Monday, April 20, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: Salò, 1944

When doing a filth'n'gore retrospective, the reviewer is remiss if he or she forgets to include Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom, especially if, like me, you spent a long time tracking it down and had to endure the years it spent out of print. You've probably noticed by now that by and large the films in my last few reviews have been of 1970s vintage and this is no exception. That's because all the taboos were being shattered in 1970s one by one. Starting roughly in 1960, the age of Post-Modern cinema took over and directors set about either laying waste to or making a mockery of cinematic conventions. Pier Paolo Pasolini arrived on the scene just in time to be swept up in the spirit of revolution and then ultimately get consumed and destroyed by it. Salò is the product of a life in conflict who'd run out of ways to express beauty and joy and run out of patience with the world. That Pasolini chose the 120 Days of Sodom by Donatien Alphonse François, better known as The Marquis de Sade, is telling. Salò is that rare film whose reputation can't prepare you for what it depicts and just because I understand it doesn't mean I think it should have been made.

Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
by Pier Paolo Pasolini
Salò is told in four parts, the first of which is the Antechamber (small room leading to a bigger room) of Hell. As Mussolini's Italy crumbles, four men known only as The Duke, The President, The Bishop and The Magistrate (mostly referred to as "Your Excellency") sign an agreement in a posh looking office and offer cryptic hints as to what it is. One clue above all others stands out, "All's good if it's excessive". Italian fascist soldiers round up several young men and women and the four men pick and choose nine of each, aided by three women - Signoras Castelli, Maggi and Vaccari. They take their captives (two of whom die before the plot is revealed to us in full) to a villa and explain just how much they're going to wish they'd never been born. That agreement was a set of rules by which they are going to live and they're quite grim indeed. The rules are roughly: No religion, no consensual sex, orgies after dinner while one of the signoras tells an 'erotic' story, and the word of the four men is law. The libertines also capture a few extra young men and force them to be guards.

So begins part two: The circle of obsessions. The stories of the three women begin in earnest and dictate the behavior of the four old men and their young male collaborators. The 16 captives are undressed, subjected to rape, violence, molestation, forced marriages, attempted murder and copulation with one another; all of the acts happen mostly at random, the captives find little to no solace in anything and joy is non-existent. The old men jest with one another and quote Barthes and talk about violence without actually talking about it. They note dissent down in a notebook they call the "punishment book" and their orders get more and more inhumane. Just when things don't seem like they could get any more debauched or heavy, part three kicks in: The Circle of Shit. It's pretty much what it sounds like. After one of the Signora's inspires them with a story the Duke attempts to punish one of the girls whose crime is crying over her dead mother by making her eat his feces. The scene that follows, of a coprophagous 'banquet', is one of the few times I've actually been physically incapable of not looking away to spare my stomach (the castration in I Spit On Your Grave had roughly the same effect). The Circle of Blood, the fourth part, concerns that punishment book. Those who have been marked down for bad behavior will be taken to Salò and those who have not can choose to die or collaborate. I don't think I need to tell you what happens in Salò; after all there are only so many things left to do to someone once they've been through the Circle of Shit.

Watching Salò is one of the single most unpleasant things you're likely to do in your lifetime should you choose to. Let's get a few things straight before I continue: I do not feel smarter or more well-adjusted having seen the film (twice now. This was foolish I admit, but I had only vague recollections of the film after having watched it in my first semester of college. It isn't that it was all that long ago, but my brain had tried to bury it because of my reaction the first time around and I can say that I remembered many things incorrectly; in order to understand/judge the film properly, a second viewing was necessary). I do not consider myself more worldly or better fit to review films designed to disgust; Salò is a movie and has limited power as such. I don't lord this over people who haven't seen it because while I get that watching a film with a ghastly reputation can seem like something cool to do to boost your ego, I won't attempt any such thing with Salò, first because it is so troubling a film, and second because Criterion's new (and really impressive) DVD is available on Netflix and at Barnes and Noble along with Independence Day and Must Love Dogs. If you want to watch it, go right ahead, I just can't say you'll feel much better for having done so. It is not imperative viewing and it won't help your understanding of the world, it may just darken it a bit. You will however understand Pier Paolo Pasolini better, if you have any interest in doing that.

Granted, Salò is an incredibly fascinating film, even without its director's biographical line-blurring. Reviewing Salò without mentioning the fact that shortly after the film was finished, Pasolini was murdered by a male prostitute is like reviewing The Girlfriend Experience without mentioning that Sasha Grey is a pornstar or Moon without mentioning that Duncan Jones is David Bowie's son. Like the author Yukio Mishima (whose death was remarkably similar in the context of his life and work), Pasolini had kept his homosexuality a secret (from the press, anyway) for much of his adult life, though he openly sought homosexual encounters. He was expelled from his beloved communist party in the 40s because of his homosexuality and this clash between the many things in his life would characterize his work until his death. Like Mishima he hated himself and found the world to be too full of problems, believing that fiction was the only way to truly live and express oneself. Pasolini succeeded where others failed in making films that worked as philosophical texts as well as narrative. Before Salò, he had made a trilogy of films based on classical literature - The Decameron, The Canterbury Tales and A Thousand And One Nights - infused with playful and innocent nudity and sexuality. Though he loved the human body, he grew to hate it because the 70s was, as noted above, a time for taboo breaking. This meant that on top of great cinema and revolution you also had porn, advertising, television, junkfood, drugs, apathy, and violence. By 1975, he'd had his fill. He could find no solace in communism or art and he decided the next step would be to make the antithesis of his trilogy, which affirmed his love of life, and make three films about death - he only lived to see one completed.
Salò is pretty much what I expected - angry, blasphemous, violent, grotesque, visceral - but what I wasn't expecting was its presentation. Pasolini, disillusioned though he may have been, always found time for a fully realized mise en scène. Mamma Roma and Accattone were tough films to watch content-wise but were very at least interestingly shot. Salò has no artifice, you simply see things, and they're hideous. His camera work is as uncomplicated as possible; in fact the whole film feels so simple, which I think adds to the uneasiness it causes in the viewer. Many of the actors were not actors at all and so the smiling you occasionally catch them doing may or may not be intentional, but isn't that just awful? Smiling while people are being murdered and raped? It's inappropriate, which in a film like Salò is perversely appropriate. The effects of such bizarre shrugs of the filmmakers shoulders are another example of the accidental repulsion you experience in the film's lighter moments. Pasolini was no horror director so his effects occasionally look as bad as Sergio Martino's or Dario Argento's, but that doesn't behoove him as it does his colleagues in the flesh-and-blood game. The scalping, the tongue being removed, the eye gouging, and whatever else looks stagey, but that doesn't make a damn bit of difference. Like The Godfather, Salò is a masterpiece of tone, which means that Pasolini could have shown you anything he damn well pleased and it would have turned your stomach, such is the atmosphere he perfected. In fact he does just that by having The Duke, The Magistrate, and The President dress up as women in full, lavish dresses and later dance as if on a kick line and it's just as horrifying in its absurdity as anything else. Everything you see is there because Pasolini wants you to see it and so every emotion you feel has been masterfully orchestrated by our auteur. It's a profound bit of manipulation but it works in the way it's supposed to which makes Salò a most difficult film to watch (if not the most) and its director one of the greatest artists who ever lived. So it is with some reluctance that I grant Salò an A, despite my issues with it. 

