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Posts tagged ‘thrillers’

Media Log: 01.14.2012

(cinema) Drive, d. Nicolas Winding Refn, 2011. I just watched Drive for the second time. On closer inspection I figured out that if this movie with the same L.A. crime underworld story had been edited too fast and too furious and amped with a soundtrack of Kidd Rock anthems it would have come off as total trash. As one gangster character who used to produce low-budget films says, “One critic called them [movies] European. I thought they were shit.” For Drive the filmmakers adopted highly stylized and deliberate editing with brilliant, catchy, 1980s sounding synth music are these are the two elements that hide all the flaws in this movie and make it so captivating. As produced, Drive is brilliant in its turns between the actors subtleties and violent action excesses. Drive is the best movie I saw in 2011 and goes on a list of great of great American films. ๏ ๏ ๏ ½… The Mothman Prophesies, d. Mark Pellington, 2002. Richard Gere is a recently widowed reporter who inexplicably wakes up in a West Virginia town four hundred miles from home. He starts encountering townspeople who are having their own paranormal encounters with a moth-like man who whispers warnings of a looming catastrophe. Mothman is a successfully weird and suspenseful thriller that never tries to over-explain its phenomena. We are never told exactly what is going on between life in the town and whatever dimension the Mothman comes from, nor is it resolved why reporter id dragged into it. I like that these mysteries stay in tact. I like that we don’t really know how much of what is transpiring is just shadow of the reporter’s unresolved trauma. Is he imagining everything? Is he Mothman? In the end it’s a well acted drama about the reporter trying to move beyond his tragic past. But this is a false ending as we find out there really is tragedy about to collapse on the town. Apparently the story is adapted from an investigation into a real incident in 1968 where a West Virginia bridge collapsed and killed forty-six people. That part of it may be factual but it didn’t make for a better ending. One other issue with this film is the terrible casting of Laura Linney as the town cop and love interest for Gere. I love Laura Linney in everything else. Would Elizabeth Taylor have made a good Barney Fife just because she was a good  actress? If the movie had got its priorities straightened out it could have been a modern classic.๏ ๏ ๏… (television) Star Trek DS9, THE STORYTELLER. O’Brien and Bashir visit a village of idiotically superstitious Bajorian yokels who think only O’Brien can save their village from the wrath of a giant cloud entity that looks a lot like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters. In an equally idiotic subplot, a teenage ambassador, negotiating for the future of her own village, gets the best advice from the only other kids on DS9, Jake Sisco and his Ferengi chum Nog. This episode plays like it was written for and by children. Not the worst of the first seasons episodes, but quite irritating.

BSD Movie Log: The Skulls

The Skulls (2000, d. Rob Cohen)

Luke, a working-class, scholarship kid is invited into the secretive, elite, club called The Skulls.  He is easily seduced by the secret society’s power, largess, and promise of  clearing his way into Harvard Law.  When his best friend, a campus paper reporter writing an expose on the The Skulls commits suicide, Luke is suspicious.  He uncovers a conspiracy and battle for power within club.  Luke must decide whether to abide the club’s rules of secrecy, or put his future and his life on the line in exposing the truth.

I feel like a sponge in enjoying all the silly melodrama of The Skulls, from Joshua Jackson’s casting as street punk gone Ivy, to the Provost of Yale University shooting students in the streets of New Haven with impunity, to a US Senator encouraging students to settle their disagreements in a gun duel.  This movie is accidentally ridiculous, but I still wish I could join their little club.

BSD Movie Log: The Curve

The Curve  (1998, d. Dan Rosen)

Two college roommates, Tim, an underachieving playboy and Chris, a scholarship student, determine to capitalize on a school policy that grants a 4.0 grade average to a student if their roommate commits suicide.  The two plot to push a third roommate over a cliff and make it appear as suicide.   When the police investigate, Tim leaves a trail of clues to frame Chris for murder.  Then the roommate they thought they killed shows up alive.  Was the whole thing really plot to kill Chris and fake his suicide?

