Sunday, October 7, 2012

We're Gonna Need a Fourth Wall: My Favourite Film Volume 20

Ok, we're going to take a diversion in the present so that we can find some truth buried in the past. Post-modernism and all its bastards (Irony, metatext, pastiche, etc.) have taken over. It's impossible to view anything through just one lens. A film is viewed through its influences before its judged on its own terms, nothing is in a vacuum. Anyone who's hung around these old hallways knows that I'm a lunatic about history and context, especially where the integrity of an idea is concerned, but I'm also aware that we often jeopardize a text by putting history between ourselves and it. We risk losing sight of what's meant to be achieved and what we assume about it based on its place in history and the end of a bloodline. Is it always fair to judge a kid by his parent's achievements? Now, this all sounds like I'm gearing up to use this as a defense of one of ten trillion little shark attack movies made in the wake of Jaws, but that's not strictly true. Trying to defend Bait based on its heritage in the Shark movie would be a grave mistake - no way does it hold up against the best of those, or really even have much on the worst of them, at least on the surface. Bait couldn't be much simpler or slighter and is pretty silly, but there's something in there that saves it from the rubbish heap. And it starts with the name Russell Mulcahy under the writer and producer credits.

Bait 3D
by Kimble Randall

Six months ago a lifeguard named Rory was killed by a great white shark. He was killed filling in for his friend Josh, still hungover from his bachelor party. Josh was engaged to Rory's sister Tina, but Rory's gruesome death put a damper on that. Josh has been living in self-imposed social exile ever since. Hearing news of a big storm headed toward the little Australian town he lives in, Josh heads to his local supermarket, a sort of Sam's club thing at least a storey underground, to stock up on supplies. He shows up just in time for a few errant plot threads to meet. Jaimie, rebellious daughter of a local cop, is caught shoplifting while canoodling with her store employee boyfriend Ryan. Her dad just happens to be the first on the scene in response to the manager calling the police. Meanwhile two thugs try to hold the place up, one as a favor to the other; the rowdier of the two hoods clearly has something on his partner. Josh walks in as their robbery is interrupted by the concerned father/cop and spies Tina and her new boyfriend, back in town after spending a few months overseas. Got all that? Ok, good. Now add to that the tsunami trapping everyone inside, causing an explosion that seals the entrance and the parking garage off from the outside world and killing everyone but the relevant characters (plus a pretty bystander in her 30s, an older man and a horribly shallow younger couple and their annoying little dog). Oh, and the storm brought with it two great white sharks, one for the people stuck in the garage, and one for the people in the store.

Bait's plot is intriguing because of all the killer shark films since Jaws, I can't think of one that deals with its aquatic menace with so little flair - the human characters are trapped in a small space with sharks and they need to escape. Doesn't get much more basic than that. The sharks aren't super powered or even unusually aggressive (these being movie sharks they do a lot of jumping). They behave like real sharks, for the most part. The people they hunt are far more problematic. The leads are fine enough, though no one really ever seems all that frightened by the prospect of being eaten by a shark. The side characters run the gamut from sleepwalking to caricature. The worse of the two criminals is hammy to the utmost, the store manager appears to be speaking his lines phonetically, and the shallow couple in the parking garage occasionally beggar belief. Two things give me pause: the first is when Rory the lifegaurd is killed, it's via a needless, dumb 3D-enabled CGI shark jumping at the camera, eating the boy who seems to explode when it happens. That's by far the silliest moment in the film. What makes me question its existence, and indeed what led me to question everything I'd just seen is in the end credits.

