clear to see how this influenced Godzilla’s scene’s of devastation in Tokyo, full of haunting visions of a city on fire.

The film was considered so bleak, particularly for American audiences, that the version that was released to western audiences in 1956, “Godzilla, King of the Monsters!” was re-edited to remove around forty minutes of footage, including some key plot points and to incorporate twenty minutes of new footage featuring Raymond Burr as an American reporter. This version was dubbed into English and featured a more uplifting final statement from Burr.

Originally conceived under the working title of “The Giant Monster from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea“, the initial creature designs were very different from the Godzilla we now know and love. The original outline featured a giant octopus, while later a gorilla or whale inspired creature was considered, with the monster to be christened Gojira – a combination of the Japanese words for gorilla (gorira) and whale (kujira) before settling on the now iconic dinosaur inspired design.

The Godzilla suit was constructed from latex and molten rubber over a frame built from bamboo, wire and metal mesh. Weighing over 200 pounds, the suit was so heavy that performer Haruo Nakajima would pass out after only three minutes inside and lost 20 pounds during filming.

Godzilla’s distinctive cry was created by composer Akira Ifukube by running a leather glove along a stringed instrument after recordings of various animals were dismissed.

Opening with the destruction of a small fishing boat by a unknown force off Odo Island, itself a reference to the Lucky Dragon 5 incident in 1954, where a Japanese trawler was caught in the radioactive fallout from a US nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, “Godzilla” spells out it’s intentions from the start.

When a further incident causes destruction on Odo Island, killing nine people and dozens of farm animals in the process, the Government sends paleontologist Dr Yamane to investigate.

Dr Yamane discovers giant radioactive footprints along with a long extinct trilobite, before he has the opportunity to glimpse the terrifying Godzilla himself. He concludes that Godzilla is an ancient sea creature whose habitat has been disrupted by the hydrogen bomb tests conducted in the area.

After a plan to destroy Godzilla by using depth charges fails, the government seeks advice from Dr Yamane on how to kill the monster. Dr Yamane insists that having survived the H-bombs, Godzilla cannot be killed and the only course of action is to study him to understand how he has survived the nuclear blasts and even grown stronger as a result.

Emiko, Dr Yamane’s daughter seeks to break off her engagement to Dr Serizawa, a colleague of her father, in order to marry Hideto Ogata, a salvage ship captain that she is in love with. When Emiko visits Dr Serizawa he reveals to her the secret project that he has been working on. This demonstration causes Emiko to flee in horror without breaking off her engagement.

After Godzilla emerges in Tokyo Bay and devastates Shinagawa Ward, a further plan to kill him is put into action involving electrified fences and military force but this too fails. Tokyo suffers further destruction and hospitals are filled with casualties.


A distraught Emiko reveals the existence of Dr Serizawa’s research, a superweapon named the Oxygen Destroyer, to Ogata. Together they approach Serizawa to persuade him to use this against Godzilla. Serizawa is reluctant to use the Oxygen Destroyer as he fears it falling into the wrong hands but after seeing the aftermath of the devastation of Tokyo he finally agrees to it’s use.

Before boarding a Navy vessel to plant the Oxygen Destroyer in Tokyo Bay, Serizawa burns his notes so the weapon cannot be replicated. Once the ship has reached it’s destination, Serizawa insists on deploying his creation alone, deliberately cutting off his own oxygen supply in the process.

The Oxygen Destroyer succeeds in killing Godzilla and the film ends with a sober and grim warning from Dr Yamane that the continuation of nuclear testing would risk the emergence of more Godzilla’s.

It’s perhaps worth noting here the contrast between Dr Serizawa, who would rather sacrifice himself than allow his invention to be used for war, with the initial celebration in the US of the “father of the atomic bomb” J Robert Oppenheimer, who would appear on the cover of Time magazine in 1948. Ironically, Oppenheimer would appear on the cover of Time once again in 1954, the same year Godzilla was released, when he was stripped of his security clearances after suggesting that controls should be placed on the development of nuclear power.

