Watched this soon after reading Vox’s reviews of Joe Berlinger’s two new Ted Bundy movies, a documentary (“a bit of a slog”) and a “morally confused” Zac Efron feature. I was considering that maybe serial killer movies are a bad idea in general, but was also stressed out and feeling like watching some murders, so thought I’d torment myself by watching ol’ self-serious Lars alienate his fans. Divided into chapters, or incidents. “You might as well be a serial killer,” taunts Uma Thurman repeatedly in the first, until Matt Dillon finally, blessedly, beats her face in. Their self-conscious Tarantino conversation immediately calmed my concerns that this would be a grim, punishing movie. I keep forgetting about the campy prankster side of Lars – this was an escalating series of hateful murders, played for laughs and meta-commentary.

Segments are divided by short scenes, Dylan references, and stock footage in every aspect ratio and voiceover conversation with “Verge,” who turns out to be the late Bruno Ganz playing Virgil, Dante’s guide through hell, speaking of Jack’s murders as artworks. Next, Jack sets out to murder a woman alone at home (Siobhan Hogan, prison guard in Dancer in the Dark), talks his way inside with the most ridiculous excuses (he’s a cop but “my badge is at the silversmith”). He clumsily, awkwardly kills her then photographs the body, comes back inside to clean up and has to escape a visiting cop. Then he takes a date (Sofie Gråbøl, star of the series The Killing) and her two kids on a hunting trip and hunts them, kids first. Then the infamous double-mastectomy incident with a girlfriend (Riley Keough) whom he has cruelly nicknamed “Simple”. Then Jack, now known to the press as the serial killer Mr. Sophistication, is found out by his ammo supplier (Jeremy Davies of Dogville), and chased to his body-freezer home base by cops, where Virgil leads him into the underworld through a house made of the bodies of Jack’s victims.

I may have accidentally watched the censored version, but runtime is only two minutes different, so I’m not gonna sweat it this time.

Opens with a psychokinetic woman reading Bluebeard, then a guy kills someone with a pipe to happy upbeat music. I haven’t seen this since it came out, and didn’t remember most of it, except that the whole movie takes place in shabby, leaky buildings.

Takabe (the great Kôji Yakusho – he’ll always be “Ship Captain in Pulse” to me) investigates the pipe murder and finds the killer immediately. Then a guy kills his wife, a cop shoots his partner, each admits their crime and says it felt like the right thing to do at the time, and they’d all been in contact with a wandering amnesiac (Masato Hagiwara: Café Lumière, Chaos), a psychology dropout who got deep into hypnotism and occult psychotherapy. “All the things that used to be inside me… now they’re all outside.”

Peter Labuza on letterboxd:

While the film is told in long takes, these takes are given a mundane design. The initial scene at the beach is one of the most frightening moments in the film without anything in the frame to suggest that this moment is frightening. Characters are relaxedly placed in the frame, not tightly ordered, and the way that the antagonist controls his doomed subjects is through commonplace lighters and glasses of water. Kurosawa emphasizes their importance the first time in the frame, but then allows them to stand as far back in the frame as possible otherwise, letting our own paranoid spectatorship create the fear than letting the camera do it. Cure‘s mise-en-scene does everything possible to tell you “this is not a horror movie,” in the same way that the hypnotized have no understanding of the atrocities they are forced to commit.

I’d put off watching K. Kurosawa’s most generically named film, which got his most average reviews, until I accidentally missed our only screening of Before We Vanish, then feeling the sudden Kurosawa drought, I double-featured this with Daguerrotype and now I’m satisfied. It is, however, a pretty average movie. Either the subtitles are wack or the movie is purposely being strange in its dialogue and social interactions, because everyone seems kinda stupid.

Opens with a bad hostage standoff in a police station, an unassuming-looking psycho killing a couple of people and stabbing serial-killer expert Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima, main dude from Dolls, the editor in Loft) in the ass with a fork, causing him to have to leave the force and become a professor, moving into a suburb next door to a serial killer. He and his wife Yasuko (Yûko Takeuchi of Ring) introduce themselves to Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa, dad in Tokyo Sonata, sheriff of Sukiyaki Western Django), a certified crazy with a shy daughter who turns out to be kidnapped, her mom drugged-out in his Silence of the Lambs basement. Tak’s ex-partner Nogami (Masahiro Higashide, a pastor in Before We Vanish) wants to get Tak back into action, bringing him a cold case of the serial killer who happens to live next door, and it’s all feeling a bit ludicrous, like K.K. is bringing together these stock situations and crazy coincidences to make some sort of statement.

new neighbors:

everything is perfectly normal here!

