Thursday, October 8, 2009

Halloween Movies #25 and #24 - When Bad Remakes Happen To Great Horror


I used to do this weird thing as a kid.

Immediately after my mother and father would leave the house, I'd pretend I was a camera in a scary movie. I'd roam the hallways and slow down when I got to a turn (which wasn't very long; we lived in White Trash Heaven so our hallway was 50 feet)...I'd extend my hand in front of me so it looked like I was the killer and the hand was coming from my point of view, searching for my next victim.

It was pretty cool. I felt like I was always in a movie.

It got sorta pathetic when I'd make heavy breathing sounds as I opened the refrigerator door for the gallon of milk inside, and grab it, pretending I was a killer who just happened to be really thirsty and needed some milk.

Whenever I did this, my mother would inevitably be right behind me, her hand on her bulging hip, her right eyebrow raised and her lip in a downward spiral. "You're a very creepy kid," she'd say. "You know that?"

I wasn't a creepy kid. I was imaginative and highly visual, thank you very much.

Which brings me to Halloween Movie #25, a forgotten classic from a great suspense writer.

Ladies and Gentlemen, whores and perverts and all those in between, the most disturbing image in all of horror cinema:


Run! It's a housewife from Connecticut! Agh!!!

When was the last time you saw The Stepford Wives? I'm not talking about that steaming pile of horseshit Frank Oz shat out awhile back...except for Glenn Close (who, let's face it, scares all of us silly - her cunt has teeth and we all know it) and some very funny lines from the always funny Paul Rudnick, the movie was a very weird collision of humor and horror...it was like Jewish Catskill Horror Humor minus the horror or the humor (and this is from the guy who directed one of the greatest screen comedies in years, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) --

No, the original is a very fucked up story and a great movie with a fantastic, chilling ending that pulls no punches.

Add to the mix how it's a great social commentary and you've got a great movie.

You know your in trouble in a horror movie when the opening shot is a beautiful house with birds chirping amidst the backdrop or green, overflowing trees; terrifying.

I have to tell you - sure, it was the fact they based the book on the twisted imagination of Ira Levin of Rosemary's Baby fame...sure, the producers made a genius move by hiring really smart guys to make it (really old and classy veteran British director Bryan Forbes and the God of screenwriting, William Goldman), but I have to tell you, it was in casting Katharine Ross in the lead they ensured they were at least halfway sure of making a good movie.

Check out the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zUWOeNfa6Y

The fact it turned out great is purely an act of the Movie Gods coming together and everyone agreeing they were making a full-out horror movie that would stick to the original text and not falter. Some think it's campy; I fully disagree. Read the book if you don't believe me. It's super short, very fun to read and the ending is the same as in the movie.

But Katharine Ross - I swear, she reminds me of that story about Brooke Shields when they were filming that delightfully absurd 1981 trash heap, Endless Love. Remember that?

Apparently, during one of the notorious sex scenes, 14 year old Brooke had to pretend she was having an orgasm. Director Franco Zeffirelli tried everything. Yelling at her, screaming at her, giving her a shot of scotch - nothing worked. In a fit of rage, he grabbed Brooke by the foot and shook her, screaming she was ruining his movie. Brooke screamed at him and cried. She said the way he held her foot caused her so much pain it made her cry.

Being the sadist motherfucker he was, Zeffirelli knew he had to seiz the moment. He crouched down by the edge of the bed, called 'action' and then filmed the scene of Brooke orgasming - all the while grabbing her foot and twisting it so she'd cry out in pain, and thus, 'orgasm'.

The point is - Brooke, like Katharine Ross, was a breathtakingly beautiful actress who couldn't act for shit. The only way they could show emotion was to have physical pain inflicted upon them.

Sick, but true.

So when the arc of the movie takes place (and I'm not giving anything away, well all know the finale but the cumulative effect is still shattering) and Katharine Ross goes through her 'transformation' to the perfectly shot and timed final image, it makes absolutely perfect sense and it's entirely believable, because in real life, Katharine Ross WAS a Stepford Wife.

They got one of the great, all time DP's to shoot this fucker. The great Owen Roizman. Christ, before he shot The Stepford Wives this guy shot The Taking Of Pelham One, Two, Three (the original, not the remake which wasn't bad but it's no original), The French Connection and a little movie you may have heard of - The Exorcist. So, um, he sorta knew what he was doing.

The art of movie cinematography has never been rivaled since the 1940's and the 1970's. Ever. There was a visual texture to these movies that you could feel and taste. It's amazing.

If you look at the way shots are held in this movie and the composition between them, you'll see classic, minimal suspense. It's just great how it builds and builds and builds to this great finale. It all works. The sparse dialogue, the minimal photography, the fuzzy, perfect 'Hallmark' card look of the movie, the whispered dialogue, the side glances, the clothes - it's really great and creepy as hell.

The reason the 2004 version is so dreadful is because they were trying so hard to be something new. They wanted their cake and they wanted to eat it too. Humor in a horror film is extremely tricky. You have to respect and honor the genre and not mock it. In the 2004 The Stepford Wives they mocked the very genre they were making. Weird, bizarre and extremely insulting.

Plus, Nicole Kidman is only 43 and I'm very depressed at how many Botox injections she's getting; she's hard to look at and this woman can act. It's fucked up. Did you see her in The Invasion (so-so movie - do we really need another reinvention of Body Snatchers...let it go, people). Nicole is starting to look like those weird blow-up dolls you see in sex shops off of the highway (not that I've ever been in one - I'm a good Catholic boy).

In 1975, these guys were absolutely serious about making a creepy movie with a social commentary at the center (but first and foremost, a creepy movie) and they were not fucking around. Expertly directed and acted, with a tone and style that gets under your skin, the 1975 The Stepford Wives is one of the all time super Halloween movies.

Speaking of great originals and horrible sequels, I hope anyone who reads this blog has seen this tripped out little gem:


I'm always amazed when people tell me they won't watch movies in black and white. I get the usual reaction: "Oh my God. Black and white? How boring. I mean, how old is that? Seriously, they are so slow and boring. I mean, boring."

I get it. I do. I was raised in the 80's. I'm the same way. Old movies are old movies. They are slower, they don't move as fast as today's movies do and most of the stories we've seen before or the movie is (here comes that word again) boring.

This is an exception. This movie, The Haunting, based on the unnerving book The Haunting of Hill House by the unparalleled author Shirley Jackson, shared the living shit out of me one late afternoon in 1988.

Check out the trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xq74oz6mf3w

I was working in a video store in Seattle at the time. For a span of 9 years, I worked in 7 video stores which is why I know as much as I do about movies. For 9 years straight, I watched more movies than you can possibly imagine. But black and white horror seemed...dumb.

