Archive for the 'Black Comedy' Category

17
Apr
16

Eraserhead (1977)

Wow. It’s been a good six months since I’ve graced these pages with my incoherent, babbling thoughts – apologies to those who care. Sometimes, life just gets in the way of this self-indulgence. In this case, I went and had a kid, and it has kicked my ass like nothing else in my life ever has. That shit they say about having kids is true: it changes everything.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I've ever seen on film.

Henry (Jack Nance) at one of the most uncomfortable, awkward family dinners I’ve ever seen on film.

Sure, I didn’t doubt that was the case, but I guess I didn’t grasp just how profoundly everything would change – including my perception of movies.

Like most people, I first saw David Lynch’s Eraserhead in college. Whatever copy they played us at one of the last gatherings of University of Pittsburgh’s Twin Peaks club (named Wounded in Pittsburgh, smirk) had Japanese subtitles. I remember having no fucking clue what it was I had just watched, and loving it for that reason. Over the years my memory of the movie faded, I mostly remembered it being an incredibly bizarre, outlandish and freaky nightmare starring a stunned Jack Nance. In the meantime I’d become intimately familiar with Lynch’s work, so that all seemed accurate to me.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

Mary is having trouble feeding her little bundle of joy.

For the uninitiated, Eraserhead is, in short, a story about an awkward couple in the early stages of a relationship. Though I find it difficult to imagine them having sex, they have, and they made a baby. But the baby was born extremely premature and is basically a fetus in bandages sleeping on a dresser. We watch in horror as the baby unravels whatever tenuous relationship the main characters (Henry & Mary) had. While that all sounds fairly straightforward, it isn’t. This is Lynch at his weirdest, so, suffice it to say there is a lot of freaky shit happening.

Of course in the 12 or so years since I’d first watched Eraserhead I often toyed with the idea of revisiting it, either through some Lynch marathon or inviting some square over just to scare the shit out of them with it, but it never happened. Not until I had a kid, and my husband couldn’t stop thinking: watching Eraserhead would be really freaky now. So on an evening where we had somehow had enough sleep to sit through a movie after getting the kid to bed herself, we did it.

And oh my god.

It was fucking hilarious.

I get it now. Eraserhead is a fucking comedy! Okay, until there’s that unmentionable violence. But, up until that point, oh my god! Hilarious! Yes, I have looked at my baby like she was an alien. Yes, I have convinced myself the baby was ill, only to find out she was fine, only to turn around and once again swear there is something wrong with her. Yes, I have shouted SHUT UP numerous times in the middle of the night due to my own lack of sleep! Yes, I have put the humidifier too close to her head. All these things that seem nightmarishly cruel are very true to the experience I had during the first few months of parenthood. Nail, head, et cetera.

That baby don't look right.

That baby don’t look right.

I don’t think I can give Eraserhead a star rating. Did I like it? Yes, I like it on two levels. The first is obvious: I like David Lynch, I like weird shit, and I like movies a lot, so of course it follows that I like Eraserhead. The second level is that I finally feel like I’m in on the joke, and it’s always more fun when you’re in on the joke. While it is true that a large portion of this movie remains an inexplicable nightmare, I feel like I finally understand the motivation behind it. All it took was becoming a parent! But how can I translate that into any kind of rating? Movies like Eraserhead don’t get rated. In David Lynch’s world, movies rate you. I mean, should you see Eraserhead? If you are over 25 and you haven’t already seen it, probably not. Unless, of course, you are a new parent. In which case, yes, you should. You should definitely see it. Like yesterday. If it doesn’t make you laugh, well, you probably have no sense of humor.

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27
Nov
14

Blood Car (2007)

There is a great and varied selection of films that start with the word Blood. Some are drama films, like Blood Diamond or Blood Simple. Others still are nothing but muscle, like Bloodsport. More often than not, though, a film starting with blood is pretty likely to be a horror movie. And even more often still, it’s probably a shitty horror movie: Blood and DonutsBlood Diner, and Blood Feast immediately come to mind. I am happy to add Blood Car to the latter list: it is indeed a shitty horror-comedy that delivers just about what you’d expect; a movie about a car that runs on blood.

BloodCarTheVegTable

There’s always wheat grass aplenty at the Veg-Table!

