Directed by Henry Joost, Ariel SchulmanUnited States | 2011
…the feeling of watching events unfold with living presence as though we’re inseparable from the Lovecraftian otherness of those things which assault the protagonists; not that we’re holding the camera, but that we’re manipulating the substance of its gaze. This also contributes to the inescapable sense of Toby as a kind of guru for the girls, that his final ‘appearance’ is something simultaneously messianic and evil. The fact that the ending takes place at the home of the grandmother and the filmmakers don’t bother to familiarize us with its boundaries enhances the sense of dislocation; we’ve spent enough time at Julie and Dennis’ home, and especially the girls’ bedroom, to gather our bearings, but here there’s no such luxury: it’s dark and dangerous and Dennis doesn’t even know where the light-switches are.
Directed by Tom HollandUnited States | 1985
Importantly for the film’s tone the special effects really do deliver. Granted they’re heavily indebted to John Landis’ landmark An American Werewolf in London but they still impress in their own right. The comedy may take centre-stage but when characters face off against each other blood, viscera and various other forms of goop flow freely. Using all the old school effects of the day—puppets, stop-motion, super-imposition and various other forms of trick photography—the monsters here have an immediacy and physicality that unfortunately has been largely lost in today’s world of computer generated imagery. I know it sounds somewhat curmudgeonly but, as film looks best as a physical celluloid strip flickering past a light source, special effects look best with a genuine physical presence of their own.
Directed by Allan HolzmanUnited States | 1982
Forbidden World itself was recycled from Corman’s Alien-cribbing sci-fi from the previous year, Galaxy of Terror, an epic by Corman standards as it cost an estimated $700,000. Of course, his most ambitious project to date had been 1980’s Battle Beyond the Stars, a simultaneous ode to the Star Wars saga and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and the film that first employed a young James Cameron as part of the visual effects crew. Cameron graduated to Galaxy of Terror, his talents touching nearly everything in that film, especially the design of the sets—including the walls of the space shuttle made from fast food take-out containers—which can be seen again in Forbidden World if one looks closely. The metamorph is almost symbolic of the kind of filmmaking which Corman’s talented underlings so excelled at: taking existing paradigms and retrofitting them (inexpensively).
Directed by Sogo IshiiJapan | 1982
Burst City, and Ishii’s work in general, is merely dystopian, weird and vaguely high tech; the film doesn’t broach topics such as cybernetics, artificial intelligence or, indeed, any topics at all. There’s virtually no sophistry to be gleaned from its frames. Burst City is a guttural scream at an abyss. This is a very different kind of science fiction, yet in some ways definitive for its genre as it would go on to have a large, unheralded influence on the course of Japanese filmmaking, cyberpunk as a distinct aesthetic and the punk ethos as an artistic point of departure. This film exhales nihilistic rage and exudes carnality, its formal qualities so thoroughly intermingled with its fiction it easily paralyzes and subsumes the viewer into its future hell. This is a film of noise and speed, tantalizingly blinkered, not the staid philosophic formalism of a Ridley Scott actioner.
Directed by Martin BrestUnited States | 1988
Perhaps much of this freshness is due to the fact that Midnight Run gets the small moments and gestures right as much (if not more so) than it’s big ones. The quiet, character building sequences are likely more critical to the film’s success than any of its action. Walsh’s reunion with his ex-wife and daughter, for instance, has a real sense of heartache and loss to it, while the film’s ending, as Ebert deftly said, has a genuinely moving intimacy in a film that manages to earn it.
Directed by Peter ManoogianUnited States | 1986
She and the Mandroid decide to go seek their revenge on Dr. Reeves and stop whatever evil, ill-defined plan he is concocting. So far, so good. Eliminators has taken all the major elements of The Terminator and rearranged them in such a muddled, haphazard way you can’t quite accuse it of plagiarism. It’s almost as if the filmmakers hadn’t actually seen The Terminator themselves, but were basing their movie off of a friend’s drunken, half-remembered recounting of the plot. There’s even an awkward attempt at establishing a catchphrase along the lines of Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back.”
Directed by Bill RebaneUnited States | 1987
“Because I split my pants,” Dutch confesses—a comedic high never again reached by Twister’s Revenge!. Not only that, but like Ophelia’s death in Hamlet this great pants-splitting tragedy happens off-stage—a truly odd choice for a lowbrow comedy. Imagine if a Three Stooges short consisted of Larry, Moe and Curly sitting down and calmly discussing how they had once poked each other in the eyes at a different, unseen location.
Directed by Bong Joon-hoSouth Korea | 2003
A slow-motion sequence earlier in the film highlights the absurdity of the detectives’ framing of Kwang-ho and the media frenzy that descends upon the town: Kwang-ho forgets himself and shouts of his innocence to his devastated father, leading the cops to chase him down in a field and shut him up as reporters close in like a locust swarm. Bong even finds a hint of mourning in the proceedings, turning the thick boots we saw one detective use for evil when he viciously kicked Kwang-ho used as a haunting visual cue for the same man’s foot amputation over a case of tetanus.