There was this girl I used to with with in Seattle...her name was Becky - (she was a true Becky - a hot, White Trash Becky - freckles, a big, round ass with looming tits which had the perkiest nipples I'd ever seen - you could have hung a coat on those nipples - straight boys were hypnotized by those tits while gay men just wondered what it would be like to have them)...she invited me over to her apartment for a night of scary movies.

10PM.

We smoked a bowl, er, ATE A BOWL OF POPCORN and were about to turn in when she held up the box for The Haunting.

"Craig told us to watch this," she said, referring to Craig, the owner of the video store where we worked. Craig was the coolest boss ever. Even to this day Craig is still the coolest boss I've ever had and he still runs Video Isle in Seattle where Big Nipple Becky and I worked.

"He said it was scary," she said, shrugging her shoulders.

I sighed and agreed to give it a shot. But it was in black and white. Ew. How scary could it be?

Flashforward to 11:59PM.

Becky and I are crouched down in the couch. She's calling Craig a 'motherfucker' and 'asshole' and 'dickhead'.

She's so paralyzed with fear she can't eat. She can't drink. I haven't left the couch once and feel like I need to take a crap to release my tension.

The credits rolled and we stared at each other. A moment passed, and then we gave each a high-five and rolled on the couch in laughter.

The movie scared the shit out of us.

To this day, I can't tell you exactly why, but I will say this: I have never been so scared in a movie where I never saw what it was I was meant to be scared by.

As an added Halloween treat and an ode to the amazing sound design in the movie, here is the scene that scared the shit out of us in all it's old time glory (please, try to watch this in the dark and with your sound turned WAY UP)...

INFAMOUS HAUNTED ROOM SCENE FROM THE HAUNTING:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_khsyKDXdg&feature=player_embedded#:

The director, Robert Wise, was a pretty cool guy. And busy. The Haunting was made in-between his gigs directing a few movies you may have heard of: West Side Story and Sound of Music.

Sure, the guy made two of the most famous musicals of all time, but he loved the dark stuff. He directed the so-so 80's horror reincarnation flick, Audrey Rose and original The Day The Earth Stood Still. His work after the late 80's was pretty much nill, but his work in the 40's, 50's and 60's is fairly staggering.

This guy knew what he was doing and it shows.

The story of The Haunting is fun (and it's been ripped off countless times) - a well-meaning but wacko doctor wants to investigate the theory Hill House is actually haunted. Rumor has it is and no one has yet been able to prove it. He brings along a group of people with certain abilities (some supernatural; some not) and the entire movie is a set up to see if the house is haunted or if it's simply legend.

The star of the movie is the house itself*. Filmed in black and white, you never quite know if the shadows are simply shadows or filled with demons. Every angle of the house is off. Faces blend and open and close. And in the one spectacular, terrifying scene (see above), the two lead actresses fight off an invisible force which is fantastic scene of great photography, sounds and acting. These kinds of scenes proved to me, once and for all, money never, ever makes a good movie - ever. Artistry and imagination always does.

*Truly, the real star of the movie was Julie Harris. She won 5 Tony's in her time and let me tell you, she deserved every single one. She may not have made a ton of movies, but in each and everyone she was in she was spectacular, and The Haunting is no exception. She is perfect, absolutely perfect in the lead role. As they say, casting is everything...

Returning to my last note above where I wrote money never makes a good movie...perfect case in point was the remake of The Haunting by Jan De Bont in 1999...

If I were to teach a screenwriting class again on what NOT to do, I'd force my students to read Shirley Jackson's original novel, then I'd screen The Haunting from 1963 and The Haunting from 1999 back to back.

It would be clear, after the screening, what a mound of egocentric, desperate, studio-driven dreck the remake is. It's so bad as to defy description. It's what a group of 20-something, male studio executives would make.

I can hear snippets of the development meetings for the remake so clearly it sorta scares me:

"No one seen the original. You kidding me? Who the fuck watches TCM? Old women and welfare babies. Please."

"I just got off the phone with Spielberg. He said we can use the Universal backlot for the interiors. Here is what I think - big. I mean big. Big house, huge, mammoth. It's great. And he said we can coordinate with the Director or New Theme Ride Development at Universal Corporate to develop The Haunting, The Ride. Gotta call Zeta-Jone's agent to see if we can use her likeness."

"Lili Taylor? Really? See, I won't fuck her. I'd fuck Catherine Zeta-Jones --"

"You know she's, like, 50."

"Lili Taylor?"

"No, man. Zeta-Jones."

"No way."

"Please. You think she'd be with Michael Douglas if she was 30?"

"Damn. She looks good."

"Dr. Adams on Wilshire. Amazing guy."

"And that's why we got Liam. He'll keep it in place. He's our anchor. But he's gonna shoot Jan."

"He can't direct actors."

"He hates actors."

"Okay, let's talk demographic. We got Lili Taylor. She'll bring in the independent crowd and the lesbians. Check. We got Jan directing. All the guys who loved Speed will line up around the block. Check. Liam will make us look like we give a shit and are serious. The old guy and old women like Catherine. She's hot but not really hot. Like sorta Mom hot, but not really. Owen Wilson is great. Funny guy. I love that guy. But keep him away from that PA, okay? I heard he's a major coke head. Not good. So got the dudes and the young professionals with Owen. Check. And it looks like 90% of the budget is all on the FX. We're good. Oh...has anyone hired the writer yet? Oh, shit. We forgot to hire a writer. Oh, well. Let's just wing it."

Showbusiness. Gateway to Hell.

Until next time...

Monday, October 5, 2009

Stylin' Vampires and Exploding Bad Guys (or, Brian DePalma part 1)

Blood is our life...

Darkness, our feeding ground


And sunlight, our eternal damnation

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Welcome to Halloween Movie # 28 and #27.

Horror and suspense movies used to have style. I know I'm sounding really old writing that, but it's true.

Great directors knew the genre allowed them to play with outrageous and truly visual storytelling. In a fantasy or horror world, limits are far and few.

I've had countless screenwriting teachers tell me you have to hit certain points in a drama or a comedy; you must have rising action, you must have a reversal in the middle which is the exact opposite from the end of the second act reversal...on and on they'd go, but when it came to horror and suspense structure, they would always say, "But on these films, all bets are off."

Director Katheryn Bigelow knew this. It's why she chose to direct the dreamy, violent and stylized Near Dark in 1987. She knew she could do whatever she wanted visually and get away with it. As as result, she made a fantastic horror movie with a ballsy visual style that is both intoxicating and terrifying.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5K-wosw0i4

She made a movie about vampires and she did it out of her love for making a movie about vampires.

