Saturday, December 25, 2010

Too Much To Take

Like everything director Takashi Miike does, Imprint leaves an impression.  Originally created for the Showtime series Masters of Horror, Imprint never saw the light of day on that network due to it being too disturbing.  Mick Garris, the series' creator had asked Miike to tone it down before Showtime saw it.  I like Garris, and when he is asking a director to tone something down, there is probably a reason.  I never felt, however, that the Masters of Horror series was all that controversial in nature, so I took the stories of Imprint's fright factor with a grain of salt. 

After watching it, I can understand why Showtime wouldn't air it.  If I had to put my finger on it, I would say it is the copious amounts of aborted fetuses that had something to do with, and not the torture scene (though that was pretty chilling).

Watching Imprint is kind of like watching a nightmare unfold.  The acting is sometimes over the top.  The visual aspects of the story seem off-kilter (one of the main complaints about it that I've heard from people is that they can't tell what time period the story is supposed to be set in -- it looks like it is older, current and slightly in the future all at once).  And the narrative is erratic in places.  It works as a disturbing tale, and its conclusion is open to interpretation, but I must say I find Audition to be more cohesive and enjoyable.

Miike is a director who is no stranger to controversy.  People have called his work overly violent, but I think it is something far more powerful than that.  His use of violence is almost poetic.  He doesn't use the hack-and-slash route many American directors go for.  He is more subtle.  Because of that, he is more effective.  People can watch Jason Voorhees cleave someone with a machete and say, "Damn, that was bad ass."  But make that same person watch the torture scene from Imprint were burning incense is applied to a woman's armpits and you can physically feel that work.  There is far less blood involved, and incense is no machete, but the effect on the viewer is far stronger than most things that come out of America.  This is, however, not a cultural difference.  It is a difference of direction and artistic vision.  Miike wants every scene to have a specific impact.  Your standard director just wants the blood to flow.

Imprint may have been too much for Showtime's perceived audience (though I doubt the  network would have received as many complaints as it thinks), but it can be seen on DVD and through Netflix streaming.  It may not be a Christmas movie, but it sure as hell beats the NBA or whatever other shit is playing.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crime Pays

I received The Sicilian Girl to review and actually got to sit down and do so the other night.  I can't go too heavily into the film here, as I am revieiwng it for Film Threat, but I can at least comment on its genre: the crime film. 

(Actually, this is more like a bio pic set in the happy-go-lucky world of the Mafia, but chances are viewers are watching it because of the crime element.)

Crime films tend to be insanely popular.  Especially when it comes to films that focus on the Mafia.  Maybe it's the Mafia's values or audiences living vicariously through the characters on the screen.  Either way, the idea of organized crime captures the movie audiences' attention just as well as a loud explosion or a "really cool car chase."  Unlike those two things, however, the crime film doesn't just capture the attention of the easily distracted.  It captures minds across the vast demographic ocean. 

It's not just our fictions, either.  Americans, and I suspect it is true in other countries as well, love their crime in real life.  Mr. Simpson.  Dahmer.  Gotti.  Manson.  Cooper.  We follow news coverage.  In fact, for some that is the only news they follow.  It would appear that we are kind of sick to be fascinated by such things.  I am fascinated by it (in particular, serial killers).  I enjoy the fictional stories and the real coverage, and I think I may have pinpointed one of the reasons why these stories are so popular.

As a culture, we relate to one another on some level.  Very few of us feel so vastly isolated that we can't find some common ground (and those who do often become the type of person we watch a movie about).  So when we see a film about a "criminal," we, actively or inactively, try to relate.  We look at the choices they make and, if the filmmaker did his or her job correctly, we can understand them.  And then we look at ourselves and think about the choices we'd make in such a situation.  High road or low road?  Risk getting caught?  Going out with a bang, or turning snitch?  One last drug deal because the cops are closing in and it will give us enough to get to Mexico?  Stop choking the person at the last minute and try to start over with life?  We like to put ourselves in their shoes.  We like the idea of justice, but we also like the idea of sticking it to The Man.  It's our last bit of rugged individualism ... even if it's in a crowded theatre with like-minded people.

We are fascinated with criminals because they are fascinating.

One of my favorite crime movies is The Krays, a wonderfully shot and acted story of twin brother gangsters that is as brutal as it is touching.  It involves a world (British organized crime) that I have little connection with despite the fact that it is based on a true story.  It involves people who were rarely mentioned here in America.  It has values I don't normally subscribe to.  In other words, on a surface level I have nothing to relate to in this film.  I can't help, however, but loving the Krays' descent into humble psychosis, and though their world is as foreign to me as that of a goat herder, I can't turn away.  I can't help but understand them and actually have some empathy for them.  The crime film once again works because it appeals to the human in us all. 

Romantic comedies, and their sappy way of looking at the world, only connect with a certain segment of the crowd.  Science fiction films, by their very nature, alienate another segment, as do horror movies, even if they are about the human condition.  Westerns have the same shortfall.  In fact, most genre films alienate ... except the crime film.  Instead of getting a certain amount of strength from alienation (something that can actually reinforce a genre film as they have their own rules to live by that don't have to be gone over with every new film), they get their power by inclusion.

These are powerful films in ways we probably don't even understand.  Like all worthy art they make us examine things in our own lives, and in that way influence how we learn about the world around us. 

Darth Vader may be film's most famous villain, but it is far easier to relate to Dillinger and Bonnie and Clyde.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Eaten Alive

Tobe Hooper?  Check.  Crazy-ass redneck in Louisiana?  Check.  A man-eating crocodile/  Check.  Country music playing from a crappy radio?  Check.  Bare breasts?  Check.  It must be Eaten Alive.  It's had about 800 different names.  Regardless, it's an underrated film that apparently has a fan in Quentin Tarantino (compare the dialogue in Kill Bill Vol. 1 that Tarantino has his would-be rapist say with Robert Englund's character's dialogue in Hooper's film).

This is, of course, not my favorite Hooper film.  That would be The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.  Both films do have similar themes, though Eaten Alive is nowhere near as nihilistic as the classic.  (Marilyn Burns stars in both films, too, and both were loosely inspired by real people.)  Texas ..., it should be noted, has won a place not only in horror film history, but has also earned its place in cinema history.  Eaten Alive, however, never got the same amount of respect.  That doesn't mean it should be dismissed.

Texas ..., as anyone who has seen it knows, is a brutal, nihilistic (there's that word again) ride where the tension builds until the film's terrifying conclusion -- the cinematic equivalent of being beaten.  It is infamous for its depravity and gore, though those who have seen it know there is very little gore to be found. 

