Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fool's Views (3/1 - 3/14)

Oh AC, where you been???

Sorry, my fellow freaks and freakettes, I’ve been out in the world away from the computer (and the DVD player) finishing up the Auto Show circuit and getting the word out about WildClaw’s production of William Peter Blatty’s LEGION, so haven’t spent much time putting digits to keyboard. When I did have the downtime, I was hanging with the missus and/or enjoying some well-deserved tube time. Managed to knock out a few during the interim between Les Expos de Cleveland and New York, just didn’t take the time to document the deeds…until now.

This outing, we have a Scorsese double feature, as well as a couple new horror flicks (one theatrically released, one not) that could use a little more love. As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.


Cape Fear (1991)
(5th viewing) d. Scorsese, Martin
While I absolutely respect and enjoy the Robert Mitchum/Gregory Peck original, Scorsese’s redux has always held a place in my heart for its sheer excess and gusto. Robert De Niro is riveting as newly released ex-con Max Cady, back in town to terrorize the defense attorney (Nick Nolte) who failed to properly represent him 14 years prior. With whirling cinematography and sparkling performances from the aforementioned leads as well as Jessica Lange, Joe Don Baker and Juliette Lewis, this messy, amped-up thriller delivers the goods even as it strains credulity.

Hills Run Red, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. Parker, Dave
Film aficionado Tad Hilgenbrink, fixated on finding a classic “lost” cult horror movie, tracks down the director’s daughter, now a drugged-out dancer in a strip club. After drying out (in record time), she agrees to take him to the location where the film was shot…and where the original print is stored. While not without its flaws, the passionate pursuit of underground, “forbidden fruit” cinema should resonate with many fans and the film represents a quantum leap forward for Parker, who previously directed 2000’s ambitious but grating low-budget zombie comedy The Dead Hate the Living. As the mysterious auteur’s progeny, Sophie Monk is not only stunning to behold (particularly during the lap dance scene – homina-homina), but delivers a respectably well-crafted, multi-layered performance. Here’s hoping we see more of her in the future.

Jennifer's Body (2009) (1st viewing) d. Kusama, Karyn
Why the hate, people? I can understand being fed up with the presence of ubiquitous uber-babe Megan Fox, but her casting is perfect and the resulting “high school hottie transforms into flesh-eating demon” flick is legitimately entertaining. Yes, screenwriter Diablo Cody’s dialogue is far too clever for its own good at times, with teen characters generating phraseology heretofore unuttered by mere mortals (as was the case with her Oscar-winning Juno script) and it’s much more of an angsty teen comedy than legitimate horror outing. But Fox, Amanda Seyfried and the rest of the game cast are more than up to the task, and there should be enough black goopy gross-outs to satisfy the horrorhounds.

Mother of Tears (2007) (2nd viewing) d. Argento, Dario
When an ancient urn is unearthed in a cemetery outside Rome, it triggers a worldwide series of violent incidents, indicated by hordes of cackling females, misshapen demons, and screeching monkeys sweeping the land. In returning to the trilogy kickstarted three decades ago by his mind-blowing assault on the senses, Suspiria, Argento is back in his overheated and expressionistic element, and the results are…mixed. On the downside, the film plays host to some truly heinous performances and one of the most anticlimactic climaxes in recent memory, with a less-than-inspired feel all around. However, while not as overtly preoccupied with lighting schemes as the previous “Mother” installments, there is a laudably hallucinogenic atmosphere complementing the serpentine plot, with stellar gore courtesy of Italian splattermaster Sergio Stivaletti. (There is also plenty of absolutely gratuitous nudity as well - not that I’m complaining.) Add Claudio Simonetti’s balls-out score – minus the horrible closing credits song – and Frederic Fasano’s balletic cinematography to the tally sheet, it’s hard to condemn nor condone the pic except to say it’s a hell of a lot better than the maestro’s Masters of Horror eps.

Choke (2008)
(1st viewing) d. Gregg, Clark
Sam Rockwell stars in this screen version of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel about a sex addict (and colonial theme park worker) who pays for his Alzheimer's disease-afflicted mother (Angelica Huston) by deliberately choking in upscale restaurants to form parasitic relationships with the wealthy patrons who “save” him. Neither as funny nor as thought-provoking as it feels like it should be. As Huston’s doctor and Rockwell’s potential breakthrough emotional relationship, Kelly MacDonald is rather cute though.

Shutter Island (2010) (1st viewing) d. Martin Scorsese
I was hoping to see Uncle Marty’s latest effort embrace the excesses of the thriller genre as he did with Cape Fear two decades prior. Despite its being laden with style and bravura filmmaking skill, however, I remained unmoved throughout. This adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s novel could have been a great, b-style thriller instead of a plodding Hollywood behemoth masquerading as an Important Film. The performances are all solid, augmented by Robert Richardson’s succulent cinematography and Robbie Robertson’s music supervision, but at 138 minutes, it’s about 30 minutes longer than it needs to be with a twist ending that becomes relatively obvious early on.

