Monday, April 8, 2013

Fool's Views (4/1 – 4/7)

Hello, my friends,

Heading into BIFFF, with no time to waste on preamble. Let’s roll out the barrel and find out what’s inside before the madness starts. Fair warning: No real winners in the bunch, with mixed bags being the order of the week. Ah well. You win some, you lose some.

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


Crawlspace (2012) (1st viewing) d. Dix, Justin (Australia)

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure why they didn’t just call it “Aliens in the Outback...minus the xenomorphs,” because that’s pretty much what we’re dealing with here, right down to its derivative tagline: “In this space, everyone can hear you scream.” The level of appropriation from James Cameron’s 1986 instant classic borders on outright theft, with design elements and characters lifted nearly wholesale...except in this case, we’re not out among the stars but rather miles underground in one of those top secret research facilities governments are always setting up in which to conduct nefarious unethical goings-on. Ditch Davey leads a team of interchangeable roughnecks on a search and destroy mission which takes an unexpected turn when he discovers that his supposedly dead wife Amber Clayton is among the targets. But when it becomes apparent that his team may be outmatched by their subterranean nemeses, they take to the air ducts from which the film takes its title. In addition to generic sci-fi action thrills and swiping ideas from a dozen earlier flicks, Dix has an absurd predilection for red/green lighting, reflected by the marketing team in their poster design, which looks at first glance like a Christmas-themed slasher flick. Meh.

Sexcula (1974) (1st viewing) d. Holbrook, John (as Bob Hollowich) (Canada)

Stepfather, The (2009) (1st viewing) d. McCormick, Nelson (USA)

Inane remake with Dylan Walsh as a serial killer who insinuates himself into pre-existing families, then wipes them out when they disappoint him. Since it was already done to low budget perfection back in 1987, with Terry O’ Quinn unforgettably charming and chilling in the title role, one has to wonder what could have been gained by attempting a redux. No surprise, the affair falls flat. Walsh is game, but he’s given little to do to rise above J.S. Cardone’s muddled script which doles out some real opening expositional clunkers then missteps further by changing up the sex of our main protagonist, giving us glum Penn Badgley in place of fresh-faced Jill Schoelen from the earlier feature. Of course, then they proceed to hedge their bets by giving the lad a hottie blonde girlfriend in the form of Amber Heard, who is so, like, totally cool and, like, loyal and loves to wear bikinis or short shorts or just lounge around in her underwear, like, all the time! Dumb as a box of hair and about as entertaining.

We Are What We Are (2010) (1st viewing) d. Grau, Jorge Michel (Mexico)

Intriguing ideas-a-go-go but with more questions raised than answers in this kitchen sink drama surrounding an urban family of cannibals whose lives are thrown into turmoil when the patriarch keels over in the opening scenes, leaving them without a bread-winner (or fresh meat-procurer). All of the characters are interesting unto themselves and the relationships provide chewy material, but it’s both too much and too little for the central story. For example, there is much made of a “ritual” that must be performed, yet we never learn enough about the specifics of said tradition – either its purpose or practice – to make the time spent yammering about it ultimately worth our while. Similarly, there is a subplot regarding one of our main characters’ sexual leanings that never really pays off either. There are some praiseworthy shock moments where the foley artists were clearly earning their crunching and squishing wages, but I’m actually looking forward to Jim Mickle’s upcoming English language remake more than I would have originally thought. This is one of those times where the concept is more interesting than the final result; be nice to give someone else another shot at it (especially if that someone is the man behind Mulberry St. and Stake Land.)

Up in the Air (2009) (2nd viewing) d. Reitman, Jason (USA)

Removed from its Oscar-season hoopla, where it was being touted as “a film of the moment” (as though its central narrative following hired gun George Clooney firing employees wouldn’t have been just as dramatically viable 10 or 20 years ago or 10 or 20 years from now), it’s easier to watch Reitman’s Juno follow-up as the mere entertaining trifle it is. Clooney expertly plays the callow, charming “out of touch with his feelings until he meets that special someone” cad, but then again, this is his wheelhouse. Vera Farmiga is lovely as his equally isolationist f**k buddy, but Anna Kendrick never really convinces as a young executive out to automate the process that would render Clooney obsolete.

Room 237
(1st viewing) d. Ascher, Rodney (USA)

Listening and observing devotees point out quirky details and idiosyncrasies within Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining is an intriguing prospect unto itself. Unfortunately, it’s when they start ascribing these details to flimsy conspiracy theories regarding hidden messages the notoriously measured director was supposedly inserting into the film that things get really hokey. I love having The Overlook’s bizarre, “impossible” geography pointed out to me, and the notion that Kubrick was involved in faking the footage for the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing is intriguing to say the least, but I don’t think the onscreen clues add up to a very convincing argument for any of the half dozen hypotheses laid out as to what he was “really trying to say.” Likewise, Ascher’s insistence on including dozens of unrelated visual references to Kubrick’s other films (as well as some real head scratchers like Lamberto Bava’s Demons) feels like grasping for conclusions and connections that aren’t really there.

Vengeance is Mine
(1st viewing) d. Imamura, Shohei (Japan)

Bleak and twisted drama matter about a sociopathic career criminal Ken Ogata who escapes after (violently) killing his partners and finds refuge in a remote country hotel where he strikes up a casual relationship with the innkeeper’s wife Mayumi Ogama The murders are impressive feats indeed, showing (as Hitchcock did in Torn Curtain) that human beings are incredibly tough to kill despite overwhelming cinematic evidence to the contrary. The relationships explored are equally textured, with Ogata’s lover sharing an unrequited, but still quite steamy, love affair with his father; likewise the killer’s interactions with Ogama’s ex-con mother, played to wily perfection by Nijiko Kiyokawa. In spite of its 2.5 hour runtime, this is exciting and rich material indeed.

2013 Totals to date: 91 films, 84 1st time views, 43 horror, 33 cinema


  1. thanks for posting we are what we are, I thought I might want to see it..too bad there aren't any good monsters out.

    1. I was very excited to see it as well, but now I'm more excited to see the remake to see if they get closer to capturing the concept's potential.