Top Three Reasons (and More) Why You Should Make Peaky Blinders Your Next Netflix Binge-Watch

I have a syndrome and I don’t think there is a medical term for it, yet. I need to obsess over a drama series or else my life feels empty. If I’m lucky enough to stumble upon a story on Netflix that I can connect with instantly, I start obsessing, and binge watching, and obsessing some more, and soon enough the series is over. Then my life feels empty again because I can’t share my dizziness with anyone. So, i’m making a desperate attempt here to sell you one of my recent obsessions: Peaky Blinders, a British drama series that is not talked about as much as it should be. Here are the top three reasons, among many, that I think would be compelling enough to coax and cajole you into making it your next Netflix binge-watch:

The Story: Set in the post World War I’s dreary backdrop, the story builds on the life of an actual gangster clan of the same name run by the Shelby family in Birmingham. Steven Knight took the stories he heard as a child from his father, re-created a pack of powerhouse characters in all their three-dimensional glories, and gave us a dazzling epic that is more Dickensian than Scorsesian in essence. Curious now? Wait, next comes the best part.

The Hero: At the heart of the epic is the ever-enigmatic charismatic head of the Shelby clan, Thomas Shelby (writing that name itself made me skip a heartbeat! Yeah…he’s that good). Shakespeare was a master puppeteer who knew how to pull strings and when to turn the audience’s sympathy for a heavy-flawed hubris-crowned hero. Writers and directors in the world of cinema has made umpteen attempts since then to recreate the Shakespearean tragic hero in a modern setting, but none as successfully in recent times as Vince Gilligan with Walter White in Breaking Bad. Let’s just suffice by saying that Steven Knight has done with Thomas Shelby what Vince Gilligan did with Walter White. By now, you should at least want to Google the series. If not, it’s time to introduce the cast.

The Stellar Cast: The show features the best of the best, including two of Christopher Nolan’s “fetish actors”, Cillian (pronounced Killian) Murphy and Tom Hardy. If stares could kill, I would be dead by now staring at the Netflix screen with Cillian Murphy staring back at me smoking his half cigarette. But if Cillian Murphy as Tom Shelby is your ultimate fantasy Irish Coffee Cake, Tom Hardy as Alfie Solomons, the Jewish Gang Leader of Camden Town, is the out-of-the-world chocolate-coffee frosting on top of that cake. You better watch the show with a good appetite because both will leave you licking your fingers and wanting for more. Add to that the gutsy performance of Helen McCrory as Aunt Polly and Paul Anderson as Arthur Shelby. Their characters go through much transformation throughout the seasons. In fact, with each season, Aunt Polly and Arthur’s character development turns out to be more interesting in certain ways than Tom Shelby’s. So, one more reason to look forward to season five is to see what Knight plans to do with Tom Shelby in now that we have seen enough of his charismatic and manipulative sides.

Come on now! If you still need more reasons, there’s the award-winning photography and light effects and the groovy soundtrack. Steven Knight took a gamble using contemporary music with a period drama and it has played off brilliantly. There ends my knowledge on that subject (except I have listened to the title track “Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave & Bad Seeds about million times by now). Each session promises and delivers surprises, both in terms of plot twist and casting, but perhaps you will need to wait for season four for the biggest surprise entry in the form of the Changretta family’s head, Luca Changretta. There’s also the possibility of the Chicago Mafia playing a pivotal role in season five. I won’t reveal and spoil it for you any further. If you need a sneak peak before taking the plunge, here goes the trailer. And, if you are a fan girl or boy of Peaky Blinders like me, don’t forget to share your thoughts, perspectives, gasps or sighs in the Comments section!

Five Lesser-Known Psychological Horror Movies That You Will Enjoy Even If You are NOT a Horror Flick Fan

If you are anything like me, you probably watch scary movies with a pillow or a cushion on your lap so that you can hide behind it during the jump-scare moments. But that doesn’t stop us from exploring scary movies once in a while, especially when there’s one that sounds like a good thriller material. The problem is, nowadays pretty much every talked-about horror movie is about a possessed subject and the subsequent exorcism. Last year, when I started thinking about it, I realized that the only movie that has really stayed with me is The Shining. Trust a master storyteller like Stanley Kubrick to do justice to a Stephen King classic horror. This movie tops my list of best psychological horror movies of all times, but at least it’s widely popular. So, I thought of exploring lesser-known movies that may often be overlooked because they are not publicized enough and they do not have the ratings in their favor. I have made here a list of a few such movies that I had a good time watching. I deliberately avoided those with zombies and gory creatures. One disclaimer though: if you enjoy scary movies and rate them based on scare factors, these recommendations are not for you. But if you are a movie buff like me who enjoys interesting stories regardless of the genre, go right ahead and check these movies out. They are streaming on Netflix (India) right now. Also, a 6/10 is by no means a bad rating. So, here’s the list:

