Monday, June 25, 2012

Fool's Views (6/18 – 6/24)



Ah, true believers, we meet again.

If you’re a frequent frequenter of these vaunted volumes, then you know the name Jon Kitley and his stellar virtual haunt, KITLEY'S KRYPT. Not only is he a valued friend and fellow fiend, he’s also responsible for many a Foolish View (and trust me, some are more Foolish than others). About 2 1/2 years ago, Jon started up the Kryptic Army, its purpose being “to help point out some sub-genres or films that you might have missed out so far. And to have fun.”

Each month, Fearless Leader provides a certain theme and your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find two horror flicks not previously viewed that fall under that month’s heading, watch them, then file a “debriefing” on the films in question. Some assignments have been more rewarding than others, but more often than not, it provides the push needed to finally get around to a myriad of selections that have been sitting on the proverbial “to watch” shelf. If you’ve not already enlisted, I encourage you to join up – the Kryptic Army Needs YOU. Visit http://www.kitleyskrypt.com/army.htm for more information.

This month's topic, in honor of the season of the summer blockbuster, is “Sequels, Prequels and Remakes.” As it so happens, I had a swath of franchise offerings that had been holding up in my Netflix queue for over a year now. And so, with a Fool’s courage and accompanying wisdom, into the pool of giant cockroaches and cornstalk n’ slash we dive…

As always, feel free to leave your two cents worth – we’ll make sure you get some change back.

Enjoy!

HORROR:

KRYPTIC ARMY ASSIGMENT: PREQUELS, SEQUELS AND REMAKES

BUGGIN’ OUT:


Mimic (1997)
(2nd viewing) d. del Toro, Guillermo

Combating a plague-like virus being spread by the common cockroach throughout NYC, genetics engineer Mira Sorvino whips up a new strain of insect, the Judas Breed, which disguises itself as its prey before devouring it. This new species has been engineered to die out after one generation, but (surprise!) things do not go as planned – three years later, a mysterious rash of murders is taking place in the Manhattan subway system, the perpetrators being the mutated offspring of the Judas buggies who have now developed the ability to camouflage themselves as humans. Much has been made of the Weinstein brothers’ studio interference with del Toro’s original vision (a “director’s cut” has been recently released to Blu-Ray), and while I have not yet seen this version, my biggest issues with this often engaging creature feature has nothing to do with deleted scenes or plotlines, but rather with the ridiculously banal dialogue spoken by the capable cast (Jeremy Northam, Josh Brolin, Charles S. Dutton, Norman Reedus and F. Murray Abraham) and the ill-advised attempts at quirkiness, Alexander Goodwin’s spoon-slapping autistic being the most blatant offender. The Rob Bottin-designed “Long John” bugs – one played by del Toro regular Doug Jones – are memorable, although the darkly-lit scenes rarely show them off to their fullest effect. Overall, not a bad movie, but also not one I have a lot of nostalgia for. Drive Angry’s Patrick Lussier served as co-editor, with the director and Matthew Robbins adapting Donald A. Wollheim’s short story.






Mimic 2 (2001) (1st viewing) d. de Segonzac, Jean

The lone carry-over from the original cast, Alix Koromzay stars as an obnoxiously unlucky-in-love entomologist moonlighting as a public high school teacher who discovers her place of employ is ground zero for the latest infestation of the Judas Breed. For a straight-ahead “B” monster movie with limited funds and ideas, I actually enjoyed this more than I expected to. Not to say that it’s “good,” but still reasonably enjoyable cheese with far fewer pretensions and Oscar winners than its predecessor. Special effects makeup wiz “Gruesome Gary” Tunnicliffe whips up some wicked splattering, scattering and skittering sequences.






Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003) (1st viewing) d. Petty, J.T.

The most remarkable thing about this second sequel is how well it conceals its presumably meager budget constraints with a story that focuses more on suspense and what we don’t see than on big bug beasties romping through every scene. Writer/director Petty, who knows a little something about stretching a dollar via solid characterization and atmosphere (Soft for Digging, S&Man, The Burrowers), offers up a variation on Hitchcock’s Rear Window as much of the action is perceived from the window and camera lens of Karl Geary’s shut-in, a victim of his own weakened immunological system. The less-is-more approach may not appeal to those looking for a quick beer n’ pizza creature feature, but it’s hard not to admire Petty’s spin on the material and the big-bam-bloody-boom finale (ignoring, of course, the WTF happy ending coda).





NOT PAID FOR BY THE NEBRASKA TOURISM COUNCIL:



Children of the Corn (1984) (2nd viewing) d. Kiersch, Fritz

This big screen-adaptation of Stephen King’s slim but effective short story starts off with promise of cheap thrills but fails to deliver anything but boredom. Following a graphic onscreen massacre of the entire adult population of Gatlin, Nebraska, at the hands of the under-18 set, the film’s high point is its opening credits during which Gatlin’s history is adroitly conveyed through a series of crude and haunting children’s drawings. Years later, bickering couple Linda Hamilton and Peter Horton take a couple of wrong turns, ending up in the deserted town and at odds with the prepubescent locals. With homicidal brats on one side, thinly drawn adults on the other, and George Goldsmith’s ineptly padded adaptation in the middle, the farmer’s almanac states the outlook is not good. Woefully short on logic and pacing, director Kiersch’s clumsy idea of wit is a paperback copy of King’s Night Shift on the dashboard, with assorted light-catching close-ups of sharp blades as the height of suspense. A pre-Terminator Hamilton is reduced to standard victim status and Horton’s “hero” is so off-putting, you may start looking around for something to poke him with yourself. John Franklin is effectively creepy as pint-sized leader Isaac, and while Courtney Gaines’ bullying Malachi doesn’t handle dialogue all that well, he capably fulfills his role as the film’s heavy. (His “Outlander!” cries are great fun to emulate afterwards).