Eaten Alive tries to capture lightning in a bottle a second time, but it doesn't quite work.  There is more humor. The screen's villain isn't anywhere near as menacing as the family in Texas, and the depravity doesn't come close to what Hooper's audience was used to based on his previous film.

There is a creep factor to the film, though, that can't be denied, and when a little girl is terrorized you can see some of that Hooper sensibility come out.  It's not quite as bad as the cannibalistic dinner scene from Texas ..., which came out in 1974 (three years prior to Eaten Alive), but it is still a nail biter. 

When you think about it, Eaten Alive could only disappoint fans of Hooper's first film.  There was no way it could really be on par with it.  What film could?  Whatever he could've created could only be met with a shrug.  Considering that, it's actually quite surprising that Eaten Alive isn't a total failure.

I used to question whether or not anyone would even care about or remember this film if Hooper's name weren't attached.  Watching with an objective eye, however, reveals a work that serves as a nice transition piece between the director's first film and some of the stuff that followed (The Funhouse and Poltergeist are two that come to mind that are far from the savagery of Texas ... but still share some common bonds with Eaten Alive like children in danger and villains from the outskirts of mainstream culture).  It will never be as influential as Texas ..., but it is respectable in its own right.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Hollywood Dinosaurs

I'm currently working on a review of Dinosaur Valley Girls for Film Threat.  This Donald F. Glut vehicle (yes, that Donald F. Glut) came out as a two-disc set earlier this year.  It's available from Frontline Films and, of course, Amazon.  I'm not going to go into the review here, because I'm saving that for Film Threat, but I want to make mention of what kind of movie it is.

As you can imagine by the title, this is a dinosaur/cavewoman movie that has its tongue wedged firmly in cheek.  It's the kind of movie that you don't see in theatres anymore.  Some may be thankful for that.  Others, like myself, would prefer to see this over any of the feel-good crap that Hollywood shits out every few months.

Hollywood is driven by profit.  I don't think that's a controversial statement.  Movies like Dinosaur Valley Girls don't earn the kind of profit as Eat, Pray, Love.  Conversely, they don't cost as much to make, either.  Couple this lack of profit with the fact that there are far too many chain theatres all showing the same film, and you can start to see why public showings of such fare have gone the way of the (ahem) dinosaur.  There just isn't money in it.

Normally I'd argue the point that we are missing out on some great art because the smaller, lesser-known pictures don't get a chance to be seen by the masses.  I can't argue that here.  This film isn't art.  It's not meant to be.  It's meant to be entertainment, and when low-budget entertainment can't even get major screenings, some of the magic of movies is lost.

It's been debated that audiences are more sophisticated these days.  They won't tolerate these low-budget USA network-type fare.  I can sort of see that, though I would state the only way audiences have become more sophisticated is when it comes to special effects.  Today's mass audiences won't tolerate cheap special effects, but they will tolerate the same ridiculous stories done with a higher budget.  In fact, they do it all the time.

I'll always value art over entertainment, and I won't make excuses for that.  Every once in a while I prefer some junk food, however.  Hell, I'd just settle for having the choice.  There's really no reason why a multiplex owned by whatever corporation can't devote some screen time in its smallest theatre to some cheap, on-the-fly lesser known movies.  They'll cost less to obtain, bring in some people who don't care for the latest big-budget nonsense.  The only way you can see these little films these days is in independent theatres, and far too many towns don't have those. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Girl With the Remake Tattoo

Americans love to think we can do anything better than our foreign counterparts.  The world has soccer, which culminates in the World Cup where teams from around the world compete.  America has baseball and the World Series, in which two teams square off (both are usually American, though they could be Canadian).  Then there's Americanized sushi (pathetic).  War (Hitler invades, we drop the BOMB).  And movies.  The lastest round of remakes targets The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which was originally a Swedish film based off a Swedish book and which currently has two sequels.

The film is fairly well-liked.  I reviewed it for Film Threat and was immediately a fan.  I even made note in my review that it was being remade.  So that begs the question: If the film is well-received (even in America), why remake it in the first place? 

The first and foremost answer is: subtitles.  The vast majority of American movie audiences don't like "reading" their movies.  Fine.  I understand these people must be appeased, though I am of the mind that if they don't want to read subtitles they can just miss out.  That answer is too simple, however.  I think the real answer is: Because we think we can do it better.

The movie did amazingly well at the box office.  (The book is a bestseller, too.)  I believe some vulture in Hollywood saw that and said, "If a foreign movie can do this well, imagine how much money I'd make if I did a domestic version of it!"  Boom.  The idea was born.

There is, of course, some truth to that notion.  We do movies well.  I can't think of any situation where an American film was remade overseas and outdid the box office of the original picture.  I don't think it has happened (though I haven't conducted a thorough study).  I still don't like the idea, though, and there are two reasons for that.

One, on a plainly personal level, I find the idea disrespectful.  In my view it sends the idea that the original version is not good enough on its own.  It makes it somewhat flawed, and needs to be fixed.  I know not everyone thinks that way (and I have enjoyed remakes -- some more than the originals), but it still feels that way.

Then there is the fact that Americans make films for a dumber audience, and it makes films differently.  Foreign films have subtleties there that are far different from American films, but are universal nonetheless.  When an American remake is done, these often sublime moments are erased and we are often hit over the head with symbolism and message, as if we couldn't get there on our own with the original.  In many (not all) foreign films made for a serious film audience, you take from the movie what you bring to it.  In American films, you take what you are given.  That's not entirely the filmmaker's fault.  It's often what the audience demands.

I know plenty of you reading this have seen The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  I ask you to think back to that unpleasant scene where Lisbeth was raped.  Now remember her stiffly walking home.  All I could think about during that scene, and I'm sure I'm not the only one, is that if this was shown in to your average American audience, there would be people laughing.  There is the difference.

I don't plan on seeing the remake unless I'm reviewing it for some publication or site.  The people I've talked to who have seen the original version don't plan on it, either.  Some of you will call me a film snob or an elitist.  (I've been called worse.)  That's okay.  I don't believe I'm a film snob (hell, I like some crap), but I'll wear the elite title any day.  I'm passionate about the things I like.  I study them.  I defend them.   The rest of you can enjoy Me, Myself and Irene or some other such nonsense.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Problems With Bees

Back in 2009 I reviewed The Beekeeper for Film Threat.  Later that year I also interviewed its star, Michelle Mueller.  She was pretty damn good in the film, and was an incredibly nice person.  In doing the interview, I also got in touch with the film's director, Sean Jourdan.  He, too, was great to deal with, which led me to believe this could be the least dysfunctional indie film cast I've ever encountered ... if only based on those two.