It's one hell of a great action movie. Everyone knows she can direct a killer action sequence (Point Break anyone? Hurt Locker? The underrated Blue Steel?), but in Near Dark she also expertly handled the metaphors of blood and sexuality inherent in all vampire tales with a visual ease.

Today's horror and supernatural films have no visual style. Take a look the current spat of vampire movies, TV and books. Sure, True Blood has a great pace and the sexual energy is great; sure the Twilight series is romantic and angst ridden and is keeping gay men and women up at night wondering if the story's heroine will reject or love the Hot, Bad Vampire for, like, totally all time; sure The Vampire Diaries has another young, forbidden love story at the center with a bloody, ancient feud between two brothers...but what all of these works don't have is visual audacity.

I wish someone would have the balls to make a vampire movie with visual audacity.

Kathryn Bigelow took a tired genre which never, ever dies and infused it with a violent, bloody and downright frightening visual style right out of a horror dream AND she made it with a very down-to-earth, almost masculine love story in the center, all set to the fluid music of Tangerine Dream.

As with all of the movies on my Halloween countdown I refuse to give you the plot. It ruins a movie (like most trailers - why bother to see the movie? The producers nowadays are so desperate to get you to go they tell the entire story in the preview!)...

All you need to know is a guy who wasn't a vampire turns into a vampire and falls in love with a girl who may or may not be a vampire and they kill people. What do you want? It's a VAMPIRE MOVIE.

Before anyone knew him from Heroes, Adrian Pasdar was the lead in Near Dark and was very good. He carries the movie nicely and makes you believe he's a quiet guy from the Midwest who wants more out of life. Jenny Wright is pensive and porn hot as his love interest and does a good job playing the good girl gone very, very bad but with a heart of gold.

Katheryn Bigelow was either married to or dating James Cameron when she made Near Dark so she had access to his amazing set of actors. All of them are perfect for their parts which is part of the reason the movie works as well as it does. It was right around the mid to late 80's Cameron was doing his best work (sorry, but Titanic is not his best work) and it shows. All of the actors in Near Dark were in Cameron directed or produced movies.

Lance Henriksen is great as the leader of the vampire, as is his wife, the incredibly undervalued Jenette Goldestein. They had great chemistry and were both BADASS.

And for ONCE a vampire movie dealt with the carnal sexual desires of a young vampire who was changed into vampire when he was young but has grown up as a man on the inside...it's disgusting, unnerving and very, very good.

But the real star of the show is Bill Paxton. Oh My God. I'm not sure what the hell Paxton was snorting and/or drinking during the making of Near Dark but he is the truly horrific vision of a cackling demon let loose on the world. This is the Bill Paxton of the 80's that made everyone take notice. He doesn't just play the part of a bloodthirsty vampire, he BITES into it and bathes in it's pulsing blood.And look at some of these characters names:
  • Caleb Colton
  • Jesse Hooker
  • Diamondback
  • Homer
  • Severen
Good, good stuff folks. Which is odd since screenwriter Eric Red, outside of Blue Steel and Near Dark, hasn't really written a lot of great, produced movies (Body Parts anyone?). He did make a werewolf movie called Bad Moon which was, well, bad.

The story takes some surprising twists and very violent turns while always keeping one eye on the human aspect of the story. It's got all you'd want in a vampire movie and God the visual style...beautiful.

I refuse to give it away, but how the vampires die in this movie has yet to be matched in any American made vampire movie. There is a texture and style to the special effects I haven't seen (well, maybe with Peter Jackson). It's as good as good gets.

You want a violent, thrilling, sad, sexual, rock and roll of a vampire movie? Watch Near Dark. Top notch director at the top of her game making a MOVIE with a visual style like no other vampire MOVIE out there.

We need more MOVIES that love being MOVIES.

And speaking of visual orgasms...
Spring of 1978.

My movie ritual at 14 was as follows: open up the Sunday Seattle Times. Ignore every section except Arts and Entertainment. Uncap the red marker beside me. Hold the red marker in my hand, poised and ready.

Flip through the pages. Circle every movie to see which are opening on Friday. Make note of theaters near the house so I can see them via the bus - but not the R-rated movies. Those require me to shamelessly work over my father, mother or sister.

But it was on one particular Sunday when I opened up the paper that I stopped and gasped.

There on the page, in full-page color and glory, was the ad for the new Brian DePalma film, The Fury. I felt my stomach turn into knots. I had seen the ads on TV. I knew this was the same director as Carrie. I knew it would be very R-rated. I knew it was the ultimate forbidden fruit to see as a teenager. Everyone would be asked for their ID.

I had to see it.

After much convincing, I got my sister, Joy, to take me. Now my sister was my mom. I don't mean that in a weird way, but my mom was a psychological mess and my sister sorta took over the role of my mom a bit. Without her I'd probably be on some sort of anti-depressant.

My sister was everything to me (she still is). We were meant to be related. I'd do anything for her and vice versa. But she and I are different. She's always been the more sensible and conservative one and I'm a tad bit 'louder'. We balance each other out.

I remember holding the ad for the movie up to her and she was like, "No way. I'm not taking you to that. It looks disgusting." I pleaded and cried as only little brothers can do. She finally relented, but I knew she didn't think it was the right thing to do.

Four days before the movie I developed abdominal cramps. Three days before I stopped eating. Two days before I counted the minutes until we were to go. A day before I curtailed all fluids so I wouldn't have to pee during.

The day of I was so excited I had to remind myself to breath.

I told you I was a weird kid.

We entered the theater where The Fury had opened. It was in a parking lot of a strip mall again (if you've read any of my other movie posts you see all the theaters of my youth were in parking lots of malls. I was raised 100% suburban). It was a rinky-dink two screen theater and it was sold out.

We sat down. The lights dimmed. My heart fluttered in my chest and I felt my bowels loosen.

The screen darkened and over a black screen the deep, dark strings of John Williams score soared and these worlds materialized on the screen:


116 minutes later, the big finale came. After it had ended and the final image turned to slamming black credits, my sister turned to me and said in a voice filled with disgust and annoyance, "That was SO not necessary."

Of course, she was referring to the grisly final image I refuse to divulge here, but for me, I was left with a feeling of disappointment when the movie ended. It didn't live up to the hype. I was expecting a major motion picture event and I felt stiffed.

It was how I felt in 1978 seeing it for the first time in the theater, and from the critical reaction and box office dollars, it is how other people felt as well.

