Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Slime City (1988)

Greg Lamberson's debut feature is a throw back to the works of Henenlotter, Cohen, and, to a lesser extent, Cronenberg. An attempted statement on the perils of addiction and hookering (Henenlotter's Frankenhooker covered that one so much better). Any social satire falls flat, however, in wave after wave of slime left over from the set of "You Can't Do that On Television." Still, for an 80's splatter flick that contains absolutely no nudity you could probably do worse.

I'm sure we've all been in a position where we need to find an apartment as soon as possible, am I right? Whether we've been smoked out, priced out, or kicked out it happens to all of us from time to time. Another reason? Sometimes you just want to get laid and present circumstances (parent's basement, prudish girlfriend, annoying cock blocking roommate) provide an impenetrable obstacle to your desires. Your blue balls are ready to erupt. Yes, my friend, it's time to move out. That's the case for Alex (Robert Sabin), the anti-hero (i.e. asshole) of Slime City.

It's not long before Alex is set up in a quaint little apartment in a building full of artists and old people (another minor deterrent to getting laid). Alex is happy. His girlfriend, Lori (Mary Huner) is happy, although still not willing to give it up. His best friend (and former roommate) Jerry is happy (somehow, he thinks he's getting laid out of this). Roman, the poet who lives on the floor below is happy. The Elvira-looking broad across the hall, with the unfortunate anti-Elvira breasts, is especially happy. What Alex doesn't know is that several years before, a crazy old cult leader (named Zachary) and his followers committed mass suicide in the basement. They've been slowly possessing each new occupant and now it's Alex's turn. I'm not exactly sure how the possession occurs, but it involves a green puddingish substance called "himalayan yogurt" and raunchy sex with the Elvira-looking broad across the hall. At least he got laid. An unfortunate side effect: The yogurt is addicting (kind of a low-rent 'The Stuff'). Withdrawal symptoms involve dripping slime from your every pore and the increasing need to kill (in order to keep the slime at bay). Was it worth all this to get laid? Absolutely.

Slime City is fun, but with a bit of a disclaimer. The same disclaimer I could apply to many films reviewed here. It's best when viewed after imbibing more than a few. I just watched it for the first time sober and have to admit, it tried my patience more than once. The acting in this thing is atrocious across the board. Robert Sabin, as Alex, brought to mind a youngish Matthew Broderick until he began reading his lines. Everyone reads their lines in this. Not one god damned ounce of emoting. The guy that played Roman (Dennis Embry) actually got to say this line: "no one takes an artist's work seriously unless he's planted six feet under" and then adds "if you know what i mean", as if he's being clever. No, Roman, I'm actually not sure. Care to elaborate? At times, this felt like a student film project. When Alex has dinner with Lori's, clearly disapproving, parents, I swear they set the dinner table up in a dorm room. Lori's father can't even afford a real dining room table and yet, here he is looking down his nose at Alex because Alex isn't a fan of corporate art? He refuses to sell out? Give me a fucking break. Or, maybe it's the green slime dripping into his dinner? One more thing. Did I mention that there's not one breast in all 85 minutes of this thing. Really??? The closest we get is some pretty nice side-al cleavage courtesy of the Elvira broad.

What did I like? Well, the slime for one. It was all over the fucking place. At one point, Alex wraps bandages around his head and puts on his sunglasses in a nice little homage to The Invisible Man. This picture bears a strong resemblence to Frank Henenlotter's films; in particular Basket Case and Brain Damage. Brain Damage, in my opinion, is as good as any New York City-set splatter film ever made. The "fellatio" scene alone is worth the purchase of the DVD. Slime Shitty has nothing in it that comes even close to that, but there are several fun little gore moments splattered throughout. In particular, the mugging and it's aftermatch, which is ripped right out of Cronenberg's Videodrome (by far, this picture's best scene). Think Vagina-like-stomach-hole that likes to swallow weapons. These film-guys show their influences in almost every scene. There's even a character named Detective O'bannon (obviously in reference to Dan O'bannon the writer of such seminal films as Dead & Buried and Blue Thunder. Oh, and something called Alien. I heard that one is pretty good). I got pissed when the Detective questioned Lori about a missing hooker who was last seen taking money from her boyfriend. That's an unacceptable cock block. Thankfully, Lori's a trooper because she still let Alex do her. What a girl!

There are several amusing lines in this such as the one that follows Alex's deflowering of Lori (finally!): "Just like a woman to lie on her ass while the man does all the work." This certainly isn't Scorsese's New York. There's no redemption for this fucker, not even in death. His post coital massage of Lori progresses from "Alex, you're hurting me" to "Wrong, I'm killing you." Lori tries everything on the guy; she seppuku's him, she quarters him, beheads him, etc. Alex's disembodied head pleads it's case: "Lori, I love you! I even painted your portrait!" Then his head opens up and the slime billows out, followed by his brain which inch worms its way toward, a not nearly stunned enough, Lori (the actress that played Lori went on to portray a receptionist in an episode of "Law & Order", so maybe she got better).