Obviously I was behind the film and wanted it to succeed.  Because of that, a few months ago Jourdan got in touch with me and asked if I would post my review to iTunes, since the movie is available there.  I responded something along the lines that I'd be happy to help The Beekeeper out in any way I could.  And this is where I suck.

I'm way behind on my e-mail.  I get a lot of it at several different addresses.  I'm not talking spam, either.  E-mail from other writers, directors, actors, film PR companies, music labels and so on.  I read it, and if it is time sensitive I get on it right away.  If I think it can be held off a day or so, I do so.  Of course, this "day or so" really translates into the fact that I have e-mails from March (it's October as I write this) that I have to get to.  Jourdan's e-mail was one of those I fell behind on.  Then I tried to post a link to the review, and I couldn't.  In the movie business, that's called "insult to injury."

Luckily, Jourdan had already done so, which doesn't make me an less of an ass, but does mean that people interested in buying the film can see what I had to say first and realize it is very much worth watching.

I hate letting indie films down.  I can't stand it, actually.  Like there aren't enough obstacles in the way.  I try to help as often as I can, but sometimes I drop the damn ball, and this was one of those times. 

So, to Mueller and Jourdan, and everyone else in the cast and crew -- I apologize.  And to you other readers, if you don't want to take my word on the film, here is a link to the film site where there is a slew of press about it.  If you like dramas, it is well worth your time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Some Film Picks For Halloween

October.  My second favorite month of the year.  It encompasses all things scary.  And while some people like Halloween to be silly or fun, I prefer it to be scary and terrifying.  Below are a list of some films I recommend for watching this month to help put you in the terror mood.  They are in no particular order.

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  Go with the original.  It is a hallmark of American cinema, and it's documentary-style presentation still bothers people to this day.  Until this film came along, total utter nihilism didn't really exist in American cinema. 

2.  Audition.  Great date movie.  Starts out as a romance and ends with torture.  Lesson learned?  Stay away from sweet girls.  They'll stick needles in your eyes.

3.  The Shining.  Go with the Stanley Kubrick version.  It's got a great cast, a wonderful soundtrack, and a director not known for horror, but who knows horror nonetheless.  This film has become a part of our culture, and is referenced in television and in movies.  If you haven't seen it, you can find out what the fuss is all about.

4.  The Devil's Rejects.  Not exactly a horror film, but terrifying in its own right.  Rob Zombie did the film world proud with this one, and it holds up to this day.

5. Cannibal Holocaust.  One of the more extreme movies out there.  It is not for the easily disturbed, and its footage of animals really being slaughtered turns off many viewers, but if you can stomach it, you'll get an interesting look into the world of reality television before such a thing even existed at the level it does now.  Great stuff and historical.

6. Suspiria.  Dario Argento's masterpiece is less a film and more of a twisted nightmare.  I'd recommend most of his work, but this one has the best Halloween feel.  It is not my favorite of his, but it fits the season far better than The Stendhal Syndrome, which is my personal favorite.

7. Halloween.  John Carpenter's finest film.  It is brilliant, and was his answer to the Italian giallos.  It works, too.  It is not a bloodbath, and nor does it have to be.  As far as slasher films go, it is nearly sublime.

8. Nosferatu.  You have to go with the original, silent film again.  Watch this at night with the lights out.  Try not to get creeped out.  I dare you.

9. High Tension.  A wonderful mind fuck of a movie.  It won't make sense on the first viewing, but it will the second time around.  See if you can spot the Maniac homage.

10.  Frontier(s).  Like the first film on the list, but with Nazis.  This is one more reason why the French are doing horror better than ourselves.  Yes, it is brutal, but it is well worth it. 

11.  Marebito.  A very subtle film that draws inspiration from all over the place, including (seemingly) Lovecraft.  It is a movie that creeps along, but the concepts played with are interesting and well-executed.

12.Videodrome.  A pirate TV channel of snuff?  James Woods?  The images you see on screen causing cancer?  Blondie burning her breasts with a cigarette?  What's not to like?  A film that may actually work better now than it did when it first came out. David Cronenberg is often an acquired taste, but this one is easy to get into.  It is, however, hard to escape from.

13. Eaten Alive.  A silly movie by most standards, but man is it creepy.  That country music that always plays on the radio.  That backwoods hotel.  It all adds up to this weird movie where the man-eating crocodile is the least scary thing in it.

14. Amateur Porn Star Killer.  Art snuff.  Dangerous.  Illegal.  Not for anyone with ADD.  It will make you feel dirty after watching it, but it is creepy enough to make your Sunday evening memorable.

15. The Thing.  For flat-out monster films, John Carpenter's take on things has few equals.  The sense of paranoia that permeates this film is contagious.  The blood testing scene is as tense as anything done today (if not moreso), and when you watch the monster scenes remember that this was in the days before CGI.

16.  The Provider.  You may have a hard time tracking down this short film.  I have it on VHS, and I don't know how many copies are out there.  This is another one to watch in the dark with the lights out.  What's it about?  I can't give anything away, but I will say to keep your eyes open, because what you see in one spot in the house will give you chills.

17. The Blair Witch Project.  People love or hate this film.  I love it.  Growing up surrounded by woods gave me a healthy fear of them, which is exploited here to no end.  No, it's not real.  It's also not a disappointment, either.

18. Peeping Tom. This film is a film lover's film.  It's rare that it gets on those magazine lists that come out this time of the year.  It was ahead of its time, and it still remains timely.  This is a great examination of voyeurism, snuff, and deep, dark sexual trauma, but done in the most mature of ways.  People did not like this film when it first came out.  It made them ... uncomfortable, though by today's standards it is almost quaint.  That is, until you start to think about what you are seeing.  Then it just messes with you.

19 The Great American Snuff Film.  Another one that isn't easy to track down.  There is plenty not to like in this film, but it's uneasy insanity brings to mind the first film on this list again.  Its rough edges really just lends to the madness, too. 

There are dozens more films I could include, and I know I left out some that I would recommend to anyone.  I wanted the list to be a bit eclectic, with something for everyone.  There will be differing opinions, and I understand that.  I welcome comments and recommendations, too.  If the response is good enough, I may do a second part to this list.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


Back in 2002 I reviewed Vakvagany for Film Threat.  The fantastic James Ellroy lent himself to the film to present his take on what is being displayed, and that is what initially drew me into it.  What I saw, however, left me reeling ... sort of.

After watching this documentary, which consists of found footage of a family from the 1940s and current footage of the children, whom the filmmaker tracked down, you can't honestly say you know what happened to this family.  You can't honestly say you know what went wrong.  At the time of my review, eight years ago, I wrote that what you bring into it is what you take from it.  For me, my distaste for humanity translated over.

I've seen the film once in eight years and I still think about it.