That doesn't make Salò a good film before you think I'm siding with him just cause he was an artist. It's not entertaining even if it can justify its existence (if you like this movie, like, you watch it on rainy days, I hope you're doing it safely within the walls of a home for the criminally insane). The acting not done by Paolo Bonicelli is either too much or not enough and the script is painfully fraught with completely unnecessary literary references that a movie shouldn't need to work on its own. And beyond that Salò is as cruel and vile as anything by Marino Girolami or Jesús Franco and it certainly feels just as dirty as Men Behind the Sun or Cannibal Holocaust, but because Pasolini was making capitol-'A'-Art, there is a message that doesn't get lost in the shuffle. It helps that it starts with its message and doesn't work its way backwards like Umberto Lenzi's films always did. No, no, Pasolini lets you know up front in an astoundingly pretentious gesture that this will not be a regular film by giving you a recommended reading list before the film even starts. No joke. He opens with a list of books by Pierre Klossowski, Simone de Beauvoir, Roland Barthes, Philippe Sollers, and Maurice Blanchot, as if he wasn't being pedantic enough making 'theoretical' cinema. This may be the most non-Warholian condescending gesture in film history. What does it help you understand? As someone who hasn't read a one of them let me tell you that you don't need them to not enjoy Salò, you can do that just fine on your own; the reading list drives home some points that can be found in visual cues anyway. The important stuff you can glean on your own if you have a passing familiarity with communism, fascism and anti-consumerism.

In fact you needn't even be familiar with the writings of Marquis De Sade (it helps you get things like that 'tears of blood' line, but that doesn't matter in the least), cause let's face it Pasolini could have cared less about the 120 Days of Sodom. There are a number of parallels between the film and the book; The Marquis wrote The 120 Days while in prison (Pasolini was in a sort of repressive state of his own) and when it finally got released, posthumously, it was banned; Salò was banned posthumously and like its source novel was completed in 37 days (though, to be honest, that may or may not be true). But the thing is both the Marquis and Pasolini were pretty self-obsessed but in crucially different ways. Donatien François wrote The 120 Days believing that he'd be dead very, very soon; in fact the only reason he survived was because of a riot that turned into a massive prison break. He thought he was going to die so he recorded his filthiest desires on a long scroll and then afterwards claimed it was art. Pasolini had no clue he'd be killed when he started Salò and so its grim nature is all the more surprising. People often say that they weren't shocked by Salò because they had read The 120 Days of Sodom. Well, yeah, that's all well and good but reading about somebody eating shit and actually seeing it are two vastly different things. Film can elicit the sort of reaction that literature and photography can't. Books suggest life and death; film can show it, a privilege that many people have abused - namely everybody I've chided in these segments entitled Where I Draw The Line, Pasolini excluded. I don't care how familiar you are with the process of making fake shit, there's no way to find comfort in watching part three of Salò. That there is no comfort is precisely the point of the film; Salò is a film that is impossible to enjoy. Pasolini had been so filled with discontent about the modern world that Salò (and presumably it's unmade sequels) was all he had left in him. He had seen every good and pure thing corrupted and he wanted to let the world know how he felt: alone. Communism offered him no respite (Ezio, one of the guards dies while giving the communist salute), sex is vile, nudity perverse, literature and storytelling used to justify evil, even eating is turned into something unthinkable. Bodies are treated as objects for fucking and degradation, men and women, unlike the majority of Italian films who favored women in this kind of reduction, are lower than animals. The prisoners are led around in dog collars in one scene and made to piss on command; these are not people in the eyes of the libertines. And because you (any audience member) are watching it, you're guilty of these crimes and (on top of it all) voyeurism. Pasolini couldn't even find comfort in film; film is a weapon in his hands. "I Fucking Dare You!" he shouts and then punishes you for your conformity, your complacency. Pasolini, as he remarked in his most famous article "I Know", was taking no prisoners.
As a stab at the youth of today (1975), Pasolini finishes an orgy of torture and murder by having two guards just turn off the somber classical piece on the radio to a lively Nino Rota-style waltz and dance with each other. The last lines of the film are completely inconsequential. He hated that apathy had taken hold of the youths he had counted on to change things and all anyone seemed to want to do was have fun when he was so tormented. In the face of the world turning to filth and violence and corruption, kids were changing the channel and dancing, unaware how short life is and how badly we had fucked up. Part of me is glad that Pasolini didn't live to see today (I can't imagine how he'd have felt about George W. Bush); some things have gotten better, most haven't changed and some things have gotten a whole lot worse, especially in Italy. Seeing Salò for the second time makes me understand how troubled he was and how desperately angry and alone he felt. That said, I don't ever want to watch it again and I'm sad that he's gone.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: The Boardroom at Screen Gems Pictures

Sometimes it pays to have both TIVO and the Internet. With TIVO and stolen cable, I was able to watch part 1 of today's Where I Draw The Line for free. With Netflix's watch it now, I was able to watch part 2 essentially for free. Now while this would seem like a great leap and a great big chalky '1' on the Internet's scorecard the problem is that these films were Resident Evil 2 and 3. That evens up the playing field a touch doesn't it? I know what you're asking, who or what is the Internet battling? Well I don't know, but rest assured they need bigger guns than these two films to win. These are films that are such concentrated doses of rip-off and jackass that even for free I felt like I was getting ripped off. Now Resident Evil was not what I'd call 'good' or a 'movie' per se, but it was a fun hour twenty when I was 12. Resident Evil 2 is so stupid and so backwards and so 'stylish' that it's completely unwatchable. Resident Evil 3 is like The Road Warrior done with action figures in a bathtub, such is its ramshackle feeling and ludicrous scripting. Anyway I've seen them so you don't have to.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
by Alexander Witt

