Sunday, September 25, 2016

Watching Dressed to Kill tonight, I had forgotten what it was like to actually see camera work capture a developing scene, following action in movement, seeing it to its completion, with editing done circumspectly, with a painterly skill. The opening has Victoria Johnson....errrmmm, Angie Dickinson groping and fondling her fully naked and showered body as steam, water, and soap accompany her hands in enjoying the sensation of the flesh as pleasure turns to horror when a man comes from behind as she focused her eyes towards her husband, shaving his face outside the fogging glass. It is a peculiar dream, or maybe fantasy, soon retreating to the bedroom where Dickinson's pleasureless sex with her husband is occupied by radio news. Her hubby gets it done and departs while Dickinson is left unsatisfied. Soon to complain to her science genius son (Keith Gordon), about his staying up all night inventing a "binary numbers machine" and forgetting their planned art museum trip, Dickinson is again left disappointed by a man in the house. Then off to the memorable museum scene once her English psychiatrist (Michael Caine) is briefly tempted by her blunt option to fuck her which is diffused by his "loyalty to his marriage". Third disappointment with a man won't be her last! It just gets worse! The museum is all stylish visual foreplay before directing us to the Psycho Janet Leigh shock sequence (playfully after a STD discovery that would *seem* to indicate Dickinson was shit outta luck, only to meet the edge of the blade). It directs with no audio and Pino Donaggio's melodic orchestral score, only letting Dickinson communicate a lengthy "chase" where a skirt chaser has her as his new target. I wondered how many married and unsatisfied wives this guy charmed out of their undies.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Response to question about Shelley Duvall in The Shining

Kubrick's treatment of her, turning her into human wreckage, is a visual that thrives in the film. That her character is already weak and careful to begin, with this cautious timidity, and gradually rendered an emotional scrapheap thanks to "Jack Torrance" (Kubrick) is important to the power of the film, showing how she is deteriorated by the Overlook's destructive influence. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

American Horror Story Roanoke Episode 2

Further developments

Matt and Shelby (Andre Holland and Lily Rabe) talk about being stuck with the damn house, pondering selling it. Lee (Adina Porter) gets visitation with her daughter, but bringing her to Roanoke will be her undoing, placing the girl in danger. She talks of a girl, and offering her doll as a trade for her and the family's lives! Matt sees two psychopathic sisters, in nursing uniforms, killing an elderly patient in cold blood. MURDE was spray painted on the wall, and Matt learns later by a taped recording from a raving author/professor (Dennis O'Hare, in a cameo; it appears he was the victim in a pig mask in a recording Shelby and Lee found in the basement they were locked in last week's episode), the sisters he saw were real people and his home was their assisted living facility (for the elderly abandoned by children who wanted them out of the way, allowing the nurses to kill them through various means like rat poison and sock suffocation).

Kathy Bates is briefly seen as the matriarch of this backwoods bonfire clan, roasting someone with a pig face, but Shelby’s claims to the police turned up nothing when they investigated the spot she says was the location of the murder and ritualistic shenanigans. Wes Bentley could also be momentarily seen as a member of Bates’ clan. This was visualized at the end of last week’s episode and just touched on quickly and ambiguously at the beginning of Chapter 2. The Polks are often mentioned as the folks giving the Millers grief, but so far the new season hasn’t decided to get them seriously involved.

Lee and her frustrated husband (Charles Whitfield) are going through a divorce and custody issues further fractured their relationship. Their daughter mentioning violence while hiding in a little closet, regarding a negotiation with a murderous ghoul, doesn’t help matters. Neither does Lee essentially kidnapping her daughter, bringing her back to the Millers’ haunted house, with the conclusion freakily unveiling a little jacket hanging off the branch of a tall tree reaching high to the sky.
This episode seems more geared towards a paranormal presence in the home and how the Millers question their own sanity at times, wondering if certain experiences were just a dream or illusion. The police sure felt they were “kooks”. With the Polks out there somewhere and something evil among them in the house (the Millers also see a woman outside guiding them towards the basement entrance which led to the O’Hare tape and camcorder from 1997), the Millers are tiring of it all. Now Lee’s daughter is nowhere to be found! 