Who would have thought there was this much slime in New York City?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Mimic 3: Sentinel (2003)

Quite possibly, this is the second best Rear Window knock off I've seen behind only the splendid Abominable. The nightmare from the first film, and I suppose Mimic 2 (although, I still haven't seen that one), is long over. Do you remember Mimic? Guillermo Del Toro's first attempt at a big budget hollywood picture? Of course you do. In many circles (I don't frequent these circles) it's considered a disaster. Of course, I know better. It's a masterpiece. Well, a lower tiered masterpiece but a masterpiece, nonetheless. The original story concerns a plague that is afflicting and killing children throughout New York City. This plague, called Strickler's syndrome is spread by cockroaches. To combat the epidemic, an entomologist (the lovely, what the hell happened to her, must have gotten fat Mira Sorvino) creates a new breed of roach. The Judas breed. This roach succeeds in killing the offending cockroaches and, since they were designed to be sterile, subsequently die out. Or so they thought. Of course, the fucking things adapted and grew to be the size of humans. Not only were they as big as humans, but they could also look like humans. Act like humans. Mimic humans! Except for the talking. They never really got that part right. Damn that clicking sound. Anyway, we won that battle. Or so we thought.

Like I said, I missed Mimic 2 but I don't think that impeded my enjoyment any. This seems like a stand alone picture. It's no masterpiece, but in the world of direct to video sequels it's pretty good. It's also just short of 80 minutes so if you disagree with me and think it's terrible at least you didn't waste too much time. Karl Geary (Sex and the City for all you ladies) stars as Marvin Montrose aka The Bubble Boy. He's one of the few to actually recover from Strickler's disease. It was in all the papers (at least the ones plastered to his bedroom wall). Unfortunately, he lives in a bubble. Hypersensitivity to perfume and cigarettes and exhaust fumes will do that to you especially when you're still living in New York. What the fuck Amanda Plummer (she plays his mother!)? Couldn't you pack the family up and move out to the country? Too busy fucking cops I guess. Marvin basically has one hobby: Voyeurism.

Speaking of voyeurism, I was walking through the Common with a few friends saturday morning when we spotted Anne Hathaway walking her beautiful chocolate lab. So, of course, we decided to follow her for a bit (there were girls with us, so it's not that creepy). Hathaway seems like a good person because, at one point, she picked up her dog's mess. I desperately wished I had snapped a photo and sold it to Star magazine. It would have been better if her assistant had been with her and forced to pick it up. That would have been scandalous, and therefore, worth more. Anyway, we had the high ground but some of my friends insisted we cross over. Never give up the high ground. Stupid. We lost her soon after. You're probably wondering what this has to do with Mimic 3?


Anyway, Marvin is constantly taking pictures of his neighbors that live in the apartment across the alley. Or, he's just staring at them through his telephoto-lens. Characters like "the garbageman" (because of his hat I guess and that he's always taking out the garbage) and "the birdman" (because he owns birds) and Carmen (because she's pretty hot and also had a nice role in his favorite show "Lost"). This is the second Carmen I've seen in a "bug picture". The rankings are as follows (based on hotness, acting ability, and attainability):

1. Carmen from Starship Troopers
2. Carmen from Mimic 3.

It was a pretty close race, but since Denise Richard's is seemingly losing her mind at this time, she's probably a little more attainable.

On one particularly drizzly night (It's always overcast in Bulgaria, I mean New York) Marvin sees a little boy in the alley. He also sees a strange cloaked figure standing off in the corner. After some strange clicking sounds, the boy vanishes. I guess Marvin is too young to remember the first movie. After flyers are posted in the alley for the missing kid, Marvin assumes one of the tenants across the way abducted him. The garbageman seems a likely suspect. So, with the help of his sister Rosy (Alexis Dziena) and her new best friend Carmen (the beautiful Rebecca Mader of "Lost") they begin an investigation into his disappearence. They'd ask the police for help, but the one cop in town (John Kapelos, Barry "the sniffling accountant" from "Seinfeld") is too busy banging Ms. Montrose (Plummer).

