Thought I wrote this up already, but can’t find it. Must be thinking of The Philadelphia Story. Yuk yuk, but no, really. I recall saying that everything felt like an imitation (and it doesn’t help that they’re reading the exact same dialogue) with a few unnecessary songs added… that even the most well-loved actors of the 1950’s have unenviable positions playing roles originated by Cary Grant (here Bing Crosby), Jimmy Stewart (Sinatra) and Katharine Hepburn (Grace Kelly). Kelly even seems to be impersonating Hepburn, or maybe they’re both just doing generic upper-class east-coaster, but Hepburn did it first, and for longer. Of course it’s still a hell of an enjoyable movie – you don’t remake The Philadelphia Story and end up with an unenjoyable movie. Best addition: Louis Armstrong!
Shorts! I have discs and discs of shorts and rarely watch them. I’m awfully excited about the new blu-ray of avant-garde shorts from Flicker Alley, but how can I justify buying it when I’ve got a hundred shorts collections just sitting around unseen? Let’s watch some, shall we? And what better place to start than with a Kino collection called The Movies Begin?
The Great Train Robbery (1903, Edwin Porter)
Stunts, explosions, color, brutal murders, thievery, daring escapes – and dancing! Bandits rob the train of its lockbox loot and all its passengers of their wallets, then escape on horseback. Local bunch of ruffians is alerted to the crime and rides off to kill the perpetrators. All this in ten minutes – more economical than the Sean Connery remake.
One of the more famous shots (haha “shots”) in cinema:
Fire in a Burlesque Theater (1904)
Either this was ineptly framed or I’m seeing a cropped version, because there aren’t nearly enough burlesque dancers with smoke inhalation on display here.
Airy Fairy Lillian Tries On Her New Corsets (1905)
Hefty Jeffy helps her out… then faints. Was this a comedy?
From Show Girl to Burlesque Queen (1903)
A woman removes her costume – but the good part is done behind a screen. The title was better than the feature, making this the A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence of its time.
Troubles of a Manager of a Burlesque Show (1904)
Troubles because the women are angry at the crappy clothes he expects them to wear, and they flee and throw things when he tries to molest them.
The Whole Dam Family and the Dam Dog (1905, Edwin Porter)
So many lost films in history, and this dam thing survives. Hilarious title for a movie without any jokes in it, making this The Ridiculous Six of its time.
The Golden Beetle (1907, Segundo de Chomón)
Ornate, hand-colored, dangerous-looking Meliesian disappearing act. I think a man tries throwing a golden beetle in the fire, and she torments him with showers of sparks before burning him to death. This is great.
Rough Sea at Dover (1895, Birt Acres)
Two shots of the rough sea. Were any other 1895 movies more than one shot long?
Come Along Do! (1898, RW Paul)
Supposedly the first film to feature action carried over from one shot to the next. But I watched it twice, and it appears to be only one shot. Is there an invisible Birdman-like cut in there somewhere? Or did I get the descriptions of the previous two films mixed up? Anyway, two drinkers on a bench outside some mysterious establishment with an “Art Section” and “Refreshments” opt for the art section.
Extraordinary Cab Accident (1903, RW Paul)
Cabs being horse-drawn at the time, a guy stumbles into the street, is trampled to death, then mysteriously recovers and runs off. I’ve seen guys transformed via editing into scarecrow dummies then thrown off trains in The Great Train Robbery, but this one does a good job transforming the dummy back into a guy.
A Chess Dispute (1903, RW Paul)
There is a violent dispute over a game of chess. Mostly this dispute is waged just under the camera’s view, thrown punches and bottles and clothing flying up into frame.
Buy Your Own Cherries (1904, RW Paul)
Awful brute man causes a drunken scene at a bar, then another at his home, then after a quick visit to church he’s wonderful and generous. Extra long at four minutes. Paul also produced the great The ? Motorist, which I had credited to director Walter Booth.
The Miller and the Sweep (1898, GA Smith)
Just a silly half-minute fight/chase in front of an operating windmill. But it’s a really nice shot of the windmill.
Let Me Dream Again (1900, GA Smith)
Happy couple at a party wake up as grumpy old couple in bed… so the movie’s title is the punchline. Smith invented the pull out-of-focus to indicate shift from dream to reality.