Here is the original trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5SEFRWjATqM

Since then, I've seen the movie many times. I now love the baroque style of the moviemaking and marvel at the construction of the suspense sequences. It's a brooding, melancholy horror and suspense movie told on a giant, grand scale. It's a sweeping, ridiculous story of mental powers and old time revenge.

The script was adapted from a flimsy novel, The Fury, by horror novelist John Farrar. I read the original book and it's sequel and both are fairly silly. The only reason DePalma agreed to make this was because it allowed him to tell a story purely in visual terms.

John Cassavettes was clearly slumming in the picture. Amy Irving was the perfect strong heroine and Andrew Stevens is hunky scenery. Like Taxi Driver, it was made in the 70's and the racial subtext is fairly blatant.

Look at Taxi Driver and how much of the film is geared towards violence to blacks. Or in The Fury - I won't even bother to mention the Middle Eastern murder scene. It's barbaric.

Janet Maslin was one of the greatest champions of DePalma's work when no one else was. I think the reason she was was because he was different, he was pushing the envelope and making work with was thrilling and odd.

Next week I'm dedicating an entire post to DePalma and the Hitchcock connection no one talks about anymore. DePalma (like Hitchcock) is/was an inspired and infuriating filmmaker. But what he had was a visual signature, a visual style lacking in today's market.

Love it or leave it, The Fury is a super Halloween film with one of the best scores John William's ever did. Much of the film simply does not hang together today, but there are four set pieces in the film which defy description. While set pieces alone do not make a movie, when they are this good they rise above a cohesive whole and become something onto themselves.

The Fury, like all of DePalma's movies, isn't so much about what takes place on the screen but about how we, the viewer, experience the movie. That was the trick to Hitchock and DePalma and it's also, partially, Polanski's as well.

And while my loving sister may not have liked the finale, I still think it is one of the best whoppers of all time...especially the last 5 seconds where 'you know what' thumps on the ground and then rises into the air, all in time to the final chord of William's demonic symphonic beat.



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Not only have DePalma and Hitchcock gone out of style, but movie scores have all but wasted away. Tangerine Dream, a collection of German composers who formed as a group in the late 60's, recorded some of weirdest and intriguing movie scores of the day. Like DePalma and Bigelow, they had a VOICE, a SOUND. Imagine the opening shot of Risky Business without that layered, rhythmic electronic beat...imagine Legend without the soaring synthesized flute and stands of zinging music (which, ironically, was originally scored by Jerry Goldsmith, another modern master of film music)...imagine Michael Mann and Thief and his 80's style of languid filmmaking without the help of Tangerine Dream. Their music set the tone for films in a way no other music could. They were able to tap into our collective dreams with their moody and spiraling and seductive electronic sounds.

And I know John Williams did
Star Wars and Indian Jones - yes, they are great scores, I agree, but they don't hold a candle to Schindler's List or Minority Report or The Fury or Empire of the Sun. The man is a great composer but the moment he dips his toe into the darker parts of the psyche, he comes alive. Take a look at the darker Spielberg work he's worked on or the darker themed music he's scored. It is in there you'll find the beating heart of an artist searching for answers. Williams is a great composer when he creates sweeping, heroic symphonies, but when he dives into the dark human heart he rises to staggering emotional heights.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Halloween Movie # 26: The Reflecting Skin


Sometimes terrible things happen...

...quite naturally



A black screen.

A sound. Dark, low. Unknown.

The screen explodes into a field of color. Yellow and white.

As far as the eye can see, rows upon rows of amber waving grain.

The deep and low plucking of what sounds like a thousand violins as a small boy with impossibly black hair and translucent skin runs through the middle of the grain.

Something is coming. You can feel it. Something is in the air.

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Or such is how I imagine the script for the opening of Philip Ridley's might read.

In 1990, Philp Ridley, a well-known U.K. based novelist and playwright, wrote and directed a film called The Reflecting Skin. It came out the same year as another movie he wrote, The Krays. The Krays was a hit in the U.K. and abroad.

No one saw The Reflecting Skin. They should have. If they would have, they would have seen the work of an artist who likes to dip his toe in a world of fantasy and myth that is both horrifying and beautiful.

Check out the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxlnDRqPUXE

The Reflecting Skin is the story of a young boy named Seth Dove. It is his journey into a fantasy world of dark childhood dreams and desires. The plot is about Seth's brother (played by a very, very young Viggo Mortensen) coming back from the war, his relationship to his disturbed parents and the mystery behind a demonic black car filled with darkly clothed men as it races along the country landscape, searching for something better let unsaid.

Trying to describe the story points of The Reflecting Skin is like trying to describe the story points of Blue Velvet. I could tell you Blue Velvet is a detective story about a man finding out who kidnapped a distraught woman's child and how a severed ear plays a part in the mystery...but as we all know, the point of Blue Velvet is not so much if the bad guy is caught in the end as it is the texture of the path along the way to finding out who the killer is.

The same principal is at play in The Reflecting Skin. Yes, we do want to know who the men in the black car are. Yes, we do want to know what will happen to Seth Dove and the strange woman he meets in her house in middle of a field is all about.

Is she a vampire? Is she simply a lonely woman? Is his imagination overactive? Or do demons live among us and he is simply seeing them when the rest of us are too busy or blind to see?

We get answer to all of these 'story' questions, but more than that, we get a feeling and a sense of how Seth Dove experiences them...this is a movie so rich in texture and sensual detail it's nearly impossible for me to explain why it's so good, except to say you must see it.

The score by composer Nick Bicât is sweeping and terribly haunting. The cinematography by Dick Pope, one of the all time greats (the nearly perfect film Naked, the under appreciated Mountains of the Moon, Dark City, The Secret Garden), feels as if it's in 3D. It's rich and textured and absolutely in sync with the emotion and feeling of each scene. Watch how he frames each shot. Nothing is out of place, nothing is happenstance.

As with all great movies, there is absolutely not visual or narrative fat to this movie. It's as lean and mean as movies get.

I'll bet you dollars to donuts Dick Pope and Philip Ridley spent days looking at the work of Andrew Wyeth before they started to map out the look of the film. The entire feeling of the film can be summed up in this famous image:

And this:Lindsay Duncan is terrifyingly good in the role of Dolphin Blue. Yes, Dolphin Blue. Look at those names - Seth Dove and Dolphin Blue. Her scenes with the boy are spellbinding. You can't turn away from them. She is what a a famous writer once told me actor Cherry Jones is like. She is a 'vessel', meaning, she is so pure in her acting an entire world seems to emerge from her. Her acting is so organic it doesn't ever feel as if she is acting as channelling some unknown force.

