Don’t Look Now (1973)

Movie Blurb

Dont look now poster

Don’t Look Now, directed by Nicholas Roeg falls squarely into the supernatural thriller category. It has made a lot of best horror film of all times lists. I saw it when it first came out and was suitably impressed. On my second viewing, most recently, I was not disappointed. I was surprised at how much I forgot, but what I remembered most was the emotional impact and eerie feeling it elicited from me. And, of course, the infamous sex scene between the stars, Donald Sutherland Julie Christie. The movie takes place in Venice, a beautiful city, but this Venice is dark and sinister. The photography and editing is superb, cross cutting from image to image and making transitions and connections that advance the dramatic arc of the story. It won the BAFTA 1974 award for Best Cinematography. Highly Recommended!

Dont Look Now

Dont look now 2

Dont look now sex sceneDont look now 3

Suspiria (2018) Movie Review

Suspiria 2

Not really a horror fan but every once in a while one will catch my fancy. Suspiria (2018) is just such a film. It is, I would say, a notch above the rest. Maybe two notches. It has everything going for it. Great writing, directing, acting, music, dance, costuming, art direction, and social consciousness. It has been described as an extraordinary work of art, grotesque, and savagely beautiful. Others have called it pretentious drivel. But, hey, it’s horror film. What do you want? At least it’s very artsy drivel!

Directed by Luca Guadagnino, it is a reimagined version of the original Suspiria (1977), a horror film cult classic, directed by Dario Argentento, which I must say I haven’t as yet seen, but I plan too as soon as possible. This version, at 152 minutes, is 54 minutes longer than the original. So, it is not only reimagined it is also greatly expanded as well. Coming in at just under three hours is pretty long for a movie, but I must confess, I didn’t notice it at all, as I was totally engrossed for the entire time.

Suspiria

The setting of the film is in divided Berlin in 1977, when the Baader-Meinhof Group was perpetrating terrorist acts all over the city. Rain drenched Berlin and the memory of the Third Reich hang over the Markos Dance Academy which is ruled by artistic director Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) and the grand dame Helena Markos. Patricia, a young student at the academy is convinced that the place is being run by a coven of witches. She tries to convince her psychoanalyst, Dr. Klemperer, who thinks she is delusional and so writes in his notebook. She disappears. Another dancer, Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) arrives on the scene fresh off a farm in Ohio. She auditions for a place in the Academy and greatly impresses Madame Blanc who immediately slates her as lead performer in her masterwork, “Volk.” During her audition, another dancer (Olga) who stormed out over a disagreement is trapped on a floor below in a mirrored rehearsal hall and is banged around and contorted with each dance move Susie makes until she is a pile of broken bones and a puddle of urine and saliva. One of the more horrible set pieces.

Dakota

This film is a feminist manifesto after a fashion about the empowerment of women. Other than the two cops who are sent to investigate the disappearance of Patricia, there are no other male actors in the movie, Lutz Ebersdorf not withstanding. If you are not in on the joke, I won’t spoil it for you here. The women cast a spell on the detectives and humiliate them unsparingly while at the Academy, then wipe their memories once they return to the station.

Thom Yorke from Radiohead provides a hauntingly throbbing soundtrack to the horror which accompanies the dance routines. The film incorporates stylized dance sequences choreographed by Damien Jalet. Volk is a dance created at the Academy that featured Blanc in the original role of the protagonist, the part Susie was auditioning for when she turned Olga into a human pretzel earlier in the film. And it’s actually based on a performance Jalet choreographed in 2013, called Les Meduses, that was staged at the Louvre.

The title of the film Suspiria, means sigh, as in the sighing of pain, or suffering.

Tilda Swinton alone is cause enough to want to see this remarkable film. She plays three characters each of which represents an aspect of the human psyche – the id, the ego, and the superego.

Tilda

This movie is not for everyone. Not for the squeamish nor the faint of heart. But if you like a good horror show, one that makes you think, and is well crafted, and beautiful to look at and listen to, then I recommend Suspiria.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Movie Review

Killing Deer 1

The Killing of a Sacred Deer, written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, is the brilliant evocation of an American horror story. It was definitely the most disturbing film that I saw in 2017 and yet it made my Top 10 List.

I didn’t know what to expect when I started watching this film and I was slowly drawn into the seeming banality of the of the characters. The movie opens with a scene of open heart surgery performed by Stephen Murphy (Colin Farrell) which is nothing less than spectacular. This was a real surgery. It was filmed during an operation on a real patient who was undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

heart

In a subsequent scene early on in the film we see the famed heart surgeon making friends with a young man. We don’t know exactly why or who this young man is. Is he a family member? A friend? A neighbor? A little at a time the story unfolds and we learn that the boy’s father was a patient of the heart surgeon and that the father died on the operating table. We surmise that the doctor feels badly about the boy losing his father and he is making friends with him in some sort of an attempt to appease the boy and possibly mollify his own feelings of guilt.

Sacred deer

Colin Farrell and Barry Keoghan

Slowly they form an emotional bond and the doctor invites the boy over to meet his family. Everything seems to be normal at first but there is a creepy feeling that something just below the surface is not right.