Directed by Jane CampionAustralia | 1989
I previously stated that the film never had much of a stable axis, but Sweetie sends the film careening into the Sun. If Kay’s hardened exterior and cynical logic makes her the superego of the film, Lemon arrives as the uninhibited id, a childish glutton whose wide eyes suggest she’s always asking the world for a present for being good. She breaks into Kay’s house with her junkie and “producer” boyfriend Bob while Kay and Lou are away, immediately causing a fuss when the sister returns. Kay wants her gone, but Lou tries to be nice and allows her to stay, implicitly (and, later, explicitly) excited by the sexual dynamo that just entered his joyless life.
Directed by Todd HaynesUnited States | 1987
The split between his wry framing and his sympathetic view of Carpenter allows for a more rounded reading of the situation: Haynes’ intellectual remove gives him the freedom to extrapolate from Carpenter prototypical advances in a number of his core themes, while his ability to get in close and feel for a woman pulled apart at the seams keeps the film from becoming a condescending, sneering piece of avant-garde deconstruction.
Directed by Frank PiersonUnited States | 2000
Like the good/bad issue in art, the entire case was built around exactly how human beings define two words, obscenity and art. Definitions of both are given in the film, but they utterly fail to help us (or anyone) in assigning such labels to Mapplethorpe’s work, relying instead on how people react to it… The same issue has followed pornography through its various trials, perhaps most famously leading to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart stating “I know it when I see it”. But what happens when we don’t know it when we see it, or when different people think they know different things after seeing it?
Directed by Mark RomanekUnited Kingdom, United States | 2010
It’s strange in a medium like film where manipulating time is one of its two essential aspects (the other being images) that temporal integrity would be so important. Not so much chronological linearity, but a respect for (in _Benjamin Button_’s case) how a life progresses, or (in the case of this film) how history already progressed. Perhaps it’s also about the integrity of images. We can imagine a world about a man who ages backwards or a world where people are grown to be donors in literature, but seeing them realized in concrete images adds an element of unrealism that negates any emotional or thematic impact that such a premise could make.
Topher Grace, will be tearing up the screens in Take Me Home Tonight, a self-conscious throwback to the Coming of Age dramedies of yesteryear. The South End has a nice interview with Grace and his co-star, Daily Show alum Demetri Martin. Their motives seem to be pure…but c’mon, guys. Don’t you know the ’90s are back?
That entire syntax he came up with in A Bout De Souffle, the shakycam and the jump cutting and the whiplash rhythms, it was all prescient without knowing it, virtually the cloth from which music videos would be cut. You go to it and you go to films like Bob Rafelson’s Head and Nicholas Roeg’s Performance and to little oddments like Dylan’s iconic Subterranean Homesick Blues and the Who’s Happy Jack and the Beatles’ Strawberry Fields Forever and to the lab experiments Todd Rundgren and Devo were conducting. You go to these not just for the DNA signatures, though. You go to these for having the bright idea that you can make little movies from songs without having to pick through Hollywood musicals for surplus or training a camera on some guy and having him sing to it.
Directed by Matt ReevesUnited States, United Kingdom | 2010
With a somewhat troubling dependence on sinister music, awkward tension-building exercises and exceedingly poorly realised special effects, the film tries to pull the audience in rather than letting them naturally sink into proceedings. It’s really only when we get past the event that opened the film that everything settles down and really reflects the more successful tone the Swedish film managed from its very first frame.
Directed by Joel CoenUnited States | 2007
The Coens too have always been fascinated by the almost ritualistic act of doing things in order to affect outcomes. No Country is almost leisurely in how it goes about focusing on the mere “doing” of things, like Moss figuring out how to hide the money satchel in a rundown hotel air vent. This rhythmic patience is echoed in the editing, which hangs on static or slowly changing shots longer than the norm, paradoxically ramping up the tension to extreme degrees without ever uttering a word.
Directed by Gary ShermanUnited States | 1990
A great deal of the film will revolve around Lisa’s playing-hard-to-get telephone conversations with Richard, the handsome, beguiling killer. Of course, Richard wants to know who’s calling him at all hours and disguising her voice so he’s always trying to get information out of her. The astute teenager resists, but eventually she has the idea of pretending to be her mom—if mom gets laid, then maybe she’ll ease up and Lisa can go out on a date herself—but this way she gives away her mom’s identity and the shit hits the fan with about ten minutes left.
Directed by Lamberto BavaItaly | 1985
At this point, the movie and its counterpart movie-within begin to synchronize. The hooker with the oozing cut goes to the bathroom where the first transformation occurs and at the same time the murders and transformations begin in the movie-within. So old Nostradamus predicted this would happen. In other words, people become demons because there’s no way they couldn’t. It’s predestined. All of those people were fated to come to the theater that night. And the masked man, the agent of the whole scenario, was fated to screen that film.
Directed by Newt ArnoldUnited States | 1988
…the disconnect between the film’s major storyline and the supposed drama that fuels it is more noticeable to me here than in many other films. I should add that if the lack of an anti-communist narrative thread helps Bloodsport seem a little fresher than some of its temporal peers than the soundtrack definitely places it staunchly in the 1980s. Oh yes, the film is full of rocking songs about succeeding in the face of adversity with awkward widdley guitar solos placed between the second and third verse (I suspect that’s where they go, right?).