Enough good mystery to keep me going, this second episode might be a bit heavy on sound design and musical scoring but at least the plot is busy enough (O’Hare’s taking his camera into the house after a lengthy history lesson on the nursing home psycho sisters is a highlight) to create the possibility for multiple developments knitted to the Millers and their house. The inclusion of a former occupant, the specters of the nurses, the idea that something in the house is more evil than the nurses (their absence when the police arrive at the home before finishing “MURDE” a sign they were “interrupted”), and the missing child provide reasons to turn in next week.

The format remains the same: Rabe and Holland playing the *real* Matt and Shelby while Sara Paulsen and Cuba Gooding, Jr. portray them in reenactments. Angela Bassett was the reenactment of Lee while Porter is the *real* version. At the beginning, the bonfire scene is maddening enough (some poor soul has the head of his skull gone, with his brain showing!), with Bates talking in some type of “backwoods-speak”, to wet our appetite as to their gradual emergence as the season continues.
There was an article questioning whether or not Myrick and Sanchez lost their opportunity to capitalize on the fame of BWP. With Wingard and Barrett's failure in reviving the franchise obvious from how Blair Witch performed last Friday and suffered seriously damaging critical skewering, I think that question has merit. 2003 - 2005 was a span of time where horror was peaking in the first ten years of the new millennium. I think that was the ideal time for BWP to draw it's weight in rubies. Flopping like a fish last weekend proved that maybe the light has gone out and the wait was too long.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Blair Witch (2016) opens with brother of Heather Donahue, James, in his room preparing to go to the Burkittsville woods along with friend, Lisa (film student doing a research project on the Blair Witch, and the mystery of the three missing students in 1999), buddy Peter, and Peter's girlfriend, Ashley. In their hotel in Maryland, the four are in good spirits, having attended a club wearing ear cameras recording their activities. They meet up with Burkittsville residents, Lane and Talia, who are a more than a bit creepy (African American Peter responding to Lane's confederate flag is priceless), because they supposedly understand the history of the Blair Witch and know the location of the woods where Heather, Josh, and Mike entered and were lost. All six head into the woods, and the rest of the film has them encountering "something". I already mentioned what the woods produces in the blog post below, but I wanted to give a synopsis just the same. There's some gadgetry involved (again, mentioned previously), a genuine threat (that is fucking loud), panicky running as evil in the woods gives chase, and a rather gnarly aged cabin that nobody wants to find themselves trapped in. That tunnel Lisa finds herself, it is quite squirm-inducing. It is all shot in a blitz of chaos when the threat rears its ugly head in all its form, the woods "coming alive". I think its greatest asset is the sound design. And there's some serious terror that is provoked rather effectively when the chase occurs. The presentation gets rather hectic, with a few camera focuses that aren't static but at least give us a longer look. There's an awkward camera exchange where James and Lisa look into each other's faces, as terror surrounds them, with them in his tent after noises scare them.

The tense dynamic between the four and Talia and Lane is of consequence as the woods produces dishonesty and distrust. Mentioned below in the other BW blog post, Lane becomes a hysterical antagonist, sent off into the wild with Talia by the others (who have GPS, soon to not help them much) as punishment for chicanery. Talia emerges a mess needing their help (Peter soon gone from their midst) while Lane once again flees, believing that any association with them results in his death.

The envelopment of the woods was an important key point of strength in The Blair Witch Project (1999) in terms of how the characters were driven to brink by the lack of escape. Blair Witch, though, literally has the woods becoming a tool for the witch to use against those within its environs. It isn't as much as "loss of direction" with the characters walking in circles but the woods visiting upon James and company perils of an intense atmospheric nature...a monster rampaging through like some giant with quite a gallop and strength, rainstorm that develops out of the blue, trees falling, physical intrusion (the foot injury and the worm/centipede), etc.