You know a film's gonna really knock one out of the park when it's directed by an assistant camera man. He's done amazing things with cinematography in the past and such but when someone hands you a bag of money and a script written by a thousand monkeys on typewriters, your instincts just sort of fly out the window don't they? How else do you explain the fact that Witt cast himself as a sniper? He was just....havin' some fun on Screen Gems' dime. I imagine that conversation went something like that meeting at the end of Step Brothers when they're planning the Catalina Wine Mixer:

W.S.: I have a Resident Evil Sequel here that's gonna make my nut for this year.
Exec: We gonna take a bath on this?
W.S.: We are talking about the same thing right? It's Resident Fucking Evil! You know how stupid people are? They'll pay for anything!!! Let's do some Blow!
Exec: Arright, let's do it! Who's gonna direct?
W.S.: Who gives a shit, it's Resident Fucking Evil, we could hire the next guy we see and we'll still get money! You, what do you do?
Alexander Witt: I'm Ridley Scott's assistant director.
W.S.: You want 20 grand and some cocaine?
Alexander Witt: Do I?!?!? 

I guess Wit had to kill time between working for the brothers Scott and a bunch of money for no effort sounded like a good deal. Anyway, his movie is nicely shot, but dumber than Forrest Gump and Paul W.S. Anderson who directed the original wrote the script. I like reading about the production of these films because these are the only films where major decisions were made based on the suggestions of unimportant crew members. Milla Jovavich's trainer, the hair and make-up people, assistants, they all had a say in the way the film turned out. That says a lot; not even because the decisions are all bad, but because this is a production so flimsy that they were willing to hear everyone out, no matter how far removed from the filmmaking process they are.
Apocalypse picks up right where it's stupid older brother dropped dead. Milla Jovavich is out killin' stuff with a new outfit (where did she get it? Where'd she get the guns? Who knows? This is a W.S. Anderson picture; guns and tits are all that matters) and the only survivor is secreted away by those evil doctors. Let's start the confusion shall we? Ok, so we're about to get introduced to a big, sinewy Clive Barker-type creature with a machine gun for an arm and he seems to get bigger as the film progresses. The script lets us know almost immediately the identity of the creature and people who play the video games know that he's there because he's in the game. And even though he doesn't serve nearly the same function, he does show up infrequently and he looks like a cut-scene from a Playstation game. Anyway, the problem is that the military has quarantined the city (still obstinately called Raccoon Fucking City) and Umbrella (get it? Umbrella Corporation, cause it's an umbrella corp...Oh HAHAHA!) is obviously behind the big creature. they control the military? How do they still get to operate when they've caused zombies to eat people? Do they still get to do that? Why'd they build this thing? To combat zombies or takeover the world? Why don't they just do that then instead of making Milla Jovavich fight it? Ooh, fun story, apparently Paul W.S. Anderson said that because Milla Jovavich was willing to show her breasts that meant she was committed to the film. Really? That's your definition of commitment? Man, Halle Berry must have been real committed to Sword Fish. You know who else is committed? Denise Richards in Wild Things, Shannon Elizabeth in American Pie, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and Jenna Jameson in Zombie Strippers. Oh, that's right, they're getting PAID!!!!!! That guy at the Jack-In-The-Box was really committed to giving me the burger I paid for, so was the guy at blockbuster when he checked out those movies I rented and then handed them to me on the way out. Jeez I didn't realize how committed everybody was. I guess commitment really separates good films from bad ones, doesn't it?

Ok, sorry, back to the plot. Ok, so a small group of survivors including a mall cop, a real cop, the little british girl they modeled the hologram girl on from the first film, a detective wearing the same stupid outfit her character wears in the video game, and the members of a disgraced special ops team called STARS. I'm sorry, can we just....I can't do this......this movie is so fucking stupid........STARS?!?!?!? Really?!? It was a VIDEO GAME, Anderson! Stop taking it literally! You ever wonder why nobody saw Soldier? CAUSE EVERYTHING YOU DO IS FUCKING STUPID AND SO ARE YOU!!!!! How many times do we have to watch Milla Jovavich jump around kicking zombies and dogs in the face and crashing motorcycles through windows before you retire forever? How many more Death Races do we have to endure? This movie is fucking terrible and I don't care about what happens to anyone! I was rooting for the fucking zombies! And you know what else? There weren't nearly enough of them! It's a zombie movie, just make with the blessed zombies already and stop trying to be so hip and stylish. What do you think they're gonna give you an Oscar for trendy editing or special effects most reminiscent of The Matrix or costume design most faithful to the video game it was taken from? Jesus god, I can't believe they made this movie. What the hell kind of sequel outside of the Howling franchise is actually worse than the one that follows it? If I was Jaws 2 I'd be throwing a motherfucking party right about now because at least that movie isn't as shameful as this. Listen to me! I'm raving like a goddamned lunatic. Watching this film made me realize how much better the original was and so I raised that film's grade just so we're clear on how bad this movie is. It is far and away the worst zombie film of the new millennium. Worse even than Unspeakable.

Let's just move on like Paul W.S. Anderson should have before sinking truly offensive sums of money into this damn thing. Movie number 3 is a simultaneous crib of Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, The Matrix and The Birds, Alien: Resurrection and even the fucking Postman! REALLY?!?! THE POSTMAN!!!!!