It's not that the images I saw were so disturbing.  In fact, I can't really recall a single image, but what you see on the screen is totally open to interpretation (and different narrators, including Ellroy, do come to different conclusions).  What isn't so open, however, is the fact that when these children are found decades later they are the product of a family gone wrong.  That sticks with me, much in the way Just Melvin, Just Evil, another documentary about a family gone wrong (and shot here in Humboldt County), stuck with me (and everyone else who has seen it).

Vakvagany isn't nearly as well known as Just Melvin, Just Evil despite having Ellroy on board.  It is just as horrifying, but in a subtler way.  (There is no denying what went wrong in the case of the Just family from Humboldt County.  The documentary makes it fairly clear that a man who engages in molestation, rape, incest and murder is going to destroy his family.)  The hints of what may have happened, heightened by the viewer's own experiences and thoughts, means this documentary gets in your brain and stays there.  It flits around, unnoticed for months at a time, until finally surfacing again and giving you pause to think.  Powerful?  Very.  But now that my view on humanity is even worse than before I think I may steer clear of watching it again.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I Dub Thee Unforgiven

I recently watched Unforgiven for the first time.  No excuse as to why it took so long, especially since a character (Saint of Killers) in one of my favorite stories of all time (the Preacher series) is based on director/star Clint Eastwood's character and I love the actor's old Westerns.  I just never got around to it.  Maybe it was because of Morgan Freeman.  Sure, he's talented, but he rubs me the wrong way.

I was wrong in waiting, as this film, which moves slowly but deliberately, was an incredible meditation on the nature of violence and whether or not you can ever truly let go of your past.  Taken on it's own, that is what it is.  Taken as part of Eastwood's cinematic history and it becomes a reflection on his career.

The Western is America's samurai story, though the "cowboy" in real life was far less of a honorable person than the samurai.  It is the closest thing we have to those warriors, and because of that we romanticize it.  The rugged individual riding out on the prairie gunning down inhuman savages -- it all makes for a great story, but really does little to speak of for the history of racism and moral corruption (and let's not even speak of the commonplace homosexuality) that accompanied all that.  It is part of America's history, but like most of America's history, it has been twisted into something it's not.  Eastwood doesn't address that here ... at least not fully.  Instead, he concentrates on what violence does to people, and in that sense this film is a thing of beauty.

When you first meet Eastwood's Will Munny, he is a widowed, bumbling pig farmer with two children.  He also has a history.  He was a crazed killer who gunned down men, women and children with no remorse.  Life is different now, though.  He had met a woman who changed him, and he plans on sticking to that.  Without giving away the film's plot, he is presented with a situation that calls on part of that past he can't seem to call up until something horrible happens to his friend.  Munny is responsible for his friend's fate, and that is when Munny calls upon whatever drove him in the past to help him wield a horrible vengeance.  It is here that Eastwood returns to the man-with-no-name of his past movies.  He becomes the good, the bad, and the ugly all rolled into one.  If you haven't seen those previous films, you will still be moved by what is presented in Unforgiven, but if will mean more if you've followed Eastwood throughout the years.

My dad, rest his soul, was the one who introduced me to horror movies and to Eastwood.  We would watch Sergio Leone's take on the myth of the West on Saturday afternoons.  The Spaghetti Westerns would inevitably lead to some Dirty Harry movies.  It was a good education for me, and it is something that has never really left me.  While watching Kill Bill Vol. 2 I could see exactly where Tarantino got his inspiration.  It was with this same sense of film history that I watched Unforgiven.  It was like watching the culmination of years of contemplation, and it was unlike anything I ever expected out of a genre I pay little attention to, and for that I was pleased.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can a Film Cause a Race War?

If you've seen Machete you know it makes no bones about its feelings on illegal immigration.  It shows those against it as gun-toting rednecks with little concern for human life, those who exploit it as greedy capitalists, and those who engage in it as good people just trying to get by.  It's a grindhouse movie, so the simple, direct approach to the problem is to be expected.  If you read the Internet mumblings, however, there are people afraid this film could spark a race war between Mexicans and their pale cousins to the North.

Charles Manson tried it.  The government and your employer is always using the fear of it to keep you in your place.  The divide between races is a great fear motivator.  To think this film would promote it or cause it, though, is kind of missing the point.  Machete, in its own blood-flowing way, is merely pointing out what already exists.  There are strong feelings on the subject, and neither side is innocent or completely wrong.

As I wrote on my other blog, Cancerous Zeitgeist, the audience I saw it with really liked the anti-immigrant sentiment (ironically yelling at the screen in a display stereotypically attached to the black movie going audience).  The group did not like it when whitey started to buy it, though.  Seeing as the film was number two at the box office its first week, whitey didn't hate it that much.

I love the fact that a grindhouse film, which along with exploitation used to be the most dangerous cinema America had to offer, can inspire such fear and concern.  It speaks well to the film, and unkindly to an ignorant audience.  I doubt our leaders will be using it to highlight the problems of illegal immigration anytime soon, but in a perfect world maybe it would. 

Then again, maybe our representatives are waiting for the sequels.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoughts on The Last Exorcism

I had some apprehension going into The Last Exorcism.  My chief concern was its rating, which is PG-13.  With that in mind I knew it would not be too disturbing, the images would be toned down, and there would be a pitiful lack of masturbation with crucifixes.  There were a host of positives working for it, however.  I trust Eli Roth's taste (to an extent), it is filmed like a documentary, and it involved exorcism (which I love in films, though I'm not religious).  So I went ... without little hope it would be tolerable.

It actually turned out to not only be fairly complex, but also one of the most anti-religious films I've seen in a long time.  When I say "anti-religious" I don't mean that it condones religion.  Far from it, actually.  To say why I feel this way would give away far too much of the plot, as would going into the film's complexities, and it is still too new to being giving away those all-too-pervasive spoilers.  Let's just say that if you see it, pay careful attention to everything on screen.  Pay attention to things said by people, and pay attention to what the outcome of the film (which was actually the worst part of the movie) ultimately means.  Think about what the film is trying to say throughout almost the entire running time, and think about its conclusion.  If you don't see the complexities and the religious message, I'll return to it at a later time.  You'll just have to trust me in the meantime.

The Exorcist is always going to be the gold standard of exorcism movies.  The effect it had on people when it was released is legendary to this day.  The Last Exorcism comes nowhere near matching the scope of the its predecessor, but I will tell you it did cause a girl in the audience to cry, which I was surprised by.  Its ending also caused a lot of confusion, though not to the same degree that Paranormal  Activity accomplished.