Jeremy Cooper, the boy in the lead, did hardly any film after this one. It's no wonder. How do you follow this up? Sheila Moore as Seth's mother scares the shit out of me. Just wait until you see the water scene. Dear God.

But the real star of the movie is the writing. Kill me now. The texture to the words, the dips and falls in the narrative, the metaphors and subtle uses of jargon and language - the monologues are as good as any put on film, particularly the ones from Ms. Duncan.

This is one of those horror movies which is meant to be felt. God bless him, Philp Ridley did write The Krays and it is very, very good but it is nothing compared to the force of The Reflecting Skin.

This is horror and suspense movie making at it's finest.

Watch out for black cars on the road.

You never know who is inside.

Until next time...

Friday, October 2, 2009

Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets...

1977.

I'm almost 13 years old.

My father came over to me as I sat on the floor of the living room in our tiny house outside of Seattle and asked me," Wanna go to the movies? There's a double feature at the Lynn Twin."

The Lynn Twin was a two screen movie house in a parking lot off of a huge mall in Lynnwood, Washington, a small town a few over from my own. The screens were separated by a massive concession stand which served as a sound buffer between the two screens.

The building was block and simple. Functional. It was meant to get people in and out to watch movies, not to admire the decor or enjoy the rock hard seats.

Over the years, my father had tried to bond with me over various sporting events. First there was baseball. I hated it. I stood in the outfield, clutching a worn, dirty mitt in my hand, terrified a ball might actually come my way and I'd be forced to attempt to catch it. I remember being so afraid to leave my spot I used to pee in my pants instead of going to the bathroom a few fields away.

I was a curious child.

My father tried soccer (hated it, but loved watching boys in their jockstraps), fishing (if there is a more boring 'sport' known to man I have yet to uncover it), hiking (enjoyable, if endless and oddly unsatisfying - climbing and climbing and climbing for more climbing and climbing and climbing), camping (loved the outdoors, hated the lumpy ground), and the infamous Y-Indian Guides of the Pacific Northwest.


Y-Indian Guides was a group dedicated (as the badge says) to making Fathers and Sons 'pals forever.' My father was Chief Bryan and I was Little Michael. It was a whole Indian-Washington naming thing difficult to understand unless you grew up in the Pacific Northwest. I asked to be Sacagawea Michael. That didn't go over very well.

At Y-Indian Guides we boated and sailed and made cars and stood for pictures wearing Indian feathers on our heads and beaded shirts...it was all very bonding but it bored me to tears (except the cars...they were cool).

I was a young boy growing up gay and my father was a farm hand from Idaho and Montana. What did we have in common?

Movies. We had movies in common. So when my father asked me in the late summer of 1977 if I wanted to go to a double feature, I said yes. Movies were my obsession. They were my friends. I didn't have any literal friends, I was that oddly pathetic kid in school who spent time alone reading and watching movies. My Mom and Dad were my best friends.

I know, sickening.

I always went to the movies alone or with my parents. My mom took me to disaster movies and comedies and my dad took me to anything R-rated or with blood. A good time to be had by all.

He told my mother we were going to a double feature. She asked him what the movies were. The conversation went something like this:

Mom: "Lynn."

Dad: "Yes, dear."

Mom: "You didn't tell me what movies you and Mike are seeing."

Dad: "I don't know, dear. Some movie where Dustin Hoffman plays that weird comic who swore all the time in the 60's -"

Mom: "You mean Lenny. The biopic on Lenny Bruce."

Dad: (to me) "Biopic? Where does she learn these things?"

Mom: "I learn these things by reading Mike's Rona Barrett Hollywood magazine. There's a lot of boobs in that Lenny."

Dad: "How do you know this?"

Mom: "I read the review by John Hartl in the Seattle Times. He said that oversexed Val Perrine person shows her boobs through the whole movie."

Dad: "Well, then, good for us, huh?" (at this awkward point he nudged me in a heterosexual father and son moment)

Mom: "What's the other one?"

Dad: "I don't know. That Taxi thing."

Mom: "Taxi Driver?"

Dad: "Yea. We have to go. We're gonna be late."

Mom: "Nice. This is good parenting Lynn. Mike is 12 years old. He turns 13 in two weeks and you're taking him to a foul mouthed movie with all sorts of boobs flying all over the goddamn screen and a psychopath killer cab person with teenage hookers in New York."

Dad: "Yup. That's about right."

And with that, we left the house.

I was elated. Nudity? Violence? New York City? R-rated movies?

Nirvana.

So on that late summer day in August of the summer 1978 my father and I sat down in the air-conditioned Lynn Twin and watched Taxi Driver, starring Robert DeNiro, Jodie Foster, written by Paul Schrader and directed by Martin Scorsese.

I never finished the movie in 1978.

Here is why: I sat watching this movie about this guy driving a cab in dirty, grungy New York City and as the movie progressed, I had a mounting sensation something awful was going to happen. I didn't have any idea at the time what would happen, but I had sense it was going to be awful.

I shrunk down farther and farther in my seat. The pit in my stomach was growing and I felt sweaty.

Then came the scene where Robert DeNiro walks down the street, his hair in a full Mohawk and shoots Harvey Keitel in the stomach. Something about the way in which he shot the guy made me sick to my stomach.

But that isn't what did me in.

What did me in was when DeNiro walked into the apartment building and shot the guy in front of him in the hand, sending four severed fingers flying in the air and blood shooting onto the wall.

I felt as if a cold bucket of water had been splashed on me and I heard myself scream.

That was when my father reached across me, grabbed me by the arm and hauled me out of the theater as fast as he could.

On the drive home we didn't say a word about it. My father giggled about it and said it was probably not smart to have taken me to it. I agreed...but nothing more was said.

But I privately knew Taxi Driver was the very first time I felt horrified in a movie theater which is why it is #29 in the Halloween Movie Countdown.

When I see the movie now I can admire it's artistry. The grainy film stock Scorcese used to give the killing scenes a documentary feel; the lack of any sense of politically correct charged speech; the shots of old, dirty, foul New York City at night; the dour, depressed and insanely angry tone of the movie; the poetry of the writing and the sheer audacity to make a film so insanely bleak and hellish.

Sure Jodie Foster is good in it (let's face it, the woman is not a great actress, she's stiff as shit and we all know it) and Cybill Shepherd is breathtaking and Albert Brooks is so damn young and Peter Boyle is amazing, per usual...but this is all about Scorcese.

The man is a fucking narcissistic ego whore. Raging Bull is great, Goodfella's is great if you're a Guido and hate everyone but your family, but Scorcese is not the God everyone makes him out to be. There is a reason hardly any of movies make any money.