Ultimately, the death of Godzilla is not seen as something to celebrate, the film never shying away from the fact that man is responsible for creating this monster. While his path of destruction must be stopped, Dr Yamane serves to remind us that Godzilla is also a victim of mankind’s nuclear ambitions, an unintended but inevitable consequence of the human disregard for the natural world.
Considering the current state of the planet’s climate and the continued stock piling of nuclear weapons by the world’s superpowers, it seems that in the 66 years since Godzilla was first unleashed we have still yet to learn those lessons.




Must See Movies: February

At Reel Steel we want to make sure you’re getting the most of your cinematic enthusiasm, so each month we put together our short list of some of the best new releases, from popcorn munching explosion fests to the often weird and wonderful.
Take a look at the trailers below and see this month’s recommendations…


released Friday February 7th, 2020

Bong Joon-ho is a South Korean film director who has garnered international acclaim with films such as Okja, Snowpiercer, The Host and Memories of Murder.
Now, he brings his singular mastery to his latest feature, Parasite, a pitch-black social satire.

Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth.
And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else.
Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together, and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.

A symbiotic relationship forms between the two households; as each member of the Kim family individually provides “indispensable” luxury services to the wealthy Parks – as they cook, clean, tutor and chauffeur – while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household.
Soon the whole family has infiltrated the Park family home, but as their deception unravels, events begin to spiral out of control in ways that you simply cannot imagine.

Parasite is a phenomenal, suspense-filled social satire exploring the class-divide while delivering pitch-black humour.
This genre-bending film has become one of the most talked about films of recent years.


First Love
released Friday February 14th, 2020

From renowned Japanese director Takashi Miike (Blade of the Immortal, Audition, 13 Assassins), comes First Love – a story of a young boxer who falls in love with a woman caught in the crossfire between yakuza and triad gangs in a fight over stolen drugs.

Set over one night in Tokyo – we follow Leo, a young boxer down on his luck as he meets his ‘first love’ Monica, a young woman forced into prostitution.
However, when Leo learns that Monica has been unwittingly caught up in a drug-smuggling scheme, the two take off and are pursued through the night by a corrupt cop, a yakuza, his nemesis, and a female assassin sent by the Chinese triads.

All of their fates intertwine in a spectacular and anarchic style that could only be from director Takashi Miike.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire
released Friday February 28th, 2020

Writer-director Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire, is a moving story; with a genuine, recognisable sense of human desire, embroiled with obsession, fear and doubt.

Set in Brittany in 1760, Portrait of a Lady on Fire recounts a tale of forbidden love, as painter Marianne is commissioned to create a portrait of reluctant bride-to-be Heloise.
Meeting under the guise of companionship, the slow-burning infatuation between the two displays no immediate attraction or lust, but rather lies in the stolen glances, discovering something new, all while each know of their place in society and what is expected of them.

From the chemistry between the all-female cast to the masterful direction, every element works in harmony – this is about seeing and being seen, the emotional as much as the physical, and this story goes beyond the romance.

A beautiful and moving film, see our feature review from the 2019 Leeds International Film Festival >here<.




Japan 2020

From Akira Kurosawa, to Godzilla and Studio Ghibli, Japan has given the world some of its most iconic titles in cinema.

To mark the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games taking place in Tokyo, we took a retrospective look at a selection of films which hold a lasting influence on cinema and popular culture, as well as those from filmmakers whose influences can be seen in modern Japanese cinema.

The 2020 Olympics – which, in the landmark cyberpunk anime Akira (1988), were actually predicted to take place in Tokyo – would see celebrations of Japanese culture take place across the UK and around the world.
With the games now postponed, we still wanted to celebrate cinema at a time when audiences look to discover (and re-discover) new and classic titles
click on the film title to see our review.


Totoro tree 1

> My Neighbour Totoro (1988)

Seen by many as the gateway film into Studio Ghibli, the work of director Hayao Miyazaki, even Japanese animation itself.


Godzilla 1954

> Godzilla (1954)

A film with a powerful message around mankind’s destructive nature, Godzilla is perhaps one of Japan’s most iconic and important films of the 20th Century.



> RAN (1985)

From a master of cinema, RAN from director Akira Kurosawa is considered his last true epic.


Tetsuo TheIronMan 1989

> Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

A film often compared to the works of David Lynch and David Cronenberg, but so unique it’s almost beyond categorisation.