I don't have the weekend box office grosses at this point, but I suspect The Last Exorcism will place second or third in the race.  I would be surprised if it placed first, but I've been wrong before.  I still think far too many people want to see The Expendables because stupid ideas never go out of style.  Or perhaps they'll be enamored with the garbage that is Piranha 3D.  Either way, I'm fairly sure the amount of money pulled in by the film will have little to do with its actual impact.  In my opinion, the movie proved you could do a thought-provoking PG-13 film with an unlikable protagonist, low key creepiness and an actual message.  PG-13 and horror movies typically don't cut it for me.  I like my horror to be disturbing, and the drones who make up the ratings board don't like to let disturbing into the minds of teens.  In this case, it worked. 

Time will tell if audiences will think the same as I do (that rarely happens).  Critics have been giving the film favorable reviews, but we all know how the average moviegoer feels about critics.  Will the audience come out thinking about the layers of religious and social criticism they have just witnessed, or will they just wonder if it were real or not?  I know what I'd like to think, but like going into The Last Exorcism, I won't have much in the way of expectations.

Monday, August 9, 2010

An Easy Explanation

There are times I am asked why I love the Kill Bill series so much.  Besides the fact that it is an homage to just about every kind of film I love, there is the story.  The story has actual heart and emotion.  The second part is especially gripping.  The scene above, while not the best scene in the movie (that would be when The Bride sees her daughter for the first time), it does exemplify why I rank this film as one of my favorites.

I could probably write a book as to why this film works so well.  It can, of course, be seen as a straight-forward revenge film, but if you look deeper you start to see that it is all about motherhood and the bond between a mother and a daughter.  That is also oversimplifying things, but that is part of the overall picture, something that is often missed in conversations about it. 

I'll probably never tire of this film.  It is one of the few films I would have given five stars to had I reviewed it on Film Threat.  I don't think everyone is as enamored with it (it does help to have a background in Westerns, Italian giallos, martial arts films and the like -- but not necessary) as am I, but I know that most people at least get the spirit of it. 

I watched this scene again this weekend when I was feeling a bit down.  It helped boost my spirits, and it also made me pretty damn happy that I have quite a few strong females in my life.  I appreciate that, as I believe a woman should be strong to deal with much of the shit men pull on a regular basis.  As far as strong female characters go, The Bride is the pinnacle ... especially when you think about the fact that she never loses that maternal instinct.  In other words, she remains strong without acting like a man.

A brilliant film with a powerful message.  I hope I can someday write something as stunning as this film.  I doubt I can, but I'll be satisfied if it's even half as strong.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Exclusive! Shane Ryan Vs. The World

Director/writer/actor Shane Ryan is the kind of guy you ladies can bring home to mom. He's funny, smart and good looking. Of course, the fact that he makes movies is like the icing on a really cool cake. Lately, though, Ryan's life has taken a turn for the weird.

“First,” Ryan explains, “I make Warning!!! Pedophile Released with the impression it’s already got a set distribution deal (which it did with Cinema Epoch of course), but I was also under the impression that it would have no problem getting into Netflix (as all three of my APSK [Amateur Porn Star Killer films were rejected due to sexual content) as long as I kept the content to an R rating. We were also trying to get it into Blockbuster (which also rejected the APSK’s for the same reason) and were under the impression that the film would be perfectly fine for Blockbuster as long as I watched the content.”

Having Ryan or any director to monitor content is like asking the Colombians to monitor the cocaine traffic coming into the USA. It's not a director's job to monitor content. It's a director's job to tell a story and forget about things like the possibility of pissing off someone's grandmother. Regardless, Ryan is a guy who likes to please, so he gave it the ol' college try.

“In the end I have a film that has some nudity,” Ryan says, “but is used sparingly. The opening rape scene does not contain one second of nudity. We merely see the raped girl’s butt after the rapists have left (a butt can even be shown on regular TV). Later she’s in a sex scene (if you want to call it that) we’re she’s trying to survive by prostitution. The nudity is very brief and nobody is even in the nude scenes with her, she’s merely mimicking the sexual movement.”

Knowing what I know of Blockbuster, I can see this being a problem. If this were a Spielberg film, it would be hailed as great “art.” It's not a major studio release, however. It's an independent film. There are different rules for those who don't play the studio game. Ryan continues ...

“[The] two last times we see this poor homeless girl washing herself off -- a natural thing everybody must do shown in a very realistic fashion in a completely non-sexual, non-glamorous way as it’s a goddamn homeless girl just trying to keep clean. And, of course, we have a scene with Joanna Angel (completely non-sexual) were she has a breakdown and happens to be naked (just like the scene in the movie Thirteen where Holly Hunter has a breakdown while naked – no biggie).”

Ryan's right. No biggie. Nudity, the last time I checked, does not cause eye cancer. It does no harm. Hey, most babies are even born naked.

“This was supposed to be a quick one-week project that I ended up grueling on for 10 months and lost all kinds of sleep, sanity, money (and almost a relationship) over,” Ryan says. As if that weren't bad enough, the Netflix and Blockbuster problems began in earnest.

“Netflix and Blockbuster take a look at the film (supposedly) and reject it for sexual content just like that even though I thought we had no chance of a problem. We beg them (especially Netflix) to look again. They do, and reject it again for content. One reason I made this film (instead of finishing APSK3D) was so I could finally get something into Blockbuster and Netflix. Now, here’s the most fucked up, ridiculous, hypocritical piece of shit part. Netflix carries a film called The Hanger. This film has a scene where they show a woman’s vagina and asshole up close in your face (already way more explicit than my film). Then, a hanger is shoved through her vagina and what I think was a baby (I only saw this one scene and couldn’t hardly watch) is ripped out of her vagina in a shit storm of blood. Ok. WHAT THE FUCKING HELL, BITCHES?! (This was an exploitation movie not some Schindler’s List meaningful message film.) How can you ever explain why that is okay and a story about a poor homeless girl is not? Hmm. Now, if it’s the young age of the character, well, the actress was 22 playing a 15 year old. But all kinds of films are like that. But how 'bout this. Fat Girl, had a 12 year old character (played by an actress only 13 years old at the time) who is raped in the movie and we see her bare breasts! A child. That’s child porn! And Netflix used to carry this film and Blockbuster still does! Actually, between Netflix and Blockbuster, they carry Brown Bunny (a long real life blow job), Irreversible (a 10 minute anal rape scene, real blow jobs, bizarre graphic violence, etc), Baise-fucking-Moi (should I go into that, real hardcore sex over and over and over, a girl forcing herself to vomit while giving head, a gun shoved up a guy’s asshole to have his shit blown out his face, etc.,), Shortbus (all kinds of real fucking) and A Real Young Girl. (A 14 year old character who shows her vagina up close spread open while a guy puts worms and shit on her vagina. Are you fucking kidding? That’s okay, but a 15 year old character taking a shower isn’t?). So, I’ve never been so goddamn frustrated or confused or angry or downright sick of this world and flabbergasted on what the fuck makes something morally or artistically correct.”