Therein lies a problem. Everything is amped up, from the tech to how the woods function. To offer a respite to those who want more and more, not satisfied with what The Blair Witch Project left us, this gives it to you. It is certainly loud and levels you to the point that it leaves this feeling of punchdrunk.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Blair Witch Aka The Woods

Instead of unsettled or rattled, I feel exhausted and frustrated. I've just got to get away from found footage/cam horror for a while. The on camera/off camera gimmick wore thin real quickly. The camera recording disrupted with interference and the swinging around (there are "ear handle cameras" equipped with GPS tech) gets tired, too. There's this emphasis on disorientation where you enter the Burkittsville woods and never escape because, it seems, the Blair Witch has cursed the area to the point that it almost becomes a type of alternate universe where a giant stick monster (I call it the BUFG, Big Unfriendly Giant) knocks down trees, night is never-ending or when you do wake up and it's light out it is in the afternoon, a foot wound starts to crackle and pulsate on its own, a leg wound produces this worm/centipede that oozes out, a drone plane camera in a tree causes a trip up to retrieve it ending in disaster when "it" pulls the person off with her crashing to the ground and pulled out of our line of sight, a couple who introduced the leads to the woods pretending to be knowledgeable of the area only to be sent off for their fraudulence return telling them they were gone five days while it feels like only hours, a rainstorm and light show bombard the rickety cabin last seen in The Blair Witch Project as Heather and Mike went after the anguished sounds of Josh, an assault in that cabin where one of the leads is knocked in the noggin and tossed in a pit connected to gopher-hole tunnels (not for those squeamish claustrophobia) as she tries to find a way out, giant twine-and-stick figures hanging from branches, and the breaking of one of these figures literally turning someone into a human pretzel. One potential shot of what appeared to be an old woman in the cabin the brother of Heather believes is his sister, ragged and disheveled, could or could not be the Blair Witch. This follow-up tries to tie in the 1999 film but I think because it just isn't that good, those who love that one might can just dismiss the Winegard 2016 film altogether and keep the first separate and unattached.

Two opinions in the theater from behind me...
"That's it?!?!?"
"They waited 17 years for that?!?!"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

"What the fuck is that?!?! What the fuck is that?!?!"

So you see previews of Blair Witch (2016), and all the elaborate effects that money could by. A marginal budget, a bit of ingenuity, a clever marketing campaign, three regular looking folks, and a damn good syfy channel documentary called Curse of the Blair Witch, which is an effective companion piece, and The Blair Witch Project (1999) sank it's teeth into pop culture, with a ferocious overbite that continues to this day. Some might consider Curse even better because it perpetuates the mythos. In the new sequel's trailer, you immediately see how it goes for the "all will be seen" approach. In the selected scene above, the documentary is must-see so it all comes together efficiently. The children, the back story of the witch, the description of the three missing students, the students' attitudes about the project, and the location itself. But where the footage is found is especially creepy. But the scene above focuses on what Heather sees and what the three hear, experiencing something quite mischievous...and possibly malevolent. Blair Witch 2016 will be reaching out to those who want everything unwrapped and unveiled. For those detractors who bitched and griped about seeing nothing in the 1999 film, I imagine the 2016 film will perhaps satiate some of them. Of course we horror fans are a fickle bunch. Hard to satisfy a majority.
"We're gonna die out here."

Watching The Blair Witch Project - well, half-watching it, tonight since it was on - a memory come back to me from when three of ourselves got lost in the woods. You can really get turned around in the woods, even if behind your house. Venture in deep, forge ahead, make mistakes, go too far and before you know it you're lost. As kids, my brother loved for us to head off into the woods. My cousin would come down from Tupelo and the three of us would waste a Saturday afternoon adventuring. One afternoon we walked ourselves into the woods, winding up walking miles out of our way. Not finding familiar signposts back, walking in circles without that key spot/path leading us back home, that terror and fear is palpable. People probably laugh at the film and feel certain that'd never happen to them. Go ahead. Enter in. Walk a piece. Might want to leave bread crumbs. Mark some trees. And be afraid. Be very afraid.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

