One of those everyone-is-connected dramas, but with birds. Most of the birds are either fake/decorative, or an offscreen plot device (smuggled hyacinth macaw eggs) but it’s still appreciated.

Egg-smuggler Don McKellar runs a pet shop that is being audited by tormented beardo Bruce Greenwood (Meek, of the Cutoff) who is obsessed with stripper Mia Kirshner who works at the titular nightclub with her ex Elias Koteas and boss Arsinée Khanjian. Victor Garber is in here, in a wheelchair, with daughter Sarah Polley, and they both spend uncomfortable time with the beardo, knowing that he’s erratic and messed up ever since his daughter’s murder. Koteas and Kirshner had just met when they discovered her body years earlier. And the pet shop boy is seduced by an egg-thieving customs agent and blackmailed by his auditor into spying on the strip club.

Elias one-way-mirroring Bruce:

Don is intimidated by Mia:

What is wrong with Egoyan that he makes such sad movies? The revenge trip turning into a sad reconciliation was a motherfucker – it’s hard to write good people who get fucked up by misfortune and still hold onto some goodness – but for me the knife in the heart is the final two seconds, after a movie full of birds a cat walks into frame.

Victor and real bird:

Arsinée and fake bird:

Practically double-featured this with Exotica, another mid-90’s Canadian Elias Koteas sex thriller. James Spader is a commercial producer banging his camera girl, while his wife Deborah Kara Unger (great in this) gets with some guy in an aircraft hangar – 3 sexual encounters in the movie’s first 6 minutes. After Spader kills Holly Hunter’s husband in a head-on collision, she’s pretty cool about it, making out with him when he gives her a ride, leading to another crash. All this sexual/mechanical energy attracts primo perv Vaughan (Koteas). “Vaughn makes everything look like a crime, doesn’t he?”

Thank god there were enough degenerates in Canada to bring this project to life. A movie where everyone limps, and I’m struggling to think of any two characters who didn’t end up fucking each other. As in Naked Lunch, Cronenberg took scenes from another book (The Atrocity Exhibition) and used the author’s real name as a character. It won a prize at Cannes at least, and I just recently watched Crash’s cannesmate Three Lives.

Cronenberg on political correctness: “I think as soon as you allow politics of any kind into your movie, you’re doomed as an artist.”

Here I am, thirty years late, the last person in the country to watch Basic Instinct. I watched because it’s A Paul Verhoeven Film and on all the best-movies-of-whatever lists, but then, impressed by the degree of nudity in this I decided movies need more nudity and sought out more naked 90’s films. Unlike the others, this would seem to have little rewatch value – it’s kind of a brown/grey cop procedural. Some noirish aspects, Michael Douglas smart enough to draw connections but never the big ones, surrounded by smarter women who are playing him.

After Mr. Boz is killed with an icepick, Douglas and partner Gus question Boz’s girlfriend Sharon Stone, who got rich writing novels about icepick murders. Either she committed the dumbest murder, or one of the other psycho women in this movie is framing her – Stone’s hottie friend Roxy, or the police psychiatrist both investigating and sleeping with Douglas, Jeanne Tripplehorn. At the end a couple cops and suspects are dead and we don’t know for sure that Stone wasn’t the killer all along.

I thought this would be more Four Weddings and a Funeral, but all the lives/deaths in the title belong to Marcello Mastroianni, who lives at least three different lives in this almost-anthology movie.

Birds and snake:

Firstly, Marcello had walked out on his wife, rented an apartment down the street, and fallen asleep for 20 years, hypnotized by tiny Parisian fairies. When he escapes, he talks his wife’s current guy (Féodor Atkine of a couple Rohmers) into listening to his story, then coming to the apartment and taking his place (less “talks” and more “kidnaps and murders” at that point) while Marcello returns to wife Marisa Peredes (an Almodóvar regular).

Marisa:

Atkine, swimming in chicks

Then Marcello is a bachelor professor with an invalid mum until he gets the sudden urge to leave home and becomes a very successful street beggar and befriends CEO/prostitute Alla Galiena (The Tulse Luper Suitcases), living a double life with her dangerous husband.

Galiena and perverse husband:

Polyamorous couple Martin (Ruiz fave Melvil Poupaud) and Cecile (Marcello’s daughter Chiara Mastroianni) have a mysterious benefactor in Marcello, who leaves them a mansion then performs as their mute butler, and this turns out to be a scheme to steal their newborn and deliver it to Wife #1 Marisa Peredes. Marcello is introduced as a fourth character, a businessman whose young wife is cheating on him, but we’ve already seen characters from the other stories interacting, and now it turns out there’s only one Marcello, and he starts rapidly flipping between personas, then all Marcellos share one death after a fateful meeting at the cafe between the women from each chapter.

A Poupaud and two Mastroiannis:

Marcello is excellent in this, and would die a couple months after it came out. It played a stacked Cannes with Crash, Fargo and Breaking the Waves.