Resident Evil: Extinction
by Russell Mulcahy

At least this time we get something moderately exciting, even if its so doomed to failure that they re-used set-pieces and visuals from the first movie. So Milla Jovavich is on the road tearassing through Nevada on a motorcycle (as Raccoon City isn't a real place, we don't know how long she's been on the road, but the fact that she's changed outfits should tell us something). She is stopped by a gang lead by a chubby lesbian whose idea of fun is pitting strangers against zombie dogs (Sweet Christ does this franchise love its zombie dogs!). Milla escapes and teams up with the survivors from the last movie (Mike Epps and Oded Fehr) and a bunch of new people you won't need to get yourself familiar with because they'll pretty much all be dead by closing time. So Claire Redfield (a video game name taken out of context) is leading this ragtag collection of needless stereotypes with color coordinated post-apocalyptic clothing to Alaska for some reason (and everyone, EVERYONE has a gun in each hand like a John Woo film) and Milla catches up with them in Vegas where we're reminded just how similar this is to Water World in its badness. Some zombie crows and zombies show up and whittle the cast down to just Claire, Oded Fehr, a girl called K-Mart (cause they found her there, cause Anderson stole that from The Postman, I still can't get over that. But let's talk about this for a minute. She says that her name came from where they found her, but clearly the zombie happenings only started as long ago as it takes to drive wherever the fuck Raccoon City is to Las Vegas. She has a name, clearly. Did she forget it in all the commotion? She's in her early 20s, not an infant. More proof that the script was sewn together out of the skin of a lot of other movies) like seven other people we never met and of course the unstoppable Milla Jovavich. She goes down into the underground lair we've been seeing flashes of throughout the film while everyone else escapes. Then there's a lame monster fight and a scene where we see literally thousands of naked Milla Jovaviches waking up in spherical glass cases to prompt movie 4. That's right there's a fourth film on the way, baby!

Ok, so I had a little bit of fun with this mess, cause I have a soft-spot for Road Warrior knock-offs no matter how silly they are. I like to see convoys of dirty, modified school buses driving across the desert to loud psych music and the K-Mart girl is kinda cute and...that's it, really, nothing else to recommend this movie at all. Literally every side character of note is killed in the same scene (singer Ashanti is in the film for less time than the obese gang leader); I ask you, why waste the screentime introducing them if they're all going to die in EXACTLY the same way at EXACTLY the same time for NO reason. And why do they want to clone Milla Jovavich; it's clear that Umbrella made her that way. What, they can't do it twice? Well I shouldn't really expect cleverness from a film that rips off Day of the Dead (underground zombie science to no real ends), Dawn of the Dead (guns against fast zombies with exploding heads and self-sacrificing he-man who blows himself up at the very end to no real ends), The Matrix (slow motion kung-fu to no real ends), Alien: Resurrection (cloning the heroine to no real ends), Slither (tentacled man-beast to no real ends), The Birds (big crowds of malevolent birds sneaking up on our heroes, again, to no real ends except to kill Ashanti) and of course Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Milla Jovavich has telekinesis in both of these films. I had blocked it out, you know...cause it makes no fuckin' sense.
I find this last bit pretty difficult to watch, the Road Warrior stuff I mean, because Russell Mulcahy was once a respected (sort of) filmmaker. Or anyway, he was respectable. You will probably never have heard of him, but he was a big deal in Australia, almost as big a deal as George Miller, the director of the Mad Max films. Mulcahy's first big film Razorback is one of my favorite monster movies; it's the one about a giant killer warthog. Russ could have been as big as George Miller was in America, but someone figured out Russell Mulcahy could handle a post-apocalyptic martial arts film. Then poor Russ spent the rest of his career making shit like Highlander, The Shadow and The Scorpion King 2. So while George is respected, Russ has been reduced to ripping off his one-time peer. Making a man relive the lost potential of his career by making him slog through a script so consciously riddled with illogical paraphrases, that's where I draw the line.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: Backwoods Shoestring Troma Team Productions

You know what I can’t stomach? Troma-made films whose existence is predicated upon the appearance of a one-off Playboy playmate. That’s what one half of today’s testament to tastelessness looks at; the other half doesn't even a leg this weak to stand on. I was trying to think of some historical thing to make this important (other than Rita Jenrette’s shower scene) and couldn’t. It’s lousy, it’s cheap, and you really shouldn’t watch it.

Zombie Island Massacre
by John N. Carter

We open on Rita Jenrette covered in suds. Her husband creeps up on her wearing a big wooden mask and then they have sex. They go on a boat tour in the Caribbean and then they try to have sex. They watch a voodoo ceremony and talk about having sex while two others go off and have sex; they get killed. Their bus is sabotaged and the tour guide gets killed. Maybe it’s the zombie we saw rise during the ceremony. Maybe it’s someone else doing the killing. The real question is who gives a tinker's damn? Watching these non-actors get axed one by one should have been a lot more fun, but it’s just dull.

If I were to try come up with some way to advertise this, I might say: “From the Studio that brought you Pigs! From the production values of The Forest! From a script with even less understanding of the English language than the guys who write the dialogue for the Resident Evil games! The ultimate in lifeless drudgery!” Or something along those lines. I don’t know how even Lloyd Kaufman could have produced something so thoroughly boring. I was expecting bad acting, poor effects, and a stupid story, but there wasn’t even enough action for me to take offense at. Once it becomes clear that the ‘zombie’ isn’t the one doing the killing, which is at about minute 15, the movie has no hand to play and so just fizzles out and becomes one poorly executed killing after another. With a jive-talking middle aged protagonist spouting dialogue like “All I know’s homicidal. You read me? It’s tryin’ to kill me, aright?” or “Mus’ be some kinna Crayazy” I just don’t get how this thing ever got off the ground. Watching Zombie Island Massacre is approximately like watching ten adults walk around at night going, “Wow, can you believe how scary everything is? Man, I’m scared. This is too scary.” That’s what kills me about Troma; when they’re not churning out tasteless schlock like The Toxic Avenger or Street Trash, they’re pushing stiff, budgetless wakes like this, Garden of the Dead and Frightmare. The only unintentional joy to be found in this film is when so many people are being murdered simultaneously that our hero has to run between crime scenes with his machete and not really help anyone. It’s like an episode of 30 Rock, except people die and then the survivors still make painfully unfunny jokes with one another. When the writers forget to turn off the ‘funny’ while the bodies are piling up, consider that where I like to wash my hands of the whole affair.

Speaking of tasteless schlock. Here’s a film that separates people who like film and masochists.

Redneck Zombies
by Pericles Lewnes

Some doctors wonder about what caused the mental breakdown of a patient at an asylum. We flash back to the cause: a weed smoking marine drops a barrel of toxic waste into the backyard of some of the most atrocious southern stereotypes ever acted; these are tasteless even for Lloyd Kaufman. They steal the barrel, kill the marine (cause he’s black) and turn the waste into moonshine. Every dumb son of a bitch, woman, and child drinks it and becomes a zombie. A party of campers has to deal with them, but mostly they just get killed. 90 nauseating minutes later and you may actually be dumber than when you started watching this movie. It’s a mess and it knows it’s a mess, but contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t make it fun or easy to watch.