This is a small picture which, I guess, fits with the miniscule budget. It's clear they had only a couple of days to shoot this thing because several plot strands are left hanging. There's a terrific scene where Carmen and Rosy break into the garbageman's apartment to look for clues while Marvin keeps an eye on them through his rear bedroom window. It's kinda like that scene in Rear Window or, I should say exactly like that scene. Unfortunately, I'm guessing the majority of the audience for this picture haven't seen Rear Window, so fuck it. This is an original. At this point, I'll just mention that the Judas Breed are no longer extinct. They've slowly been colonizing the other apartment building. So, that guy that's just been standing still for an hour in birdman's apartment isn't really birdman. He's actually a giant cockroach, if you can believe that. That little boy in the alley? He wasn't actually a cockroach, but he was killed by one. That lady with the groceries? Rosy's drug dealer? The cop banging Amanda Plummer? Well, they were all human too actually. Still, they got cockroached.

This movie is solid. I liked that there were only two sets and am hoping they reinvent this one as a broadway play. There's some solid night time back alley atmosphere. The director, J.T. Petty (The Burrowers) and his crew actually did a solid job shooting this thing too. I made the mistake of watching the "making of", however, because Petty came across as a bit of an asshole when he said "I'll be honest. This was just a pay check for me." It's possible he was joking. The instant Lance Henriksen walks into the picture (he was the garbageman all along! not a cockroach) this thing became a whole hell of a lot better. He's not even a garbageman. He's the assistant director of the CDC, but only if that guy were more evil. He has what amounts to maybe seven minutes of screentime, but manages to class the joint up especially when giving lines like "this is not a city, it's a god damned killing jar." According to imdb, Henriksen has appeared in 141 films and, I'm sure, all of them are worth watching for his presence alone. Strangely enough, he was in the other Rear Window "remake" Abominable (for perhaps five fantastic minutes). I'm still not sure why he's not in more blockbusters. He could have been the John Turturro character in Transformers for a tenth of the price. Fucking Michael Bay.

Unfortunately, they rushed through the ending. We never actually have any resolution to Rosy's plotline. Last we see her, she's locked in Henriksen's trunk as the cockroaches are trying to get in. I'll just assume she died. I'm all for realism, but come on. Use some fucking light when shooting the interior of a trunk, for chrissakes. Plummer receives the same fate as Dizzy from Starship Troopers, except that she didn't get to "have" Casper Van Diem, instead she got the "sniffling accountant" from "Seinfeld". I liked when Henriksen uses the hypersensitive Marvin as his "coalminer's canary" (he's allergic to giant cockroaches). No nudity. I think if Marvin and Carmen were to engage in the carnal act, it would probably kill him. I think half of the budget went into the explosion at the end. A quarter of it went to Henriksen. The bugs look effective from a distance (and in shadow), but when shown up close, and actually in motion, the terrible CG is most evident. There's some moderate gore cut way too quickly, except when one unfortunate character gets a pincher punched through his face. Again, it's not even 80 minutes long! When Sex and the City hits theatres next month, my recommendation is to stay home and watch this. The only way a guy should be caught dead seeing that in the theatres is if he has the assurance (best, get a written contract beforehand) of getting laid afterwards. If you don't have a copy of Mimic 3 handy (or it's not on tv) just stare at the blank screen for a while and use your fucking imagination.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inside (2007)

I suppose I'm at the point in my life where it takes a lot to shock or disturb me. I Spit On Your Grave did a fairly decent job of it. The french film, Irreversible, is one such film that if I never see it again, it will be too soon. I recently watched a picture called Closure starring Gillian Anderson. In it, she's brutaly raped. In vengeance, she sodomizes her rapist with a rifle. The film is not listed in Anderson's imdb filmography, so I've even started to question whether or not I actually watched it. We even see her glorious breasts in that one (not in the rape scene, so it's ok), so perhaps I dreamt it. In which case, my subconsciousness is pretty fucked up. Basically, the one thing all of these films have in common is that the violence is done against women. Of course, that's all too common in horror pictures. What these pictures also have in common is that none of these women are pregnant. Certainly, none of them are due to give birth anytime soon, and especially not the next day.

Pregnant women are surely sacred, right? How often do you see a movie where one is beat up, killed, etc? Not too often. Inside is a film that uses this as a plot device and then doesn't hold back. At all. I haven't seen this much harm done to a woman and her unborn child since I saw that third trimester bitch smoking a cigarette in Central Square the other day. There have been stories in the news over the last couple years about women stalking pregnant women and, in one case, even cutting out a baby in some insanely mis-guided attempt to raise it as their own. It's beyond fucked up and I'm not sure I needed to see a movie about it. Fucking french. They've raised the bar in horror with this one. This picture is disturbing, scary, atmospheric, well acted (for the most part), and gory as all hell. I didn't enjoy watching it, but I'm glad I did (likely, I never will again).