Most horror movies end with metal songs, it's just par for the course since Dario Argento discovered power metal in the late-80s. Metal and Horror just go together. So when some fuzzy drop-tune power chords started up over the end credits I wasn't shocked. But it wasn't metal at all. It was a fairly low-key rock cover of "Mack The Knife", sung almost inaudibly by the director of the movie. Suddenly the whole film changed. One invokes Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Vile at one's peril. As a playwright, Brecht famously smashed the fourth wall and purposely made his audiences aware that they were watching theatre. This is old news. Habitual listeners to Mark Kermode's podcast will have heard him backpedal on his stance on 3D when Hugo came out - he cited it as a Brechtian alienation device and not just a gimmick as it most definitely was in the case of My Bloody Valentine or Avatar. So...is it possible that this mostly forgettable shark movie made for almost no money was trying to have it both ways? Was the gimmick the point? And not just "here's some shit thrown at your face cause it's 3D." I mean did these guys make a 3D film because they wanted to make audiences aware of the fact that they were watching a movie in the 21st century with all the artifice that entails, and then did they throw a bunch of shit at your face? What a strange ambition for a horror film almost no one will actually see in the 3D they shot it in. There's a reason I don't have a problem believing that either: Russell Mulcahy. He was the film's producer and was going to direct it until his duties directing MTV's Teen Wolf reboot monopolized his time. Mulcahy was the reason I wanted to watch this film. When I thought he was directing, this became the film I wanted to see more than anything else in production. He'd tangoed with giant predators once before in his debut feature Razorback, one of my favourite films of all time, on which more in a moment. Even though his stamp is far less evident, its clear his fingerprints are all over Bait. There's the location - the store and garage are designed and lit to take advantage of 3D's light loss - I watched it in 2D (I had no choice) and almost felt like it'd be more frightening 30% darker. Randall may or may not have much of a way with actors (the Brecht conundrum), but he's a decent composer of shots and a few images are absolutely breathtaking. When they first discover the shark in the store, he cavalierly, languidly swims between the two aisles that the stranded shoppers are stuck atop. It's terrifying simply because it looks like a real shark and may well have been. It's so rare that the animals in movies get to be themselves and show off how terrifying they are when not on the hunt. A wolf is scary no matter what posture it assumes. So seeing a shark swim as if indifferent to the people who are afraid of it is fantastically effective. It isn't hiding, it isn't showing off its teeth or size, it's just there. Similarly, in the garage, the shallow couple are trapped in their BMW and can only talk to Ryan by sticking their head out of the sunroof. First of all, that's a great, frightening idea. Secondly, Randall here scores the best shot of the film as we see the shape of the shark illuminated underwater by the car's dim headlights. Its positively chilling, even more so than when the shark starts attacking their windows a few minutes later. Later when the shoppers realize that a frayed wire will electrocute them if the rising water reaches its sparking end, they realize they have to shut off the store's power, which means swimming to the manager's office. Their solution is to put Tina's boyfriend in a suit made of metal wiring, weighted down by paint cans. On its face it looks positively ludicrous and I start humming "Alabama Song" just thinking about it. But it also...kinda makes sense. And it leads to the film's first actually effecting scene. Randall also scores points by not bludgeoning us with the resonance, either. There's a fatalistic attitude towards its outcome; the story dictates that it must happen, yet its no less tragic for its necessity. If anything it adds to it. Slyly, quietly, Randall and Mulcahy are playing with convention. When Josh gets a big action hero moment at the end of the film, it feels and looks stupid, but I can't help feeling like that's the point. It's a shark film as directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder in the early 60s.

Casting gorgeous Xavier Samuel as Josh also feels a bit like a stunt (Fassbinder would have approved) - the boy had just starred in a Twilight film after all (David Slade calls him Excalibur). Rounding out the cast are two alumni from the offensively terrible Tomorrow When The World Began, Australia's answer to both Twilight and Red Dawn. Phoebe Tonkin is, shockingly, actually very likable in Bait, and I had a hard time believing she was the same girl whose annoying voice-over runs throughout Tomorrow. Lincoln Lewis doesn't exactly stretch himself, but neither Randall nor Stuart Beattie ask much of him. And anyway Randall probably asked him to go broad because the whole thing is clearly supposed to remind you that you're watching a movie. I'm choosing to take it as a good sign that I don't know whether that works or not. At the end of the day, I liked Bait, warts and all, because of its minimal stylistic victories and the fact that I wanted Samuel's hero to do the right thing and save everyone. And I know part of my acceptance of the film, which I imagine won't win many other people with its limited charms, is because I want Russell Mulcahy back. He hadn't touched a real horror film since he first tried his hand at feature filmmaking in 84. And that friends is what I really want to talk to you about. Why do I think that Bait is smarter than it appears? Because Razorback is one of the smartest horror films of the VHS era. For years it was only available in that delightful analog format; a Warner Brothers DVD has I believe recently gone out of print, putting it in limbo once again. I read about it in an encyclopedia of horror films that also introduced me to the likes of Basketcase and The Hills Have Eyes back when I was no older than 9 or 10. A horror film about a giant warthog? "Put it in my brain!" I said. So I found it at the now defunct Hollywood Video a minute or two from my house and watched it with two likeminded friends. Though I was so overwhelmed by its peculiarities that I didn't notice how strange the film was (at 10 I admit to not having quite as keen an insight into film technique as I enjoy today) outside of the obvious, Razorback stayed with me. We quoted it endlessly to each other until the end of sixth grade when our going to separate high schools intervened. For my father's birthday six years ago I bought a VHS copy on Ebay before it made it to DVD. When my VCR died, I found a rip online that I watch from time to time just because any seven seconds of the film is so full of vitality and verve that it's like a shot of cinematic espresso. Razorback may not frighten everyone, but it is completely unique.

