Sunday, January 26, 2014

Visiting Hours



***/*****

Look, Michael Ironside may once again be saddled in the cast roster at like #3, but he’s the star of this film. He was an overwhelming presence in Scanners and here in Visiting Hours he’s a force of absolute fear. Ironside has been stuck in B-movies almost his entire career, but that fierce intensity and, when the role often required, ruthless aggression (he is a damn good tight-ass, too) are unmatched when he’s sharing the screen with others. No offense to Stephen Lack, but when he is onscreen with Ironside, the poor guy gets his ass kicked. I don’t think it is any real surprise that Ironside could fulfill the role of a monstrous stalking psychopath with the chilling ability to torment and terrorize. Visiting Hours seems tailor made for his brand of performance.

30 Days of Night--In Conclusion


Concluding this weekly write-up on 30 Days of Night, I wanted to finish with some final thoughts and images from the film.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Melissa George seriously worried in 30 Days of Night (2007)

The plot works in the estrangement of husband and wife, Eben and Stella (Melissa George). Stella plans to leave Barrow for good and Eben anguishes about it. Of course the plot won’t allow the two to split apart without being forced to join together to face the vampires raiding Barrow. Again, this isn’t something that hasn’t been used in time past, but Hartnett (to me, he was a bit of a victim to his heartthrob looks and Hollywood’s obsession at the time for force-feeding him to us) and George are capable enough to elicit sympathy for where their relationship is at and the demands upon them to stop a global threat right in their own "back yard."




 
A thought did cross my mind that Hartnett does appear to be a bit young and fresh-faced for this sheriff of such a blue-collar, rough-weather town. The gruff and tough of such a cold-weather Alaskan town where beards are the norm and skin chaffs at low temperature days seem to contrast quite a bit with Hartnett and George who do look a bit too pretty. In other films, they’d be outsiders who happened to find themselves passing through a town like this by accident or as investigative scientists not police officers actually in law enforcement positions. Maybe I just stereotype too much?

 
Speaking of Melissa George, I like her a lot. I like her pouty lips and she always seems to generate the appropriate expressions and with her characters often facing scary situations has the reactions I find quite effectively sound as developments involve her.

Thursday, January 23, 2014


My favorite scene (or at least the scene that delivered the most impact with me) in 30 Days of Night is the overhead shot of the township of Barrow as it falls to the slaughter of the vampires. The screams and the monstrous onslaught tells us that the attack and carnage are epic. The powerless inability to stop is well documented by what we see transpire through that overhead shot.

Danny Huston is leader of the vampires in 30 Days of Night (2007)

I think if there is a particular critique against the film, it might be the less-than-complex plot. This is a vampire movie. It will obviously feature blood-letting and carnivorous activity. The citizens of Barrow will be bled dry and fed from. A small band of survivors will try and eliminate the threat, and a heavy price will be paid in the process.

To make things interesting, sunlight is removed from the equation, placing even greater peril upon those who have the misfortune of living in Barrow. That’s the draw and what the movie hung its nightmare on. One of the chief weaknesses of the bloodsucker is those death rays of the sun; so with Alaska not having that, this provides vampires (led by a ferocious and damned scary Danny Huston) with a distinct advantage (if they didn’t have enough advantages already, right?) further complicating matters for the humans.




What is a nice surprise is how these vampires aren’t from Twilight or of the usual Gothic variety. They’re hungry and unhinged, with a ferocity and primal savagery most welcome. The vampires, to me, need to be right out of a nightmare. When they show up and attack, I think we should have a gulp in our throat while watching them. I think 30 Days of Night accomplishes this at least. The meteorologist is a fine example of how fast and dangerous the vampires are. They surround you and pounce without much hesitation and go right for the jugular damn near immediately. The feast is in their sights and like starving animals they are, the vampires aren’t willing to wait long for the meal. It shouldn’t surprise us that the vampires lay waste to Barrow in such fashion as they do.

Monday, January 20, 2014



The town of Barrow, the place that will face the onslaught in 30 Days of Night (2007)



I have to admit, that The Thing (1982) undeniably comes to my mind when I watch this although the similarities are minimum. The murdered dogs and the cold isolation of the location, the seemingly inescapable situation that presents itself to humans with no place it seems to flee to, and the curse of a predatory creature (in this case creatures) that deteriorates the numbers until there are few left. Again, the similarities are few, but so many films (like, say, Whiteout (2009)) face the same sort of relation. The Thing just seems to have that, doesn't it?
Foster's face prior to the slaughter in 30 Days of Night (2007)



 
Regardless of what I might or might not think of the movie, 30 Days of Night (2007) has some striking imagery that leaves me quite in awe. It might fall prey to the bug directors caught with shooting faces up close and the oxymoron “steadi-cam” method, but when the film is good, I think it’s really good. The opening shots such an example, as well as, the symbolism of Eben and Billy (Josh Hartnett and Manu Bennett) looking out at the sun as it goes down—the harbinger of doom that is indicative of what will soon befall their town—providing us with that wealth of image that well presented to the viewer.