> Shogun Assassin (1980)

The kind of bloody, balletic Samurai film you rarely see made anymore, Shogun Assassin stands as perhaps one of the finest examples of the genre.


BR 20

> Battle Royale (2000)

Immediately gaining a cult status upon its release and smashing its way into popular culture, Battle Royale tells the story of what happens when a high school class is set loose on an island and told only one will leave alive.



> Seven Samurai (1954)

Considered by many to be the greatest film of all time, Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is a milestone in cinema, influencing generations of countless filmmakers.



> Tekkonkinkreet (2006)

A standout anime feature based on the popular Japanese manga.


HMC 01

> Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

A favourite among Studio Ghibli fans, following a young woman as she embarks on a journey with a wizard in an enormous walking castle.


Kiki D Service 1

> Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

An enchanting tale following a young witch as she moves to a small seaside town with her talking cat and opens a delivery service.



> Spirited Away (2001)

A truly original tale of magic and adventure, and listed by many as one of the best films of all time.



> Princess Mononoke (1997)

A story of conflict and the search for peace between humans and nature.



> Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2018)

A film which will feel familiar to Studio Ghibli fans, and one to be enjoyed by all. An enchanting world and a heartfelt story.



> The Boy and the Beast (2015)

A touching story, telling a tale of an unlikely friendship and how we find strength in one another.


Shoplifters 1

> Shoplifters (2018)

An exploration of relationships and belonging, in an understated but powerful social drama from director Hirokazu Kore-eda.



> Our Little Sister (2015)

A sincere and charming portrait of family life.




The BFI has launched its Japan 2020 season, presenting Japanese film in new collections each month.
See a range of iconic Japanese titles via the BFI Player:





Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Dean-Charles Chapman, George MacKay, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Pip Carter, Andy Apollo, Andrew Scott, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch

Words – Eleanor Smith

In this immersive masterpiece, placing the audience into the action with the ‘long one take’ effect, director Sam Mendes perfectly portrays the brutality and horror of the First World War. Though not the first to use this technique, 1917 is among those films to use it with such effect in creating such immense suspense.
We are instantly captivated, given the constant dread felt by Lance Corporal Schofield (George Mackay). The lingering shot doesn’t allow you a second to escape, on edge from start to finish. Mendes draws us into the film so successfully we become a character in this journey ourselves.

Brotherhood and heroism are common tropes of war films and 1917 is no exception, but what makes 1917 so original is Mendes’ close attention to detail. We meet Lieutenant Lesie (Andrew Scott) as he says, “told you it was Friday,” to one of his comrades off screen. Showing this mundane exchange of conversation between soldiers throughout, capturing the time and life flawlessly.

We are taken through no-mans land, step by step and second by second, as they set out on their mission from the film’s outset. Mendes presents one of the most realistic and grim depictions of no-man’s land in any World War film. The decaying corpses of both humans and horses imprints on the mind, a credit to the work of 1917’s production.

A film full of A-List British actors from Colin Firth to Benedict Cumberbatch, but it’s George Mackay who steals the show with his raw, emotive and truly outstanding performance. The tiredness and hopelessness portrayed in his character, as he desperately tries to save the lives of 1,600 men; he carries the film, and takes us on a journey we will not forget.
1917 is a tremendous achievement, and possibly the closest we will ever get to the action of the First World War.





Reel Steel Cult Weekender 2020 Film Festival

ReelSteel 2020 event IMAGE

The Reel Steel Cult Weekender is a celebration of films which hold a ‘cult’ or ‘classic’ status in cinema
– older titles shown again on the big screen, so that today’s audiences can experience important, overlooked or influential titles in their genre.

Hosted at Sheffield’s historic Abbeydale Picture House – a Grade II listed 1920’s Picture Palace Cinema – bringing the sense of occasion to match some of cinema’s most iconic titles.

Taking place Friday March 13th – Sunday March 15th, the weekend programme includes:

Friday The 13th (1980)
– 40th Anniversary
The Evil Dead (1981)
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
RoboCop (1987)
– presented in 35mm
Kiki’s Delivery Service (Studio Ghibli)
– presented in 35mm
Howl’s Moving Castle (Studio Ghibli)
– presented in 35mm

Full details can be found on our event page:


Here, we take an in-depth look at each title with our retrospective feature reviews
click on the film title to see our review.