The story centers around Sarah (Alysson Paradis) on the eve of her planned labor inducement. A month or so earlier, she lost her husband in a horrific car crash (in which, she was the driver). She and the baby survived. There was another car involved, but the fate of the occupants is not really revealed. Understandably, Sarah has become very morose and has lost any excitement she once had for the impending birth. She walks around in a catatonic state snapping photos of happier couples and their children. All the while, her little french community has been wracked by violence. Her mother is worried for her, as is her editor (she is employed as a photojournalist). Sarah plans on spending the night alone in her house. Her editor will swing by to pick her up early the next morning and bring her to the hospital. It's going to be a long night.

Late that night, her doorbell rings. Sarah looks out the peephole and sees the silhouette of a woman. At first, the woman, simply billed as La Femme, asks to use the phone since her car has broken down. After refusing to let her in, the woman creepily reveals things that she shouldn't know. Sarah tells her to go away. Finally, she leaves until, later, we see her in the backyard smoking a cigarette and staring at Sarah through the sliding glass doors. Who is she? What does she want? If you've been reading the above, I'm sure you can figure it out.

This movie left me feeling drained. It will probably do for getting pregnant what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean (who am I kidding? After seeing Jaws for the first time I was terrified of swimming in my pool). If I ever meet someone and we decide to have a baby (hear that girls, I'm single! It's no wonder, considering the amount of time I spend watching things like this) I'm never allowing her out of my sight. I spent the entire run-time (a seemingly never ending 80 minutes) on the edge of my seat. There are scenes early on, after the police have searched her property, that are as frightening as anything released over the past few years. Several times, we see La Femme (in the house!) and Sarah doesn't. We never see her too clearly, usually in shadow. I'm pretty sure if I were to go back and watch the early scenes again, we might see her in the hospital, at the park, etc. I'll just assume it. As Sarah lies asleep in bed, La Femme is standing over her. She leaves the bedroom for the kitchen, where she begins sterilizing a pair of large scissors. Jesus fucking christ. Really?

La Femme was played by Beatrice Dalle who is probably the scariest woman to grace the face of this earth with her demonic presence. She looks like a waifish Angelina Jolie with a large gap between her two front teeth. She's dressed in a futuristic looking black gown and does a lot of screaming. Basically, she's got two moods. Calm and matter of fact-like or fucking loopy. It's a brave performance on her part considering that I can't imagine a guy ever wanting to be with her after seeing this. Again, who the fuck am I kidding? I would. Beggers can't be choosers, after all.

I spent the entire movie rooting for Sarah. Alysson Paradis is simply astounding in the role. She's one tough, exceedingly cute pregnant chick. I fell in love with her, which only makes what she goes through all the more painful. There are several instances where we are shown the baby within her womb (though the use of some pretty decent cgi) and the abuse that he's undergoing throughout this night as well, as he bangs against the walls of her uterus. I guess the Dawn of the Dead remake abused an unborn fetus as well, but it was done in a completely different tone. If this baby had been born a zombie my reaction would have been a big "fuck you" to the filmmakers.

I'm really trying to not give away too much. There's a minor twist when we learn the identity of La Femme, but it's not really a surprise. If you didn't figure it out immediately, I sorta feel sorry for you. I dug the sparse score by Francois Eudes who was also behind the terrific score for High Tension. The makeup and effects guys worked overtime on this picture. Her house becomes blood and viscera soaked, in the bloodiest home massacre since Lionel lawn-mowered a ridiculous amount of zombies in his mum's house, as character after character stops in to check on Sarah. This movie contains one of the worst gun shots to the face I've ever seen. One guy gets scissored to both knees and then repeatedly to the balls. Most of the kills in this thing were balls to the wall brutal and, even worse, realistic. As friends, cops, etc are slaughtered Sarah fights with all that she has to keep her and her baby alive. A minor quibble: Why are the cops in this portrayed as morons? French horror has certainly upped the ante over the last few years. Of course, this picture would never be made in America. Alexandre Bustillo (who co-directed with Julien Maury) joins Alexandre Aja as one to watch in the near future. One rumor has him tackling the remake of Clive Barker's Hellraiser. I wasn't excited about that before seeing this, but I am now. The end of Inside left me feeling a combination of morose, ill, on edge, borderline cardiac arrested, etc, etc. I may never watch this one again, but that's simply because there's no need to. I'll never forget it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning (2006)

This picture probably should have ended after Thomas Hewitt (you know him as Leatherface) was born on the slaughterhouse floor. His mother, working at the time, died immediately following, although I'm not sure we can pin that one on the little guy. The legend doesn't begin until new obese momma finds the little bastard in a disgusting dumpster adjacent to the plant. See, before he came along, they ate garbage like regular poor people. Those were innocent times. The end credits should have rolled as she was carrying him home. Would have made a terrific short.