Sometime in the very near future, gas prices have sky-rocketed to $50/gal. No one can afford to drive anymore, but there’s a young man out there who’s trying his darndest to change all that! Meet Archie (Mike Brune), a proud vegan pacifist who teaches elementary school by day and works tirelessly on his wheat grass car engine by night. He is a faithful customer of the Veg-Table, a vegan stand in an empty parking lot (because all parking lots are empty, get it?) specializing in wheat grass and other crunchy goodies. Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky) runs the stand and has a devastating crush on Archie, but he’s so focused on his engine he either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Either way, Lorraine always enthusiastically asks Archie how his engine is coming along, and the answer is usually a half-hearted ‘harumph.’

BloodCarMeat

Denise. Meat. Flesh. Desire.

Lorraine isn’t the only one monitoring Archie’s success: we get an occasional glimpse of FBI Agents who are keeping close watch on Archie’s progress. They’ll be ready to pounce as soon as his engine starts showing some positive results; after all, who could be more interested in an alternative energy source than the American government? Though his efforts have thus far been largely unsuccessful, Archie tirelessly pushes forward. One night while working feverishly to make his engine work, he accidentally cuts himself, and his spilled blood makes it into his wheat grass mixture. Right away, the engine starts working; it seems blood was the missing element all along! Archie feels an enormous rush of success when he starts up his car and drives it to the Veg-Table to pick up some more wheat grass. But when he gets there he sees Lorraine has some competition: a painted whore named Denise has opened up a stand right across from the Veg-Table, simply called MEAT. Denise doesn’t give a crap about Archie’s ideals, morals or politics, she just likes riding cars and will put out to no end just to be a passenger. Now Archie knows he needs a constant supply of blood to keep his new girlfriend interested, but how can this vegan pacifist reconcile his desire for fame and sex with his reverence for all living things?

BloodCarArchieandLorraine

Lorraine (Anna Chlumsky) is so excited to finally be alone with Archie!

Blood Car is definitely one of the most irreverent and offensive movies I’ve ever seen. It’s loaded with bare breasts, curse words, blood, guts and violence against children: in short, don’t watch it with mom and dad. Fortunately, it is also rather smart, and that’s what makes it a movie worth seeing. Without its intelligence it would be easy to pop this movie into the Troma-esque category of purposeless trash. Unlike so many of the Troma trash films I’ve seen that have nothing to say, Blood Car obviously has very strong opinions and is unabashed about sharing them with its audience.

BloodCarArchieAndGirlfriend

Archie begins to lose it.

What I like most about Blood Car is Archie’s transformation. It is easy for a person to tout their ideals and display them loudly to the world, and Archie is no different. He wears his political beliefs on his shirts, one day loudly exclaiming his veganism and the next assuring us that dolphins have feelings, too. All the while though, Archie is completely disinterested in the Lorraine, the woman who shares his politics 100%, and instead runs wild with Denise the pure-id MEAT girl. Worse still, of course, is Archie’s thirst for blood. Early on in the film we see him roaming around town with a baseball bat, weeping as he murders small dogs and wild animals to harvest their blood. Later on, after Archie’s murders have moved into the human realm, he stuffs his face with meat while crying “I’m a vegan! I’m a vegan,” like a loud vegetarian who still wears leather. At the very end, Archie’s hypocrisy reaches its pinnacle when (spoiler alert) he agrees to sell his engine to the US Government, knowing full well all of his friends will likely become victims used to feed his thirsty cars.

The biggest problem with Blood Car, aside from its sometimes too-irreverent irreverence, is it kind of flags a little towards the end. It could probably safely shave 20 or so minutes off of its running time and greatly improve its audience’s overall experience without losing any of its punch. And, if you ask me, its punch is all in its display of the idealist losing sight of his ideals. When your identity is so wrapped up in your politics, what happens when you abandon them?

17
Oct
14

All Cheerleaders Die (2013)

allcheerleadersdieposterFor day 16 of 31 Days of Horror, we picked Lucky McKee’s All Cheerleaders Die. This one somehow managed to totally skirt my radar; I hadn’t even heard of it until Q suggested we mine the Netflix instant queue to make up for the fact that the movie we really wanted to see that night, The Babadook, had sold out (though I was pissed, at least people are still going to the movies). I haven’t seen a lot of McKee’s stuff, but I loved Maylot, and his offering for Masters of Horror, Sick Girl was a bright shining light in a series that was more often dull than not. So, I was excited to give this one a shot.

