Movies Watched Today: 3
Total Movies Watched: 81
Total First Time Views: 18
Amount raised: $846.45
Today's showcased SCARE-A-THON Charity:
MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY ASSOCIATION, sponsored by Stephanie Weller Castelluccio
The Doctor and the Devils (1985) d. Francis, Freddie (UK) (1st viewing) 93 min
This not-bad dramatization of the notorious Burke and Hare murders (with the names changed to protect...I'm not sure who) covers little new ground and, more significantly, fails to capture the haunting immorality of the crimes and those complicit in them. As the Dr. Knox character (here called Dr. Rock), Timothy Dalton is righteously indignant at the priggish lawmakers thwarting scientific progress, but even a hint of moral quandary as he knowingly turns a blind eye – allowing thuggish grave robbers-cum-murderers Fallon and Broom (Jonathan Pryce and Stephen Rea) to keep providing illegal cadavers for dissection – would have gone a long way. Despite handsome production values and a fine cast of British thespians that includes Sian Phillips, Patrick Stewart, Julian Sands, Beryl Reid, and Twiggy (don’t laugh, she’s quite good), this is hardly an improvement over John Gilling’s The Flesh and the Fiends or (Robert Wise’s The Body Snatcher, for that matter).
Nightbreed (1990) d. Barker, Clive (USA) (2nd viewing) 121 min
Based on his novel Cabal, Clive Barker’s follow-up to Hellraiser exhibits as many of that film’s strengths (vivid, original storyline, exemplary makeup effects) as its weaknesses (uneven performances, gore without scares, jarring jokes). Craig Sheffer stars as Boone, a troubled mental patient whose implication in a series of violent murders leads him to Midian, an underground “other-world.” Within this subterranean city, we encounter the “Nightbreed,” a wonderfully grotesque collection of freaks and mutants (wonderfully realized by makeup designer Paul L. Jones) that populate the shadows of the human world, unable to venture into the light. Painting his monsters as the sympathetic characters, Barker attempts some fine points about the human tendency to hate (and consequently destroy) anything we find foreign and/or ugly. Unfortunately, even in the restored “Cabal Cut,” his message is often drowned out by effects-for-effects’-sake and smart-alecky dialogue, diminishing the emotional resonance. With two-dimensional characters (whiny heroes, growling Nightbreed, bullish cops, redneck good-ol-boys), viewers might struggle for anyone to identify with, forced to content themselves with the noisy, cartoonish mayhem, extraordinary art direction, and latex creations by a venerable team of makeup technicians, including Bob Keen, Geoffrey Portass, and Kate Murray. Legendary Canadian director David Cronenberg steps in front of the camera, lending a spooky aloofness to the role of Boone’s psychiatrist, Dr. Decker.
Bubba Ho-Tep (2002) d. Coscarelli, Don (USA) (5th viewing) 92 min
Expanded from Joe R. Lansdale’s terrific short story, this enthusiastically original tale became an instant cult classic and remains just as satisfying over a decade later. The mind boggles at its very premise: Following a hip-breaking stage fall, Elvis (Bruce Campbell in a career-best, atypically nuanced performance) is discovered alive and not-so-well in a Texas old folks home, agonizing about his empty present, wasted past, and a curious growth on the end of his wiener. The King of Rock-n-Roll’s dreary daily monotony is abruptly ended, however, with the appearance of the titular Egyptian mummy, who begins to suck the souls out of his fellow geriatric residents … through their poop chutes. (Insult, meet Injury.) Hobbling into action to defend his debilitated rest home against the undead menace, Elvis is joined by his neighbor Jack (a droll Ossie Davis), a man who believes himself to be John F. Kennedy despite the fact that he is, well, black. Directed and scripted with style and panache by Don Coscarelli, the result is a satisfying venture on multiple levels, as much a reflection on aging and life’s regrets as monster movie. Ella Joyce offers terrific support as Elvis’ caregiver, with admirable contributions from Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister and longtime monster kid Daniel Roebuck. With Brian Tyler’s marvelous, evocative soundtrack leading the way, don’t be surprised to find a tear trickling down your smiling face as the sun sets on Lansdale’s eccentric characters, perhaps the unlikeliest heroic duo ever conceived.