I rented Philosophy of a Knife from Netflix, and that film is for more outrageous than anything Ryan has created. It's also a boring piece of cinematic bile, but that's neither here nor there. Ryan has obviously caused a problem, but not really with content.

“Now, I hear that it’s my title that was the problem, that my film might not have even been viewed. But Netflix has a goddamn movie called Young People Fucking. YOUNG PEOPLE FUCKING!” You have got to be kidding me with the worst joke I’ve ever heard. They also have movies called Porn-O-Rama, Confession of a Porn Addict, Pornography, Sex Drive, Sex Pot, Sex Machine, Sex Sells, Live Nude Girls, Nude for Satan, The Story of Prostitutes, and the list just never ends of what could easily be deemed sexually offensive titles.”

Honestly, I cannot imagine what his tirade is going to do to search engines, but I imagine after this gets posted I'm going to have a lot more traffic to this blog. In all seriousness, though, this is an issue. A movie title should not get a movie ousted from Netflix.

“I hear,” Ryan says, “it’s because of the word ‘pedophile,' but they have Deliver us from Evil, which is all about pedophile Priests. They have The Woodsman, which is all about sympathizing with a pedophile. Little Children, which shows a pedophile trying to be good but the neighborhood doesn’t want him back. Smile Pretty, which is about a girl raised by a pedophile; Hard Candy, which is all about a 14 year old girl and a pedophile who wants her, [and so on]. So, why can’t we have a movie about a girl who’s boyfriend is accused of being a pedophile? Seriously, what goddamn reason is there for rejecting my films but not the hundreds of others I’ve been listing? Seriously, what the goddamn fucking shit? This is my fourth time in two years to go through this shit (four out of four), and I want a goddamn motherfucking reason before I start blowing motherfucking heads of in search for a goddamn answer.”

Ryan sarcastically answers his own question. “No, wait, I supposedly got it. It’s because the word ‘pedophile’ can’t be in the title. Okay, so that makes perfect sense. You can put 'porn,' 'smut,' 'naked,' 'sex,' 'nude,' 'fuck,' 'shit,' and 'rape' in the title and that’s okay. You can make a movie about sex offenders, naughty priests, pornographers, rapists; you can make a movie that sympathizes with pedophiles, hell you can even be a goddamn pedophile (i.e. Roman Polanski, Victor Salva) and it’s just fine (you’ll even win an Oscar), but if you put the word 'pedophile' on paper, on the poster, oh now, wait a goddamn minute. Now that’s, holy fucking shit, now that’s a problem.”

His problems with the film did not end there.

“...after ...Pedophile came out DVD Empire (which also runs a goddamn porn site, AdultDVDEmpire) not only rejected ... Pedophile, but they stopped carrying the APSK’s because of that, even though they had been carrying them for two fucking years! So, that’s that.”

That's that for that film, but Ryan is also working on Abducted Girl – An American Sex Slave. I think it's a safe bet to say that raised some eyebrows.

“A few years ago I heard about human trafficking,” Ryan explains, “and was genuinely creeped out and totally surprised. I didn’t realize stuff like that was happening in America all around us. I knew about rape, of course, and plenty of other things but not about this. Then, a year ago, I see an independent film called Holly, which was about sex trafficking overseas, but it was such a better and very touching film that it made me go, 'Wow, I have to do a film about this now.' I knew I wanted it to be in the US, and I knew I wanted it to be called An American Sex Slave. So, in March of 2009 I announced it (might I add to no success as only one little site posted it and the site doesn’t even exist any more). I get busy on ... Pedophile Released a few weeks later. I finish the film in October and find out the distributor wants me to make a film called Abducted Girl. I go, 'Hmm, okay. That sounds cheesy, I know there’s already a really cheesy sexploitation movie out right now called Abduction, and I just pray they don’t want me to make a film like that.”

Ryan then makes a fatal mistake.

“I call [the distributor] up and say, 'Iif I can make this a very serious movie about a serious issue, like say that Jaycee Dugard case I’ve been hearing about the past few weeks, then, yeah, okay, I’ll definitely do it.' They said that’s exactly “the kind of thing” they were talking about so I said, 'Then I’m going to call it ‘\Abducted Girl - An American Sex Slave. We’re hearing about all of these girls being abducted and sold into sex slavery in America so why don’t I just tell the title how it is?”

Strike one.

“I’m trying to build up some indie press for it in hopes to get a few known actors I have connections to interested. When building the press I say it’s very loosely based on something like the Jaycee Dugard case, so people know to take it seriously, but that’s it – it’s just an inspiration, I already announced months before her discovery, before I ever heard of her, that I was doing a sex trafficking movie. We were changing all of the names, making up plenty of things (as I actually didn’t know a whole lot about it), basically I was just looking for some sort of serious true-to-life idea to build my ideas around so it would have a real feel and a real impact. Sort of like my Romance Road Killers film I tried to make a while back. We based it all around Charles Starkweather and Carol Ann Fugate but we changed the names, the ethnicity of the girl, the time period, everything that happens involving the killing, etc. It was more my life by far than Charles Starkweather, but the idea of this young couple who end up killing people and having multiple sides to their story is the only thing we really kept. It’s like two people might live in the same apartment building but what’s inside the two apartments might be as different as Heaven and Hell.”

The sharks, by this point have started to circle.

“Anyways, somehow this bitch reporter from Sacramento hears about it and wants to do a story for CBS. She sounds really nice and supportive until she hits record on the mic and starts taping the interview then turns into this defensive feminist bitch sounding whatever. I told her I wanted the film to focus on the Stockholm Syndrome, the relationship between the victim and the predator that would obviously be very strong if it’s an 18 year captivity. But that it was not the story of Jaycee. she made it sound like I was doing it directly about her. She then says, “Why do you have quotes on your web site like ‘a disturbing movie’ and ‘pure exploitation’?' (This would be for the APSK’s). I told her you’re quoting two out of about 300 quotes on my site, many say stuff like great cinematography, powerful, haunting, etc., and that many of the disturbing quotes were for movies that were meant to disturb and make you question stuff like violence in cinema, etc.,. She, of course, completely ignores that and on the news just focuses on me having these sleazy horrific quotes. I then tell her that I wanted to portray the captor as the human being he is and not a monster because that makes it all the more frightening. If we see that he is just a person we can identify more with it and see how real this all is. So, she of course turns that around and asks if I’m sympathizing with the guy and feel sorry for him blah, blah, blah -- twists that all up. Then she says on the news, 'Oh no, this guy makes stuff like Amateur Porn Star Killer and Warning!!! Pedophile..., but doesn’t mention just one of my 40 or so films that have titles like Isolation,,Numb, Yesterday, Love Last Captured, The Cleansing etc.,.”