Here’s a good metaphor for this film and its fans: When the campers figure out that the moonshine is actually toxic waste, someone asks, “You mean them rednecks are drinkin’ that shit?” to which one of the film’s ubiquitous gay characters says “No, I don’t think anyone could be that stupid!” Think of the moonshine as anything by Troma studios and the rednecks as fans of troma, if you will. They know it kills them and you’d have to be stupid to keep drinking and yet… Redneck Zombies is filled with many Troma staples including what must be consciously bad acting, some sickening budget-gore, and enough slurs to piss everybody off. Troma’s statement of purpose is basically bad movies that you know are bad, that they know are bad. So, bad all around. The problem is when you set out to make a bad movie, you’ll make one, conscious or not. Who the hell wants to watch a bad movie that the creators didn’t care about? Written by three adults who call themselves Fester Smellman, P. Floyd Pirhana, and Zoofeet and ‘directed’ by Pericles Lewnes, Redneck Zombies is a film that aspires to Manos: The Hands of Fate-type badness. Zombie Aftermath-type badness Think of the person you like the least in the world. Would the fact that he knows how big an asshole he’s being change how badly you want to avoid them? “Sure he’s a racist, but he knows he’s a racist!” That makes it better? No. That just makes it worse. This means they have to know what makes a good film and what makes a bad film and then just forget what makes quality and embrace the worst aspects of moviemaking. I would understand if you wanted to make gory films, scary films, dark films, and films that are send-ups of existing genres (Fido, Return of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead for instance are all brilliant). I don’t understand the urge to want to make shit.

Anyone can make shit, that you set out to do it doesn’t make you special, it makes you an idiot with arrested development. There are enough unintentional failures for Troma team to go around vomiting at dinner parties and making fun of gay people. It turns my stomach and this is coming from someone who kind of liked The Frightened Woman, so put that in your bong and smoke it. When the smoke clears you might be able to make out the line I drew just behind your stupid behavior.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: Sweden's Backwoods and Warehouses

The Rape Revenge subgenre is a pretty touchy subject (DUH!) but contrary to what your gut is probably telling you there are some men who have gotten it right. The Italians (as if it needed to be said) have not. Some Americans have done respectable things with it (Abel Ferrera for example did an ok job with Ms. 45 and Meir Zarchi took the crown with his I Spit On Your Grave), but mostly the international filmmaking community gets ahold of it and some weird mojo results. A few years ago when Quentin Tarantino went around name-checking all the films he’d stolen from when making Kill Bill! like Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell and The Blood Spattered Bride one of the more obscure was a Swedish film with the absolutely bonkers title Thriller: They Call Her One Eye. There’s some dispute about the title, as I found out in trying to seek this film out. The version that Tarantino would like you to see was not called They Call Her One Eye; that was the name of the watered down American drive-thru version. For some reason the watered down version got its own DVD, which in my opinion is ludicrous. The difference between the two is about 10 minutes of hardcore sex and really I don’t think the subtraction warranted another DVD. It was by all accounts a way to confuse people into buying two discs. Because when I got ahold of They Call Her One Eye I went around moping for weeks afterward because the film that Quentin Tarantino said he couldn’t finish all of in one sitting was a boring piece of trash. Later I got my hands on the unedited version and found out it's the first excruciatingly filthy, indefensible boring piece of trash to be banned in Sweden. But it's still a boring piece of trash.

Thriller: En Grym Film
by Bo Arne Vibernius
Madeleine or Frigga in the original Swedish, has been dealt a pretty bad hand. As a girl she was abused by a tramp who then died of what was either a stroke, a heart attack or rabies. As a young woman she goes to the bus station after work and succumbs to a ride from a sleazy 70s-guy called Tony. She’s become mute since her traumatic childhood and can’t really say ‘no’ in a way that sends sideburns’n’sunglasses packing. She goes out to dinner with him and then goes back to his apartment and his real intentions becoming clear. He beats her up, pumps her full of heroine and then probably rapes her. When she wakes up she tries to leave but doesn’t get very far before Tony tracks her down in his car (in a public park full of people who refuse to do anything to help her, no less. Vibernius has almost as dim a view of humanity as Cormac McCarthy) and brings her back. After about a week of filling her with heroine, Tony informs Madeleine that she’s addicted to heroin and will do exactly as he says. First order of business: become a prostitute! Second: keep some of the profit and get Mondays off…? Yeah, I don’t know of any other murderous psychopath who gives the hookers Monday off but shit, I’ve never been to Sweden either.

Tony has actually made a profitable little operation out of kidnapping women and turning them into junkie prostitutes, but he rules with a fist of iron. Madeleine gets out of line with one of the clients so Tony cuts her eye out. Because she doesn’t return home, her parents give up on her and then kill themselves. When her only prostitute friend is cut to pieces by a client, she decides the best route is take some time and really do some damage with wisdom and skill on her side. She takes her money and on her days off learns to drive muscle cars, handle guns, and becomes an expert in marshal arts and self-defense. Tony and his scummy clients better watch out.

After about a month wondering how a movie with a plot so absolutely crazy and despicable could be so boring, I went looking for the real version. When I did, I saw the film that upset so many people. I did not, however, see a movie worth a goddamn. Take out the extreme violence and the real sex and you have the movie proper; a tepid story of the most impractical kidnapping and prostitution ring in history. Tony keeps giving Madeleine heroin, but never lets her move, so for a week she sleeps on his couch, waking only to get another dose. This means that a week’s worth of urine has to be soaking her skivvies by the time Tony’s ready to put her to work. Also, you or I might go to the fucking police on our first improbable day off but not our girl. Bo Arne Vibernius was making a rape revenge film and logic wasn’t about to stand in his way (which accounts for the fact that when Madeleine’s friend dies, there is apparently more blood soaking her mattress than the human body holds). Neither for that matter was coherence or consideration for his audience. Why are all the death scenes in slow motion I ask you? It just makes everything way, way boring and the fakeness of every squib becomes undeniably clear. The whole artifice of moviemaking is visible from the very start and Vibernius doesn't care that you know it. He was making a violent film and since he believed that the upstairs room in a dance studio was a place men go for sex with a one-eyed prostitute nicknamed the Pirate, that was enough for him. He wanted hardcore sex and his lead wouldn't consent to being laid by her co-stars? He just hired someone who would. He didn't care about realism in any sense; he had a story to tell and just told it, logic, money, sets, motivation, actors, censors and all else be damned.
His determination lead to some truly bizarre tangents. There's the inexplicable part where after killing people who are marginally involved with Tony’s scheme Madeleine just drives around running people off the road, killing innocent folks just for kicks. That’s where the film really loses its way; Thriller: En Grym Film doesn’t work as female empowerment (even the nominal kind that makes up most of these tasteless outings) because she’s apparently just a maniac who kills people cause she can. It makes no sense and doesn't try to. That's why things like the arrival at the climax happen. Madeleine offs a bunch of underlings and then arranges to kill Tony by mailing him a letter asking him to meet her in the middle of nowhere. That is strange enough on its own, but then Tony actually goes and meets her! She’s just axed half of Stockholm so I’m not exactly sure what his rationale is for showing up alone. But he does and she’s waiting with a trap involving a claymore mine. The way she finally dispenses with him has to be seen to be believed.

