Two great things happened at once: I activated Tom Waits Mode and was downtown long enough to visit Videodrome again. So I have rented two new-to-me Tom Waits movies, and one I haven’t seen in almost thirty years. Here’s one that nobody I know has seen, landing in between McDonagh’s In Bruges and Three Billboards. It’s the perfect connection between those two, with Colin from Bruges, Woody and Rockwell from Billboards, and all the bad behavior from those movies (violence, sexism) with some meta- distance (Farrell is a screenwriter named Marty, criticized for all his violence and sexism).

Michaels Pitt and Stuhlbarg are killed as a gag before I even recognized them. Christopher Walken kidnaps dogs for the reward money, with Rockwell’s help, has a sweet wife in hospital, and I don’t think he’s even a psychopath. Waits plays a bonus psycho, always carrying a white rabbit, eager to tell the screenwriter his story. He’s seeking his partner in crime from back in the 1970’s when they used to be serial killers of serial killers. Unfortunately, in the flashback where she leaves him after burning Zodiac alive, he’s played by a younger actor, but I think the rabbit makes up for Tom’s minimal screen time.

Maybe Hitch has always wanted to be this explicit, and the times/censors just haven’t allowed it. This is his sweariest, nudiest, grimiest movie, starring nobody, about a woman-strangling sex maniac who frames his buddy for his crimes. Double featuring with Gun Crazy – this one is less naturalistic, or maybe people in Britain just talk like this.

Our guy Jon Finch (Polanski’s Macbeth the year before) is washed up and broke, tries to get cash from his ex (Barbara Leigh-Hunt, Lady Macbeth in a different production) right as she’s serial-killed, so Finch becomes the prime suspect. He’s caught but escapes, and the noble cops keep following leads even after his arrest, so justice is eventually served. Hitch’s particulars have changed, but the structure is standard. Some attempts at levity worked for me (Bob dumping a body in a potato truck, then getting taken for a potatoey ride while searching for an incriminating pin he dropped), and some did not (the lead detective’s wife serving trendy foreign cuisine to her crestfallen husband).

Necktie Killer Bob (Barry Foster of Twisted Nerve) and victim Barbara Leigh-Hunt:

Our guy Finch is also friendly with next victim Anna Massey (Peeping Tom):

The rare female non-victim with her cop hubby and Sgt Speerman:

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:

Fake documentary following the exploits of an area serial killer after the discovery of a room full of videotapes documenting his crimes. Much of this movie is footage “from” those tapes – not just VHS quality, but with an effect like the tapes or camera suffered magnetic damage, the picture bending in waves.

It’s a bummer of a movie that makes you feel bad for watching it. The guy’s first known crime is the abduction/rape/murder of an 8-year-old, the central case is a girl he keeps for a decade and subjects to Martyrs-level torment, and the interviewees are a parade of FBI guys impressed by the killer’s craftiness, which includes railroading a cop to a state execution for the killer’s crimes. So the killer is portrayed as an evil genius still at large at the end, but Se7en or Memories of Murder this ain’t. Let’s stay away from the real sordid feel-bad movies this week and look for more horror-comedies.

“It was a nice tracking shot, but we’re no closer to our dream.”

Wouldn’t you know it… I was proud of myself for being nearly caught-up with the blog before True/False, then a global pandemic came along and set me back by another month. Anyway, lucky I took some notes on this one – it was very good, and also Dupieux’s most convincingly movie-looking movie yet. No Mr. Oizo music, for some reason.

Jean “The Artist” Dujardin drives out and pays too much for a deerskin jacket, the soundtrack playing thriller tension music. Dude’s got money problems, estranged-wife problems, cellphone problems. He steals a book on filmmaking to impress waitress Adèle Haenel (star of The Unknown Girl), then hires her as his editor (he hasn’t read the filmmaking book and doesn’t know what editing is) and keeps asking her for money. Since she is investing in the film, she starts considering herself a producer and bossing Jean around.

Jean is a terrible person from the very start, and that’s before he starts delusionally talking to himself-as-the-jacket, then hitting the town on a jacket-snatching spree and eventually murdering all jacket-wearing citizens with a sharpened fan blade. Good ending, Jean’s actions catching up with him, Adèle inheriting the jacket.

Opened the Cannes Directors Fortnight, playing with a bunch of movies that never opened here, plus The Lighthouse, First Love, and the Luca Guadagnino short I just heard about last night.

In late 1970’s Paris, Anne, the boss of a porn film company (pop star Vanessa Paradis) has to deal with being dumped by her editor (You and the Night‘s Kate Moran) and being investigated for the murder of one of her actors, actually perpetrated by a masked psycho wielding bladed sex toys.

Anne decides to deal with this by filming a porn parody of the investigation called Homocidal and casting herself as the murderer.

As actors keep dying, she visits a bird museum, discovers the victims are visited by a blind grackle, an extinct bird, and tracks down the story of a tormented youth, burned half to death by his father for being gay, come to the city as a scarred, homocidal adult.

Also featuring Nicolas Maury (You and the Night, Heartbeat Detector) as Anne’s blonde director, and Yann’s fellow-traveler gender-bending filmmaker Bertrand Mandico as the dramatic, floppy-haired cameraman.

With the giallo lighting, M83 music, movie theaters and rare birds, this was mostly up my alley.

Michael Sicinski on letterboxd:

If there’s one dominant hetero influence at work in Knife+Heart, it’s Brian De Palma. This is a sexualized murder mystery, based in part on who has the power of the gaze, who has been sidelined by desire, and how killing is a perverse sexual substitute. And even as the gravity of life and death are acknowledged, Gonzalez shares with De Palma a taste for the ridiculous, a recognition that movie violence can exorcise psychological demons precisely because it is not real, and the more outlandish the better.

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.