When the film started, I thought we were going to be in for a rough, unpleasant ride. Our main girl Maddy (Caitlin Stasey) is filming her best friend Lexi to find out what it’s like to be the captain of the cheerleading team, evidently for some school project. As stereotypes might predict, Lexi is an over-confident, air-headed bitch. Why Maddy, an apparently thoughtful, dorkish girl is her best friend I still don’t quite understand. Anyway, during filming one practice while Lexi is trying to show us her best stuff, the team drops her straight on her head, and she snaps her neck and dies. I worried the whole movie was going to be seen through Maddy’s lens, but thankfully after Lexi’s accident (or was it?) the movie carries on (mostly) without Maddy’s camera.

Maddy doesn’t believe Lexi’s death was accidental, so she aims to spend her senior year destroying the lives of those she holds responsible. The two who will feel her wrath most are Terry, Lexi’s ex-boyfriend and captain of the football team, and Tracy, the new captain of the cheerleading team and Terry’s new squeeze. A smart and resourceful girl, Maddy knows the best way to wreak havoc is from within, so she tries out for the cheerleading team. After all, everyone knows there’s an open spot…

For the first half or so, All Cheerleaders Die is a seemingly normal movie. We know from the title alone that something is going to go horribly, terribly wrong with Maddy’s plot, but I’ll be damned if I could’ve guessed the direction McKee would take this flick. Turns out Maddy’s obsessive, Wiccan ex-girlfriend Leena is not willing to let her go, despite the potential consequences. After an altercation between the football team and the cheerleaders causes a terrible car accident in which all the girls die, Leena whips out her Wicca and brings the girls back to life with magic stones. But resurrection comes at a terrible price, and the girls turn into blood-sucking zombie vampire things.

Boy oh boy, people seem to hate this movie! I read a few reviews after watching it and I’ve got to say, I don’t understand where all the vitriol and disappointment comes from. Since when did we start taking horror-comedies so damn seriously? I thought it was pleasantly surprising, original and funny. Looks like only 40% of viewers agree with me. A lot of folks seem turned off by the juxtaposition of the film’s apparent feminist plot with its objectification of the female characters. Sure, there’s an awful lot of scenes with women wearing revealing cheerleading uniforms, but my guess is that’s because they’re cheerleaders. Anyway, I feel like the baring of female flesh implicates the audience far more than it does the director; it’s almost teasing us, daring us to admit we’re a little turned on when we know we shouldn’t be. When Tracy walks into a stranger’s home in her underwear begging for something to eat, both the man and the audience are horrified by her newfound hunger and her unabashed urge to sate it, while also having our own base animal urges tickled. Nothing is neither more frightening nor hot than an empowered young woman, no?

I also don’t think the naysayers give enough credit to McKee’s treatment of stereotypes. At first the cheerleaders do seem pretty damn vapid, but I ended up sympathizing with all of them by the end of the movie. Just like everyone else they each have their own unique set of fears, hopes, dreams and idiosyncrasies. They’re just fucked-up high-school kids like everyone else at their school, it’s just easier for them to hide behind the assumptions the rest of society’s already made about how they should behave. I think it is fair to say that Maddy comes to the same realization as the rest of us do; these bitches aren’t so bad after all. My one beef is how unceremoniously most of them are dispatched by the end of the film. I suppose the purpose of that is to show us how our society is structured in such a way that the strongest man will always beat out the strongest of women, even if they are blood-sucking monsters. The men are treated far less kindly, I’d say; Terry’s captain is one cruel mother fucker, and his “boys” are pretty much trapped under his yoke. The one sympathetic boy tries to leave the team, but is forced to relent as Terry beats the shit out of him. There’s pretty much no redemption for the men in All Cheerleaders Die.

This is, of course, one of those movies that only a small group of people will appreciate. It is irreverent, offensive, gory and exploitative. It certainly isn’t meant for mass-consumption; a run-of-the-mill cheerleader slasher this is not, and thank the Wiccan gods for that. Fair warning that some of the special effects are quite cheesy (those glowing stones aren’t fooling anyone), but I’m willing to forgive that small piece of the puzzle. I found this so surprisingly delightful, and it gives me hope that all those bad reviews I read of The Woman are written by the same people who wrote bad reviews of this flick. At the very least, if this sounds appealing to you in any way, shape or form it is worth giving it a chance; you’ll at least have something to think about.