The Ritual (2017); Director: David Bruckner

A group of friends set out on a hiking trip, end up in the woods, take a detour and things start going wrong. Sounds like a cliché story? Well, what sets this movie apart is the psychological crisis set at the very beginning when the murder of a close friend sends the protagonist off on a guilt trip. He must face his own fears and go through harrowing trials amidst the Scandinavian wilderness where a sinister presence as ancient as the woods looms large. Does he survive the trial and find his redemption?

Watch the Trailer

What I loved: The tense drama juxtaposes trauma and guilt with the supernatural setting, supported by a strong cast.

What could have been better: The ending feels abrupt and does not allow enough space for the cathartic effect to settle in.

My Rating: 6/10

Under the Shadow (2016); Director: Babak Anvari

The Iranian-born Babak Anvari has hit the nail on the head, in so far as psychological horror is concerned, with this directorial debut. The movie is set in the war-ravaged Tehran of late 1980s. The seemingly endless conflict between Iraq and Iran has deeply impacted people’s lives: tearing near and dear ones apart, dislocating them from their homes, and making them live under constant threat. Being a woman exposed to liberal views and lifestyle in conflict with a conservative society that has defined a much narrower role for women does not make life any easier. Shideh must protect her child from the evil shadow that the missile that hit her building has brought with it. But to overcome the shadow, she must first overcome the cloud of self-doubts that creeps up exactly at those moments when she is most vulnerable.

Watch the Trailer

What I loved: The metaphorical use of clothes for supernatural elements. What should a woman fear most: the society that will not let her be and wants to reduce her to a nobody, or the unseen evil forces?

What could have been better: The character of the protagonist does not go through much transformation except toward the end.

My Rating: 8/10

It Follows (2014); Director: David Robert Mitchell

This movie is a superb example of how a low budget movie can do wonders with a simple but unique story. After a sexual encounter with her boyfriend, a teenage girl learns that she has become a victim of a lethal curse, something that can take any form at any moment and at any place. No matter how much one runs, it follows and finds its victim. If she wishes to save herself, she must have sexual intercourse with a new person to transfer the curse. Will she put someone else’s life in danger to save herself or will she run out of hiding places and succumb to the evil?

Watch the Trailer

What I loved: The supernatural take on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and the destructive chain that STDs initiate is interesting in itself.

What could have been better: There is nothing I can point out without a plot spoiler.

My Rating: 8/10

The Canal (2014); Director: Ivan Kavanagh

The psychological crisis at the core of this movie is jealousy. A film archivist, David, moves to a new house with his pregnant wife and everything is fine for a few years till he starts suspecting that his wife is having an affair. In the meantime, he discovers some disturbing footage linking the house with gruesome murders of the past inhabitants. On the way home after witnessing his wife cheating on him, a distraught David has a strange encounter in the subway bathroom adjacent to the Canal. Consequently, when his wife goes missing and her body is fished out of the canal, dots are connected and he becomes a prime suspect. But David is convinced that an outwardly force is involved and he needs to protect his son from it. Will David uncover the mysteries surrounding the house and prove himself innocent, or will he allow his fears to overtake his sanity?

Watch the Trailer

What I loved: A tense thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout

What could have been better: The ending is a bit of a let down and might make you think: “Oh, didn’t we know that already though?”

My Rating: 6/10

The Awakening (2011); Director: Nick Murphy

In 1921, England is recovering from the wounds of World War I, but it is infested with fraudsters who pray on people’s griefs and dupe them with psychic hoaxes. Florence Cathcart has a unique profession. She is a ghost and a hoax buster and has written a book on that subject, making her well-known among the public, though not always in a positive sense. Calm and confident as she may appear on the surface, Florence has a dark past buried deep within the recesses of her mind. When Florence accepts a case of a boarding school haunted by a child ghost, the past collides with the present and Florence struggles to keep her sanity. Is there really a ghost in the boarding school? Is the ghost story a well-contrived ploy by someone with a hidden agenda? Or is it something that neither Florence nor the audience see coming?

Watch the Trailer

What I loved: Rebecca Hall’s fascinating performance and the plot twist

What could have been better: One might say that the ending contradicts the very premise with which the movie starts off.

My Rating: 7/10

So, give these movies a try and let me know if you have some hidden gems in your bag that I may not have watched yet.