What's the point? This picture contains no fun, no suspense, and no hope. It's incredibly mean spirited, although the ending did make me chuckle. This is not a prequel to the original 1974 classic, but instead to the abysmal 2003 remake. I realize the remake has it's fans and most of those fans have no affinity for the Tobe Hooper version. That's fine. It just simply doesn't work for me. The Beginning, in particular, seems more inspired by Hostel than anything else. Anyway, this isn't really a series that calls for a prequel. Why? For starters, we know that everyone (in this case; Chrissie, Dean, Eric, and Bailey) are going to die. If even one of these kids escapes, the Sawyer clan wouldn't be around for the Nispel remake.

We do manage to learn a few things about the family, however. We learn that Tommy was employed at the slaughterhouse when it went bankrupt. He wasn't too happy, so he sledgehammered his foreman. We learn that Tommy actually attended grade school at one time and was even picked on. I'd hate to be the bus driver assigned to his route (it must be about a fifty mile drive to his school). We learn how Mr. Hoyt (R. Lee Ermey) becomes Sheriff Hoyt, but we don't learn how he gets to keep the job after obtaining it through not so legal means (Don't police departments in Texas keep tabs on one another???). We learn that Sheriff Hoyt fought in Korea and how he acquired a taste for the other other white meat. We learn how Uncle Monty got put in that wheelchair, but we don't learn if his legs were put into a stew or not. We learned some other stuff too, like, for instance, Sheriff Hoyt despises anyone that's anti-establishment such as hippies, or bikers, or draft dodgers. Cannibals get a free pass apparently. We learn that if Dean had bashed in Sheriff Hoyt's brains, instead of leaving him alive, we probably wouldn't have had to suffer through the remake. That would have left Leatherface and a legless Uncle Monty. Since Hoyt is the only one capable of bringing home dinner, I'm not sure how they would have survived. We also learned that without characters like the hitchhiker, OL (original leatherface), granpa, chop-top,and the crazy old gas station attendant that these pictures kinda suck. Lastly, we learn cannibals in Texas like their women really, really big. Morbidly so.

I didn't really want to know any of this based on my feelings for the remake. I guess all I'm left with were the kills which, while realistic and brutal, weren't all that original. Here's a quick breakdown of the plot: Two brothers, Dean and Eric, are driving across Texas with their girlfriends, so they can be shipped out to Vietnam. Eric has already done one tour and has decided to go again so he can keep an eye on his brother. He's not aware that Dean has burned his draft card and has no intention of going. Along the way, they come into contact with a biker gang, fend off an attempted robbery by a member of the gang, create cow road kill, are "helped" by the newly appointed sherrif, are brought to the Sawyer home, get tortured, and then killed. They're all dead by the time John Laroquette's phoned in narration chimes in as Tommy "Leatherface" Sawyer Incredible Hulks his way back home, after chainsawing Jordana Brewster (Chrissie) through the back seat of her car and causing an accident that wipes out yet another cop and a few bystanders. Seriously, how the fuck were these guys not caught? At the very least send a couple cops to the house to question them, poke around. It's the only fucking house in town!

Ok, back to the kills. Shotgun blast to biker chick. Biker chick's boyfriend chainsawed in half. Why the fuck didn't he just start shooting without the questions? Since when do the Hell's Angels refrain from cold blooded murder? One character is bolted to a table and chainsawed through the stomach after having his arm filleted (while alive). Another character is chainsawed through the stomach, lifted in the air and thrown against a wall. One character....well, you get the picture.

I have a big problem with Leatherface, as portrayed in these remakes. In the original, he's got a distinct personality. Mentally, he's a child. He doesn't torture anybody, at least not physically. I can't imagine original Leatherface tying someone down and filleting them alive. If you remember his first appearence, he appears out of nowhere and kills the guy almost instantly with a hammer to the head. Ok, so he put the girl on the meathook right after that, but I'm sure he put her out of her misery. Leatherface, as portrayed in the original sequel even gets a girlfriend. Sort of. This guy is just an inbred cousin of Jason Voorhees. Like Jason, he's able to appear and disappear based on the needs of the plot. Seriously, how the fuck did he beat Jordanna to the car at the end? How do you not notice a three hundred pound behemoth hiding in the back seat? And, fuck me, if it's not near impossible to start a chainsaw in the backseat and get a good enough angle on the thing to put it straight through Brewster's back as she's driving? Chances are, it would have false started at least once, giving Brewster enough time to stop the car, open the door, check the oil, run, etc, etc. Ridiculous.