 
This comes after the finding of cell phones burned to black ash, found by Eben and Billy who are a bit befuddled by this “camp fire”. Ben Foster’s grizzled face, full of wounded trauma and haunted torment, is the very first image echoing to us what will soon happen to Barrow, Alaska. He looks at the distant ship which brought him to Alaska, and he knows what he must do (not that he won’t soon be discarded by his “authority”) and those who will perish by his orders and actions.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Iron Rose


A Rose of Iron.
****/*****

Essentially, I would say The Iron Rose (1973)is about a guy and girl locking eyes at some insignificant party (well, not to those who were married, but to the plot itself it is just a place where they encounter each other), are passionately in lust with each other, decide to take off, find a place to have a picnic after some necking, and fall victim to the location of said picnic. Well, the guy is okay for the most part, although fucking a girl in a pit of skeleton bones does call into question his taste (although, she’s a feast for the eyes, so maybe you get lost in the moment…), but the girl “loses herself to the place”. She basically somehow falls victim to the cemetery, and its imprint is left on her to the point that the decadence and representation of death that it entails is poetically important to her psyche. I try to explain her “descent” (or in her mania, an “ascent”) and reading this I kind of understand why The Iron Rose would be considered a bit of 80 minute lunacy. Yet I find myself often entranced by the film. Or maybe the girl herself leaves me transfixed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Pee Wee's Big Adventure (1985)

I can recall those little HBO guides back when I was a child over my grandmother’s house in the late 80s (prior to Rueben’s unfortunate arrest for indecent exposure) reading about a small review of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure in one of them. In these guides, the articles (more like just your basic synopsis with accompanying parenthesis featuring what these films contain (MV for Mild Violence, in the case of this film)) are really not all that significant and you still see a form of them in hotel rooms that carry HBO. But I saw the review for Pee Wee and decided to watch the film. What still resonates with me is the idea that here is a child fantasy brought to life in the form of an adult (using the term loosely) with a home, front yard, back yard, and bicycle fashioned in the way that seemed so fantastic when viewed through the lens of an 8-year old. Then the ensuing trip to the Alamo (told to the child-man through the made-up-on-the-spot charlatan, crystal ball posted on the table, the clairvoyant garb, the whole nine yards, with the dark stormy night walk in the alley as an addition) again plays on the grand adventure that often is the fantasy of many a kid (and adult), going through experiences, meeting a number of “unique” individuals, and seeing sights like the aforementioned Alamo, a diner where the patrons still remember Large Marge (whose ghost Pee Wee meets, listening to her tell her own story, not knowing he was riding in the rig with Marge) and remain spooked by her presence, the Dinosaur statue, a rodeo, Warner Brothers Studios, and a biker bar. So Pee Wee gets his bike stolen by a portly spoiled brat (who is the same age as Pee Wee, but just as juvenile if not more so). He is led on a wild goose chase after the damn bike when Francis (Mark Holton; probably remembered from Teen Wolf and as John Wayne Gacy in Gacy) decides he must get rid of it due to local press regarding it, and thus the trip to Warner Brothers Studio takes shape. The road trip is a series of "danger scenarios" where Pee Wee must evade the snarling, mute, intimidating, brutish hick boyfriend of a waitress who decides to forgo all and go to Paris (Pee Wee suggests that she follow her heart), avoid bikers wanting to wring his neck for knocking over their motorcycles by dancing to "Tequila", and the Warners Lot security as they chase after him for commandeering his own bike on the set of a child movie (while dressed as a nun!).






There are moments that come back to me that I recall as questionable even as a child like how Pee Wee must have some sort of inheritance because he seems to have a lot of stuff without paying for them. The elaborate set up for his breakfast as if something out of À nous la liberté or Modern Times with Pee Wee having a number of toys and child-hood devices contributing to the makings of bacon, eggs, and pancake in the shape of a face for him to chat with…only he doesn’t even eat his breakfast so the whole sequence was for naught!
 



 

Something I found very interesting was the homoerotic content that I can’t help but believe is intentional. Like how Pee Wee has no romantic interest whatsoever in Dottie (Elizabeth Daily) yet she pines for him to the point of embarrassing herself. It reminds me of the girl or guy who just can’t get a clue that the one they desire aren’t interested in that specific sexual orientation. Pee Wee tells her there are things she doesn’t know about and couldn’t possibly understand. Later on Pee Wee meets an escaped con on the run (“Arrivederci, baby!”) named Mickey (Judd Omen), and pretends to be his gal when the police pull them over. The Mickey/Pee Wee scenes have that sexual tension that is almost palpable. Of course, once Mickey drops Pee Wee off in the middle of nowhere at night (for his own good because he’s a “loner, a rebel”), this is soon also abandoned. There’s even a moment where one of the cops asks Pee Wee, while dressed as Mickey’s gal, to step out of the car so he could see him in that cute outfit of his!





I continue to find myself watching this on occasion when it comes on. HBO continues to show it even to this day (I watched it on HBO Family, Saturday afternoon), and I can’t help but chuckle and get a kick out of Tim Burton’s visual treatments of clowns (Holton dressed as the Devil while destroying Pee Wee’s bike in a cauldron was especially neat) and his view of Americana in a different way (the bars, diner, rodeo, bike store, movie studio, and suburbia and how they look a little different when Pee Wee appears), not to mention the number of great faces that appear (like Carmen Filpi as Hobo Jack, gum-chewing Jan Hooks as the enthusiastic Alamo guide, and Simmy Bow as the bar patron who gives Pee Wee the news about Large Marge), it’s easy to see why I do.
 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


Embrace of the Vampire (2013)

Sometimes I don’t know what to expect from a movie. I never thought I would see I Spit on Your Grave at Walmart (the original) for dvd (this never seemed like a film you would see side by side with a mainstream movie), but when I was watching Embrace of the Vampire, I certainly didn’t think I would see some erotic lesbian action. I just don’t know what else the vampire genre has to offer, to be honest. I believe I had mentioned this in Kiss of the Damned, not long ago. So we resign to just watch these films and expect the expected. Embrace of the Vampire is about seduction. These movies, vampires and erotica, often feature seduction of an “innocent”, and the blood drains and bodies moan. This scene in Embrace of the Vampire is a fantasy sequence that touches on sexual awakening and the oncoming vampirism, the convergence of seduction and the bite.

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The Boogens - Intro

While I must admit that as a monster movie, The Boogens (1981) doesn’t quite measure up (its monsters aren’t particularly menacing ...