Progress is made on the cold case, bodies of the missing discovered shrink-wrapped in a neighbor’s house, while Tak’s own neighbor is shrinkwrapping the now-dead parents of his fake daughter. Nishino has been keeping his hostages docile with a never-explained mind-control drug, and his TV constantly plays squid footage (a Bright Future reference?). After the neighbor kid starts to bond with Tak’s own wife, she is inevitably kidnapped, as is Tak himself, until they turn the tables on their tormentor by only pretending to have been drugged, then blowing him away. K.K. the director comes through in fine form, but K.K. the writer, sheesh.

Ignatiy Vishnevetsky in AV Club:

Bug-eyed and clammy, Nishino belongs in the pantheon of next-door weirdos, swishing from personably awkward to coldly standoffish as though they were steps in a waltz that only he can hear. Kagawa, who starred in Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata as a white-collar family man with a very different type of secret, is a marvel to watch; when Nishino and Takakura run into each other on a commuter train, he gives a grimacing courtesy smile that falls somewhere in the uncanny valley.

Mike D’Angelo:

Creepy is at its best when things are just…slightly…off, a quality embodied in everything from Teruyuki Kagawa’s Asperger-y performance to the proximity in which two characters are standing at the beginning of a shot … Were I capable of ignoring Creepy‘s outlandish, frequently nonsensical plot and focusing entirely on Kurosawa’s control of the frame and tone, we’d be in business here. But I’m not.

I’d been calling this Hellraiser 9, deciding the 2011 semi-reboot Revelations shouldn’t count, but then, do any of them count? Everything since part two has been direct-to-video fan-fiction. It’s time to admit there will never be another good Hellraiser (but it’s not time to stop watching the damned things, juuuust in case). At any rate, it was funny to watch this immediately after the comic book bondage movie.

Getting a lotta mileage out of those hipster lightbulbs:

New director Tunnicliffe wrote Revelations, has been doing makeup and effects since the Candyman / Hellraiser III days, and has written in a talkative new cenobite called The Auditor, played by himself. “I loathe the modern world.” Auditor and the new Pinhead (Rainn Wilson’s dad in Super) seem to be complaining about internet pornography, to which their solution is a sin-confession house populated by a sin-eater (The Assessor: Clu Gulager’s son), three half-naked women, and a leather gimp with skin-removal blades. I replayed the opening dialogue a few times, and it’s not clear why this house is an improved soul-harvesting mechanism – because nobody plays with puzzle boxes anymore?

While they do their Hostel/Saw torture house routine, our hero Sean “Jay-Z” Carter (Damon Carney of a Hitcher remake) is a burned-out cop pretending to track down a Se7en-style serial killer. After a while the only characters are him, his straightlaced brother (Randy Wayne of bowling horror The 13th Alley) and newly assigned detective Alexandra Harris (of lake house murder movie Rising Tides), so I figured one of them must be the serial killer, and it’s Sean. Sean being the lead detective on his own case means nobody has appreciated all the literature references he’s peppered among the killer’s crazy notes, or even bothered to google their sources until the brother discovers an out-of-copyight novel with a familiar line highlit.

Cop brothers:

Hell brothers:

The days of an obsessed doctor tricking a puzzle-genius girl into opening the hellbox in part two are long behind us – in this one, a panicked cop with a gun to his head figures it out in three seconds (I noted it took seven in Deader). We get dialogue callbacks about the sights to show you and the weeping Jesus, and for some reason, a repeated Clockwork Orange reference and a Nightmare on Elm Street actress cameo.

I always knew Jenna Maroney was an angel:

In the end, a heavenly angel with bouncy hair arrives to rescue the serial killer from demons (this is some nonsense like the internet pornography thing) then he is immediately shot to death by the Lady Detective. Pinhead has some fun with the angel, tearing her apart with his chains in the usual way, then she banishes him from demonic reign and he wakes up as some mortal loser living on the street. On one hand, I couldn’t care less about any of this, and on the other, I hope there’s another movie really soon (make a good one this time!).

