Our hero James Fox is trashing the office of a gambler who didn’t pay protection, which is a trend in movies I watched this week. The gambler then trashes Fox’s place and gets shot for it, now Fox has to lay low until his boss can get him onto a boat for New York. He stays with some druggie beatniks who grow mushrooms, led by Anita Pallenberg and including Mick Jagger. Now we’ve got two of the worst kind of people in movies: the violent gangster and the drippy hippie. The hippies’ influence is felt on the filmmaking – once we arrive at the house, the editing stops jumping into the future/past and the camera roves around more.
Hard to see Fox’s makeshift red-paint hair-dye job in this light:
Mick dances with a fluorescent light then lip-syncs a music video. Fox inevitably gets fed a crazy mushroom. When his men come to pick him up, he shoots Mick in the head and maybe becomes him. At one point I paused to look up whether Bergman’s Persona had opened in the UK early enough to have been an influence (yep, mid-1967).
Brown sugar in the foreground when Mick is introduced:
It’s all more sordid than I was expecting… gonna have to be one of those respected cinema classics that doesn’t become a personal fave. At least Peter Labuza agrees. Roeg’s first movie as (co-) director, having ended his cinematographer-for-hire career with Petulia. Writer/director Cammell later made three other features which all sound intriguing: an audiophile serial killer, Anne Heche as a call girl, and a computer impregnates Julie Christie.
I bailed on this after a couple scenes at Sundance, but only because I had work in the morning, not because I didn’t want to watch the rest. Still bugged by the new guy (Joel Fry of Paddington 2) being allowed into the lab unmasked before passing his array of pandemic-virus tests. He’s assigned a guide (folk-horror vet Ellora Torchia of Midsommar) and heads into the woods to do something or other, despite being bad at the outdoors, and hopefully run into his boss Dr. Wendell. There’s talk of underground network “like a brain” between trees, and later we’ll get a nice spore-releasing montage (the earth breathing) and ritual mushroom water – after A Field in England, it’s Wheatley’s second piece of mushroom art.
First they find Wendell’s ex Reece Shearsmith (The League of Gentlemen), who kidnaps them, then Wendell herself (Hayley Squires of Colin Burstead), who blasts the movie’s Clint Mansell score through tree-mounted speakers with accompanying strobe lights, and each tries to convince the newcomers that their ex is the crazy one. There’s a powerful ancient stone with a hole through it, and arguments over everyone’s intentions. Dr. Wendell claims both of the men were drawn towards her experiment when they contracted ringworm (a fungal infection: more mushrooms). When they finally enter the spore cloud, the movie goes psychedelic. Good pandemic movie – besides the plague in the cities, it is kinda about people going nuts in isolation.
Who’s crazy – mum?
And that’s it for SHOCKtober 2021. Final ranking:
1. Mad God
2. The Empty Man
4. The Devil’s Candy
6. Office Killer
7. Final Destination
Religion and superstition.
Storybook motion stills of the Baba Yaga tale.
Hangout photography of modern day areas where the legends came from.
Tons of mushrooms, a mushroom-heavy movie.
Three great actors (Nicole, Kirsten, Colin) plus Elle leading the up-and-comers. Colin is an enemy soldier brought to their boarding school for medical help, then as he recovers his strength, things get increasingly tense until he plays an ill-advised trick on Kirsten, and the women murder him with poison mushrooms.
Lovely movie, great twisted fun. I have few deep thoughts, because my post-film reverie was interrupted by the sight of a guy wearing a Battlefield Earth t-shirt – the novel, not the film.