The shame of it all is that the acting, especially on the part of the kids, is pretty good. Much better than this thing deserves. I really believed Eric was being skinned alive and that his girlfriend was trapped under the table while it was happening. The writing frequently falls into tiresome horror cliches where characters (I'm looking at you, Jordana) do really stupid things. Thankfully, they included a dinner scene in this one. Too bad it went absolutely nowhere and ended with Momma instructing Leatherface to end a poor girls tongue-less suffering by cutting her throat. At the dinner table! Ever hear of a little thing called hepatitus B? At least take her down to Tommy's play room, for chrissakes. Also, I think R. Lee Ermey would be a terrific character actor if he didn't always play the same character and if that character weren't himself. I did like his line when little Tommy was brought home as a baby: "That's the ugliest thing I ever saw." I could say the same thing about this picture.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

P2 (2007)

I always knew that Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) would turn out no good. He was a fucking sociopath as a teenager and, as evidenced by this picture, he's a sociopath as an adult. Speaking of American Beauty, what a load of fucking horse shit that movie was, huh? How in god's name did that thing manage to snag the best picture oscar at the 2000 Academy Awards? The award was later officially rendered meaningless when Crash won a few years back. American Beauty is about as pretentious as they come. The character of Ricky Fitts is the main reason why. Sure, neither Spacey nor Benning (although both gave it their all) come across as anything closely resembling human beings, but Fitts, in a strange way, does (think Henry from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer before he ran away from home and started killing women and stuffing their dismembered corpses in suitcases). Like I said, he's a sociopath. He has no friends (I suppose I can forgive him for that), no real hobbies (beyond voyeurism and drug dealing), and certainly no soul. He finds beauty in everything (give me a fucking break) especially the bone and brain splattered wall behind Kevin Spacey's obliterated head. I'm not sorry for the spoiler. I really could fucking care less. Based on the way Fitts stared longingly at Spacey's pulverized face I was 99% sure he was going to start licking the exit wound. This is a kid we're supposed to relate to, to understand, to envy? He has no appreciation of the arts (he pretends to like one movie, The Re-animator, but instead uses it as a euphemism for getting high). He certainly doesn't love Thora Birch. I'm pretty sure, after fleeing to New York City, he tired of her company and decided he wanted to know what she looked like without her fucking head or something. Then he dumped her torso in the East River (after stuffing it in a suitcase?). Sam Mendes, the director of Beauty wanted the audience to root for this guy. Like he's something special. He was the hero of the picture. The only character from the piece of excrement that even deserves to live here on this earth amongst us real humans was Suvari's Angela Hayes. Yet, we're supposed to pity her (and be disgusted by her) for, of all things, acting the way a typical teenager is supposed to act. Sure, she's a little bit shallow. Big deal. What teenage girl isn't? She's the only one that saw Ricky Fitts for what he truly was. "A Weirdo." Fuck that movie.

Well guess what? The creators of P2 saw Ricky Fitts for exactly what he was and so they cast Wes Bentley in a role that completely suits him. They put him in a picture he belongs in, not some fucking pathetic wannabe art film. An honest to god genre film that knows exactly what it is, a gory (albeit, only in one or two scenes) horror picture. I guarantee that Frank Khalfoun (the director) and Alexandre Aja (producer of this & director of some pretty good genre films in his own right; High Tension and The Hills Have Eyes remake) had Ricky Fitts in mind when they cast this film. I also guarantee that they consider American Beauty to be absolute garbage. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong here, but I like to think that's the case. Believing this enhanced my viewing of P2, which, as it turns out, is a little nasty mother fucker.

It's Christmas Eve and Angela Bridges (Rachel Nichols) is working late at her Manhattan office. Her Christmas party just ended and she decided to tidy up some loose ends before heading to New Jersey to celebrate the holiday with her family. The party was a good time until one of her male co-workers relentlessly hit on her in the elevator. She fended him off and he later apologized, so all is well on that front. Her co-workers slowly file out and before long, the building is empty (except for her and Karl, the doorman). She heads down to the garage, level P2, to retrieve her car and head out for the night. One problem. The car won't start. So, who should show up but none other than Ricky "fucking" Fitts (actually, he's changed his name to Thomas. Clearly, he's in hiding), the parking attendant. At first, Thomas seems very friendly, if a bit off. He offers to give her a jump and, when that doesn't work, tells her "I prepared a small Christmas meal for myself. You could join me if you want." Thomas (or Fitts, whatever he calls himself these days) certainly hasn't lost his love for voyeurism. After Angela rejects him, she heads back up to the lobby to call a cab. We watch her through security cams as she impatiently waits for it to arrive. Only, when the cab arrives, she's locked in. She runs back down to the garage to try to find a different way out, but the gates below are locked as well. The cab takes off. The lights go out. The nightmare begins.