Now, with the film’s structure and ethos in place, add extreme violence (eyeball slicing and the like) and actual sex acts and you may not understand the film, but you will understand Vibernius. What sort of man hires a body double (a much heavier body than Christina Lindberg who couldn’t pass with or without her clothes on) so he can film unsimulated anal sex and insert it into his action movie; it’s not like the film is any more exciting with screwing and gore, it’s just more unappealing. This is not easy to watch, and I hesitate to call it pornography because aside from Last House on the Left, sex has rarely looked as unflattering or absolutely disgusting. And it is sex, by the way, not rape as you and I understand it. Any actual rape that may go on isn’t shown as such. The sex we’re privy to is all after Madeleine has been given Mondays off and a pension; she could go to the police anytime she wanted to, mute or not. That’s what’s so heinous about Thriller; Vibernius apparently doesn’t think enough of women to entertain the possibility that they’d be smart enough to try and get help. He believes that Madeleine would wait around and screw people because she was told to and that her only recourse is to dress like some kind of lesbian superhero and murder people with a shotgun. Nice one, ace! If Tarantino was really disgusted by this film’s gore content, I'd call him a lightweight. If he took offense to it’s content, I’d understand. But he simply stole from it (Elle Driver’s look, down to the eye-patch, was lifted from Thriller) so I shake my head in his direction.
Oh and while we’re on her eye-patch, let’s talk fashion for a minute. I’ve never seen a prostitute dress so much like one of The Watchmen in all my life. When she’s at work she has an eye-patch to match the color of every pair of underwear she owns and she wears a heavy-duty brown overcoat and brightly colored leather catsuits and stuff when she goes out murdering folks with her stolen shotgun. Now, she looks cute as a button when she’s on the prowl but I don’t think that that’s how things happen in real life. What kind of emotionally traumatized heroin addict dresses up like she’s going to a theme party everytime she’s going to kill someone? What sort of 16-year-old boy mentality is that? I thought murderers were supposed to be inconspicuous. I guess things are different in Sweden. Or maybe Bo Arne Vibernius is a dumbass. Vibernius actually fought Synapse entertainment when he heard they were releasing his film on DVD. Synapse won as they proved that they had bought the rights, and though I hate Thriller: En Grym Film, I'm glad the public can view it so that they know how dispicable a filmmaker Vibernius was. This is the legacy he deserves.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: The Last House On The Left

Ok, so this installment of my examination of the boundary that I refuse to cross has more to do with tone than taste. Today I have a revered genre film that kicked off the nastiness of horror films in the 1970s and its remake. I take issue with the films on different levels and still find something to like about both of them, but not much. The first film is saved only by the fact that taken out of context, it could be a really disturbing, gritty film. The second is saved by the charisma of its leading man, which is really something you don’t see outside of a Vincent Price film in the horror genre. Let’s see where I draw the line today.

Last House on the Left
by Wes Craven
The story for Last House should sound familiar to anyone who’s seen Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring, cause it’s the same thing. A girl goes into the big wide world, is murdered and then her murderers wander into her parent’s home where revenge is taken. In Virgin Spring (which I’ll save the embarrassment of being reviewed on Honors Zombie) the acts of violation, murder, and revenge are treated with a sort of religious tone; Bergman does not let the audience or his characters breathe. Wes Craven does and here’s how. Last House concerns Mari Collingwood and her trip to the big city. Her parents would rather not let her go to see the band Bloodlust with her jaded city friend Phyllis, but they concede when Mari charms them with that snappish ultra hip-daughter charm of hers. Before she leaves there’s a lot of very uncomfortable talk about breasts. I don’t ever want to hear a daughter talking to her mom and dad about breasts, especially when dad is as old and wooden as Gaylord St. John. To prove just how un-hip the man is he gives Mari a peace sign necklace to wear to the Bloodlust concert. Moments later Mari is out the door and sure enough Phyllis makes good on her citygirl uncouthness and goes to score some pot with Mari in tow. They decide to score off of a twitchy derelict named Junior and unluckily for them, his dad Krug shows up midway through their getting high with his friend Weasel and girlfriend Sadie. Krug Stillo has just broken out of prison with Weasel and Sadie’s help which means Phyllis and Mari have chosen the worst place to score weed from in all the world. Krug and his pals overpower the two girls, tie them up and stuff them in the trunk of their car.

Predating but falling desperately short of Tobe Hooper’s ultimate bad day movie Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a truly unfortunate 24 hours awaits both tormentors and tormented. Krug and the gang take Mari and Phyllis out into the woods to humiliate and sexually assault them. Through an amazingly stupid and cruel coincidence they just happen to bring them to a spot not 100 yards from Mari’s house. Krug, Sadie and Weasel make they force Mari to wet herself for their amusement, they make Mari and Phyllis touch each other, Mari is raped, Phyllis is stabbed to death, Krug carves his name into Mari’s chest, and then Mari is shot twice waist deep in a lake and either drowns or dies from the gunshot wound. Mari’s parents have by this time called the police, but the two cops on the case make Chief Wiggum look like Joe Friday. They ignore the fact that the killer’s car is on the Collingwood property while they’re inside talking to the parents, their car runs out of gas so they run most of the way and try to get a ride with an insidious, toothless mammy stereotype driving a chicken truck, and...let’s put it this way: they leave for the Collingwood house to tell them they have a lead before either girl has been raped and they arrive at the climax of the film which I take to be at least 12 hours later.
So while the police race to the scene of the crime, Krug and his friends go to the Collingwood house posing as traveling salesmen; they actually just want food and shelter for the night. After dinner Junior goes into withdrawal and starts wigging out; Mrs. Collingwood goes to help him and sees Mari's peace sign necklace around his veiny throat. She then hears the dialogue between father and son that follows through the thinnest walls in movie history (“shut up, or you’ll be in the lake too” says Krug for no real reason) and then finds bloodstained clothes in their suitcase. Mr. and Mrs. Collingwood retrieve their daughter and plan the most elaborate, ridiculous revenge ever filmed on a meager budget. Then the cops show up.

