Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fool's Views (4/18 – 4/24)

All the flicks listed below (with one SUCKLING exception) were viewed in Oshkosh, WI above the auspicious confines of the House of Heroes comic book shop, the place that we called home during the off hours of DEAD WEIGHT’s shooting schedule. The original plan, according to co-directors Adam and John, were that we were going to watch a Kurt Russell movie every night to decompress from the day’s events. As fate would have it, only one was ever viewed, and that was a solo viewing in the wee hours of the morning whilst the rest of the company slept. Considering the flick in question, that’s probably a good thing for everyone else, but it was hell for this Fool. Truth be told, it’s kind of amazing to realize that I managed to get in eight movies over the course of that madcap week, but when you’re devoted to the cause (and they shoot your scenes first), such miracles happen.

Note: Because I only had 8 flicks this week, I've provided a poster image for all of them. I've avoided doing so in the past when I have a dozen or more films, thinking it would end up making an already long entry that much longer. But obviously, pics are nice. Let me know if you would be interested in going to a pic-per-flick format. After all, you're the ones who have to read it, not me.

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


Mist, The (2007)
(2nd viewing) d. Darabont, Frank
In the arc of Frank Darabont’s screen treatments of Stephen King stories, this novella’s long-awaited cinematic incarnation falls somewhere in between the greatness of The Shawshank Redemption and the not-badness of The Green Mile. Following a massive storm, inhabitants of a small Maine village head to the local grocery store to stock up on supplies. Before their shocked eyes, they witness a strange fog enveloping their town and soon learn that there is something within the mist…something hungry. With superbly designed CGI creatures and effects, King’s grand scale apocalyptic vision is well captured, and the scenes of mayhem – with gore and tentacles coming at the audience from all sides – work a treat. Unfortunately, the wannabe-gritty emotional scenes of mob mentality and scapegoat-seeking amongst the frightened inhabitants don’t succeed as well. While the capable performers (including Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher and Jeffrey DeMunn) do their best, these episodes often ring a bit hollow, particularly Marcia Gay Harden’s religious zealot’s rantings. Also detracting are Darabont’s attempts to integrate jagged jump-zooms and handheld techniques to provide a more realistic and edgy tone, which, amidst the rest of the film’s lyrical pans and crane shots, simply feel forced and artificial. However, as a big budget creature feature and loyal King adaptation, the film more than satisfies, with an ending (not in the original story) that sucker punches viewers in the best possible way.

Note: For this second viewing, we watched the “black & white version,” supposedly Darabont’s original choice before the studio put the kybosh on such arty measures. Truth be told, while it may obscure some of the lesser CGI f/x, it never feels like a true b/w experience – more like the color dial had simply been turned down – nor did I find it preferable to the color version. It would have been interesting to see some true modern b/w cinematography, with rich blacks and harsher use of shadows, but in the future I’ll probably watch the theatrical/color version.

Prey, The (1984) (1st viewing) d. Brown, Edwin
A fair-to-middling campers in the woods slasher, no more no less. Shot in the Rocky Mountains of Utah, we follow a group of indie-attractive city slickers out for a weekend of hiking, casual sex and evisceration. Medial attempts are made at characterization and the kills are serviceable, but the only semi-novel aspect on tap is the malformed killer’s ultimate motivation for his bloody exploits, leading to an eyebrow-raising final tableau.

Shaun of the Dead (2004) (5th viewing) d. Wright, Edgar
Back in 2007, in preparation for Hot Fuzz’s release, I reviewed SOTD for Kitley’s Krypt (which you can check it out **HERE**) Suffice to say, this is a modern classic of both comedy and horror, which proclaimed co-writer/star Simon Pegg, co-writer/director Edgar Wright (and to a lesser degree, bosom buddy Nick Frost) as major talents to be reckoned with and relished. “You’ve got red on you.”

Suckling, The (1990) (1st viewing) d. Teri, Francis
The pleasures of roaming through a fellow fan’s video collection are never better exemplified than when discovering a title that one has never heard of, pulling it out to query his/her host and seeing their face light up to exclaim, “Oh, you GOTTA see that.” Such was the case when I had occasion to visit pals Ben and Jessica in Fond du Lac, and they unveiled this gloriously goofy, ooey gooey slimefest unto my wondering eyes. The premise pitches an aborted fetus into a puddle of sewer-borne toxic waste beneath a low-rent New Jersey bordello – the resulting long-taloned fiend, bent on finding a nice warm place to incubate, subsequently lays siege to visitors and residents of said house of ill-repute. Despite being transparently underfunded, the puppet monster remains a striking creation and Teri’s crew of panicked amateurs are deliciously robust in their over-the-top thesping. A mightily enjoyable, joyously un-PC, sadly neglected relic of late-80s creature features.