He's too in love with Scorcese and Taxi Driver is still one of his top movies. Well - Mean Streets is pretty spectacular but Taxi Driver is the real jewel.

Plus, I used to be Robert DeNiro's assistant in the early 90's and I can tell you that DeNiro is a prick. 100% certified. I became good friends with his father and some day, some day, I'll tell stories that would make DeNiro fans die with envy. All I'll say is that I used to sit in the living room of DeNiro father's house and watch movies of DeNiro as a child...very surreal.

Taxi Driver is a movie, movie and I see now why it put Scorcese on the map. It's unrelenting in it's bleakness and grime. When I worked in video stores in New York City in the early 90's, myself and the other employees would watch the movie over and over on laserdisc and pause it and analyze the shots and the way they were composed and what they were about.

This is the kind of movie film geeks love because it's so in love with the form it's hard to take your eyes off of it.

It's a narcissistic, dirty horror movie with a rotten, tortured soul. But it's well-made and extremely smart.

Writer Paul Schrader (a man I admire but am afraid to meet) said he wrote Taxi Driver in 6 days in New York City when he was homeless and broke and strung out on dope. All of Hollywood is bullshit, so I find this hard to believe. But that is how the movie feels. It feels like it was made in the midst of a feverish drug dream where there is no escape.

Even the final shot with Travis looking in the rear view mirror and the refracted image he sees of himself to the zing of Herrmann's strings tells you this horror dream is never ending for him.

Travis Bickle is insane and is going to murder again. Thank God there has never been Taxi Driver 2. Can you imagine? "Travis Bickle is pissed off...again!"

And let's just say it - the name "Travis Bickle." One of the greatest names for a character ever.

Taxi Driver is unsettling, horrific, demonic and feverish. It's your worst nightmare come to life and as such, is a fitting part of the Halloween Movie Countdown.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Of note as well:

Paul Schrader is a writer whose work I studied for some time. Besides the too-often praised Raging Bull, the bloated Cat People and the oddly dull American Gigolo, he did write 2 fun Halloween flicks you'll want to check out:

The first was Obsession directed by Brian DePalma in 1975. It was a great, crazy, ridiculous somersault of a movie that is a wonderful brain teaser straight out of the old noir days starring Geneviève Bujold, Cliff Robertson and John Lithgow.

The movie is old-fashioned but the directing by DePalma is great and baroque and the ending is a smash. The score by the late Bernard Herrmann (whose died one day after he finished the score for Taxi Driver) is a dream come true, the cinematography by the late, great and unmatched Vilmos Zsigmond is a widescreen lovers wet dream and the editing by Paul Hirsh (still editing to this day) is breathtaking.
Also, I'm a huge fan of The Comfort of Strangers, a 1989 movie Harold Pinter adapted from the Ian McEwan novel of the same name. Pinter truly understood Ian McEwan's book. He took the tone and the style of the novel and somehow found a visual and aural equivalent no other writer could have.

I only recommend this movie to people who truly love the art of movies. It is slow and methodical. This is a languid, living macabre dream of a mystery movie. If such a movie is not your thing, you will not like it.

But I can't get over the scene of Helen Mirren on the balcony describing the private, hurtful things Christopher Walken does to her in the dark or the way Natasha Richardson puts together the pieces of what is happening to them and why.

McEwan is an extremely tricky writer to adapt. He is all about the word. To find a way to make his work cinematic is hard for any artist, but when Schrader and Pinter got together, it became magic.

Sexually charged, demented and with one of the sickest endings of any movie in the 80's, The Comfort of Strangers is a wonderful Halloween movie to watch in the dark with a glass of wine. The cinematography by the great Dante Spinotti is pitch perfect, the editing by Bill Pankow is great and the score by Angelo Baldamenti is one of the most underrated scores he ever created. I bought the CD back in the 90's and listen to it at least once a month.

Until tomorrow...

Pleasant dreams...

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Halloween Movie Countdown: #30 - What the fuck happened to Bette Davis and Ruth Gordon?

Look at them. I mean look at them. Imagine them looking out the window of their house as you stroll up, an innocent little child, your Halloween basket held in front of you, looking for candy, just a little bit of candy.

#30 on the countdown are two immortal classics of truly horrific cinema - Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? and Whatever Happened To Aunt Alice?

Ah, Baby Jane. What can I possibly write about it which has not already been written?

Bette David and Joan Crawford were down and out on their luck as actresses. They couldn't get a part to save their lives, when along came director Robert Aldrich. He had adapted a popular novel at the time into a script both of the women agreed to star in.

Suckers.

The end results is an exercise in grotesque psychological suspense, rather than all out horror. Although Crawford is quite fun in the movie, it's a Bette Davis picture all the way. She's a horrible character, a thoroughly terrible creature with one thing and one thing only on her mind: destroying anything in her path which takes away from her own narcissistic spotlight (Britney Spears anyone?).

The scenes between the two women is both campy and vile. The movie is surprisingly violent and the music is sublime. Despite the grandiose ridiculousness which runs through most of the film, it was a big hit when it came out and nabbed Davis an Oscar nomination.

She didn't win (Anne Bancroft did for Miracle Worker), but that didn't stop Davis from stealing the spotlight...again. According to popular legend, Crawford was infuriated when Davis was nominated for an Oscar and she was overlooked.

She contacted the Best Actress nominees who were unable to attend the ceremonies and offered to accept the award on their behalf should they win. When Anne Bancroft was declared the winner, Crawford triumphantly pushed her way past Davis saying "Step aside!", and swept onstage to pick up the trophy. Davis later commented, "It would have meant a million more dollars to our film if I had won. Joan was thrilled I hadn't."

Hysterical, old-fashioned and baroque (this is from the same man who made the great noir, Kiss Me Deadly), Whatever happened to Baby Jane is a worthy addition to any Halloween night...

After Baby Jane, Aldrich went on to make another less-known but nonetheless disturbing movie with two actress who had seen much, much better days...

Ruth Gordon and Geraldine Page. It's amazing to me these actresses would do such a simplistic and evil movie.

The poster tells you all. Someone is killing people and burying them in a garden. There. Done. It's really not more complicated than that.

Ruth Gordon - I could write an entire blog about her. Sure, she won an Oscar for Rosemary's Baby, but the woman was a writer, director and star for many, many years in works most people don't even remember.

She was an amazing talent who simply put everyone around her to shame.

She is crazy as usual in this - funny, acerbic, walking around as if she were in her living room...watching her raise a shovel and bring it down on a poor victims head while she sticks out her infamous tongue and bites down on it...

Heaven.