The cops are kind of a good metaphor for the film as a whole. They try to be effective, really try hard, but are stopped at every turn by the fact they have no idea how to do their job effectively. They wear the uniform, sure and carry guns and all, but ask them to fill their squad car with gas or actually DO SOMETHING and you’ll get a lot of cartoonish guffawing and “aw shucks” excuse making. Last House is filled with contradicting aesthetic choices that maybe at the planning stages made sense to Wes Craven, who claims to have been influenced by both documentarians and the coverage of the Vietnam War on TV. He wanted to be brutal and self-aware but he was comically off his mark. First of all the murder scenes are framed with scenes scored by this absurd Country Joe & The Fish-esque roadtrip music sung by David Hess, Krug Stillo himself. Between furious kazoo solos, Hess croons like Paul Butterfield: “Weasel and Junior, Sadie and Krug, out for the day with the Collingwood brood.” And each stab wound is articulated by weird percussive synth notes that make it seem like a Batman villain has just been hit in the groin by the caped crusader. And then the murders are intercut with scenes of the sheriff and his deputy fucking up in every conceivable way. You’d find more honest villainy in a Commando Cody short. Not that the villains aren’t villainous; Krug and his friends are some slimy subhuman critters. David Hess looks like someone who took one too many drugs in college and then started professionally creeping people out on 42nd street; the kind of guy who hangs out at parties that no one invited and everyone wants to leave. He has the perfect energy for the part, even if his sleaziness sort of keeps him grounded, stopping him from being really evil and just being maddeningly gross. Fred Lincoln who plays Weasel gets a pass cause he’s a porn director and looks like one, but I don’t buy him as a criminal killer. Jaramie Rain as Sadie, with her fake beehive wig and her violent moodswings and her 60s-sci-fi-extra acting is really something to behold. Marc Sheffler as Junior spends the whole movie impersonating a ferret on qualudes. A fun bunch. Pit them against Gaylord St. John and Cynthia Carr in the climax and all of a sudden the term overacting just doesn’t really seem to mean anything. So when Mom bites off Weasel’s dick and Dad hacks up Krug with a chainsaw, the film becomes completely irrelevant. I don’t care how badly you’ve been hurt, no one bites off a human penis by choice when there are knives and a gun handy. That’s just misogynistic and needlessly sick. Seriously, how could anyone enjoy that scene? It’s out of character and needless even in a film like this and it’s ridiculous to believe that a mother who’s just lost her child would get herself in that state. Come On!

That the police show up at all is a miracle cause this film has no moral and these two are so fucking dense that I was waiting for one of them to forget his belt and have his pants fall off. It was supposed to have a moral, but Craven declaws himself by switching up the violence, which he handles poorly, with the actions of the sheriff and his deputy. And that nobody but David Hess as Krug and Marc Sheffler as Junior are the least bit believable doesn’t help, cause it makes them seem unnaturally heroic for standing out amongst their terrible surroundings. I get that the juxtoposition was supposed to be like Vietnam footage punctuated by commercials and puff pieces, but when you just replicate something terrible and offer no intelligent critique or solution, you’re film is just as hard to sit through as the thing you’re lampooning. Why on earth would you want to do that? Film doesn’t always have to be enjoyable, but for a 90 minute parade of the sadistic presented like an Amos ‘n Andy sketch to end with the voice of reason arriving in the form of two dipshit police officers with no more power or help to offer, doesn’t that seem like a recipe for depression and anger? That’s how I felt. Angry that the film was so poorly acted and that a real powerful film could have been edited out of this mess, it looks great after all, and wasn’t. That, incidentally is all I like about Last House, it’s grimy look. That’s why people look upon this so fondly is because it looks like a snuff film and it started the new wave of nihilistic, violence-for-violence’s-sake films. No Last House, no market for Texas Chainsaw, Snuff, Driller Killer, Cannibal Holocaust, The Hitcher or Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. No Italian rip-offs, very probably no Video Nasties scare. Or so it goes. I'm not entirely convinced.
And yet, for all its goofy inadequacy, people love Last House and will take any opportunity to talk it up like it was something as infamous as Men Behind The Sun or Brian Yuzna's Society or Cannibal Holocaust. It isn’t and has nothing like the power of those films, but the legend gives it a kind of monster-in-the-closet power it loses the second you watch it. So what happens when you take a legend at face value? When you simply identify all of its parts and then try to reproduce them, as in an essay or say…a remake? Well things get darker before they get brighter that’s for sure.

Last House on the Left
by Dennis Iliades

The plot of the 2009 remake of Last House is interchangeable with that of the original with a few important exceptions. We open on Krug being transported to prison, and his face is totally enshrouded in darkness until the moment that our Weasel and Sadie updates (Weasel is now Francis, Sadie is still Sadie) arrive in a truck to smash into the transport car. We’re told Junior is nearby (now called Justin) and then Francis and Krug finish the two unpleasant cops in the aftermath of the crash. The Collingwood family is a little more grounded in reality (and much better acted) this time around. Dad, John, is a doctor and mom, Emma, a teacher and both are having a hard time putting work behind them as the plan to go on vacation with their daughter Mari. When they arrive at the Last House on the Left we’re told its also the last house on the road for six miles. Mari begins to feel cooped up in the old cabin when she and her parents have simultaneous unspoken reflections on the death of the Collingwood’s son, Mari’s brother. He died a year ago and they’ve only just gotten over it from the looks of things. Mari escapes the pain by swimming competitively. If you’re familiar with the specifics of the first film, you’ll notice a conscious effort to legitimize the incidental stuff from the first film starting to emerge. Anyway, Mari takes the car mom doesn’t want her to, yadda yadda yadda, sees her slutty friend, yadda yadda yada. They go back to twitchy shoplifter Justin’s motel room to get high, which Mari disapproves of and only does so at the insistance of said slutty friend. Soon it’s been like four hours and Mom calls wondering where the hell Mari’s been this whole time; feeling guilty and presumably not wanting to come home high she just has enough time to tell her mom she’ll be sleeping at Paige’s house, no matter how much mom disapproves (for some reason) of her daughter’s slutty friend. Mom’s instincts are the result of her son’s death, but because that point is driven home enough, her paranoia seems superficial and ungrounded, which it shouldn’t have to to succeed.