American Horror Story Season 6 - Chapter 1

My Roanoke Nightmare

Meh, the inaugural chapter for the sixth season seems to eye those documentary interview reenactment series involving crime/paranormal/cult victims/subjects taking us through a traumatic experience, detailing it to us, leaving it to us to either accept or reject. Falchuk and Murphy have formed their stock company, including additional talent who enjoy working for them, like Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Kathy Bates. AHS regs, Sarah Paulson and Lily Rabe, are Shelby in reenactment and interviewee respectively. Rabe and Andre Holland (Gooding is him in the reenactment) are interracial couple who suffer assault in LA, fleeing to Roanoke, VA, of all places, to start a new life in rural country, occupying a rundown house desired by "white trash hicks". While Holland is away on traveling salesman business, white wife Rabe is nearly drowned in their hottub outside. The police deputy, however, can't find footprints or evidence supporting her claim. Animal growling can be heard around the house, with their living room trashed one night. Holland calls on former policewoman sister (Angela Bassett in reenactment, Adina Porter in interview) to be with his worried wife while away. Porter and Rabe don't get along (putting it mildly), but both determine that some folks are intruding on the property, locking them in the basement. Cameras installed by Holland prove that locals with pitch forks are the culprits. Tired of being on the property Rabe flees in hubby's car, hitting someone in the middle of the road, following after her into the woods, seemingly encountering a cult around a bonfire. Homage to Blair Witch Project, Paulson and Bassett come upon the house besought with stick-and-twine figures, Paulson later seeing these harbingers of doom in the woods at the end. A video playing on a television in the basement has someone hunting what seemed like a pig or pig-headed figure (it is faint and frenetically shot to be elusive). Earlier Gooding had found a dead pig at their front door. This is all set up with groundwork laid to establish an isolated rural house in the middle of the woods, a backwoods cult obviously up to no good, filthy, grotesque uglies certain to be a threat it seems, city outsiders trying to stake their claim in new digs, good ole boy law enforcement doing little to help, and a pill-popping former cop trying to do her bro a favor by staying with his pretty yoga instructor wife. Amusingly, like those document shows of its type, the reenactment performers and their real counterparts look nothing alike. I wasn't won over by this first episode. The cliffhanger for chapter one wasn't catchy enough to leave me itching to watch it next week. Not quite convinced yet this format for AHS will work for me personally. The paranormal experience shows you see on syfy are not my cup of tea.

Highlight could be bizarre shower of teeth which Paulson realizes would be hard for anyone to believe much less her husband.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Potent graphic violence at times and bizarre premise are what somewhat
salvage a rather unspectacular presentation. Pacing drags and instead
of a sense of real horror exploited to its potential, the handling of
the film is a bit subdued and cold. I just found myself underwhelmed.
The plot has a real estate agent father finding a clown suit in a house
he's about to sell. His son's birthday party had a clown cancellation
so the father puts on the suit, wig, and red nose (applying makeup as
well) as a replacement. What the father doesn't realize is that the
costume curses him with a child-hungry demon which gradually transforms
him into a monster. Five kids must be eaten in order for the father to
be released! Ghoulish plot, to be sure. The fate of a kid who sees him
as a clown, continuing to come around his hotel room, with an attempted
suicide beheading with two running electrical saws going awry and the
evil influence of clown demon causing him to go after kids in a indoor
playground (similar to Chuck E Cheese) are both especially disturbing.
Eli Roth's name was attached to this much the same way as Craven and
Barker's were in the 90s to projects exploiting their name more than
anything as producer. The pregnant wife protecting her son and unborn
child while nearly deciding to sacrifice a girl who knows her as a
seemingly trustworthy dental assistant is a secondary conflict along
with researching her husband's clown costume dilemma. A gunshot in the
mouth causing brain matter spattering on the wall of a bathroom mixed
with colored clown paint and a really nasty attempted beheading after
the use of a blade and chain (eventually the head is pulled from the
neck wound, as the medulla oblongata makes it particularly difficult!)
are the film's showstoppers. The bloodletting is when
pop goes after one of his son's foul-mouthed bullies while the kid is
in the middle of a shooter video game. Grisly accidental use of a box
cutter to pry away the costume from the father's arm and the
unfortunate episode regarding the red nose being pulled away from his
face are added violent bits.