And Geraldine Page - the woman could act. Tennessee Williams' adaptations, Horton Foote's delightful Trip To Bountiful, Woody Allen's masterpiece Interiors - give me a break! She was a goddess of the acting world and then she did...this.

I have a theory...I have a theory Robert Aldrich gave all of these women LSD when he met them for the projects and just kept feeding them LSD...why else would they do these movies?

I'll tell you why -- because they were a gas. Aunt Alice is a surprisingly funny and unsettling movie. There are twists and turns in the plot you simply won't see coming. The dialogue is crisp and ridiculous and believe it or not, there is some pretty great suspense sequences.

Aldrich may have chosen silly subject matter but he executed it well and with style. These are living, breathing, baroque melodramas which are hysterical and disturbing.

These may not 'scare' you but they will freak you out...you'll also never look at the old lady next door in quite the same way ever again.

(And yes, I know I left out Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte - that is getting it's own entry later)...

Until tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Halloween Movie Countdown: #31 - A chatty severed head and a spiked ball from hell...

I used to work in various video stores in Seattle, Boston and New York. For 8 years. Some people go to film school at USC, UCLA or NYU - I was born into white trash so I could never afford such high and mighty schooling. No, I worked in a video store for $7 an hour for years.

And let me tell you, I saw a lot of movies. A LOT of movies. Thousands.

As employees, we would always gleefully put horror movies on the monitors in the stores to freak people out. Over the course of the next month, all of the movies I'll highlight for Halloween were movies which, when played on the TV's, freaked people out every_single_time.

They would gasp and scream and cover their eyes but they would never, ever turn away.

That is my goal in recommending movies to you. I'll only list movies which survived the Video Store Test...

...movies you can't turn away from.

Because life is to fucking short to be wasted on lame ass, boring movies.

On that note...

Stuart Gordon meet Don Coscarelli. Don meet Stuart. What do you two have in common?

You two made four of the sickest, most vile, inventive and truly hysterical horror films of the late 70's and early to mid-80's and...nothing quite as creative since.

You want to scream, cringe, throw popcorn at the TV, gag, hit the pause button and rewind button again and again and again?

Then I dare you to watch these four classic movies back to back. Make it a Halloween weekend marathon. These guys went balls-to-the-wall in a way we simply do not see anymore in movies.

Let's take a look at their minor masterpieces...

When I first saw Re-animator I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The lead actor, the unbelievably peculiar Jeffery Combs, was shockingly funny and horrific at the same time. And the violence! It was stylized, offensive, hysterical and deeply disturbing. My kind of movie!

The movie is very, very, very loosely based on H.P. Lovecraft's story Herbert West, Re-animator. But make no mistake - the movie is entirely Stuart Gordon. In France, there was a style of grotesque and violent theater entitled Theater du Grand Guignol. It was all the rage in Paris at the turn of the century. The violence was operatic and shocking. It was obscene but stylized and beautiful...and funny.

The plot of the movie doesn't need to be explained. It's a simple revenge tale.

I mean, please...the text for the poster is:

Herbert West has a very good head on his shoulders...

And another one in a dish on his desk...

You get the idea.

What Stuart Gordon did so well in Re-animator is take violence to such a level to make it vile and then absurd, and as he stripped it away, made it revoltingly hysterical.

It would ruin the experience if you've never seen it, but with Combs as his thematic muse, the movie goes into places few American horror movies had (and still don't have the balls to do).

I' m a huge fan of horror movies which are genuinely funny and shocking. These kinds of mixes are hard to find. They're normally from filmmakers who take the story and scenes in a direction where you constantly find yourself covering your mouth and saying, "Oh, no. He didn't do that" but yet find the humor in the grotesque.

A great ride of a movie, Stuart Gordon's Re-animator still stands the test of time as one of the all time great 80's horror movies.

Rent it, but please...save the desserts for after. This one is not an 'eating while watching' flick.

WARNING: As with many of these Halloween recommendations, there are edited and unedited versions of the movies. You must always try to find the unedited version if you can.

Trust me, what Herbert West does with the head on this desk and the naked girl on the table...it's edited out of some versions and you really want to see it. Its so shocking as to not be believed.

The other movie Mr. Gordon made which we used to love playing on the TV's (to the horror of little kids - I know, we were awful) is this little known gem:

This movie is a twisted sexual mind fuck.

Again, Mr. Gordon 'adapted' a short story of H.P. Lovecraft's and gave the lead to his muse, Jeffrey Combs. Together, they plunged into a story involving whips, chains, dildos, monsters that look like dildos, monsters that look like pussies, brain munching, pulsating mind bending machines, monsters which ate women from the inside out and one of the most creatively unsettling engorged pituitary gland in all of American cinema.

Again, to tell you the story is moot - a mad scientist tries to find clues to helping people unlock their deepest desires, but things get out of hand and the result is a bloody mess.

Combs must have been sniffing glue during this one. His scenes are simply unreal. He's manic, channeling some inner demented horror god on caffeine. Some are turned off by his weird 'acting'; I love it and find it the perfect Halloween concoction.

If psych-sexual horror with enough unrated gore to make you upchuck your dinner is you thing, then dive into this hearty dish. It is fairy spectacular.

Now, onto Don Coscarelli's mini-masterpieces -

And his fucked-up sequel:
Unlike Mr. Gordon, Mr. Coscarelli didn't want to give you a fun thrill ride so much as scare the living crap out of you and make you squirm.

And he succeeded.

The original Phantasm came out in 1979 and from the moment it hit the theaters, it was an underground hit. Like a lot of people, I heard about the movie from friends who told me about this amazing Tall Man and a flying ball and yellow blood.

Of course, I had to see it.

The movie is a weird mix of sci-fi and old-fashioned horror scares and one hell of a mean ass demonic ball with spikes. It was a heady mix which worked perfectly. The Tall Man scared the shit out of me and the ball fascinated me.

It's a great, scary Halloween movie with just the right amount of blood, guts and satanic plot holes. The entire thing doesn't really hold together, but the central mystery is pretty good and the special effects for the time were great. And, Coscarelli directed, wrote, edited and shot the movie by himself. True independent filmmaking.

Very cool.

Barbaric, scary and inventive, Phantasm is one of the best and most original horror movies to come out of the late 70's (and Variety posted a story saying a remake is in the works this winter.)

It's about the portal to hell and weird demons chasing two brothers across a barren landscape...blah, blah, blah.

It took ten years for him to make Phantasm 2, but it was well worth the wait. The first one was a big enough of a hit for Universal to give him a big budget and he didn't waste a penny. In the 80's and 90's, Universal put up money for some big, glossy thrillers and horror movies which they don't do anymore. Most of them were clunky, thundering money machines with no energy and soul.