I have to credit this movie for Matthew Lillard’s standout, Dennis Hopper-esque performance, but that is the extent of my generosity.  With all the twists in the story, characters with secret alliances, and casting Lillard as the lead, you can see that somebody thought The Curve was going to be the next Scream.  But they neglected to provide any likable or believable characters.  They don’t come off to me as clever and cool, just petty.  Save your trash diving for the Jerry Springer show.

BSD Movie Log: I Bury The Living

I Bury The Living (1958, d. Albert Band)

A businessman is obliged to serve a rotation as administrator of a company owned cemetery.  While on site he finds a wall-sized map of the reserved grave plots.  He also discovers, to his consternation, that inserting a ball-head pin in a plot will cause the intended plot owner to die mysteriously.  Is it coincidence?  Is someone playing an evil trick on him?  Or is there some paranormal phenomena orrcuring?

I Bury The Living is a fun, creepy idea, although the concept doesn’t necessarily call for a feature length movie.  It’s sort like of a good Twilight Zone episode stretched out to 70 minutes.

What's EATGNU? (or Jeepers Creepers! Its The Gay Bogeyman!)

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended features are:

Jeeper Creepers (2001)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

I finally watched both of the  Jeepers Creepers movies for the fist time after seeing a post that including them among The Most Unintentionally Gay Horror Movies [link].  I have to admit both were great, though not because they were unintentionally gay.  In fact, calling Jeepers Creepers unintentionally gay would be like saying the Kennedy assasinations were the result of unfortunate accidental gun discharges.  The serial of these films is most assuredly about a man-eating monster who favors the flavor of men.

In Jeepers Creepers a young brother and sister couple are driving home on break from college on a desolate country road.  Darry is bringing his laundry home to mother, who we are told dotes on him.  Trish is taking time off from her boyfriend to pepper little brother with jibes about his full masculinity and the suggestion that maybe people “know something you don’t.”  They cross paths with a menacing truck driver, who has the vanity license plate BEATNGU.  They witness the guy dumping sheet-wrapped bodies down a drainage pipe.  The kids sneak back to investigate the pipe and Darry daringly crawls in.   At the bottom he uncovers the body of a naked young man who has had his torso dissected and resown.  Further into the cavern Darry finds hundreds of dismembered corpses sewn into the walls like a quilt.  Darry and Trish drive to a roadside diner where they contact the police.  In the meantime, the killer has been tracking the couple.  Darry had used a pair of his dirty underwear, unintentionally died pink in the laundry, to tie down the broken trunk of their car, and this served as an unintentional baiting device.  The killer breaks into the car to enjoyably sniff the laundry and confirm that Darry has something he wants.  A policeman arrives and is escorting the couple’s car home when the patrol car is attacked and the kids get their first good look at The Creeper.  Despite attempting to  disguise himself with a wide brim hat and a tattered black duster, The Creeper is a tall moth-like monster with scales on his skin, and wings.  He is a creature who looks somewhere between Japanese kaiju horror monster Mothra and Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider.  In a demonstration of sadisitc homoeroticism, The Creeper decapitates the male police offficer with a home-forged hachet, and bites the tongue out of the severed head.  Darry and Trish escape to a police station where a local psychic, who has also been following them in her visions, catches up to notify them of what she’s learned from the dreams.   The Creeper, who aparently emerges from dormancy every 23 years for a 23 day feeding period, sniffs out people for specific body parts that he desires and eats.  She also implies that Darry, despite his denial, already knows what the monster wants of him.  I won’t spoil the movie, but suffice it to say that the end is more proof of The Creeper’s specific interest in male bodies and homoerotic voyerism .  I read this as an allusion to the idea of gay men may fetishizing male body parts, that they want to build a fantasy male from the combined parts of different men.