This is a gruesome little picture. Thomas chloroforms Angela and drags her back to his office. She wakes up, chained to a table and there's Thomas, dressed as good ol' Saint Nick. His vicious dog Rocky waits patiently in the corner. Through it all, Thomas seems calm and friendly, rarely losing his cool. He's clearly deranged. They forgot to include the dinner scene in the first Chainsaw remake and this is probably as close as we're ever going to get. Much of the picture involves Anglea escaping, running, hiding, getting caught again, escaping, hiding some more, caught again, etc. I was a little surprised when Thomas divulged the book he's currently reading. The Sun Also Rises; "It's about a guy who loves a girl so much, he's willing to forgive everything about her, including her infidelities." It probably wasn't wise for Angela to let him know about her boyfriend who is "probably on his way right now."

At this point, you're probably a bit confused. I mean, there's only two characters, right? Where's all the fucking gore? Wait for it. Thomas and Angela leave level P2 (I'm pretty sure that's where the title comes from) and head on down to P4, where Angela's drunken co-worker (elevator perv) awaits gagged and bound to a chair, set up in the center of a parking space. Thomas uses him to do his best Pollock impersonation with a car as his brush (apparently, since moving to NYC he's begun to appreciate the arts a little more). There are only a couple of deaths in this picture, but they're brutal and bloody as hell. Alas, poor Rocky. Of course, the poor mistreated animal doesn't make it, but did its demise have to look and sound so painful? Like all Aja films, the sound guys working on this thing do tremendous work. I liked the score as well and especially, the use of Elvis' 'Blue Christmas'.

The movie has a wickedly dark sense of humor as well. While standing over the puddle that used to be Angela's co-worker, Thomas asks his remains, "why did you have to ruin Christmas?!". This line is used once more after flooding Angela out of an elevator (a fun set piece). The unfortunate recipient of his words, this time, is the doorman, Karl, also dead ("Way to ruin Christmas, Karl").

So, here we have another film that completely flew under everyone's radar. I remember seeing a trailor, but it was so poorly made that I had no desire to see it and completely put it out of mind. The filmmakers made good use out of the location to create a sense of isolation (a challenge to pull off in a film set in NYC), although Scorsese's After Hours, will never be topped in those regards (by the way, is that the scariest "comedy" ever made or what?). Help is so close and yet, always just barely out of reach. There are several tense scenes where Angela tries desperately to obtain a signal for her cell phone, call out for help, struggle her way through a locked gate, while Thomas' voice echoes throughout the cavernous underground. The film's end evoke's The Hills Have Eyes (both editions) where the tables are suddenly turned and we finally get to see that little bitch Fitts (or Thomas, fuck it I don't care) for what he really is. A cowardly pissant, so disconnected from reality that, towards the end, after he and Angela have a high speed car chase (in the fucking garage!) he calmly asked her "you're trying to get me fired, aren't you?" Then he called her the C-word. Big no-no, you douche. Finally, they put this asshole in a picture where he belongs. You know what? Surprisingly, it's not too fucking bad.

Ok, enough with this quality bullshit. I think a little film called Three on a Meathook is calling me. Or, perhaps, TCM: The Beginning? What do you think?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Legion: The Exorcist III (1990)

Here we have yet another picture nearly destroyed by studio interference. Based upon William Peter Blatty's novel, Legion, and directed by Blatty himself. Wisely, the film completely ignores John Boorman's laughably bad sequel, The Exorcist II: The Heretic. You know what? Despite the incompetence of 20th Century Fox, this is a damned fine horror film (although, without their "help" it would have been a masterpiece). It's completely underrated and, coupled with Blatty's earlier film The Ninth Configuration, proves that the man deserves more work behind the camera. As a writer, he's got an exceptional way with creating unique and interesting dialogue that feels real. He certainly knows how to build a scene into something that can either be funny, poignant or, most of all, terrifying. In fact, the studios really don't know what they're doing when it comes to these exorcist pictures. Paul Schrader's recent film, Dominion: The Exorcist Prequel was a tense psychological chiller with interesting characters. Unfortunately, the film was taken from him and given to Renny Harlin (He of Cutthroat Island fame) who crapped out something almost as bad as the Exorcist II. Apparently, there is enough footage out there of The Exorcist III to present us with Blatty's definitive cut. Unfortunately, since I picked this DVD up used for $3.99, I can't imagine there's much demand for such a thing. In a way, we suck almost as much as 20th Century Fox.