Ryan has now received in his honorary doctorate in Media Exploitation. He's about to get another in How The Media Almost Ruins Careers.

“That airs, twisted up as hell to begin with. Then a major radio show interviews me and I told the producer up front that the story was mixed up, this isn’t about Jaycee, I’m bad with interviews, I’m really shy, I won’t do good at this etc., and he says he’ll tell the host (the biggest asshole in the world who apparently my dad listens to every morning, but I don’t know these things). So, the guy rips me apart and after I explain what I’m trying to do he ends it with something like, 'All right talk to you later you sick pedophile, child raping, homo, punk, pathetic scumbag loser.' (It was way worse than that -- I can’t remember what it was).”

Here is a lesson in irony. These media reporters and pundits are “outraged” by Ryan's supposed exploitation of the Dugard case, but they are exploiting him for their own ratings. Fucking hypocrites.

“After this CNN, Fox, and Joy Behar from The View talk show wanted to interview me. (I should have just taken this and acted like a jackass and got the exposure but I unfortunately thought the world was a better place and people, like this show, actually had some good in them – I had never seen it so obviously not). Anyways, I tell the producer for The View my story, the real story, and she takes a long time to listen to it and hear me out and feels really bad about what happened. But, she admits, after hearing the truth, that the other producers and the show will honestly probably not go for it because with a story like that they can’t bash you like they wanted to. Yeah. So. Yeah. I’m the bad guy in this scenario but they’re the ones who won’t report the truth because the truth will prove I’m not the bad guy. I guess that makes sense. CNN and Fox hadn’t asked me to run the story they said they were running it that night and wanted me on it. I sent them my official statement and after I sent it they never got back to me and the story never ran that night. Or ever.”

That seems okay, right? I mean, if CNN and Fox don't touch it, nobody else will, right? No. Wrong. Very, very wrong.

“There was that one CBS story already out. Now, this is where it got interesting. The Associated Press got a hold of it within hours. They immediately made me out to be “low budget horror filmmaker.” They couldn’t use the word “independent” or “indie,” they had to say “low-budget”. Right off the bat that sounds worse and degrading towards the filmmaker. They also make me out to be a horror filmmaker when I tell them '... Pedophile' isn't horror at all -- watch the trailer. Take two minutes to make your story accurate. Most of my films are not horror and the ones that appear that way (like the APSK’s) aren’t even really horror (aside from true horror). They’re experimental films, dramas, crime movies, examinations of the human mind and behaviour, etc.,. Of, course, for the hundredth time now, nobody acknowledges that and continues bashing me. And they also say it’s about Jaycee, which, again, again, fucking again I say, it’s not.”

Ryan continues with his story. “Now this is were it gets funny. Now it’s not just nationwide, it’s worldwide. The story, inaccurate to begin with, goes from horror filmmaker makes Jaycee movie, to Jaycee movie gets grindhouse treatment, to sleazy Jaycee film being made, to Adult filmmaker makes Jaycee film, to porn producer makes Jaycee film, to porn actor makes Jaycee film and finally to porno guy making Jaycee Dugard porn film. All in a day’s work. Wow. I wonder what the fuck is really happening in Iraq after that fucked up disastrous game of telephone. Bin Laden is probably gay fucking all the army troops and starting rainbow parades and pledging world peace. Who the fuck knows after what I’ve seen the media fuck up, and intentionally fuck up for the most part.”

Probably not the best way to say it, but you can understand Ryan's frustration. Hell, I'd be frustrated. I've interviewed Ryan before for Film Threat. He's a great guy. Super nice, but he doesn't censor himself ... ever really. He says what is on his mind, and I would think it would be easy for a sleazy reporter to get some juicy quotes out of him.

“As soon as I finish the trailer I send out press releases to the Associated Press. No response. I try three more times. No response. Finally, I take two fucking days contacting every single site that put up this story. The only change I see is the San Francisco Chronicle updates their same story, still managing to tweak my press release, and they put it on an already published page from months ago where nobody will ever see it. Yeah. Thanks guys.”

Ryan calms down a bit now, but he does express a belief that the whole Blockbuster/Netflix incident may be tied into this media circus.

“I also think the damage to '...Pedophile Released (about getting rejected from Netflix and Blockbuster and getting a new rejection from DVD Empire, etc.,) was because of this Jaycee thing and the fucking media. Because ... Pedophile came out three weeks after this and it was right after this happened we started getting all the bad news about places not going to carry ... Pedophile who we thought were.”

After all of this, Ryan says he's pretty much had it with the art/media world, and that's a shame. Ryan is an artist first and foremost. Some of the films he makes aren't safe, and they shouldn't be. He has a talent, and he needs to nurture it. Unfortunately, things like these incidents tend to wear a person down. Let that be a lesson to you filmmakers out there. The media is not always your friend, and that adage about any publicity being good publicity is not exactly accurate. Ryan is proof of that. Boy, is he ever.

(As an aside, Ryan provided me with links to much of the story. “Here’s the amusing links of how the story changed:

Original story, you can watch the news that aired online on the right side
The rest…
and finally I should rot in hell

Two weeks later Lindsay Lohan (who around the same time released her sleazy sex and drugs party pictures) can announce she wants to make a Jaycee movie because she thinks she looks like Jaycee

And these two girls completely mock Jaycee, but it goes unnoticed.

Funny enough the least fucked up story about me appeared in the tabloids, on the front cover of The Globe.

And here’s the statement I sent the news when trying to get them to stop spreading the Jaycee Porn rumor, and also what I sent to The View producer (no response after this), CNN and Fox (who didn’t respond after this even though they told me they were doing the story):

I am not making Jaycee Dugard's film/story. I was in pre-production of a human trafficking movie when she was discovered. It spawned new ideas, so, yes, I changed around my original story because I became more interested in exploring the idea of a girl and her captor and nearly two decades of being in captivity and I also liked the idea of it having a happy ending because my films never do. I am not a porn producer, porn actor, porn director, etc. like stated by many news programs. I've used exploitation titles to draw my audience in in order to sell enough copies so I can make more films. Most of my films (about 3/4) do not have exploitation titles but those are never mentioned in the news which proves my point even further that the other titles sell, so what I discovered was that I could have hidden messages in films like Amateur Porn Star Killer, Warning!!! Pedophile Released etc.