We get another clue what The Creeper has  desire for in the beginning of  Jeepers Creepers 2 when he swoops into a cornfield and flys away with an attractive, toe-headed teenage boy.  Nearby a school bus is  transporting a boys high school basketball team, and a few of their cheer girls, down the same country highway a few days after the incidents of the first Jeepers movie.  Where Jeepers 1 was a stand alone horror story, Jeepers 2 begins more similarly to what I would consider a copycat teen slasher movie: a lost group of teen characters are hunted and methodically killed according to an implicit order of punishment for boorish behavior and/or fornication.  Here, The Creeper disables the school bus on an isolated road and kills all the adult chaparones to enhance a sense of helplessness and  fear on behalf of the teens.  We learned in the first movie that fear emanates some scent The Creeper uses to identify which victims present the most desirable body parts.  In a scene I can only describe as out of the ordinary, The Creeper, while hanging upside down in the bus window points through the crowded alies of the bus at each of the teens he intends to consume, like picking live catch from a restaurant aquarium.  If the implication in the fact that each of his menu selections are male is still unclear, he advertizes his interest in the last boy with a disgusting, erotic sweep of his steaming tounge.  As The Creeper begins to tear apart the bus and pick off his selected male victims, the teens argue over whether they are safer on or off the bus, and whether they should take the doubtful step of dividing themselves into groups as The Creeper’s chosen and unchosen.  Ultimately this debate is of little value as when the kids make a run for it, The Creeper finds his marked boys and wings away with them anyway.  What they fear most is unavoidable.

To my surprise this teen horror movie turns far from the copycat rythm as the teenagers spend much of the time defending themselves not only from the attacks of the monster, but from the prejeudices of their peers.  In the midst of crisis some kids show the character to see the importance of being a team, other fall into patterns of self-preservation and bigotry.  There are unsubtle opinions raised about race, social status, and explicitly in the other boy’s suspicion of the “gay” kid.  The high school sports journalist Izzy, is frequently accused of being gay, “Izzy or isn’t he?”  As in the first Jeepers film, homosexuality left in question is ultimately more important than getting a definitive answer.  Where analysis of teen horror film often proposes a subtext of adolescent anxieties about sex, procreation, and marriage, Jeepers Creepers is a unique mainstream discourse in male anxiety about suppressed homosexual feelings.  If you are a regular boy and a gay monster, after smelling all your peers, selects you, what does that say about you?  Does the monster know something you don’t?  In the story the alleged real gay boy is actually overlooked by the The Creeper and survives to act heroically.  The Creeper is not only an eroticised homosexual killer, he violently demonstrates the terror of a sexual monster within, the fear of what happens to men who are tempted by underlying homosexual desire.

Its worth noting that despite being a different kind of text for a horror movie, the classic feminist critique of an ever present male gaze continues to stare longingly.  It’s just looking in the mirror now.  The Trish character in the first movie and the cheer girls on the bus still have little agency in these stories.   She is now just a bystander as opposed to the obect of male fetishism.  As a selection for the Halloween Movie Club, there are other reasons to like the Jeepers movies besides the feminist critique and the homoerotic text.  Both movies are sharply written, genuinely suspensful, and well acted.

Finally there is public information available about the film director having spent time in jail for child molestation before these movies were ever made.  I think knowing that may be prejudical to first time viewing although it opens the discussion to some other interesting analogies.  I recommend watching the movies before looking deeper into the director’s biography.

Jeepers Creepers (2001, d. Victor Salva)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003, d. Victor Salva)

La Vampire Boheme

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Let Me In (2010, d. Matt Reeves)


I think it’s bad that vampires have lost their pseudo-European offbeatness.  Dracula was a genuine weirdo who slept all day in a creeky coffin.  The Count on Sesame Street suffers from a common manifestation of OCD, uncontrollably counting things, and yet he is never compelled to clean his cobweb quilted castle.   Lestat and Louis from Interview With A Vampire want the same legal rights afforded to corporeal couples, but they also want to live as artists in The French Quarter and raise their immortal daughter on human flesh.  Now, because of Buffy, Twilight and oodles of copy-bats,  vampires have become all vamp and no bite.  They drive Volvos and wear Burberry.  I understand Twlight’s hip Cullen kids are frequently spotted living-it-up at Seattle Marriner’s night games (although they are invisible on the Diamond Vision screen).  Maybe all that is why it seemed relevant to the fillmakers of Let Me In to set it in suburban New Mexico, early 1980’s.  Perhaps they wanted to construct a feeling  of innocence and nostalgia.  Maybe they wanted to take us back to a time when vampirin’ wasn’t cool.