Okay, I knew I was tempting fate by sitting down to watch these, but MAN this was a chore. While parts 2 and 3 (watched last October at the coaxing of John Pata) yielded some surprisingly redeeming entertainment value, things go sharply downhill with the fourth installment (whose title drops its numbered position, sneaky sneaky).





Children of the Corn: The Gathering (1996) (1st viewing) d. Spence, Greg

Despite an initially intriguing plot about a mysterious fever afflicting the youth of a small Nebraska town and the teaming of future Oscar nominee Naomi Watts and batshit bonkers agoraphobe Karen Black, there’s a whole lotta head-shaking going on amidst the sickle-edged bloodshed. I sense that there may have been a wealth of script revisions and reshoots, because some of the wackiness just comes outa nowhere.






Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror (1998) (1st viewing) d. Wiley, Ethan

Co-ed road trip + wrong turn = kernel-popping eye-rolling yawn-inducing bloodbath. The fifth go-round continues the rather bizarre pattern among the CotC franchise, in that one younger star will go on to become a major Hollywood player … and one silver screen veteran will be convinced to swallow his/her pride in the name of a paycheck. The former category is filled out by Eva Mendes, shockingly bad here, while David Carradine sits in a chair spouting mysticisms before being turned inside out. (Alexis Arquette also appears, though I’d be hard pressed to call him a player.)






Children of the Corn 666: Isaac's Return (1999) (1st viewing) d. Skogland, Kari

John Franklin, the diminutive antagonist from the original, is back courtesy of a screenplay self-penned with Tim Sulka, but I’ll be jiggered as to what the hell was going on at any point in this looneyfest. I know sweet young thang Natalie Ramsey was supposed to have some kind of familial connection to the original Gatlin gang and there was a prophecy about her mating with He Who Walks Behind the Rows and Stacy Keach and Nancy Allen got paid to show up (and not much else). In a weird twist of Viewing fate, Alix Koromzay, star of Mimics 1 and 2, has a prominent supporting role as a duplicitous law officer. Probably the worst of the Corn-y bunch (though I still have two more to go).



CIVILIAN:



Headhunters (2011)
(1st viewing) d. Tyldum, Morten

I don’t know what’s in the water up Scandinavia way, but when Nordic filmmakers keep churning out great flicks like Let the Right One In, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and now this astonishingly satisfying thriller from Norway about a professional corporate headhunter (Aksel Hennie) who moonlights as an amateur fine art thief in order to buy expensive gifts for statuesque blonde wife Synnøve Macody Lund, I hope they keep drinking it. In this world of assembly line CGI-laden action flicks, it’s hard to unveil a screen image that has not been seen before, but director Tyldum, alongside screenwriters Lars Gudmestad and Ulf Ryberg, manages to do it several times over, with plot twists that play fair and characters that you believe and care about. One of the best flicks of the year, hands down.






Single Man, A (2009) (1st viewing) d. Ford, Tom

A superbly crafted human drama from designer Ford (who also adapted Christopher Isherwood’s novel with David Scearce) about a closeted gay high school teacher (Colin Firth, incredible) coping with the death of his lover in 1960s Los Angeles. Straight A’s across the board, with extra credit for avoiding unnecessary sentimentality.

2012 Totals to date: 260 films, 221 1st time views, 146 horror, 72 cinema

4 comments:

  1. The only films I've seen in this lot are Mimic (which I enjoyed quite a bit when I saw it during its theatrical release, but haven't felt the need to revisit), Children of the Corn (a television staple in my youth, albeit one shorn of its more gruesome effects) and A Single Man (which I adore beyond all reason). Based on what you have to say about the Mimic and Corn sequels, I believe I shall keep it that way.

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  2. I like the story/idea of MIMIC (and have had the source short story highly recommended to me by a Facebook friend, so I'll be seeking that out pretty soon), but the dialogue and characters really turned me off. Be curious to hear how it might hit you nowadays. That said, MIMIC 3 is so much better than it has any right to be - a terrific example of overcoming budget restraints through style and creativity.

    The 2nd and 3rd COTC installments were a lot more goofy fun than I expected, but I also kind of knew what I was in for moving forward, based on universal public opinion. There's having a differing opinion, but I had no illusions that such was going to be the case here.

    It was funny that you had referenced A SINGLE MAN in one of your recent reviews, as I already had it checked out from the library and proceeded to watch it the next day, knowing that you loved it. Felt like you were right there with me.

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  3. If you ever happen upon it, Christopher Isherwood's novel is also well worth checking out.

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