A very historical-fiction adventure, not my favorite sort of thing, and I’m pretty sure I prefer Late Mann, beginning around Ali. The last of his theatrical features I hadn’t seen, though half of those are due a rewatch. That leaves The Jericho Mile… the proto-Heat L.A. Takedown… some early doc shorts that are probably unavailable… and I’ll probably never get to the TV series (Miami Vice, Crime Story, Vega$). This was about the twentieth filmed version of the novel, but the credits specify that it’s a remake of the 1930’s Randolph Scott film.

The Mohawk are joining the Brits fighting against the French, but the French have got Magua (Wes Studi) who has a huge vendetta against a Brit major whose daughter Madeleine Stowe (12 Monkeys) falls for Mohican DDL. They’re all trapped in a fort under siege, led by a tyrant major, who has a falling out with the other major (I noted that both majors are terrible).

I only knew two things about this from the advertising: that DDL is the last of the Mohicans (it’s actually his friend), and that the movie’s about him looking for a woman after telling her to stay alive, and that whatever may occur, he will find her (he finds her two scenes later, on the same day).

Another Lovecraft movie to go with our Re-Animator duo (and with the same composer). A man named Ward has made a bloody impossible escape from some institution, detective March is closing the case via dictaphone in flash-forward, then there’s… a flashback from the flash-forward? March is the boring, lumpy John Terry (of a Timothy Dalton Bond movie), his client Mrs. Ward is the unnaturally terrible Jane Sibbett (of a Mary-Kate and Ashley movie). Too much voiceover, maybe to make up for the dialogue recording being pretty bad – overall competence here is low, though eventually there’s a doppelganger, a living skeleton, and some good monstrosities, so it’s not a total waste of time.

John Terry… and John Terry… in A Bronx Tale

Christoph Huber in Cinema Scope 83 called this movie “superior” and “neglected,” so maybe I was just tired and unappreciative. O’Bannon is of course the Alien creator who also made Return of the Living Dead. Corman’s The Haunted Palace, the first IMDB-credited Lovecraft-based feature, is an adaptation of the same story, featuring Vincent Price, Elisha Cook Jr., and surely far less blood.

Child’s Play (1988, Tom Holland)

First off, the baddie is known as The Strangler, but he has a getaway driver – what strangler has accomplices? He’s also a powerful satanist, and when cornered by a cop in a poorly staged toy-store shootout, he pours his soul into little Chucky, which our boy Andy’s mom buys from a “peddler” in a back alley (I dunno why I find it funny that they use the word peddler so many times).

Chucky kills mom’s friend the babysitter first, which is investigated by the guy who shot The Strangler – he’s the only cop in town, and doesn’t do a useful thing in the whole movie. Then Chucky takes Andy on some adventures into the city, first to blow up the house of his getaway driver (who escaped from police! the police not coming off great in this film) then to his voodoo guru’s house. Chucky rightly points out that gurus shouldn’t tell their clients where their own voodoo doll is hidden, then kills the doll after getting the vital info that he can only soul-transfer into the first person to whom he revealed his identity, so, Andy. Standoff ensues, finally mom and Andy and the fuckup cops killing the hell out of the killer doll. I’d forgotten how great Chucky looks in these – some real attention paid to the effects.

Holland directed Fright Night, and a Whoopi Goldberg action-comedy that I’ve somehow never heard of, even though in the late 80’s I definitely tried to watch all the Whoopi Goldberg action-comedies. Writer/creator Don Mancini has stayed involved in the whole series. Andy’s mom is Catherine Hicks (whale scientist of Star Trek IV). Brad Dourif, undistinctive as the human killer but next-level as the doll’s voice, has been in a ton of things, always best when he’s playing crazy. The cop had just played the evil prince in Princess Bride, was later the voice of Jack Skellington. Poor Andy would mainly keep playing Andy.

Dourif opens a locked door the way you do in movies: by firing a glancing shot a couple inches from the deadbolt:

Andy’s mom checks out the Mighty Damballa:


Child’s Play 2 (1990, John Lafia)

Chucky’s skull is salvaged by toy company, a great idea! The Mike Pence-like boss wants the thing investigated as part of a relaunch of the doll line, and it’s not a great sign when a chintzy electrocution effect throws a company engineer through the window. Andy’s mom is off recovering in an institution, so the kid is set up with a foster family: two bickering parents and a cool motorcycle chick, while Chucky slaughters the company flunky who took him home (hey, finally some strangling from The Strangler).

Since everyone loves a mass murdering doll, the movie is trying harder to be funny and quippy… Chucky complaining about “women drivers” while the chick is trying to shake him of her car is a low, but foster-home manager dying on a photocopier is cute. This is the one with the memorable ending back in the toy factory, where Andy and the chick kill Chucky in six different ways.

Chucky fashions himself a Terminator 2 knife-hand:

Lafia was a writer on part one, also directed an Ally Sheedy dog horror. Grace Zabriskie (appearing in Twin Peaks at the time) played the foster-home manager. Walkabout star Jenny Agutter is foster mom, Beef from Phantom of the Paradise is foster dad. The motorcycle chick is Christine Elisa, who was in Body Snatchers with Meg Tilly, sister of Bride of Chucky star Jennifer Tilly.