Included is a dog getting its head severed by Peter Stormare right in front of Laura Allen (Stormare has ties to the demon through his scientist brother), Andy Powers combatting what the demon wants (that stomach gurgling) opposed to his humanity as it is robbed him, and the futile attempts of Powers to end his existence.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Well, it has been fun for me so far, getting my Trekkie on and all. Just watched Spock having to deal with a command where logic and no emotion are at odds with those on a crashed shuttlecraft with him. Crew members die because of furry primitives on a planet heavy with ionosphere and Spock spends his time helping Scotty repair the failing shuttlecraft while they balk at him about giving them a proper burial with respect worthy of officers dying on mission. Kirk is on the Enterprise hoping rescue missions can find them or a sign of them while a commissioner constantly reminding him that he must reach a colony needing medical supplies for a plague, initially what Spock, Bones, Scotty, Don Marshall and others were sent in their Galileo shuttlecraft for. Seeing Spock mistakenly predict behavior pattern for the creatures through phaser fire thinking they could scare them, he does come up with some inventive defense response and his orbital "flare" ingeniously sends off a type of beacon for Kirk to find them.

Kirk matching wits with a Romulan commander (Mark Lenard) who has a Bird of Prey which can cloak, engaged in battle after the Romulans attack Federation outposts. Kirk proves here that he was quite a genius when forced to face a foe he's unfamiliar. Understanding that in order to use their weapon, a heavy pulse, it requires a lot of power and they must uncloak in order to fire. Kirk even uses warp when one such pulse charge is fired, learning that it's intensity suffers the further it must travel. The strategies of battle are here as Kirk faces the likelihood of entering the Neutral Zone which separates Federation and Romulan space in order to defeat them.

Both "Galileo Seven" and "Balance of Terror" deal with how bigotry exists, and how others view Spock based on his logic, appearance, and lack of emotion. These are in my Top Ten favorite Star Trek Original Series episodes. Spock dealing with crises and those under his command questioning his way of handling matters, with Marshall's Boma and Bones especially in his face and assertive about his approach regarding choosing officers to stay behind to make weight on the shuttlecraft and the efforts on fixing the shuttlecraft instead of the burial. Challenged in a heated debate while helping Scott, Spock had his hands full. Paul Como's Stiles lost relatives to the Romulans in their previous war, harboring a hate for them. Not knowing what they look like, a viewing screen look-see allows Kirk and company to get a description and the Romulans favor Vulcans. Stiles builds a distrust, completely unwarranted, for Spock. Just because he favors the Romulans. This is as potent today as it must've been back then.

Friday, September 9, 2016

I just finished writing my user comments about "Squire of Gothos" as I make my way through a long Star Trek marathon in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the great show, and it fascinated me how William Campbell (who I thought was a hoot), as a god-like blatherskite named Trelane who can change matter into energy, and vice versa, just willing whatever to be so is similar to Q. Like waving his hand or merely by "mental request", Kirk and company can be transported from the Enterprise to a castle on a planet he totally made up to "entertain him". Q couldn't stay away from the Enterprise and often used his power to annoy and challenge Picard and crew on The Next Generation. Once Q was abandoned by his kind, forced into a human body, while Trelane is scorned by his "parents" for "misbehaving". It all sounds like silly piffle, but Campbell in the showy "superior being with great power who acts like a brat" is so entertaining the plot surrenders to him. Kirk matching wits with him, having to considering he doesn't have the ability to leave the planet unless "allowed", is the conflict of the episode. Kirk wants his ship freed from Trelane's mischief. He'll need to somehow undermine Trelane through cunning, in order for that to happen. The physical and athletic duel where Trelane has a sword and considered Kirk "guilty and sentenced to die" surprised me...Trelane really goes after Kirk with a lot of gusto, too!