 

"Is that dress a Vivienne Westwood?" - Let Me In

 

12 year old Owen’s nerdy kidness will be familiar to all because we all knew one or were one like him.  His hair is greasy.   He looks permanently sewn in to his oversize, dirty, fake-fur parka. He’s smaller than his classmates and frequently the object of ridicule and pummelings on behalf of a trio of school bullies.  Owen and his single mother live in a rundown apartment complex.  He has little to do but spy on his neighbors through a toy telescope.  One snowy, winter evening Owen watches a barefoot girl, about his age, moving her box of possessions into the unit next door with the help of an unkempt, middle-aged man. Slowly, over several night time encounters in the apartment courtyard, the girl, Abby, starts up an awkward friendship and juvenile romance with Owen, over the objections of the man.  Owen begins to figure out that Abby is not what she appears to be but rather an ageless vampire in the body of a twelve year old.  The unkempt man  is not Abby’s father either, but rather her longtime mortal consort, dating back to his own childhood.  His duty is to look after Abby by going about the murders of young men.  He collects their blood in a plastic bottle and keep his vampire mistress fed.  Eventually the man’s nocturnal activities are accidentally exposed.  He dies and  the trail of murders leads back to the apartment.  Abby must move on,  although she helps Owen in a final violent showdown with the school bullies.

 

Let The Right One In - these sweaters were more Dale Of Norway

 

 

Let Me In is a loyal remake of the sucessful Swedish movie Let The Right One In from 2008.  In terms of story and tone the two movies are nearly idential and both are great, although I think the American remake offers some important improvements.  I find the child actors in the American remake to better actors, and there is a more convincing, eerie chemistry between them.  Also, the Swedish version employs an ill fitting sub-plot about a group of local alcoholics who are both victims of the vampire misdeeds and the source of public exposure.  In Let Me In, that group is swaped out completely for a gritty homicide detective who is putting together the clues of the murders.  This makes it more crime-thriller.  Also, the American version of this movie folds in an interesting homoerotic subtext that brings some texture not present in the first version.  Owen is confused about his male image, particularly in his associations with the bullies, whose taunt him as a wimp and call him “little girl.”   Abby is confused with her feelings toward Owen, saying that she is neither a girl nor or boy.  And the man stalks active young men for Abby, when more yielding victims could be easier prey.

A mild objection I have is over the choice of setting for Let Me In.  It makes sense to me that vampires who burn up in sunlight travel to long Swedish winters where they might not even see sunlight for a few months out of the year.   Los Alimos, New Mexico averages 310 days of sunshine a year.  Look it up.

Both movies succeed in telling a compelling and sad story that leaves fascinating mysteries to the imagination.  Why does the man object to the children’s friendship?  He may be acting like a  jealous lover or he could be protecting Owen from Abby and the circumstance that befell his own youth.  Does the middle-aged man risk the danger in murdering young men because that’s what Abby prefers, or is he acting out on some projected self-loathing, or even sexual frustration?   Does Abby really love Owen or is she killing him softly, selfishly grooming him to become her new life paramour?   The viewers are challenged with these unanswered questions and by the  morality in our sympathy toward Abby.  She is a pretty, 12 year old girl, who is also a human predator.  Yet, her station is to live forever, from consort to consort, in an unforgiving existential transience – a shattered, improverished eternity.  The Cullen’s are Whole Foods.  Abby will always be strictly whole blood.


Let The Right One In (2008, d. Thomas Alfredson)

BSD Movie Log: Blood and Lace

Blood and Lace (1971, d. Philip S. Gilbert)

Ellie, a teen girl, who witnessed the violent murder of her prostitute mother, is sent to an orphanage run by a mentally unstable woman.    The girl uncovers a secret that the sadistic woman is murdering the children and storing the dead bodies in the basement freezer, as to continue collecting a local county subsidy.   Ellie must protect herself from becoming the next victim at the orphanage as well as hide from her mother’s hammer-wielding killer.

It might be acceptable if Blood and Lace weren’t all that scary or gory, but it also isn’t even camp.  It’s just a dumb idea, poorly administered.   It might have been more effective to find actors to play the callow, terrified orphans who didn’t all look age 35.  Even jail-bait perverts will be disappointed.  The movie does feature the late Vic Tayback, although the material he’s given is pretty dull.