Wicked, Wicked (1973) (2nd viewing) d. Bare, Richard L.
Shot in “Duo-Vision,” this high-spirited psycho killer movie employs the split-screen technique (used to great effect in Brian De Palma’s films, among others) not for a few simple scenes, but for the entire running time! In a seacoast hotel, someone is running around in a rubber mask knocking off and dismembering all the blonde babes in sight. Enter singer Tiffany Bolling (between her Candy Snatchers and Kingdom of the Spiders gigs) who just happens to wear a blonde wig for her loungier-than-usual lounge act, making her the killer’s next target. All the while, on a pipe organ whose location is never quite made clear, an old biddy plays the score from the original Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera. Campy and energetic, this is not exactly a good movie by any stretch, but it’s an awful lot of fun and never boring. Well worth tracking down (occasionally shows up on Turner Classic Movies) and watching with friends.


American Beauty (1999) (3rd viewing) d. Mendes, Sam
Hadn’t seen this Oscar-winner in quite a while; the good news is that it still holds up rather well and its accolades still feel merited, as Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening and Chris Cooper continue to hit the sweet spot. The real shocker is how none of the younger set (Mena Suvari, Thora Birch and especially Wes Bentley), after showing such promise here, blossomed into major Hollywood players.

American Grindhouse (2010) (1st viewing) d. Drenner, Elijah
Intriguing documentary barrels through the highlights of the exploitation film in all its various guises. From “baby birth movies” that allowed viewers to see onscreen female genitalia to the nudie cuties that followed in their wake, from H.G. Lewis’ gore films to the drive-in massacres of the 70s, from the 60s biker flicks to the blaxploitation movement, it’s a roller coaster ride through flicks that needed no stars, only a lurid poster and tagline to sell the goods.

Escape from L.A. (1996) (1st viewing) d. Carpenter, John
More effort would be required to adequately conjure sufficient verbiage to properly lambast this lazy, uninspired and poorly executed sequel/redux of 1981’s well-loved teaming of Carpenter and star Kurt Russell than it did to make the accursed thing. Seriously, it’s as bad as you’ve heard and then some. If there was a way to un-watch it, I would.

2011 totals to date: 177 films, 102 1st time views, 84 horror, 13 cinema


My Life by Burt Reynolds


  1. I really want to see American Grindhouse. I thought The Mist was excellent when I saw it on the big screen. I have yet to watch it again though. Although I do want to catch the b/w version you mention

  2. I don't know if you have Netflix streaming, but that's where I saw AG. Worth checking out, kind of like a cinematic companion to Joe Bob Briggs' PROFOUNDLY DISTURBING.

    Re THE MIST: Honestly, as I mentioned, it would have been nice to see a full-on b/w version, but this isn't really that. You could get the same effect by turning down the color on your set at home. Truly.

  3. Escape from L.A. was the first Carpenter film I got to see on the big screen, so I've always had a soft spot for it. Can't really mount a spirited defense of it, but when I had my John Carpenter/Kurt Russell Portraits of Badassery marathon last summer I was still able to enjoy it well enough.

    On the Darabont front, I recently caught up with all six episodes of The Walking Dead. Not having read the comics I was able to appreciate it on its own terms (and not get hung up on what they were changing or leaving out). I don't recall whether you said you had watched that or not, though.

  4. Aaron: surely a savvy cinemaphile like yourself knows that even films that are explicitly made in black and white these days--Schindler's List, for one example, or the Coen's The Man Who Wasn't There--are shot on color film and processed into black and white?

  5. Yes, but aren't they shot and lit with an eye on that future b/w processing? I mean, SL seems to have been shot like a b/w film, with attention paid to shadows, etc. That's all I meant, that I don't get that feeling from THE MIST. Of course, I could be totally cocked.

  6. Craig, to say that you enjoyed EFLA at all is more than I can take. And probably why your comment got marked as spam, because blogspot just couldn't believe that any sentient being would make such a statement.

    I did see the WALKING DEAD episodes a couple months back. Let me go see if I can dig up any already existing verbiage regarding my feelings about it.

  7. ...and here it is, culled from a FB conversation back at the beginning of April:

    More than anything, I'm glad to have finally caught up with it so I can retain my membership in the horror community. My 30-second wrap-up? Great gore/zombie makeup (aside from the occasional obvious CGI (which, sad to say, I'm actually getting used to). Acting is pretty solid across the board, though the melodrama could be toned down a notch or four. Things lose their emotional heft if you hang onto them in close-up forEVER. I really enjoyed Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus (though how Reedus remains a "guest star" when he's in 4 of the 6 episodes eludes me). As with pretty much all episodic television, I'm getting bored with these characters already (there's a reason why I prefer movies to TV) and while I'm not a huge zombie freak, I found myself missing the "walkers" during the latter half of the series. The soap opera elements are also really starting to kick in, and I could do without those.

    I'll come back for the second season, but I'd probably be happy if it ended after that. I can't see following these characters for much longer.