2010 Totals to date: 44 films, 39 1st time views, 19 horrors, 7 cinema

TV: The Twilight Zone – 14 episodes (28 total for 2010)

Books: None, still reading Fangoria back issues (Aug - Oct 1989)


  1. I'm with you on Jennifer's Body. I went into it expecting a train wreck and wound up enjoying it.

    I've been putting off watching Choke because I liked the book so much and just didn't think it was filmable. Now at least I can go in with my expectations firmly lowered.

    Still have to see Mother of Tears too. I was putting it off until I re-watched Inferno (which I did just a few weeks ago.) I hate that all of the movies I would initially be completely excited to see turn out to be "lower your expectations if you don't want to be pissed off" movies.

  2. As always, an interesting cross-section of films. The Hills Run Red sounds a lot like John Carpenter's first Masters of Horror entry "Cigarette Burns" crossed with Polanski's The Ninth Gate. Does that sound about right?

    Speaking of Polanski, during the same time period I caught his latest, The Ghost Writer, which I thought was fairly decent. Other genre titles that I watched at home included Big Bad Mama, The Collector (the one with Terence Stamp and Samantha Eggar), William Castle's Shanks, and The Silence of the Lambs.

    On the civilian front, I highly recommend Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon and Godard's Made in U.S.A., which was recently put by the Criterion Collection. I've also been in a Greenaway frame of mind, having caught The Draughtsman's Contract and Drowning by Numbers. I enjoyed them, but your mileage may vary.

    Also, I wanted to reiterate how much I enjoyed meeting you at HorrorHound Weekend, and to tell you that the Roger Corman book I bought was terrific.

  3. trebla - Well, having not read CHOKE the novel, I can't say how far it deviates from the source material, but as a film it plays out relatively accessibly. The characters are all so emotionally detached that it's hard to get an "in", if that makes any sense, but it's still not terrible. That said, yeah, lower those expectations.

    I didn't get INFERNO the first time around, but on subsequent viewings I stopped trying to "get it" and I've enjoyed it much more. Conversely, the first time I saw MOTHER OF TEARS, my expectations were on the floor (having heard nothing but terrible reviews) and I thought it was all right. On this revisit, I was slightly disappointed, having remembered it to be pretty decent. It's certainly watchable, but it's still nowhere near prime Argento.

  4. Craig - It's not a bad assessment of HRR, but less intellectual than both of those films. And I don't mean that in a bad way at all, it's just that it's a different animal.

    How did you see SHANKS??? I'm dying to see that. We must make arrangements for you to get me a copy. That's been hanging out there as a William Castle holy grail for over two decades for me - I was really hoping they would put it out on the WC box set, but no such luck. Maybe we can work out a trade of some sort.

    I love THE COLLECTOR. One of the rare occasions where I felt like the film was actually more dramatically satisfying than the novel.

    GHOST WRITER and BIG BAD MAMA are both on my radar (I own the latter) as "films-I-wanna-see". Does BBM qualify as a genre film?

    All of your civilian films sound worthwhile, and while I've seen examples of all three directors' work and enjoyed them, I've not seen the four you mentioned. *adds to list*

    I'm sorry I haven't been in touch to return the sentiment of meeting you at HH. I wish we'd had more time to just hang and geek out, but we did all right. It's hard when you're tending a booth sometimes to completely give over to a conversation as you're constantly being interrupted. Likewise, the drama with my friend in the wheelchair proved to be far more involved than I ever expected it to be. Nonetheless, we'll always have El Diablo! Hope our paths cross again soon...

  5. A couple of quick notes.

    1. I really disliked Mother of Tears. I think it's just a flat out terrible movie. I don't understand how her father somehow always gets the worst performances out of Asia. I've seen plenty of performances where Asia shines. What's that about?

    2. I had this discussion with the people at Dread Central and I'm just not impressed with The Hills Run Red at all. It's really bad and not as interesting as they make it out. Only one moment near the end that I really like. I'm just so disappointed and jaded by most DTV horror these days.

  6. So far I've steadfastly avoided Mother of Tears because of the terrible reputation most of Argento's work from the past two decades has. (I haven't even seen his Masters of Horrors episodes.) Plus, I couldn't stand Inferno, although I may go back and give it a second chance at some point. (Even when I was going through my mid-period Argentos last fall, I gave it a pass.)

  7. AAW - I'm right with you as far as Asia goes (although she didn't fare so well in LAND OF THE DEAD, in my opinion. But then again, I have more than a few issues with that pic...) We just watched STENDAHL SYNDROME again and man, she's just not good.

    HILLS RUN RED may not be a masterpiece, but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. Maybe that has to do more with my lowered expectations, but I considered it a worthy surprise. It also helps that no one had built it up for me beforehand, as sounds like was the case with you and DC.