George C. Scott stars as Lt. Bill Kinderman (the role originated by Lee J. Cobb). Fifteen years have passed since the events of the first film. Kinderman remains close with Father Dyer (Ed Flanders taking over for William O'Malley) and the friendly ribbing between the two provides some of my favorite moments. It's the anniversary of Father Karras' death and they cheer each other up by attending a movie (usually, It's A Wonderful Life). I loved the dialogue in these scenes, especially when Kinderman relates to Dyer about the carp his mother-in-law is harvesting in his bathtub (and one of the reasons why he's so reluctant to go home); "I haven't had a bath in three days. If I see it swimming, I'll kill it." I'm just going to come right out and say it. This is one of my favorite Scott performances. His character can barely contain the rage bubbling underneath the surface. He's funny, sad, and prone to angry outbursts (Often, within the same scene). His eratic behavior is a product of his current case, a homicide that is eerily reminiscent of one he investigated fifteen years ago.

I'm actually not referring to the case of the possessed little girl. Fifteen years ago, there were also a series of murders that took place in the Georgetown area, a series of violent killings attributed to the Gemini killer (clearly inspired by the Zodiac killings in, and around, San Francisco). In this case, a young black boy has been slaughtered; "the killer drove an ingut into his eyes, cut off his head and replaced his head with a head off the statue of christ." Shortly after the killings begin, Father Dyer is admitted to the hospital for chest pains. While visiting his friend, Kinderman finds himself in the mental ward where he encounters something strange. An inmate who looks just like Father Karras. How can that be since he flung himself out the window, down those infamous steps, and to his death after saving little Reagan's life all those years ago? Is it a coincidence that the Gemini killer was brought to justice and executed at the exact same time that Karras met his demise? Is this Pazuzu's idea of a fucking joke? The man who looks like Karras was admitted into the ward approximately fifteen years ago. Again, coincidence? He was found wandering the streets, in a catatonic daze with no identification. Just recently, at about the same time the new killings began, he started to awaken.

I've seen this movie twice now. The first time back in 1990 and again, just recently. It still manages to creep the shit out of me. Sure, the plot is a little too elaborate, the coincidences a little too unlikely. Still, Blatty knows his way around fucked up imagery. Bleeding Jesus statues, Jesus statues opening their eyes, old insane women crawling along the ceiling (again, with the creepy old broads. how i hate them so). He presents us with one of the craziest dream sequences in recent memory, a sequence that features cameos from Fabio, Larry King, and Patrick Ewing (as an angel of death)!! Thankfully, the cameos are wordless.

Somewhere in the middle of this picture is a night-time hospital scene as jump startling scary as anything you have ever seen (I promise you). The camera is basically stationary for about five minutes, looking up from ground level as a nurse goes about her business (alone and doing paperwork, etc). I'll just say that for years after first seeing this picture, I have always peeked over my shoulder when turning my back on an "empty" room.

The supporting performances are all first rate, with special notice to Scott Wilson (The Ninth Configuration) and Brad Dourif (yet again, playing a crazy person!). Wilson is the head of the hospital's mental ward. His office contains a plaque bearing the following expression; "a psychotic is someone more neurotic than his doctor." There's a great scene in his office, as he's waiting for Kinderman so he can tell him the identity of the man in the isolation cell. He keeps rehearsing what he's going to say and how he's going to say it ("the man in the isolation tank, the one you looked in on..."). It's the only way to convince himself it's true. What can I say about Dourif? He plays a "version" of Father Karras locked in his isolation cell. Let's just say he's the evil version (Jason Miller reprises his role as the good version), the kind of guy that would claim Titus Andronicus is the best Shakespearean play. I'm sure you can figure it out. Blatty had fun with one scene where immediately after Dourif says "Child's Play, Lieutenant", he cuts to a young red haired boy that looks just like Chucky! No way is that unintentional.

The ending is problematic. Originally, Blatty wanted to simply call the picture Legion, but, of course, the studio wouldn't go for that. I'm not sure why? It's not like The Exorcist II set the world ablaze or anything. Still, they'd be damned if the film wasn't going to be called The Exorcist and even more damned if it wasn't going to feature an honest to god exorcism! So, in steps the great Nicol Williamson (Merlyn in Boorman's excellent Excalibur) as exorcist-extraordinaire, Father Mourning. The final exorcism is the only gory set piece in the film as the gateway to hell appears and Mourning has to peel his face off the ceiling. Actually, up until this point the movie was terrificaly successful at generating tension and real, genuine scares. Then the studio handed Blatty a kitchen sink and demanded he throw it against the set. It didn't kill the movie because everything that led up to this point was too good. Normally, as I'm sure most of you are aware by now, I'm a fan of the kitchen sink approach. But, only when it's applied to the entire film. The recent Doomsday comes to mind. Still, Legion: The Exorcist III holds up as well today as it did all those 18 years ago. Based on it's poor box office showing, I know you guys didn't see it the first time. There's still time to rectify that glaring omission from your personal film history. It's perfect viewing for a rainy spring night. I trust you'll be thanking me afterwards.