Star Trek _ Arena

One of my personal favorites of the entire original series, “Arena” has a “peace race” called Metrons pitting Captain Kirk against a reptilian creature called the Gorn (it talks with a slithery and rough voice, laced with sinister intent), with the victor allowed to return to his ship while the loser (and his crew) will be destroyed. It all started when the Gorn’s ship and warrior crew led a massacre towards a Federation outpost on the planet, Cestus 3. Women and children were also attacked on this outpost along with Federation officers on the planet. Kirk is outraged with this seemingly senseless bloodletting, commanding the Enterprise to follow after the Gorn’s ship and engage in combat, with both ships entering the Metrons’ space, their warp drives slowed to still. The Metrons decide that since humans and the Gorn race are uncivilized and violent, bringing these corrupt traits to their space unwanted, will pit their leaders against each other in a fight to the death…the arena is created by them, consisting of a desert, hilly planet where natural minerals and deposits, organic materials from the land, are provided to make weapons and can be used for the big heavyweight fight. While Spock assumes command of the Enterprise, with McCoy and crew questioning how to rescue their captain, Kirk must use his brains and ingenuity in order to appropriately battle a stronger and resilient foe. Dumping a large boulder on him, with punches, chops, and kicks doing nothing against Gorn’s thick exterior flesh, Kirk will have to develop a unique type of weapon to defeat him. From the earth of the planet could provide a type of gunpowder and makeshift blaster Kirk stands in need of, with the Metrons allowing the Enterprise crew to view his movements and activity. Spock approvingly looks on, realizing what Kirk is up to. Kirk very well could have Gorn dead to rites, but will he finish the mission? A thought-provoking piece, questioning what good comes from violence begetting violence. A twist involving why the Gorn ship actually attacked Cestus 3 adds a fascinating wrinkle which has Kirk, Spock, and McCoy dwelling on if they were in the wrong. Amusing visit of a Metron to Kirk after the arena combat concludes with the possibility that humans have potential as a race after all, still “half savage/half civilized” but in another thousand years we might be alright (I wouldn’t count on it, but Roddenberry felt different, bless his heart).

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Messiah of Evil

“Messiah of Evil” has some wickedly good zombie set pieces. I think the supermarket and theater sequences are exceptionally well crafted because two unsuspecting beauties (one an exotic model, the other a sexually liberated young woman who is a bit flighty), without any concern, go about Point Dune (the location of the film) not expecting to be attacked for their blood. Anitra Ford, with “Invasion of the Bee Girls” and “The Big Bird Cage”, and now this…she’s one of those cult sexpots for sure. She wasn’t in a lot, though, having a rather short career, mostly confined to the 70s. Her reaction to a creep who eats a mouse in front of her is priceless. But that ill-fated visit to the supermarket was certainly her undoing. Joy Bang is a barely twenties kid always bored with Point Dune, opting to jump at the chance to take a night show at the coastal town’s local theater. Ford sees the ghouls of Point Dune who seemingly have been lost to a type of “Blood Moon Madness”, with pallid faces, no emotion or humanity seemingly available, and an intense interest in bloody red meat, actually taking in the cold cut cuisine of a supermarket, looking at her as a fresh kill and fresh meal. When she darts for the doors, they’re locked…these ghouls are anything but efficient when it comes to cornering a meal and making sure it doesn’t get away. In the theater, Bang is totally involved in this western (which had Sammy Davis, Jr.), not realizing that it was filling up behind her with ghouls of the Dune Dead. Like Ford, she breaks for an exit and the doors are locked. She becomes the show and her audience is a rabid bunch looking to be satiated.

I have noticed there are theories about symbolism in the film: that the old way of life and their old traditional values, are not tolerant of a “hippy” lifestyle (the two girls “share” wealthy and aristocratic Thom (Michael Greer, in a hetero part) so they “absorb them”. I don’t subscribe to that, but what do I know? Perhaps that was a point to be made.