The Woody & Matty show, with the always great Woody Harrelson playing against the newly relevant Matthew McConaughey. Woody’s kinda your middle-of-the-road cop, asshole, closed-minded, cheating on wife Michelle Monaghan (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Gone Baby Gone, Mission Impossible 3), and Matty is his alcoholic, loose-cannon, dark and moody partner. In 1995 they famously tracked down and killed a couple of cultist child-abductor/murderers, in 2002 their partnership broke up and in 2012 they’re being interviewed by a couple of guys – Michael Potts (Brother Mouzone of The Wire) and Tory Kittles (Miracle at St. Anna) – investigating similar murders.

Matty’s after the powerful people in charge, suspects their involvement in the cult cover-ups, mainly Reverend Tuttle, cousin of the governor. The interviewers suspect Matty’s involvement, and the show gives him the usual crazy-investigation den, a storage unit covered in line-linked documents, words and icons. Ultimately (after driving a couple witnesses to suicide, or more probably well-covered-up homicide) they track down a scarred house painter they missed the first time around and chase him through a stone maze which is apparently a real thing in Louisiana, which is incidentally a state I’d like to avoid forever. Interesting to hear all the “Time is a flat circle” mumbo and talk of fourth-dimensional perspectives from the star of Interstellar.

With Kevin Dunn (Veep) as their boss, Lily Tomlin as Michelle’s mom and Detective Lester Freamon as a pastor (not for the first time). Written by Louisiana novelist Nic Pizzolatto, directed by Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre). It came highly recommended, but only became a must-see for me when I learned about the Handsome Family open. I thought this was a miniseries or one-season deal, but apparently not, as the not-as-well-reviewed second season is airing now with a Leonard Cohen open, boo.

Beautiful Daiga (Yekaterina Golubeva, mysterious sister/lover of Pola X) has emigrated from Lithuania to Paris and is looking for a place to stay and work. Theo (Alex Descas, father in 35 Shots of Rum) is a struggling musician, and his brother Camille (Richard Courcet) a transvestite dancer. One of these three people might be connected to the serial “Granny Killer” who has been terrorizing Paris for a while.

Theo is from Martinique, married to Mona (Beatrice Dalle of The Intruder, also an intruder in Inside). Their relationship issues provide a solid center to the murder mystery plot – turns out Camille and his lover Raphael are the wanted criminals, killing old women and robbing their apartments for money to party.

Sort of like 35 Shots of Rum, following a few characters, you gradually realize who they are and how they know each other, more grounded and straightforward than The Intruder or Trouble Every Day – only instead of ending with a wedding, it ends with two guys being locked up.

Senses of Cinema provides a handle on many of her films: “Denis continues to explore the legacy of colonial and post-colonial societies by concentrating upon shared experiences of displacement – through an ensemble of characters who are struggling to find, return to or willfully create a sense of home, possibility, passion, belonging.”

I also watched her nine-minute segment from A Propos de Nice the following year, tragically entitled Nice, Very Nice. Young Denis regular Gregoire Colin is snatched off the sidewalk by some guys he knows, given a gun and an apparently convincing speech (we don’t hear it – there’s no spoken dialogue). Colin stops at the beach to think, then heads through a parade to a restaurant, where he finds and kills his man. The plot seems like an excuse to film the parade.

This succeeded as a horror movie because, even though I accurately predicted the final twist (the “hunchback”), I found the whole thing increasingly unsettling, to the point that the climactic flashlit race through dark tunnels was much freakier than it should have been.

Jay is a family man with a son, a pretty Swedish wife (Myanna Buring of The Descent), and a bit of a temper – possibly something to do with his former job running security in Bagdad? He’s hot and cold with his old buddy Gal (Michael Smiley, a raver in Spaced) and Gal’s new gal Fiona, a “human resources” person (she fires people).