Sick Kitten (1903, GA Smith)
Kino says Smith invented the POV shot, and the idea of breaking a scene down into shots from different angles, which he does here. Kids dressed as grownups feed a kitty from a spoon. As is true today, cat films were incredibly popular back then, so this is a remake of his 1901 cat film which had worn out from overduplication.
The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899, GA Smith)
Train goes into tunnel, GA Smith and wife have a quick smooth, train back out of tunnel.
The Kiss in the Tunnel (1899, Bamforth & Co)
A remake! Two different people kiss in a different tunnel (the train shot from different angles than Smith used), in a cabin with worse production design.
A Daring Daylight Burglary (1903, Frank Mottershaw)
Action thriller with multiple shots and locations, reminiscent of The Great Train Robbery. Kino says some plot action in the silent doesn’t make sense because the showman was supposed to provide benshi narration during the screening.
A Desperate Poaching Affray (1903, William Haggar)
Men with guns chase men with nets. Oh damn wait, the poachers have guns too, and blast at least three of the pursuers. Poaching was deadly serious business. Just a big chase scene, really.
Attack on a China Mission (1901, James Williamson)
A man’s house is attacked, he defends with rifle, then more groups keep arriving and I’m not sure what side they’re on. Kino says it’s a reenactment of the Boxer Uprising, which must have been a confusing uprising. Kino says JW was famous for moving action across multiple shots, mainly during chase films, which sounds like what everyone was famous for in 1901.
An Interesting Story (1905, James Williamson)
Mustache man pours coffee in his hat, injures the maid, wrecks some children’s fun, and keeps running into things because he won’t put down his book (just like kids today with their cellular telephones). Satisfying conclusion as he gets run over by a steamroller, but some passing bicyclists inflate him, using the ol’ dummy-replacement trick last seen in Extraordinary Cab Accident.
Electrocuting an Elephant (1903, Thomas Edison & Edwin S. Porter)
Never forget, no matter what his achievements in human history, Thomas Edison once electrocuted an elephant for fun and profit.
Fincher brings his sleek style to an exasperating, overlong, coincidence-filled thriller. If I was a proper auteurist the story wouldn’t matter and I’d go on about the great technique – but I’m not, so I was bored.
A Man Without a Country:
Disgraced journalist Daniel Craig is hired by Christopher Plummer of a rich nazi family to discover who killed Plummer’s granddaughter forty years ago – and since there’s no body, we already know that Racer X is really Speed’s bro… I mean that the girl is still alive. Halfway through the movie Craig meets (hooks up with) antisocial goth hacker Rooney Mara. First part of the movie sets up horrible, dangerous people: the businessman who sues Craig, Rooney’s rapist parole officer, Plummer’s evil nephew Stellan Skarsgard, then in the end our heroes take bloody revenge on all of them.
Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck:
Stellan’s fiery end:
I love that everyone knows all about Craig’s life and work – for an investigative journalist he’s quite bad at keeping secrets. A few amusing parts: most of the dragon-tattoo hackery-fakery, and Stellan soundtracking his torture chamber with an Enya song. Rooney Mara won best actress at Cannes (for Carol) the same day I watched this.
The most inventive “live-action cartoon” movie?
The bright, color-manipulated sets ensure that we don’t take the action seriously for even a second – which is good, since the movie is a fairly faithful adaptation of the horrendous Speed Racer series, in which the mysterious Racer X is actually Speed’s brother. The movie’s main contribution (besides toning down the part of Chim-Chim) is a twist: Racer X turns out not to be Speed’s brother! But wait, another twist: Racer X is really Speed’s brother!
Not toned-down: Spritle
Evil racers with dollars in their eyes:
Speed is Emile Hirsch, having a big year with this between Into the Wild and Milk, with Christina Ricci as Trixie. His overqualified parents: Susan Sarandon and John Goodman (dressed like Super Mario). Rain (I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK) is a friend/enemy/informant/fall guy, Royalton (Al Gore-looking Roger Allam of The Angels’ Share and V for Vendetta) is the corporate baddie, and Matthew Fox (TV’s Lost) is Racer X, who is emphatically not Speed’s brother (yes he is!)!!!
The Last Ten Minutes vol. 11: SHOCKtober Sequels and Remakes edition
The first – and possibly last, since the advertisements are pissing me off, Hulu Plus edition of The Last Ten Minutes.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984, Charles Sellier)
I’ve watched Silent Night, Deadly Night 4: Initiation, the bonkers slimy Brian Yuzna movie, more than once, and you see Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out! mentioned on auteurist film sites for being directed by Monte Hellman, but what of the first two? Who cares about them?