Great scene: three people here know this is a hostage situation, Grace is oblivious:


Child’s Play 3 (1991, Jack Bender)

Years later, we’ve reached the limits of young Andy as an actor, so he’s recast as a teen in military school. At the toy company, Mike Pence is back, arguing with an Ebert-type that the dolls should be rebooted again, and this time the resurrected Chucky kills the boss himself.

Stop putting police and military shit into my killer doll movies. Hardly anything of interest here, the military school providing new friends and enemies for Andy before Chucky leads them off-campus to a carnival. It’s jokier than ever, and goes against its own mythology in a desperate attempt to keep going. Chucky kills a garbage man, the barber, replaces their paintballs with live ammo before a war-game, then waves a gun around inside the carnival haunted house until he’s dropped into a giant fan.

The barber!

Bender would later direct a significant chunk of Lost episodes, and a couple of well-regarded Stephen King TV series. Very happy to see Kirsty’s dad Andrew Robinson making the most of the barber role – he would later be a regular on Deep Space Nine. New Andy is Justin Whalin, soon to be a TV star on Lois and Clark.

Sorry other actors, I only care about the barber:

Every SHOCKtober you’ve gotta watch an anthology horror… this played at the Plaza this month, but I didn’t feel like going out during the apocalypse so I watched the blu-ray at home.

Three drug guys have heard that there’s a package for them at a funeral home, but before he’ll give them “the shit,” the mortician shows some bodies and tells how each met their demise. So far, so anthology-horror, but the difference here is that the framing story is the best part, due to an incredible performance by mortician Clarence Williams III (Prince’s dad in Purple Rain, a lead on The Mod Squad, and hey, this is my second movie in a row with an actor from The Cool World). He plays it big and campy, with a comic unpredictability without losing his menacing edge, and whenever the three guys ask for their shit, he repeats “the shit” in the craziest way.

Anyway, story one: Anthony Griffith (of Panther the same year) is a rookie Black cop whose white partners beat a Black political rival (Tom Wright, also star of an anthology segment in Creepshow 2) to death while “Strange Fruit” plays – so it’s gonna be an unsubtle social issues movie. Anthony can’t take the heat and leaves the force, but that’s not good enough. “Where were you when I needed you?” After hunting down and killing the three cops as brutally and ironically as possible, the vengeful ghost frames Anthony for their deaths. One of the white cops was in The Crow, another in Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

The next story involves extreme domestic abuse mixed with It’s a Good Life. I dunno what made them cast David Alan Grier as a violent monster stepdad, but it works out. The writer/director plays a concerned teacher who comes to student Walter’s house, meets his hot mom (Paula Jai Parker of She Hate Me and Friday), and they all get tormented by wicked Grier until Walter (who later played Young Michael Jordan in Space Jam!) takes his psychic revenge.

A racist white southern politician named Duke (heh) is running on an anti-affirmative action platform while living in a house where a lot of bad historical shit went down, until a small army of stop-motion dolls imbued with the souls of murdered slaves take him out (this has better puppetry than the Puppet Master movies). Corbin Bernsen (between Major League II and The Dentist) is the main racist, and Roger Guenveur Smith (Do the Right Thing‘s Smiley) is his image consultant (who is also murdered).

Starting to bring things home for the framing-story boys, the fourth body is a guy they knew. Jerome (Lamont Bentley of TV’s Moesha) is a crazy murderous gangster paired up with a klansman in prison by “experimental” doctor Rosalind Cash (Buckaroo Banzai, The Omega Man) under the logic that they both killed a lotta Black people. Jerome is tormented, but won’t repent, and all this turns out to be a years-long dying fantasy as he’s killed in the street in the first, pre-prison scene.

Cash died of cancer just months after this film’s release:

Obviously at this point the three dudes are gonna discover coffins of their own in the funeral home, though I didn’t need the mortician to turn into a literal demon, he was fine as he was.

Rusty also directed Chappelle’s Show and made Fear of a Black Hat, which suddenly seems essential. One of his two belated sequels stars Keith David in the mortician role, which could work, and the other stars Tony Todd. Rusty’s cowriter on all three films is Darin Scott (also: Vincent Price anthology From a Whisper to a Scream, Danny Trejo anthology Mr. Malevolent, and he directed Jeffrey Combs in Dark House).

Part one was the masterpiece that I remembered, and part two… well, it’s a sequel, it’s fine. Maybe losing Stuart Gordon (who was filming Robot Jox instead) was a real problem, or maybe it’s just sequelitis, or I should relax, since this is still quite good.

Dan has no self-respect, is still palling around with the clearly mad Herbert, who is doing gruesome experiments in an unsupervised warzone before returning to the hospital of part one, where he claims he’s doing important work but mostly fucks around reanimating whimsically-joined body parts.

Curious Dr. Graves (Mel Stewart of Shirley Clarke’s Cool World) awakens the evil psychic head of Dr. Hill. As before, emotionally fragile Dan tries to have a love life (Fabiana Udenio of the second Austin Powers) and West accidentally kills someone (this time a cop!) whom he has to resurrect to get out of trouble. And sure as shit, they go the full Frankenstein, making a Bride out of stolen body parts, causing a love-triangle problem for Dan, who chooses life, so the new creature tears her own heart out.