I subject to the theory that all we see is a reflection of a disturbed mind. The mind of Marianna Hill (of Clint Eastwood’s “High Plains Drifter”) is narrating to us (some of the time, while, other times, the voice of none other than Royal Dano reaches to us from his left behind diary for Hill, his daughter, to read) from a hospital for the mentally ill. Now you could say she was stuck in the hospital for telling a bizarre truth few are willing to accept as reality. She warns of the “Dark Stranger” (a holdover of the infamous Donner Party who ate their own out of desperation) coming, bringing the “new religion” outside his cult worshippers in Point Dune. Dumped in the hospital, she awaits for him to spread his disease like a plague. Dano’s absence from her life, mysteriously venturing off to Dune to work on his art, draws Hill to his coastal digs located on the beach, with the wind and waves noising their presence always. The plot itself is indeed absurd, and it is quite possible all we see is drummed up by Hill who is simply out of her mind. But, obviously, the film plants the “What if?” It is important to do that. To present a scary apocalyptic threat that seems too wacky to be true, with a heroine (much in the same vein as poor Zohra Lampert in “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death”) established to have possible mental health issues. How fantastic the plot is, much like Jessica, can’t be altogether dismissed. That is what makes the disease so scary, the menace of the plot so unnerving…that we are unwilling to accept that vampires exist. I kind of look at these undead ghouls in Point Dune similarly…they thirst for blood, known to devour a lot of the creatures during the feeding. They are visually reminiscent to Romero’s zombies, though. No rotted flesh sloughing off, and they pursue fresh meat with a sense of urgency, but there is that gaze without a soul behind them, humanity raped from them thanks to the Blood Moon’s “disease.” We see this when a young woman stops an alert and worried Greer in the street of Point Dune by one of their many department stores…during a conversation where she hopes to escape, Greer sees a blood “tear” that is a sign of the incoming madness soon to overtake her. Once the blood tear appears, the madness eventually turns them into the blood thirsty ghouls that begin to stalk Point Dune in abundance.

I just have to say the score is kind of in a piece with the low budget creepshows of the decade. The music was close in spirit to what I heard spooking me up in both “Let’s Scare Jessica to Death” and “Shock Waves”. Like chilling fingers gliding across your flesh, the score of these films kind of gets under the surface and does its job. With the score up to the task, there is Dano’s artifice reflecting Point Dune as it starts to affect him. His diary is a key plot device to explain how the madness gradually overwhelms you until what was once human gets culled from you until nothing’s left but the desire for blood and to follow the master soon to return once the moon is totally blood red. Dano’s voice is appropriately aching, deteriorating into concern for what is happening to him. It is a voice where the tenor worsens as the diary moves from one day to the next. Once Hill arrives, Dano is nowhere to be found…although, one night scene has him under the dark taking a few paces down some steps, stilling himself before leaving. The art on the walls of his coastal home really leaves this lasting impression…I can’t imagine how movement through the rooms of the home with those folks in dark clothes and spectral expressions (as if staring a hole through you) painted so ominously by the tortured artist behind them wouldn’t leave constant heebie jeebies. I fucking love that, too. There is one face, painted larger than the others, which reminded me of Lee Harvey Oswalt. There’s darkness under the eyes, and that look cast off is so sinister. If you leave the actual ghouls from Point Dune, Dano’s home features them on his wall, a canvas that doesn’t allow for any escape…the “Dark Stranger” has influence wherever Point Dune is, tentacles spread from town to beach.

Then you have Elisha Cook, Jr. adding credence to what Dano’s diary proclaims…not long after he speaks with Greer (and he also warns Hill in secret), his body is found partially devoured. Cook, Jr. makes scenes so much fun just with his bug-eyes and sincere facial expressions, honestly conceived and believable. His forehead and eyebrows, the whole works. But Dano’s grand appearance was worth waiting for. He sure does let it all hang out when the urges to devour are no longer able to be held in check: his daughter is just as endangered as any human lunch plate. The blue paint smeared all over him during his fit is so surreal and damned effective. And the hands on the glass sun roof of Dano’s house as the ghouls break through, crashing to the floor, creates quite a visual, also.