Cops are shooting priests dressed as Santa! Are priests supposed to dress as Santa? A lone Mustache Cop has a long, dull, keyboard-scored stalk around the grounds of an orphanage until he’s killed by an axe-swinging santa yelling “punish!” The surprisingly fresh-faced young Santa is finally shot down by a new cop whilst threatening the head nun, then the movie immediately sets up dead Santa’s younger brother as a possible sequel-villain. Head nun went on to play Jean-Claude Van Damme’s mom in Universal Soldier.
Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (1987, Lee Harry)
More cops and orphanages, and another young insane fella in a Santa suit (as the last movie plainly predicted, it’s the other Santa’s little brother) is stalking the same elder nun (now featuring bad facial-burn makeup) before getting shot down by cops – the only difference between the two movies being that this time the head nun gets beheaded. Perhaps the killer’s tendency to raise his eyebrows with each word delivery, bringing to mind an axe-wielding Groucho Marx, is why he didn’t get any more starring roles. Of the six credited writers, one is also a sound mixer who worked on Million Dollar Hotel. That’s the most distinguished IMDB-linked career move I can come up with.
Check out the nun’s apartment number:
Maniac Cop 2 (1990, William Lustig)
Maniac Cop breaks into prison, presumably for revenge of some sort, and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink’s boss the following year) gets on a loudspeaker to talk him down. There is a fight scene with a bunch of different guys who are all on fire, which I think automatically makes this better than the first movie, culminating with Clarence Williams (Prince’s dad in Purple Rain) getting thrown through a thick prison wall like it was made of cardboard. Robert Davi (a Goonies baddie) gives the movie’s eulogy before the token sequel-setup-scare. I never saw Bruce Campbell. Lustig, writer Larry Cohen and MC Robert Z’Dar stuck around for the whole trilogy. Hulu needs to pay up for part three.
Scanners 2: The New Order (1991, Christian Duguay)
A guy gets scanners’d down a hallway, then a sneering long-dark-haired scanner scans a dude who is blonde and wearing a jean jacket, so is presumably our hero. Psychic battles are great for cheap movies since you just need actors to lurch their heads at each other and tremble a bit. Buncha bald scanners in a Minority Report chamber form a scanner-circle around the dark-haired guy and he ends up all melty, then the boss of the whole operation has his head scanned into Elephant Man shapes right in front of the media. Duguay later made Screamers, which I rather liked, and lead scanner David Hewlett starred in Cube.
Scanners 3: The Takeover (1991, Christian Duguay)
Oooh, now you can scan through television signals, and a pink-lipstick woman is trying to conquer civilization. Our hero Alex scans his way into the TV studio, killing one dude via revolving door, but stylish supervillain Helena has an anti-scanner flashlight. The two of them gamely twitch heads at each other until the villainess electrocutes herself, apocalyptically transmitting her consciousness into the TV camera Lawnmower-Man-style.
April Fool’s Day (2008, Altieri & Flores)
Scout T-C (star of Rob Zombie’s Halloween movies) has a gun, is mad, shoots a dude and extracts confession from Desiree, then a buncha talky backstory reveals that it was all a hoax and the dude is alive, but then Des gets her head blown off by a “prop” gun. So far nobody who’s died in this movie has stayed dead, so what’s next? Oh, nothing.
Hulu sent me to something called Crackle for this one, renewing my sequel-watching possibilities, and now without commercials! Why do I pay for the service that has ads, while this one appears to be free?
Hostel Part 3 (2011, Scott Spiegel)
A cleaver cuts a guy’s head clean in half in one blow, but takes six chops and some sawing to get through an arm – inconsistent? An unconscious man is killed via severe-tire-damage spikes. Tire guy cooly escapes the compound while cleaver guy gets blown up behind him, but cleaver guy lives to take bloody revenge. The writer also did The Butterfly Effect 2 and I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer, while Spiegel cowrote Evil Dead 2 and directed From Dusk Till Dawn 2.
Clive Barker’s The Plague (2006, Hal Masonberg)
Not a sequel or remake but I’m a sucker for Clive Barker’s the anything, and saw this on the list. Slow-walking sad-eyed children approach an attractive young couple, so he tells her to sit down thinking happy thoughts while he vanishes with the zombie kids. Final shot reveals the head spooky zombie kid has a paperback of The Grapes of Wrath?? Are we sure this was a horror movie? The director also worked on Demonic Toys.
Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005, Ellory Elkayem)
Hmm, the zombies are talking and there’s a cenobite with a circular-saw arm. Swat team with a tank and unarmed hospital-patient zombie squad arrive at the same time – guess who wins? Media coverup follows.
Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave (2005, Ellory Elkayem)
From a gun-toting viking to strobe-lit clown-wigged zombies, I like the halloween-costume zombie warfare montages. Then everyone is killed by army helicopters. The director of both of these also made horror/comedy Eight Legged Freaks and the writers did Gingerdead Man 2.
On the way out, I commented that this should really have been a miniseries, since Gary Oldman is conducting an investigation into Tinker (Toby Jones), Tailor (Colin Firth), Soldier (Ciaran Hinds) and Poor Man (David Dencik of both Dragon Tattoo and its remake) but we know nothing about the four men, so aren’t invested in the outcome (except through the cathartic rifle-shot of tortured ex-operative Mark Strong). And Chris told me it WAS a miniseries, starring Alec Guinness. Not only that, I now see that Tinker Tailor follows The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, and is followed by Smiley’s People (another miniseries), all tied into a seven-part series of novels. So this two-hour movie is hardly the whole story.
Colin Firth is hiding behind Poor Man’s head:
But as a film, it works. Alfredson (Film-grain-happy director of Let The Right One In, with the same cinematographer) has the best cast you could hope for, including Gary Oldman as the lead, John Hurt as the (late) boss of it all, and someone named Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s latest Sherlock Holmes) as Oldman’s main man. Such a very British cast and film (plus a notable scene in Hungary), I’m surprised they hired a Swede to direct.
It’s complicated how Oldman identifies the mole in MI6’s spy ring – something to do with a Russian who’s fed information by everybody, but only true information by one of them (Firth, of course, since he’s the most respectable-looking of the crew). Side plots include Tom Hardy (who was he in Inception?) hiding out at Oldman’s place with his flashback story of a woman he failed to save, Cumberbatch’s file-snatching escapade (spying on the spies), Firth stealing Oldman’s wife, and the sad, trailer-by-the-river life of Mark Strong.
“What are we looking for? A man with a twisted mind. It could be anybody.”
Losey needs to sue Edgar Wright:
Opening music sounds like a variation on “when you wish upon a star,” then the movie proceeds to introduce and murder little Elsie, who bears the same name and receives the same balloon which drifts evocatively into the same power lines as the Fritz Lang original. Killer David Wayne has a less distinctive voice than Peter Lorre, and plays a tin flute, and the movie has a less distinctive, shadowy and angular look than the original. I thought the movie would have more of a reason to exist, maybe some anti-McCarthyism sentiment beneath the surface, but it’s really just an English version of the Lang movie, with a few changes.
You can just see the “M” reflected in the Chiclets mirror:
I’m not against the changes, either. I always felt the original was a little over-long in the second half. This one tightens it up, and expands the role of the man chosen to defend the killer after the criminals abduct him from his shopping-center hideout. Langley is a lawyer who became a hopeless drunk and now works for crime boss Charlie (the movie never considered that crime bosses might prefer a sober, competent lawyer). In the parking garage he’s given the task of defending Wayne so the riled-up crowd won’t dispatch the killer before the cops show, but Langley rises to the occasion and turns on his boss, who shoots Langley in front of the just-arriving police force, who cart away both the murderers together. In exchange for the lawyer additions, the movie cuts details of the beggar organization from the original, which was always one of my favorite parts.
David Wayne and prey, trapped in a mannequin shop:
Losey and actor Howard Da Silva (chief inspector on the case) would soon be on the hollywood blacklist. I assume Larry Cohen was responding to this when he cast Da Silva as the President in his Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover. D.P. Ernest Laszlo had just shot D.O.A., would later handle Kiss Me Deadly (with director Robert Aldrich, who assisted on this picture) and While The City Sleeps for M originator Fritz Lang.
I liked the blind balloon vendor. John Miljan had appeared in Buster Keaton movies (not the good ones) in the early 30’s.