Razorback
by Russell Mulcahy

Beth Winters is a newly pregnant investigative journalist sent to the town of Gamulla, Australia to look into illegal hunting and the resultant meat industry. The locals are understandably tight-lipped. Not only is she a fiercely independent American woman (one of three female characters that I remember seeing in the entire film), she's an interloper out to expose some of the locals as immoral crooks. Benny and Dicko Baker, two of the most loathsome yahoos ever portrayed on screen (good luck getting the sound of their laughter out of your head. They're like two different kinds of rusty hinge!), work for Petpak, a processing plant, and take a particular interest in her activity. Beth wants nothing to do with the two hillbillies, except possibly to catch them with their pants down, for which she'll pay a price. For now though she's more intrigued by Jake Cullen, a grizzled old man who hunts boar for fun. "Something about blasting the shit out of a razorback brightens my whole day" he offers in explanation for his hunting habits. Beth makes the mistake of going out to Petpak with her camera to steal images of the gruesome goings on and is followed back to civilization by Benny and Dicko in their gigantic truck (somewhere Max Rockatansky's mechanic is calling his lawyer). They run her off the road and drag her out of her car. If her body were ever found, the authorities would have a hard time proving the two men molested her. Before Dicko can get his pants off, something far worse than two horny yokels shows up.

A few weeks later, Beth's husband Carl shows up in Gamulla looking for clues as to his pregnant wife's disappearance. He finds Jake Cullen, who spends more time talking about razorbacks than anything else - his young grandson was killed by one and he took the blame in the community even if there wasn't enough evidence for a conviction. Jake suspects that the Volkswagon Eurovan-sized warthog that killed his grandson and permanently crippled him is responsible for Beth Winters' death as well but he doesn't come out and say it in front of poor Carl, who is understandably going to be put off by that theory while in the throes of loss that Cullen himself knows so much about. Winters suspects foul play on four legs, alright, but is convinced they belong to Benny and Dicko. He goes to meet them and pretends to be a canadian looking for work. They take him right in and show him their hospitality (like the denizens of The Yabba before them). In the middle of the night they wake him to go kangaroo hunting - this doesn't go well. When Dicko shoots one of the poor creatures but doesn't kill it (suffering makes the meat better, don't you know?), Carl pukes everywhere, steals one of their knives and goes to finish the poor thing himself. The brothers don't fancy bringing a greenhorn out on their hunt, so they leave him with a blanket and go off to finish by themselves, promising to come back in five or six hours. That's all well and good until the freezing night starts to nip at the American's heels and then a bunch of angry sounding warthogs show up. He climbs the first thing he finds, a creaky old windmill, and belts himself to it to keep himself up there as he tries to sleep.

When Winters wakes up, he's so terrified and in such poor shape that he won't leave the lake the windmill falls in once he learns the pigs can't swim. When hunger and thirst kick in and the hogs wander off, he sets off on at least a day-long (if not longer) trek to get to Sarah Cameron's house. She's a local wildlife expert, tracking, studying and caring for just about every creature in Gamulla. Screenwriter Everett De Roche thankfully gives her none of the hallmarks of this kind of character - she isn't even as intense as Matt Hooper. She's independent and mannered and happens to be good friends with Jake Cullen (she was riding shotgun when he encountered Beth Winters). She's also played by the impossibly cute and much missed Arkie Whiteley at the absolute pinnacle of her adorability, so, yeah, I'd head to her house too if I was stranded in her neck of the woods. She nurses him back to health while Cullen goes off in search of the sight of Carl's encounter with the hostile pigs. Cullen finds the big bad motherfucker, alright, but runs out of bullets before he can kill him - he does, however, manage to get one of Sarah's tracking darts in him. He also finds Beth's wedding ring. Thus the two men make decisions: that night, with his signal locked, Cullen goes out once again, this time to kill the beast once and for all. Carl for his part decides to go home to the states and try rebuilding his life. Benny and Dicko have other plans. They overhear that Jake has evidence about the fate of Beth Winters and think he's likely to turn them in for their involvement. So they find him and further hobble him in the middle of the night. Jake sends his dog out for help, but they kill the poor thing when they see it on the road. So when the razorback shows up for a proper showdown, it goes decidedly less well for Jake than he'd hoped all these years. This leaves only Sarah and Carl in any shape to do anything about the two murderous meatpackers and the giant boar they now know beyond a shadow of a doubt is lurking nearby.