Not Phantasm 2. It fucking ROCKED. It's a balls-to-the-wall action movie and a great, big budgeted horror movie in one.

With more money and lots of time between the first and second movie, Coscarelli crafted a great sequel. He directed and wrote it and the producing was left to others so he could concentrated on making a killer sequel.

The movie starts years after the first and continues the brother's quest to find out how to access the portal to hell, the secret behind the Tall Man and what the demonic, spiked ball is REALLY about.

A very young James LeGros starred in the sequel, as well as his white trash brother and the Tall Man. But the real star of the movie was the ball. Or, I should say three balls.

Fuck me. The balls in this movie were so bad-ass. There is one scene where they burrow into a guys back and...no. I can't ruin it. It will destroy the impact.

Suffice to say the scene is inventive and brutal. It's so bloody and sickeningly smart it's more than a bit upsetting Phantasm 3, 4 and 5 sucked. I can't recommend the sequels. You have much better uses of your movie viewing time.

Watching Phantasm and Phantasm 2 back to back would be the perfect Halloween fright fest. Pop these in and watch the evolution of a great horror story.

Until next time...

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Countdown to Halloween Begins...


The year is 1962.
The place is Willowpoint Falls.


No one knows about
what happened
in the school

classroom ten years ago.


Now, in the dead of night,

Frankie Scaroltti, is going
to find out why.

For the next 31 days, until the dawn of Halloween, I'm going to countdown each day by paying homage to 31 of the greatest scary movies of all time (with extras thrown in for good measure).

My list comes from having seen countless 'frightful' movies over the years. I have no idea why, but I've always loved suspense movies (which makes no sense - I'm the most anxious guy I know!).

My love of all things scary runs more to the suspense and thriller side then strict blood and guts horror...but I do appreciate a good gut spilling like anyone else (as long as it's done with wit and style).

Each day I'll highlight one movie I feel is superior in style and substance, and list a few others which are obscure and unknown but worth you time.

Go to the video store.

Turn the lights out and pop some popcorn.

Snuggle up on the couch and get ready to get the living crap scared out of you.

Without further ado, let's start off with a nice old-fashioned ghost story.

Frank LaLoggia's 1988 curiosity, Lady In White...

TRAILER:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ji73ogmlCQ8&feature=related

For me, this movie is like one of those great, old-fashioned ghost stories, but with a nice social commentary in the center. The filmmaker, LaLoggia, has since disappeared off of the film radar. Not sure where the hell he's gone, but he was a talented filmmaker who also made a nifty little 80's thriller called See No Evil.

Lady In White boasts a fantastic original soundtrack that is both inspired and cheeky. The lead actor, Lukas Haas, was a few years fresh from Witness and was ideal for the part. He didn't possess any of the sarcastic and grating style of so many child actors of the time. He was centered and down to earth.

I am LOATHE to tell you much about the story except it's a fun ghost story that is rather lurid and mean spirited - but that's not what makes the movie. What makes the movie is a subplot concerning an old man in the town who is after the character played by Lukas Hass and a cameo by Katherine Helmond during the over-the-top finale which has to be seen to be believed.

The stairs...beware of the stairs!

Cheesy and great, ridiculous and cinematic, touching and well-made...this is the perfect start to your Halloween movie watching.

Give Lady In White a shot and you won't be sorry.

(Extra credit (if you dare)....

If you can find a copy on VHS or set your TIVO to tape it when it comes on late at night, watch The Haunting of Julia aka Full Circle with Mia Farrow, based on the book Julia by Peter Straub. And excellent thriller from the 70's that unfortunately has yet to appear on DVD...and the ending? Dear God...the ending haunted me for years as a child. Superb ghost story AND book.

Many feel The Changeling from director Peter Medak is a great ghost story. It was made in 1980 and had a wonderfully demented George C. Scott in the lead role. While I don't feel the movie as a whole is that good, the suspense does have a very nice build and dear Lord, what director Medak could do with a bouncing ball and a staircase will make you scream bloody murder.

And one cannot forget The Innocents from 1961. A sublime exercise in suspense with poor Deborah Kerr. Much spooker than you'd expect for 1961. It's playing this month on TCM. Tape it!

If you dare...)


Thursday, September 10, 2009

BLU-RAY DVD REVIEW: Disney's EARTH (or, how to enjoy the effects of acid without acting taking the shit)

This is my uncensored opinion of anyone who watches this on Blu-Ray and is not at least partially stunned into emotional submission - you are heartless.

No, no, no. Of course are you are not heartless. That's cruel. However, you may want to get your empathy checked...

I know most people have absolutely no interest in films about nature. I used to be one of those people. I used to think they were so boring. My sister has always been into the glories of nature and how wonderful this planet can be. I was like, How very lesbian of you. Haven't you got a real film to watch?

Then I grew up. And started watching nature shows. I did like some of them, but most were the same shit. Nature is pretty but nature is shit. We are born, we get eaten, we love, we frolic, we die. End of story.

Like I need to pay to see this? I live it every day in NYC.

So it was with great reluctance I rented Earth from the new line of Disneynature films. I really had no great expectations of it. I thought it might be good in Blu-Ray but I didn't hold my breath.

Well, fuck me with a chainsaw. This movie is brilliant. I mean brilliant.

I won't even tell you how the colors on Blu-Ray are like colors I've never, ever seen, not even on a Blu-Ray Pixar disc; I won't tell you how many times I stared at the TV, my mouth hanging open at some of the footage I was seeing; I won't tell you how many times my husband said to me the graphics and footage was so stunning it had to be a digitally animated movie; I won't tell you the feeling of utter awe and wonder and you've got to be kidding me I felt watching this movie.

Yes, the center of the film does sag as there is no real narrative to speak of. The throughline to the story is the earth. That's it. On the land, under the sea, anywhere life exists this film went. There is a structure to the film, but it's mostly geographical with only a few loose story lines batted around and ones which come full circle, but that isn't the reason to see this.

The reason to see this is to see the splendor of nature's amazing power and grace and inspired beauty and to be humbled and grateful you are lucky enough to live on this planet.

The only quibble is Disney loves their soaring music and Mr. James Earl Jones really MUST chill out with his Darth Vader impersonation during his thundering voice over, but not even his over-acting can hurt the stunning visuals.

See this on Blu-Ray. Don't have a player? Find a friend who does. See it.

It's truly amazing.

Mikey Movie Madness - 4.5 overall - minus a .5 due to the silly music and the lack of any real narrative.

Oh, whatever you do, watch the credits at the end for a fun 'making of' reel.

Yours in movie obsession...

mmm