Anyway, when Justin’s dad, uncle, and aunt-to-be show up, things take quite the turn. Paige tries to escape out the bathroom window when Krug, in full light for the first time, tells them they won’t be leaving (or living to see tomorrow). The trip into the woods makes a little more sense this time around, as Mari and Paige are in the backseat this time and when they run into a fork in the road, Mari gives them directions that actually lead to the woods near their house; her escape attempt just causes enough hysteria for the car to crash. Cue shouting, screaming, running, being caught, stabbing, Krug telling Justin to be a man, Justin not being one, and Krug forcing Mari to look at Paige while she bleeds to death as he rapes her. Mari makes a purposeful break for the lake, but gets a bullet just below her neck before she swims out of view. Krug and company arrive at the Collingwood house with a story about a car crash. They set them up, somewhat hesitantly; Dr. Collingwood even sets and stitches Francis’ broken nose before Emma shows them their room in the guest house. Before that Justin sees Mari’s picture on the wall and has Junior’s withdrawal without the aid of a drug addiction. Krug’s threats don’t reach the ears of Mr. or Mrs. Collingwood this time, it is only Justin’s guilty placement of Mari’s necklace on the kitchen counter that does the trick. When Mari pulls herself out of the lake and onto the porch and Dad is able to put her in a stable condition (he does so with one of the sickest on-camera surgeries I’ve ever seen; it involves a needle chest decompression done with a switchblade) they agree they have to get her to a hospital and with no car, the location of the boat keys becomes their top priority. When Francis comes down for a glass of beer in the middle of the night, Mom and Dad have little choice but to act and there’s nothing as furious as an animal protecting its young.
When a film is remade by the hungry, hungry Hollywood Hippo it does a couple of things. Firstly it legitimizes the subject matter of the original: it says, we believe in this, let’s put money behind these ideas. Secondly it takes the film, loose ends and all, plays it back and makes it shiny, pretty, and largely irrelevant. The Fog, for example, became an empty, CG-laden rehash of the finer points of the original film’s plot with none of its spirit or coherence. They made it young and gross and powerless. The remake of Hills Have Eyes was less about family and more about gore and politics and was less effective as commentary, more so as horror. Last House on the Left was a castrated romp through a field of heedless, needless violence; it’s reason for being was to shock, which it couldn’t do because it was too busy being a post-modern commentary on TV violence. So take out its original intent, which was to be a nasty piece of damning violence, and make it about a girl getting raped and her parents taking revenge, it becomes a harder film to watch by definition because the rape is both a means and an end unto itself instead of just being one act of interchangeable violence and debasement. The rape and revenge are two pieces of the same pie; they are separate in the new version. The revenge is meant to be cathartic and is framed as such. It is not a comment on anything, it’s just a thriller, which is what the original failed to be.

So as a thriller, yeah, I guess it works. I felt the catharis that was lacking from the first film when Krug and his cronies get their comeuppance. When one of them (I won’t say who) gets a hammer to the back of the head, I was shaken and it felt justified. But what kind of movie makes a hammer to the head seem justified? The sort that’s about legitimizing violence, desensitizing all of us and selling hypersexualized brutality as something inevitable, in real life and in culture. Why was it necessary for Riki Lindhome’s Sadie to be topless when the Collingwoods fight with her? Why is the ending with the microwave necessary? Sure, the film looks nice and despite my knowing the outcome it was suspenseful, but it’s lack of a moral compass is more than a little troubling. Especially when it attempts to account for all of Craven’s missteps with a careful screenplay. What they’re saying is “we’re gonna get the rape movie right this time!” They aren’t supposed to be right; they aren’t supposed to be something we pay to see, but we do. That’s why the addition of Mari as a swimmer, her survival after the rape, a dead brother, John’s career as a doctor who knows equally how to hurt and heal, and Justin as a fully sympathetic character feels kind of gross. What director Dennis Iliades and screenwriters Carl Ellsworth and Adam Alleca did was try to make it easier for us to stomach the revenge after the rape. They made the revenge geometrically perfect, if that makes sense; Iliades stacked all the elements in favor of a brutal, gory revenge in which no feet of abject horror would be too much. So in a sense, he did what Craven didn’t do, made the horror in the first act justify that of the second, but Last House in any form cannot justify its existence because it's based around rape. Though I was ok with Mari surviving. Oh, and what was with that Let Sleeping Corpses Lie ending? That was crazy.
So why didn’t I give this an F? One reason: Garret Dillahunt. When I discovered he’d be playing Krug Stillo that was about the only thing that kept me checking for a release date. From the minute he enters the motel room with his patchy, triangular beard, wild eyes, and massive physical presence, you can’t help but be transfixed. I know that if someone as effortlessly charismatic as Dillahunt hadn’t been in the lead role, I’d have found Last House impossible to take. Dillahunt, who you may know as the slightly slow deputy from No Country For Old Men, is endlessly watchable and he brings a poise to the role of Krug that makes him extra terrifying. All of his lines are mesmerizing (especially the one that goes something like “you guys did a number on my brother, he is really fucking dead.”) and every second he’s on screen, I found myself drawn to his craziness. He perfects the edginess that Giovanni Lombardi Radice, Ray Lovelock, George Eastman, Al Cliver, and Antonio Mayans all tried to convey from 1973 onward but couldn’t (and that Matthew McConnaughey, Viggo Mortensen, and Ralph Fiennes still can’t quite master). He’s off-putting when he needs to be but he also succeeds at being normal; he’s like a rabid dog playing possum, ready to snap when you get too close. In the scenes in the house before Mari shows up on the porch, he’s just as frightening because you’ve seen him at the height of his madness so his warm friendliness is equally as nervewracking. Although revenge belongs to the Collingwoods, the film is Dillahunts and I’d have been willing to watch a remake of Killer’s Moon to see him in the lead role. I’m looking forward to seeing him in The Road; it should get the bad taste of exploitation cinema out of my mouth.