 It's clear from the first seconds of Razorback that this is a superior film - something wilder, more angular and stylish than nearly anyone in the genre game was attempting. Interrupting the first few credits is the image and sound of a windmill working at impossible intensity. The image is a familiar one - no one would be shocked to learn of Mulcahy's pedigree shooting music videos. Indeed he sort of coined the form when he shot the piece for "Video Killed The Radio Star" by the Bugles. The windmill's sound is huge; deliberately overpowering. Then we see the outback, we know that's where we are because of the kangaroo in the foreground - we're less sure about the red skies that corrupt the rest of the frame. Not even the Road Warrior himself rode under skies this gorgeously oppressive. Then we pan behind the figure of Bill Kerr's soon-to-be-disgruntled hunter. The orange sky and the motion of the camera strongly suggest Apocalypse Now - the synth score does too. Moments later Kerr puts his grandson to bed and starts hearing the sounds. Grunting, squealing, but the music tells us there's menace in these otherwise innocuous sounds. He steps outside and the thing that drew his attention, the boar, breaks through his paremeter fence then tusks the man's leg, destroys his house and carries off his baby grandson into the night. The boar is obviously an effect, footage of a proper animal shot in perspective mixed with an unmoving prop shuttled through the set on wheels. This is deliberate. When they gave Steven Spielberg a shark that didn't work, he hid it. When they gave the same thing to Mulcahy, the young punk made its fakeness an asset, sending it hurtling through his set at top speeds. It's not real, clearly, but that doesn't stop it from destroying a house and eating a baby. The lighting and sound design sell it even as we're more than aware that it shouldn't work. Kerr's reaction helps in no small part. When he discovers his lost charge, he wanders into the yard and falls to his knees screaming in agony to the heavens when the titles eat the rest of the frame. Whatever else is true of the film, I can bet that you've never seen anything quite like this. This is the monster movie to end all monster movies.

The editing is relentless, somewhere between Eisenstein, Dawn of the Dead's apartment seige and Richard Lester. The compositions and camera movements reference seemingly every monster/horror film that had come before it, not to mention most major australian productions; Mulcahy's entre into the world of big budget filmmaking was by all means a hopeless assignment, so he takes down the likes of The Race For the Yankee Zephyr, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Gallipoli Wake In Fright, Patrick, The Last Wave, The Survivor, Walkabout, Stone, The Cars That Ate Paris and Long Weekend while he was at it. It's an upstart move, saying in essence "You loved all this shit, so, I'm sorry, but you're just going to have to endure this movie." He also anticipated The Coca-Cola Kid, but I'd believe that was a coincidence if anyone told me otherwise. If the powers that be wanted him to play in the mud like Brian Trenchard-Smith and Rod Hardy, then he was going to outdo everyone in the game All the visual cues you recognize from those movies? That's Mulcahy saying "Yes, everything you've ever been told about this fucking country is 100% true. Animals roam freely in our houses, homeless natives hang out nearby, we drink constantly, murder those we don't care for, hunt kangaroos, tell off-color jokes, drive Road Warrior trucks and those who can't afford them ride camels." As if that weren't enough, he was also going to take the various styles shown in the likes of Next of Kin, Patrick and Picnic at Hanging Rock and outdo them all! No shot would be wasted, no lighting set-up half-assed, no sound cue unaltered. He was going to out-stylize Richard Franklin, Peter Weir, Colin Eggleston and George Miller in one go. And at the risk of deifying a man who has yet to live up to the promise of his debut, I say he more than achieves this feat. He may never have put all his energy to good use again but then how could anyone hope to recreate the success of a film like this? It shouldn't work (and as evidenced by Highlander, it wouldn't under any other circumstances), as he appears to try literally every flourish and trick that he was ever taught, but it absolutely does. Frankly any gimmicky approach you tried but straight-forward could only elevate the material (is there a sillier premise for a horror film, even in Australia where no premise was too outlandish, than a giant pig eating people?) so when Mulcahy decides that every single object would have a big-ass light source illuminating it, that every single scene would contain something completely unreal and/or nightmarish, that every single character would be a stereotype that he was deconstructing as rapidly as he was building, he was making a judgment call - love or hate the film but you would never forget it once you saw it. Just look at his version of New York that we glimpse for seven seconds; it's the same city that Jonathan Demme would capture in Something Wild two years later: Outsized and silly. Who in their right mind would choose to show a black man with a ghetto blaster on a street corner rife with old-fashioned taxis instead of just the goddamn Empire state building? It's the most recognizable landmark in the world and it certainly would have been in keeping with his purposely-tourist's eye view of the outback - kangaroos, aborigines, drinking. But he was after caricature. And though much of the film is stereotypical in microcosm, he frames and presents them so that you aren't ever sure what you've just seen. "Was that a guy with a ghetto blaster? Was that a car hanging from a baobab tree?" His goal is to both toe the line of Australia as a hellhole as propagated by most accounts of the place in pop culture (not to mention shoe-horning wombats, pigs, camels and other animals into as many shots as possible) and then make it seem far, far worse. This film was his ticket out of the outback and he's never gone back (except, hilariously enough, to remake the nearly perfect, but geographically/culturally inaccurate On The Beach for TV with Armand Assante taking over for Gregory Peck). He's also never made a film that works since.