I carefully avoided learning anything about the movie’s plot before watching, had no idea that Jay and Gal make their living as hit men. So I’m adding up facts and impressions from these initial scenes, probably needlessly. Why does Jay cook and eat a rabbit he finds dead in the yard? Is it important that the wife is Swedish, also with a military past? Why does Gal keep bringing up that Fiona is a “demon in bed”? I suppose the demon thing ties into the rest, since she turns out to be part of the weird cult that enlists the men for a murder spree.

Victims, preceded by title cards: first, The Priest, who seems grateful to be executed. Why does Gal make a sign of the cross before the execution, when Jay’s wife had earlier forbidden prayer at the dinner table and the men had raged at some campfire-singalong Christians at the hotel? Next: The Librarian, whom they torture after discovering he’s got a child-porn collection, but still manages to thank them (to Jay: “Does he know who you are? . . . Glad to have met you.”) before death by hammer. Next: The MP, but while they camp outside his house, a wicker cult parades through the woods.

Chase ensues through the catacombs, many culties are shot, and Gal doesn’t make it. Outside, Jay is captured, spun around and made to fight “the hunchback”.

1. Earlier on their mission he saw Fiona outside.
2. Fiona has been paying frequent visits to Jay’s house while the men were away, even though Gal claims he broke up with her.
3. I’ve seen movies before.
So yeah, I figured out “the hunchback.”

God forbid everything should be overexplained in a horror movie (you hear me, Rob Zombie?) but this one goes beyond a sense of mystery, ending abruptly after this final one-sided knife fight. The cult’s goal isn’t just to fuck with some poor guy and make him kill his family – Jay is implied to be some sort of demonic chosen one (the victims “recognized” him). But I hope the next step is to sacrifice the guy, because I don’t know how they expect to convince him that this was all an initiation ritual and now he needs to become their king or whatever. Instead I think they’ll end up with one angry, revenge-seeking professional killer.

A. Nayman

… a dual shift from a vague but comprehensible narrative about a pair of ex-military men-turned-contract-killers on assignment into an insane pagan scenario, and also from a skillfully wrought realist presentation into something wholly hallucinatory. Trying to pinpoint the exact moment of this slippage is next to impossible, because Wheatley has designed the film so that the two modes complement and even heighten one another. There are trace elements of the first half’s nervy naturalism in the crazed climax just as surely as tuned-in viewers will sense something uncanny intruding on those early everyday passages. In lieu of any sort of trendy bifurcation, Wheatley bleeds it all together.

“If you wanna drive, you’ve gotta kill.”

Opens with a mini-documentary about rabbit breeding, and I’m thinking someone had been watching L’age d’Or lately.

Bruce with his lead actress:

Record label flunky Ramona (Valerie Buhagiar, later in Highway 61) is assigned the task of tracking down a touring band gone missing, Children of Paradise. She takes a taxi for this purpose, drives 18 hours straight. Main label guy Roy, with slicked-back hair and a vaguely familiar look (he had small parts in eXistenZ and A History of Violence) stays back, yelling at her over the phone when she calls in.

Roy:

She finds the band briefly, but the singer has disappeared. So she pools her efforts with a documentary crew (the director of which is played by Bruce McDonald himself) also hired to document the Children of Paradise. At some point she has sex with a 15-year-old guy at the drive-in, who gives her his car. Ramona finally finds the band’s singer, now a spaced-out mute bald hot-dog salesman. But he wanders off, leaving her with a self-proclaimed serial killer, played by Don McKellar, the movie’s writer. All the players (including Roy) meet up at a bar for the finale, supposed to be the Children of Paradise’s final show, and it is, since Don shoots a whole bunch of people (including the documentary crew – only movie I’ve seen in which the writer gets to kill the director).

Mute vocalist:

Postscript: the taxi’s meter rolls over and Ramona only owes a couple bucks. Also the cabby meets Joey Ramone for some reason.

Fun indie movie, creatively and energetically shot, with wall-to-wall music. I’d be glad to see more indie films take their cues from punk rock instead of from Little Miss Sunshine.

Joshua at Octopus Cinema:

Aesthetically, the film contains many more iconic moments than one would think, from the silhouetted conversation [Don McKellar] has with Ramona to the solitary dance Ramona shares with Luke in the center of a grouping of cars, McDonald peppers the film with moments of intermittent beauty, striking images that remain on the brain for hours afterward.