20
Sep
14

Escape from Tomorrow (2013)

When I first heard someone had filmed a horror movie at Disneyland, I thought ‘how the heck did they get away with that?’ After seeing the trailer for Escape from Tomorrow, I became impossibly intrigued. I’m already a person with an intense distrust of all things Disney, so a film using the theme park as a stage for horror sounded like the perfect idea. My only fear was that my expectations were way too high; nothing could possibly live up to the horrific ideas I’d created in my head.

Ooh la la!

Ooh la la!

Then, we waited. A few months passed by and people stopped talking about it. Every now and again, Q and I talked about whether or not we should pick up a copy (at Target of all places) and for whatever reason, we didn’t. Until we did. And then, it sat there, in the middle of a pile of movies we intend to watch in the possibly distant future. There are, after all, an awful lot of movies to watch out there! Then, one fateful night we finally decided it was time. Ladies and gentlemen, my fears were totally unfounded. I was incredibly impressed with this film!

Jim and Emily White are a terribly typical couple. Their kids Sara and Elliot haven’t fallen very far from the tree. Today is the family’s last day at Disneyworld, and Jim is determined to enjoy himself in a very Clark Griswold kind of way, despite the fact that he spent the morning on the phone getting fired from his job. Naturally, Jim doesn’t share this information with his wife, and the family sets off for one last “great” day of vacation.

On the way to the park, the Whites share a shuttle with other happy-go-lucky folks, including two too-young French girls. Jim, doofus that he is, can’t take his eyes off of them. The girls seem to know what he’s interested in, and coyly swing themselves around a pole, almost taunting the poor goober. The exchange isn’t lost on Emily, either, but she is pretty sure it’s just harmless attraction.

G-O-O-B-E-R

G-O-O-B-E-R

Things only get stranger from there; while on one of Disney’s famously irritating rides, Jim sort of blacks out: the dolls seem to become evil before his very eyes, and his family turns on him. Eventually things turn back to normal, but Jim is clearly shaken. It seems as though this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, and while I wouldn’t have let my prone-to-blackouts-husband take my only son alone in a giant theme park, that’s exactly what Emily does; what else are you supposed to do when your kids can’t agree on what ride to go on next?

Unfettered from his wife, Jim spots the two French girls and, like a total idiot, blatantly follows them around the park. The girls take notice, and so does Elliot, especially when his dad makes him ride Space Mountain just so he can keep up with the girls! The boy vomits all over himself and Jim, naturally, is in very big trouble with his wife, who has yet to allow him to kiss, hug, or even touch her at all. The parents exchange kids and Jim takes Sara around the park, this time meeting some other weirdos, including a nurse who warns Jim of an impending Cat Flu epidemic, and a former Disney Princess, who lets Jim in on a few secrets of the Disney Princess trade…

That is a terrifying child!

That is a terrifying child!

The first half of this movie is so extraordinarily anxious and claustrophobic, I could barely stand it! Even without the evil dolls, it is so frightening with the anticipation of something really, really bad happening. Will Jim lose the kids? Will he actually approach these French girls? What’s up with that creep on the scooter? As the movie progresses, and Jim walks around the park in a swirl of drunkenness, the anxiousness turns into terror, confusion and conspiracy. At a certain point, the film turns into a real mindfuck and goes in some very strange directions. I don’t want to give away all the film’s secrets, so I’ll let you discover some of the strangeness for yourself. I definitely recommend you do.

I really, really loved this movie. I thought it was hilarious and terrifying at the same time, a feat that is never as easy to achieve as it seems. I must say I am very surprised at its negative reception; only 58 on metacritic? It does such a great job of capitalizing on the average Joe’s fears of loss, rejection, and sickness all while being filmed at ‘the happiest place on earth,’ I’m surprised more people aren’t legitimately horrified by it. Perhaps they were expecting an axe-wielding Mickey, a psychopathic Minnie, or maybe Goofy in a skin-suit? I think by preying on the simple fears of the typical American white dude (i.e., the fathers of Disney’s target demographic) is what makes this movie so

The Disney Princess finds it difficult to let go of perfection...