Mulcahy is exclusively the reason the movie works as well as it does. Obviously the edit helps him greatly, but without his compositions, his bug-eyed imagery and the way he handles the creature, the film would simply not work. Despite being, like Ted Kotcheff before him, an expat, scriptwriter Everett De Roche was the Outback's answer to Dardano Sacchetti and had written a handful of the country's most beloved grindhouse films; there was almost nothing he didn't try at some point. Watching Mark Hartley's fantastic documentary Not Quite Hollywood! you could get the impression that unless Peter Weir was in town, De Roche was in some way responsible for any given Aussie horror film. That's not true, but I will say it's a damn good thing he got directors as game and skilled as Richard Franklin and Mulcahy because his insane ideas would have destroyed less capable and fearless hands. I'm not even sure that George Miller, no slouch, but with no distinct visual style from film to film, would have survived a De Roche genre exercise. In the B-picture game Franklin was Mulcahy's only serious stylistic competition until he made Psycho II and discovered his wacky sense of humour which put him in closer proximity to Philippe Mora and Trenchard-Smith. Watch Link sometime to see why he never quite made it to the big leagues. But between Patrick and Road Games you can see a fantastic talent stealing bits of Hitchcock to craft taught, unnerving thrillers from laughable De Roche premises. Arch Nicholson, Mulcahy's second unit director, comes a close second with Fortress and Dark Age proving almost as grim and stunning as Razorback. Nicholson died shortly after completing Dark Age so we'll never know if he would prove capable of sustaining his vision. In that time and in the studio system everyone seemed to be clamouring to be part of, chances are slim. Mulcahy sure couldn't. But for one film he was king of the fucking world. Even if no one knew it. 

Understandably what producers seized on was his ability to capture mood and so a stream of truly horrible action films like the first two Highlander movies, The Shadow, Silent Trigger, Blue Ice, Ricochet, The Real McCoy, The Scorpion King: Rise of a Warrior and as we've already seen, Resident Evil: Extinction, a film which utilized almost none of his strengths, were in his future whenever he wasn't collecting money directing music videos and TV. Rarely has a director with such a thorough understanding of cinematic convention, not to mention technique, squandered his gifts quite so splendidly. Not until Greg Mclean would Australia see a talent as cunning and ferocious arrive sui generis to reinvent the possible in the midst of an over-saturated generic landscape whose well had run completely dry. Mclean's Wolf Creek had just as much as style and beauty as Razorback, despite being twice as bleak. His follow-up, Rogue, is the Eaten Alive to Wolf Creek's Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but it still gives me far more hope for Mclean's future than if he'd made Highlander (for instance I'm worried about Andrew Traucki, who last I heard was planning a thing about spaceship racing that I hope someone convinced him to table). Rogue and Wolf Creek are just as knowing as Razorback and between them capture the earlier film's sensibility, but even Mclean doesn't have the Godardian sense of deconstruction and anarchy that Mulcahy favored. Razorback is a film completely alone in its use of popular style and convention; a horror film about horror films.