The 70s produced a lot of gems, some gaining a cult rep thanks to the dvd and media explosion of the 2000s up until now. VHS in the 80s offered movies to us from the 70s and before, but with multiple generations forward, there is an interest in long forgotten horror. I long to be creeped out. I don’t need to be scared. I don’t need manufactured jump scares. I want films to really dig their heels in and have something about them that grabs me. I want to be enveloped into the experience. “Messiah of Evil” does that. I’m glad some good word of mouth found me. It isn’t perfect, but cult movies in the 70s always had a way (many of them, anyway) of provoking a response. That Manson family derangement and evil reached into the next decade and left an indelible mark. “Messiah of Evil” seems to leech off that somewhat.

At Night, She Walks

Ana Lily Amirpour, I surely hope, will be getting some worthwhile projects or continues to direct indie films with the aesthetic and vision as her “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”. It doesn’t have to be a film shot in B&W (I can hear the critics responding with “artsy fartsy” similarly to another exotic vampire film shot that way in “Nadja” (1994)), but I sure as hell wouldn’t mind it if she decided to do so. That said, I am never one to ask an artist of Amirpour’s caliber to stick to a certain style or theme…the sky’s the limit for her if given a budget or chance to capitalize on this great film.

It is a simply plotted film. This isn’t about the plot—I felt it was a romance wrapped in a vampire disguise—as much as Amirpour’s visual strokes applied to her attractive cast. She’s interested in faces, especially. I am quite a mark for faces. I like when directors care about what a face can do for their film. Casting is obviously crucial in that regard. Amirpour does have some cool faces and loves to glamorize them with her camera. There is the uniqueness of this Iranian area at night, with this specific selection of a few characters, empty streets, crystalline white street lights haloing those walking the sidewalks, Sheila Vand in her chador haunting the film’s setting like Death awaiting the next passenger to the great beyond, Arash Marandi wandering through his adult youth without direction looking for something substantial that isn’t happening supporting his heroin junkie father (Marshall Manesh), the drug-dealing creep (Dominic Rains) who pimps a thirty-year-old hooker (Mozhan MarnĂ²) and preys on the weak by providing smack, and the seductive allure of a privileged beauty (Rome Shadanloo) to Arash who would love to be a part of her world but the status quo disallows it.

The “X” pill (like ecstasy) which Rome convinces, through her brand of appeal, Arash to “sample” and how lost in his trip the film elaborates once again allows Amirpour to define her style in a hypnotic way. Oh, and the music is important to Amirpour. That is one of the decisions of the film—the music and rock pieces—that really stood out to me.

When I fall head over heels for a movie, I drool and foam at the mouth for it. This is one of those cases. This isn’t a film which will feature a story that grabs you by the jugular. It is a lot about presentation, I won’t lie. But, gadzooks, does it get that right!

It does elegantly choose a set of people, a select group representing specific characters—as mentioned, the teenage dreamboat just missing the social standing in his favor, the coke-snorting pimp who has addicts funding his high lifestyle, the aging prostitute (aging defined by not being early twenties), the middle age junkie surrendered to his habit no matter how destructive it is to his son and himself, the wealthy sexpot with all the attention and popularity, and the lonely outcast (who just so happens to be a pretty vampire preying on the dregs of society to sustain her blood thirst) on the periphery of “Bad City” (where the film is essentially set). Shot in Cali but fictionalized in Iran, with the language representative of its setting; Amirpour gives us her own version, orchestrated within a visual feast.

A scene of note:

  • Vand is playing some obscure 80s song (well, within the context of the scene, it is a vinyl record placed on the turntable by her while Arash remains influenced by X), with only a side of her face exposed to the camera.
  • Arash spins her disco ball light hanging from the wall, gradually approaching her from behind.
  • Vand, with Arash unable to see it, begins to realize that she's smitten, and this smile knowing that he could be *the one* emerges. It is a smile that, despite the camera only showing a side profile, communicates so much from someone who had until then shown very little satisfying.
  • How long has Vand waited for something like this? Does she capitalize on his naivete regarding her closet vampirism or sink her teeth in his exposed neck?
  • Vand wants to instead cradle her head into his chest and live this moment to its fullest.
Here's the scene in full

Oh, and here is a cool interview from VICE with Amirpour and her star, Vand. God I hope they collaborate on more:




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