The Disney Princess finds it difficult to let go of perfection…

effective. Personally, I think watching it is a lot more fun than any expensive trip to Disneyworld would be!

I can’t rightly publish this post without mentioning just what a marvel it is that they were able to actually complete the thing. Somehow the filmmakers were actually able to pull off shooting the film guerilla-style in a place that is heavily guarded and surveilled. That in itself is an achievement to be lauded, and knowing what difficulties they may have encountered doing so is enough to forgive the obvious green-screen shots. No matter how clear it was that a particular shot wasn’t actually taken at the park, I never felt removed from the setting. I was definitely there, in Disneyworld, living a nightmare.

I really don’t have anything bad to say about the film, except that I’m not quite sure why it takes some of the strange turns it does. The answer may actually be that they had to make it more obviously a parody in order to avoid legal issues with Disney. As it is, I’m shocked they got away with releasing the film at all, let alone on DVD and on sale at Target.

10
Aug
14

Serial Mom (1994)

Maryland isn’t a bad state to be from. We’ve got the Chesapeake Bay (nevermind the fact that it may be destroyed in a few years, it was awesome once) and with it, Old Bay seasoning. There’s Natty Boh and marriage equality. I guess there’s some other cool stuff, but when it comes to movies us Marylanders can boast that we come from the same state as the one and only trash king John Waters, and that’s the coolest thing of all!

It’s hard to believe Serial Mom will be my first John Waters entry, and that it’s taken me 300 movies to get here! As a young, curious movie lover I somehow got my hands on a copy of Pink Flamingos. I really wish I remembered more about how I’d heard of it; I’m not sure if I read about it because I’ve always had an affinity for garbage, or if it was more available to me in the Maryland suburbs than it would have been to me elsewhere. It doesn’t really matter how I got my hands on it, but that videocassette circulated throughout my high school and I never got it back. I did earn a reputation for being weird, though, and I’m glad for that. At any rate, Serial Mom is quite a different film than Pink Flamingos, and that is not a bad thing. Comparatively it’s downright wholesome.

The Sutphins are good at putting on a happy face...

The Sutphins are good at putting on a happy face…

The Sutphins are the picture of suburban happiness. There’s Misty (Ricki Lake), a boy-obsessed teenager. Her brother Chip (Matthew Lillard) runs a video store and his favorite movies are, naturally, gory 60’s exploitation (he’s got good taste). Papa Eugene (Sam Waterston) keeps everyone in business by providing the town with the best dentistry around. And then there’s Mama Beverly, just about the best mom anyone could ask for. And, like any good mother, she’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep her family happy.

But there is trouble in paradise! A pair of cops stop by with a horrendous note one of the Sutphin’s neighbors received and, I can barely type this, it said ‘PUSSY’ on it! What a shock! Of course the Sutphins know nothing about this, after all Beverly can barely even say the “p” word! That’s what she says, at least, but does she, in fact, relish saying that very word? As soon as the cops leave and the rest of the family is off, she runs upstairs to make an obscene phone call to her neighbor! Oh dear, it looks like things aren’t exactly what they seem in suburban Maryland!

Gasp!

Gasp!

Surely we’d be willing to forgive Beverly for a few obscene phone calls and letters. Life as a stay-at-home mom can be mundane, you can’t blame her for finding her own way of spicing it up a bit. But it seems Beverly harbors a secret much worse than obscenity! When Chip’s teacher suggests he see a therapist due to his lust for gory flicks, Beverly loses it and it’s curtains for the teacher. And that’s just the beginning! Mrs. Sutphin has lessons to teach all over town; there’s that kid who never wears his seatbelt, that woman that never recycles, and worst of all that old cow who never rewinds her videotapes!

All those slobs probably deserved it, right? It’s about time someone whipped this town into shape! The trouble is, Beverly’s not so good at covering her tracks. Her family and the cops are all sure that she’s the culprit behind the rash of murders. But she might be charming enough to get herself out of it, and if her kids can sell the story to the right media outlets, the Sutphins might even stand to profit!

It's amazing what people will do behind closed doors.

It’s amazing what people will do behind closed doors.