> Friday the 13th (1980)

Released in 1980, this definitive slasher horror which spawned a franchise and dozens of imitators, forever marked the date of Friday the 13th as a time of horror.



> The Evil Dead (1981)

The horror classic which delivered cult legend Bruce Campbell in his iconic role as the lethal, wisecracking character Ash, as he battles evil spirits and possessed friends in order to survive the night.


Kiki D Service 1

> Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

An enchanting tale from Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki, following a young witch in training as she moves to a small seaside town and opens a delivery service.



> Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

The 1976 thriller from legendary director John Carpenter, follows a small group of law-enforcers and law-breakers, trapped inside a police station as they defend against an attack from an LA gang and try to survive the night.



> RoboCop (1987)

An enduring social satire and sci-fi crime thriller classic, released at the peak of 1980’s excess, follows Officer Alex Murphy as he is brutally gunned down then turned into a cybernetically enhanced law enforcer.


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> Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

An unforgettable tale of magic and adventure, and listed by many as one of the best films of all time, Howl’s Moving Castle is a dearly loved and critically acclaimed universal classic for all generations from Studio Ghibli director Hayao Miyazaki.
Following a young woman and her journey through a world of spirits, witches and supernatural beings, alongside a young wizard and an enormous walking-castle.


ReelSteel 2020 event IMAGE

Find the Facebook event for the weekend >here<.

All tickets available here:


Robocop 35mm - Reel Steel


video clip from the projection booth at our 35mm film screening of Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke in 2019 at Sheffield’s Abbeydale Picture House:





Howl’s Moving Castle


Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Words – Christian Abbott

In 2004, the landscape of animation was rapidly changing.
9 years previous, Pixar released the revolutionary Toy Story, showcasing the very first fully 3D animated feature. The following years, and especially at the beginning of the 21st century, there was a race to switch from 2D to 3D, capitalising on the success Pixar had been seeing.
At the time of release, Howl’s Moving Castle was seen as something of a leftover from a bygone era, a defiant swansong for the 2D age. The swansong however, turned out to be premature, as once again Hayao Miyazaki (writer and director of Studio Ghibli fame) proved not only to be the master of visual storytelling, but also of an art form he dearly loves.

Based on a Welsh novel of the same name, we follow an uneasy and self-doubting young woman who, following an encounter with a witch, is cursed with an old body. To regain her youth and achieve the confidence she lacks, she embarks on a journey with a young wizard in an enormous walking-castle.
The walking-castle is this film’s most distinctive aspect. More of a character in of itself than an actual location, its look and aesthetic quickly became iconic. The steampunk design with its grilled face, spider-like legs and belching chimneys, has left a lasting impression in the imaginations of its audience and envy of artists in the genre. It owes more to the visuals of cyberpunk than the arthouse standards of Miyazaki. It is bold, loud; dominating the frames it resides and is all around wonderful.

While taking place in such a brutalist location, it strides through breath-taking environments. The harsh greys and browns are surrounded by punctuating greens and blues, bringing the whole world to life. Few could manage to write a story centred on such a mechanical location and manage to keep the picture so poetic and serene.

Inhabiting this world are some of Miyazaki’s most bizarre and colourful characters in his history. From wizards to witches, monsters and men, even a sentient flame, the scale of imagination and creativity compounds the film. Owed much to the original novel, it is clear why Miyazaki wanted to bring this story to life the only way cinema can.
Even after 16 years, these characters continue to delight for their complete and unique individualism. Again, there is a sentient fireplace – that alone, for making fire, a singularly dangerous element cute, demands attention.

It’s hard to really quantify the films of Miyazaki, even harder to compare them to one another. The term “movie magic” can be sweeping and often vague or misused. But here, when you take in the hand-drawn animation, the beautiful world and characters, the wonderful writing and the overall vision of the piece, it’s hard to describe it as anything else.
Back in 2004 the place for 2D animation seemed unclear in the world of cinema, 16 years on and we are still asking that question. There are good arguments made for both, but after watching this, there isn’t a more persuasive argument.