The images and individual sequences are first-rate, unmatchable. The film's centrepiece is also its high-point: Carl's trek through the desert. The attack on petpak during the finale has been compared in the past to Alien, and I'd add Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Blood and Black Lace and Blade Runner to that and it certainly is both thrilling and mesmerizing. But the desert trek is Mulcahy painting with his camera. Every new tableau Carl wanders into is distinct from the last, some looking like the hyberborian wastes of Conan the Barbarian (by either John Milius or Frank Frazetta), others like Salvador Dali. In one he wanders under a blaring red sun and just to his right is a crack in the earth that looks like the edge of a film strip. The peculiar fuzziness these shots acquire in VHS format makes them seem even stranger, like they were spliced in by accident. Their progression only makes them even more post-modern and strange: Winters passes a dead horse arranged like a scarecrow then walks for most of a day, then suddenly he's back at the horse. As he crafts shoes out of scraps of his clothing, the horse breaks out of the ground to attack him. When he runs away, it's back where we first saw it, except now its nodding and laughing at him like a jack-in-the-box. The film's best scare and one of its most indelible images is clear evidence that Razorback is about the genre as much as anything. After waking from his walkabout in Sarah Cameron's guest bed, he sees her sitting on the edge of the bed. He gingerly lifts one hand to tap her shoulder and when she turns around, her face is replaced with that of an angry looking pig, squealing maniacally. We've all seen this scare before. How many times did Freddie Kruger or some other bogeyman or demon hide behind something ordinary. This is Razorback's version of the bathroom mirror scare or of Jason Voorhees/Carrie White's dream sequence coups de grâce. Again, it shouldn't work: is anyone frightened on paper of a warthog? Well first of all it's some kind of grotesque halloween mask, exaggerated and covered in hair. Second of all, it's so sudden that it could have been anything and worked. Then you have a moment where you realize you were frightened by a pig. This is his game. He will get you afraid or repulsed by his monster if its the last thing he does. Killing Beth Winters the way he does is pretty genius. Suddenly there's the whole fucking thing staring at her just outside her car window. Then it yanks the door off and begins eating her feet. Like the rest of the film, it'd be preposterous if it weren't so horrifying. Oh, and that line about blasting the shit out of a Razorback that Jake Cullen gives Beth Winters? That's this film's "We're gonna need a bigger boat."

Now the plot mechanics, I suppose, can only be attributed to De Roche and the source novel he drew from (which...who the christ thought this would make a good book?). But I'm going to give credit to Mulcahy for playing up the dynamics he does so well. Thanks to Jake Cullen's stoic single-minded pursuit of the beast, and Carl Winters' pregnant wife backstory, Razorback is both a pastiche/homage to Jaws, the film that started the mother nature's revenge film cycle once more and made it personal rather than epidemic, The White Buffalo, the most peculiar of Dino De Laurentiis' Moby Dick/Jaws riffs, and Orca, the Dino's Jaws rip-off that gave its antagonist not just a backstory but human emotions as well. Now the pig in Razorback's only real breaks from reality are its existence, its laying low between attacks and its only ever killing plot-specific characters; No Alex Kintner is sacrificed to this monster. He's not greedy. He just wants to set forth the chain of events that will lead to his demise. Fatalistic in a way that not even de Laurentiis' tragic orca whale managed. He doesn't have emotions and Mulcahy frames him like a phantom, almost like Michael Myers. The moments where we glimpse him in profile on the horizon are fucking priceless. His existence is never less than galling, but it's never played for laughs. If any other actor but Bill Kerr dropped to his knees and screamed to the heavens (three separate times, no fucking less), as action heroes always seem to, it wouldn't work, but Mulcahy knows that it will. Every convention is in play and delivered with a straight face - you accept it in literally every other situation, so why not a giant warthog? After all far more care went into this monster than anything in Frogs or Day of the Animals.  This is fourth wall breaking of the highest order; so good that its seamless. And the pace makes it impossible to stop and ask questions. Everyone on screen buys it, and so, too, do you, by the end.

So when Bait 3D opens with a cartoony looking shark jumping out of the ocean to eat someone, could it possibly be writer/producer Russell Mulcahy literally jumping the shark? That's the story I'm going with. As in Razorback, there are moments of real terror nestled in the stealth commentary about the decline of the genre. It's not as compelling as Razorback because you can only get it that right once. Perhaps the reason he's never done a horror film as well is because he said everything he needed to. After you've dissected the genre, what can you do but try to put it back together?

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