Serial Mom is a sheer work of genius! Beverly’s maniacal obsession with her family’s happiness, neighborly duty and outward appearance trumps any sense of right and wrong. What a perfect way to show how people can get wrapped up in the most mundane details of life while forgetting the bigger picture, namely that, you know, murder is wrong. Serial Mom is the other side of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet: They both depict the dark side of suburbia and the secrets hidden underneath the idyllic veneer of singing robins and picket fences, and both have quite a bit of voyeurism involved. The difference is Waters does it with outrageous humor rather than dark drama — instead of finding weird freaky rape fantasies played out behind closed doors, Beverly finds something she considers much more horrifying: people eating without forks!

Beverly has perfected the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Beverly has perfected the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Not only does Waters do a great job of showing how despicable suburban life can be, his handling of the Sutphins’ rise to fame as a result of Beverly’s murder spree offers pretty pointed commentary on the shamelessness of good old American entrepreneurialism and thirst for fame. Q pointed out that Natural Born Killers did the very same thing the very same year, and though that film had a good bit of humor in it as well, it wasn’t a comedy first and foremost. In Serial Mom Waters saturates the screen with parodic (roast as murder weapon?) over realistic violence. Ultimately, I’d have to say I prefer comedy over drama or violence as the vehicle for any message; usually things are funny because they are true.

But the greatest thing about Serial Mom is that it isn’t trying to convince you how horrible things can be under the covers. Instead, it assumes you already know that people are dirty and gross, no matter what they look like on the outside. Waters is just showing us what we already know, or at least suspect, about our neighbors. And maybe that’s the biggest difference between him and Lynch; Lynch relies on naïveté and innocence for his films to be effective, whereas Waters not only makes fun of the concept of innocence, he tries to prove that true innocence and naïveté are, in fact, rather rare. If we’d all get off our high horses and laugh about camel toe once in a while, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

 

07
Jun
14

It’s Alive (1973)

What’s that you say? Larry Cohen directs a horror film steeped in social commentary bordering on black comedy? Oh, yes, and this time it’s your new baby in focus!

Honestly, the first time I saw It’s Alive I was underwhelmed. That is likely because I watched it at a time in my life where all I wanted to see was technicolor gore. We get a little bit of that here, but most of the horror in It’s Alive is psychological.

They say nursing is a thankless job.

They say nursing is a thankless job.

Frank and Lenore Davis weren’t so sure they were going to go through with this pregnancy; they already have an eleven-year-old boy (Chris), and Lenore had been taking contraceptives prior to this “accident.” But together they came to the decision to give it another go, and when the big day finally arrives, the whole family is sweetly excited. After dropping Chris off at a family friend’s home, Frank and Lenore innocently drive to the hospital. That’s where the nightmare begins.

Lenore knows it before the baby is even born: this one is different. Her doctor insists it’s just a very large baby, and after heavily sedating and numbing her up, thinks the birth should be a piece of cake. Well, it was easier on Lenore than it was the doctors and nurses; none of them survived, after all. Seeing the Davis baby in all its malformed glory, the doctor tries suffocating it to no avail. After the massacre, the baby escapes and Lenore, tied to her hospital bed, is scared, confused, and drugged the hell up.

This baby's made Frank famous!  He loves it.

This baby’s made Frank famous! He loves it.

It’s not long before the police arrive, with a “doctor” in tow, who offers great medical advice, and is quite interested in discovering exactly how long Lenore had been taking her contraceptives, and if, perhaps, she’d been extensively x-rayed in recent months. Rather than consider Lenore’s opinion in her baby’s future, the lieutenant, doctor and husband alike agree it’s easier to sedate her than listen to her prattle on about motherly instincts and other such nonsense.

Frank experiences a different kind of torture. When he and his wife are named the progenitors of the murderous beast, his job at a public relations firm is lost to him, and he numbly accepts the responsibility of killing his own progeny. In hopes of showing the world how “normal” he is, he feverishly hunts down his own flesh and blood.

I'd be 'hysterical' too, if I gave birth to a monster.

I’d be ‘hysterical’ too, if I gave birth to a monster.

What can I say, I just love Larry Cohen’s style. His takedown of society’s shit attitude and expectations in this flick is so perfect. The Davis baby is simply a product of society; good old American marketing and consumption – everyone agrees its deformities must be a result of smog, medicine, tainted food, or some other untested evil unleashed upon the American public by companies hoping to gain a buck. The hunt for the child, and the father’s apparent zest to be the one to destroy it all point to how American society tends to reject the very monstrosities it is responsible for creating.