I haven't made a dime off of my films for myself and wasn't planning on making money off of Abducted Girl like stated in almost every news release. I'm just a shy, humble, loner who has been struggling to make films since I was 5 years old. Sex scares me in many ways for how evil such a beautiful thing is (it creates life! It should only be good), so I tackle these issues in my films like Abducted Girl.  I never thought anybody would hear about this film and am greatly sorry for what Jaycee went through. I only have one sibling, a brother, who was put in a foster home at age one and stayed there until he was 18, so, I do have understanding of what it's like to miss out on childhood, life. I was also put in foster homes, abused greatly in school by other kids with injuries still to this day, ditched months of school out of fear to end up with a 0.8 grade average, had hearing-impaired babysitters and a visually-impaired mother, watched my family nearly get killed and their blood splattered on me and unconscious bodies thrown everywhere due to terrible car accident, etc. I know pain, and I make films about it. The last thing I would want is for Jaycee to think a porn film is being made about her. When describing my film to the few people I thought would hear about it I told them it would be like Jaycee's events so they would know to take it seriously but I didn't think it would be taking literally all across the world. I also felt some connection to her being the same age and having gone through things like being taken away (and at my age it sure felt like being kidnapped). To top it off, my working partner, also my girlfriend, was going to write the film so it would have a woman’s perspective. She was beaten as a child, impregnated at 17 by someone much older, homeless while pregnant and almost killed by beatings while pregnant. Together we made the film, Warning!!! Pedophile Released, which you can see from the trailer
is a very serious film. We were hoping to do the same kind of serious film with Abducted Girl coming from two abused lives.”)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Sin of Boredom: Philosophy of a Knife

I sat down to watch Philosophy of a Knife and turned it off two hours into its four hour running time.  A movie about the infamous Unit 731 in the Japanese army during the late 1930s to mid 1940s.  For those unfamiliar, Unit 731 carried out gruesome experiments on people in attempts to create weapons of mass destruction and develop soldiers who could better withstand the elements.

The film is filled with re-enactments and comes across like an exploitation film done like a documentary.  In theory that works.  Add to the fact that it is more artistic (love those long, lingering shots of eyes just staring) than exploitive, and you could almost pull of the argument that it is supposed to be art.


The greatest sin a film can commit is the sin of being boring.  That sums up this film in a nutshell.  Boring.  How the hell can you make a boring film based on the real events of one of the most notorious military crimes in history?  More than 10,000 people were experimented on.  Horse blood transfusions given to people.  People infected with disease given live vivisections.  Teeth forcibly removed from people without the use of numbing agents in order to measure pain.  Limbs frozen and then thawed.  Stomachs removed and esophagus attached to the intestines.

It practically writes itself if you are making a film that uses gore to get a point across.  And this film does go for the gore.  You are witness to all kinds of raw things, including the insertion of a rather large insect into the vagina of a woman who is not too pleased.  Yes, some of the effects are laughable, but the subject matter (it being factual and all) keeps you from laughing.  Everything about it says it should be disturbing.  Instead it is just ... pointless.

Perhaps if I sat through another two hours my mood would have been different, but to be honest I doubt I could stay awake.  This was a horrible waste of time and energy, and that is made worse knowing that this should have made an impact based upon history alone.  Instead, it is an effort in patience to even get through the thing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zombie Girl: The Movie

Zombie Girl: The Movie should be mandatory viewing for any children (particularly female ones) who want to make movies. Its focus is on 12-year-old Emily Hagins and her experience making her low budget zombie film titled Pathogen, and its message is universal when it comes to film making no matter your age. So, yes, if you're over 18 you'll still enjoy this, unlike the Transformers sequel.

Hagins' tenacity is something anyone who is passionate about anything can understand. The fact that she is hell-bent on making a zombie flick before she can drive could be considered cute by some, but those of us who love film can't help but think we may be watching a future star director in action. I haven't seen the final product of her labor, and I doubt it's a perfect or even a genius film, but I can tell that if she sticks with it, she will be making stuff worth watching.

But that's just a small part of this documentary.

If you've ever watched those DVD extras that show how low budget films are made, you will not be surprised by what you see here. There are all the usual problems: not enough money or time; actors not taking things seriously; not getting the right shots; equipment problems and so on. What makes all of this a bit more stressful, however, is that Hagins' mom is directly involved with the film, too, and sometimes exerts a little too much influence over what her daughter is trying to do. Imagine what Duel would have been like had Mama Spielberg been on set barking orders over her son. Yeah, it's not pretty.

If every director had Hagins' drive and desire, we wouldn't be saddled with crap like Valentine's Day. And that's the main reason we should hope she continues to make films. She'll only get better in time, and this documentary will hopefully help her get the exposure she very much needs. Let's pray she stays on the right track.

Monday, May 31, 2010

I Killed a Girl. It Was No Accident (aka Good-Bye, Dennis)

Dennis Hopper.  Dead.  We lost a good one.

Hopper starred in his share of shit.  That can't be argued.  He was brilliant in many films, however, and two of those were Blue Velvet and River's Edge, which also had Crispin Glover in it.  (It was also Keanu Reeves' best movie.)  Imagine that.  Hopper and Glover together in a film that was this mass of kinetic, drug-fueled mania.

Hopper also starred in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, but his role could have been played by anyone.  Bill Moseley made that film.  Hopper was fun to watch in it, however, as he was in most things he was in.  Well, maybe not Super Mario Bros., where he played King Koopa.  A career low point for any actor, I'm sure.  You can't ignore that ... as much as you want to.  He made some questionable choices.  But the ones that weren't such a stretch of intelligence were almost sublime.

Blue Velvet is one of David Lynch's best films, and a great deal of its success is due to Hopper.  The strange gas he inhales.  The insane screams.  Screwing Isabell Rossellini with scissors while saying, "Baby wants to fuck."  Inspired.  Show me a better film about small town life in America.  I dare you.

Hopper died the same week Gary Coleman, who lived in a locker in On the Right Track.  They don't really compare, but it seems somewhat disrespectful that Coleman would go the same week ... even if he did go first.  When you lose a legend, you just let anyone else go the same week.  It would be like that guy from Creed dying three days before Dio.  It just isn't right.

I wouldn't consider Hopper to be a legend, but he was close.  He was a work horse, as is witnessed by the amazing amount of stuff he's been in.  He was at his best when playing the madman.  He did not stretch himself all that much, but he delivered when he was in the right role, and that's better than 70% of the actors out there now. 

My three favorite Hopper films, River's Edge, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and Blue Velvet all came out in 1986.  It was a good year for film.  I end this with a quote from River's Edge, where Hopper plays Feck, an insane guy who lives with a love doll, if memory serves me correctly. "I killed a girl, it was no accident. Put a gun to the back of her head and blew her brains right out the front. I was in love."

That's a great quote.  Fits just about any situation.

Good-bye, Dennis.