Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched Today: 5
Total Movies Watched: 34
Total First Time Views: 9
Amount raised: $202.39
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THE INNOCENCE PROJECT, sponsored by Fawn Krisenthia
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The Craft (1996) d. Fleming, Andrew (USA) (2nd viewing) 101 min
“Now is the time, now is the hour. Ours is the magic, ours is the power.” The shallow spell spoken by the film’s comely quartet of teen witches matches its cinematic impact perfectly—not terribly inspired, but it does the job. When new student Sarah (Robin Tunney) falls in with a trio of “dark girls” (Fairuza Balk, Neve Campbell, Rachel True), they are soon dabbling in the dark arts with squealing abandon. Courtesy of a relatively chintzy ritual, the feminine foursome conjure “Manon, the Spirit of All Things” to allay their personal hardships (poverty, racism, romance, physical scars). At first, everything seems rosy as the supernatural forces work in their favor. However, the desires to sample blacker magic create a rift with Sarah’s “natural witch” and the breezy movie turns marginally malevolent as the conflict escalates. Director Fleming, who shares screenplay credit with Peter Filardi, attempts to create dizzying atmosphere with circle-happy camerawork, the results ranging from effective to intrusive. With well-done special effects (for the time) and capable performances from its attractive cast (the dynamic Balk fares best, with Campbell and True bland by comparison), this is a pleasant enough time-waster, but the film’s emotional depth never extends beyond that of its not-quite-adult characters.
Restoration/Air Conditions (2014/2012) d. Oliver, Ryan (USA) (1st viewing) 80 min
This pairing of rising Midwestern filmmaker Oliver’s short subjects makes for a terrific double header, as both feature blue-collar male protagonists wrestling with older pieces of machinery with tense and terrifying results. The first, Restoration, sees muscular gearhead Brant McCrea picking up a rusted-out 1950 Fleetline Deluxe from its rustic resting place in the country, ignoring former owner William J. Norris’ veiled warnings about its dark history. Upon its arrival at McCrea’s Chicago garage, the murderous spirit of a young girl connected to the vehicle makes her presence known, with greasy, gory results. The cinematography by Marcel Morin is absolutely stunning; ditto Gregor Mortis’ witty, gritty sound design. But it is Oliver’s overall aesthetic that truly demands attention, combining graphic gore (courtesy of Cirque FX) and elegiac slow-motion shots within a testosterone-laced, beer-and-sweat-soaked atmosphere. Similarly, Air Conditions places gruff workaday hero John Fenner Mays atop a high rise apartment to repair a faulty A/C unit, only to have his hand trapped by a puddle of mysterious goo. This simplistic set-up earns an impressive degree of suspense – think 127 Hours by way of The Collector and you’re on the right track – capped by a hilariously sinister WTF reveal. Oliver is the real deal, and I’m stoked to see what else his twisted artistry has in store.
Nightmares (aka Stage Fright) (1980) d. Lamond, John (Australia) (1st viewing) 79 min
This mixed-bag Australian slasher seizes upon its location, that of a sumptuously ornate theatre house, and attempts to wring cheap thrills out of it. The script by Colin Eggleston (who directed the superb Long Weekend two years prior) presents a very slim and gimmicky premise: after a young girl inadvertently contributes to her mother’s accidental death by way of broken windshield glass, the poor waif henceforth associates sex (mum was dallying with her beau while driving) with bloodshed, and proceeds to mow down anyone in her vicinity engaging in carnality. Strangely, Lamond elects to keep the identity of the killer a “mystery” throughout, even though we see Helen (Jenny Neumann) clearly having flashbacks to the crimes after they occur and we know she’s the one with the sex/glass hang-up. Oh, did I mention that all the murders are committed with shards of glass, necessitating the shattering of random window panes and bottles immediately beforehand? Wouldn’t you think that would eliminate the element of surprise essential to any successful serial killer? One of those 80s flicks where you just have to switch off the brain and enjoy the boobs, buns, and blood, of which there are plenty.
Sweet Sixteen (1983) d. Sotos, Jim (USA) (1st viewing) 88 min
A confused and lackadaisical slasher enlivened by imaginative poster art and a great cast. Following a young teen’s murder, the small community is thrown into an uproar, whipping up tensions between the various social groups making up the populace. Bo Hopkins is on hand as the sheriff, trying to keep Don Stroud’s beer-swilling good ol’ boy from tangling with Don Shanks’ virile no-nonsense Native American, and Patrick MacNee and Susan Strasberg’s stuff socialites cry for justice while their saucy daughter Aleisa Shirley takes onscreen showers, skinny dips, and wears as little as possible. Friday the 13th Part III’s Dana Kimmell plays Hopkins’ teen Sherlock daughter. Not bad, but not good.
Asmodexia (2014) d. Carreté, Marc (Spain) (1st viewing) 81 min
Intriguing if meandering demonic drama presents an elder religious leader Eloy (Lluis Marco) and his granddaughter Alba (Claudia Pons) heading toward a destined confrontation with their spiritual opponents, set during the week of Dec 21, 2012. (You know, when the Mayan calendar ran out.) While there aren’t many legitimate scares and trying to keep track of who is on whose side and which flashback applies to whose memory might require a scorecard on the viewer’s part, the performances are strong, the atmosphere thick, and locations exotic.