I’m not sure Q is completely convinced that Frank’s character isn’t a total dick. He is pretty dicky throughout the whole movie, but I think that’s because the man really had no choice: you’re either for us or against us, right? And if he blithely accepts the symbol of American fucked-upedness, he’ll surely never get his job back, let alone the respect of his neighbors and peers. That’s not to say I excuse his behavior, but maybe I pity the guy.

"It kills like an animal. When we find it, we're going to have to destroy it like one."

“It kills like an animal. When we find it, we’re going to have to destroy it like one.”

And let’s talk about Lenore for a second: the woman is nearly mute. Never do the doctors or cops ask her how she feels about the tragedy of birthing a monster, or how she feels about that monster’s right to live. Instead, she’s expected to stay within the confines of her bedroom, forbidden even to walk downstairs in her own home, and questioned as to why she doesn’t keep taking the sedatives the kind doctor has prescribed her. Now, I’ve never been pregnant or given birth, but there are certainly a great number of folks who accuse the medical establishment of treating pregnant women and babies as commodities. I think Cohen captures that pretty perfectly here, not to mention how women were (in 1973) and still are (in different ways, perhaps) considered secondary players in their own lives.

So, yes, I really liked this movie. It’s not amazing, but if you’re familiar with anything else Larry Cohen has made, you can guess what to expect. And if you haven’t seen any of Cohen’s stuff, this is as good a place to start as any. But, perhaps you should hold off watching it if you’re in your third trimester.

 

21
May
14

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only LoversPeople tend to have strong feelings when it comes to Jim Jarmusch. He’s one of those love-him-or-hate-him guys. For me though, I guess I’ve always found myself somewhere in the middle; I loved Down by Law and enjoyed Coffee and Cigarettes well enough, but was left so cold by Dead Man I never gave him another chance. But all it took to spark my interest in his latest, Only Lovers Left Alive, was Tilda Swinton’s mass of white, vampiric hair on the poster. Nothing could be cheesier than saying “I’m a sucker for vampires,” but I’ll be damned if it isn’t true. Yes, even today, when digging on vamps is probably at its lamest, I can’t help but find them irresistible.

And maybe that last point is what made me so interested in this film; why make a vampire movie now? We’re still reeling from the dreaded Twilight saga and stuffed to the gills with sexy vampires in True Blood (uh, is that show still on?). Oh, wait: maybe that’s exactly why Jarmusch chose to do such a film now; to bring some depth and life back into the genre! Well whether that’s what Jarmusch intended, I’d say that’s what he did. And, dear Jim, I am ever so grateful!

Adam (Tom Hiddleston) is a moody musician living alone in a dilapidated house in Detroit. His bibliophilic wife of centuries, Eve (Swinton) lives an ocean away in Tangier, where she hangs out with Christopher Marlowe (John Hurt), her connection to the sweetest French blood around. Marlowe can’t seem to understand why the two live apart when they so very clearly need each-other to survive, a fact which is made painfully clear after the two have themselves a little video chat and Adam reveals that he’s depressed. Like, suicidally so.

And so Eve books a night flight or two to Detroit. It’s pretty much bliss when Adam and Eve are reunited; a sweeter on-screen couple I can’t say I’ve ever seen. But this is a movie, so you know things can’t be pleasant forever. One evening after a long drive around Detroit, Adam and Eve come home to their worst nightmare: Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska). And that’s where things start to heat up.

As one might expect from a Jarmusch film, this is not action-packed. These aren’t vicious, blood-sucking monsters, nor are they dripping with lust at their prey (heck, they rarely even see the source of their sustenance). That’s precisely what is so great about it. It is perhaps the perfect antidote to that dreadful blockbuster I’ve now mentioned three times in a row and won’t mention by name here out of respect for this film. I know, the civilized, cultured vampire is not new territory, but these vamps are passionate in their art consumption. What would you do if you lived forever? Learn to play all the instruments, read all the languages, know all the books? With all this beauty around, perhaps the human infestation is worth living through?

What’s that, an inspirational vampire movie? Uh, yeah, I guess it is. It is sweet, and charming, and makes me want to touch old guitars. On top of the great acting and writing, Only Lovers Left Alive is also gorgeously shot and has a killer fucking soundtrack. Holy shit, I loved this movie. I can’t wait to hoard it on my movie shelves and make people watch it!




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