Lawyer Langley (below right) was Luther Adler of D.O.A. and House of Strangers, and his boss (below center) was Martin Gabel of The Thief the following year. The prolific David Wayne played one of the millionaires in How to Marry a Millionaire, and I described him as “sort of an annoying Donald O’Connor” in Adam’s Rib. Generally in musical comedy roles, I have no idea how he ended up as a desperate serial child killer.
Careful phrasing in the media about the murdered children: “the kids were neither violated nor outraged.”
Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.
Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.
The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.
Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.
Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.
The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.
2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.
Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).
Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.
The Addiction (1995)
A black and white (but mostly black) arthouse vampire movie. Being a big fan of talky French cinema and a moderate fan of avant-garde, non-narrative films, I always hesitate to use the word “pretentious,” but it kind of seemed pretentious. Maybe I’m just afraid of philosophy, and since the lead character is getting her PhD in philosophy, there was lots of Sartre and Heidegger and the like.
With Edie Falco, who I didn’t recognize with long hair:
It’s full of great ideas, though, and maybe it’s because I was weak and sick while watching, but I found it moving by the end. College student Lili Taylor (in that brief period between Short Cuts and I Shot Andy Warhol when she seemed like a movie star) is bitten in an alley then left alone. She get no underground vampire dance clubs or Lost Boys camraderie – she has to figure it out on her own. Clever metaphors to STD’s and drug use abound (she steals blood from homeless dudes using a syringe, ugh) along with the pondering about the nature of being. She does briefly (oh! too briefly) get a mentor in the form of Christopher Walken, second-billed for his three minutes of screen time.
With the teacher she’s about the seduce and then bite:
Lili graually infects classmates and professors, then holds a graduation party that turns into a bloodfeast. I think she dies from taking sacrament soon after, but she’s in the hospital all torn up so maybe she was dying anyway. Movie was “presented” by hip-hop/comedy producer Russell Simmons for some reason and written by Nicholas St. John, who wrote most of Ferrara’s previous movies but not Bad Lieutenant, his previous killer combo of horror and catholicism.
With some girl she just bit:
Body Snatchers (1993)
Watched this on a whim since it was on netflix streaming, not expecting much from Ferrara’s studio horror remake (the movie he forgot about when criticizing Werner Herzog for remaking Bad Lieutenant), but it was great – excellently creepy and so stylishly shot – one of the few times throwing a big-budget thriller remake at an artistic filmmaker has paid off (sorry, The Departed). Paid off for me anyway – if IMDB is to be believed, it was a royal bomb in theaters. In competition at Cannes though, beaten unfairly by The Piano (and fairly by Farewell My Concubine). Third of four Body Snatchers movies. I knew about the Kevin McCarthy and the Nicole Kidman, but not about the one with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy.
All Things Horror points out: “Sure, it’s not perfect. There’s a bit of annoying narration that seems completely unnecessary, some unfortunate blue screen, a goofy big explosion-filled ending,” all valid points. I’d like to add that the scene where suspicious doctor Forest Whitaker is driven to suicide by approaching aliens was pretty over the top, and if I didn’t already know Whitaker is a great actor, I would not have guessed it from this scene.
Awesome move setting the story on an army base, a location where everybody is trained to act like a pod person anyhow. R. Lee Ermey is looking good with his little mustache as the local general. Young Marti (Gabrielle Anwar of Flying Virus and iMurders) reluctantly moves onto the base with her boring dad (he’s so boring) Terry Kinney (founding member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater), evil stepmother Meg Tilly (Psycho II) and observant little stepbrother. Marti immediately stars hanging out with a couple bad influences: hot, emotionless chopper pilot Tim (Billy Wirth of The Lost Boys) and general’s daughter Jen (Christine Elise of Child’s Play 2). Once the snatching starts, Tim’s post-traumatic stress disorder proves extremely useful in blending in with the aliens. Particularly creepy was the wide-mouthed pointing scream the baddies used as an alarm once the base had been mostly snatched.
Soon after that starts, Marti’s dad goes in search of help. And suddenly Guy Pearce is on an airplane? Then some Lebanese guys welcome Don Cheadle to Toronto?? Oh man, netflix has started playing the movie Traitor instead, probably to make a funny movie-snatchers joke. It’s hilarious, but I had to go rent a proper DVD of Body Snatchers and watch the last half hour a few nights later.
Writing assistance by both Stuart Gordon and Larry Cohen – along with Ferrara that’s an entire unholy trinity of 80’s cult filmmakers. No wonder I liked it.