Spoilers ahead

Martin befriends the children and forms an emotional attachment to Kim, the daughter.  Before long a mysterious illness befalls both children and they lose the use of their legs. We learn later that somehow Martin has caused this illness to occur. He then makes a crucial demand upon Stephen in order to save their lives. It seems Martin blames the death of his father on Stephen. Martin demands that a sacrifice must be made in order to set things right. Stephen must make a horrible choice as to who in the family to sacrifice.

sacred deer 2

Nicole Kidman with the two children played by Sonny Suljic and Raffey Cassidy

This is where the killing of  deer comes into play. The movie is loosely based on the myth of Iphigenia. In Greek mythology Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon, was to be sacrificed for the sins of her father. He had killed a sacred deer belonging to Artemis. The goddess demanded in retribution that Agamemnon kill his daughter Iphigenia.

There are other disturbing aspects to this film There is a strange sexuality that exists between the doctor and his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman). Also, Anna has a sexual interlude with the anesthesiologist who was on duty on the day that Martin’s father died. This she did in order to get information from him about her husband’s condition on the day of  the fateful surgery.

nicole kidman

The scenes in film were  shot in a manner to put one in mind of a series of Edward Hopper paintings. Which is to say they carried with them an emotional weight and a strange beauty.

Nicole Kidman was in fine form here as Anna, the doctor’s wife. Is there anything she can’t do? Colin Farrell was very good as Stephen Murphy, the surgeon and Barry Keoghan was sufficiently strange and creepy as Martin.

I liked this film but it is not for everyone. It was extremely disturbing and strangely cathartic.

 

THE SHAPE OF WATER

 Movie Review

Shape water 1

“Unable to perceive the shape of You, I find You all around me. Your presence fills my eyes with Your love, It humbles my heart, For You are everywhere.”

That line from an unknown poem pretty well defines the movie, The Shape of Water.

Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water is pure movie magic. It is hard to peg exactly where this genre movie falls, but since del Toro was heavily influenced by Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)I’ll start there. This movie is much more than just a horror film. It is a period piece, a romantic thriller, and a spy movie, all wrapped into one. It explores the timeless themes of loneliness, alienation, isolation, being different from others in an intolerant society, and yes, falling in love with the other.

shape water 2

Sally Hawkins as Elisa Esposito

Sally Hawkins plays disaffected and lonely janitor Elisa Esposito. She works at a Aerospace research facility in Baltimore with her friend Zelda, (Octavia Spencer). Elisa is mute and communicates with the world in signs. The time is 1962 at the height of the cold war. Sometime while working her shift a specimen is brought into the lab that had been captured in the Amazon and is worshiped by the natives as a god.  The creature is described by the military as the “asset.”

shape water 4

This asset is a humanoid type creature that Elisa is able to befriend. She discovers that he is intelligent and communicates with him in sign language.  They develop quite a relationship together. When the creature becomes endangered Elisa plots to set him free in a rain canal in Baltimore. But first she smuggles him out of the facility and into her small apartment where she keeps him in her bathtub. While there they fall in love.

The creature has a curious way of glowing in blue colors when stimulated and is a marvel to watch.

shape 5

Spoilers ahead:  The military, in the form of Colonel Richard Strickland, is hot on their trail. He gets to the canal just as the creature is about to make his escape. Strickland shoots both the creature and Elisa. Miraculously the creature is able to heal himself of the gunshot wounds (he is a god after all) and also to heal Elisa. He grabs her up and leaps into the canal. He gives her gills so that she may breathe underwater and presumably they are able to live happily ever after.

shap 6

I just loved this movie. This is why you go to the movies. You keep going to see movie after movie, hoping you will see one that you can connect with, hoping to see a movie as good as the best movie you ever saw, wanting to hit that high mark one more time, but seldom ever making it. This is Guillermo del Toro’s love letter to Hollywood and he has copied it to the rest of us. It is genius.

The Shape of Water jumps to the top of my Best Movies of the Year list for 2017. I give it a 10/10. The only other movie that I rated that high this year was Blade Runner 2049. I am not sure which one will get the top slot, but I have to admit, I am a sucker for a good loves story.

Alien: Covenant (2017)

Movie Review

danils

The spaceship Covenant is on its way to a distant planet carrying as its cargo 2000 humans and embryos frozen in a state of suspended animation. The purpose of the trip is colonization. On the way an accident occurs which endangers the mission and creates a devastating loss of life. While repairing the ship a signal is encountered that causes the crew to chart a new course to investigate the source.

Alien Covenant picks up 10 years after Prometheus leaves off. Covenant hasn’t garnered many very good reviews, mixed I’d have to say, and I think I know why.  Most sophisticated movie goers who love movies usually don’t like sequels and prequels. I must admit I don’t either. So Covenant automatically loses points just for that. But come on, this is Alien, and it’s Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, so I am willing to cut it some slack. I love science fiction and I love horror films, there just aren’t too many good ones out there. So happens Alien is one of my favorite all time science fiction flicks and so is Blade Runner. Both Ridley Scott enterprises.

Now, back to the movie. I don’t often go to the movies for my philosophy. I usually go to philosophers for that, like Wittgenstein or Sartre. It’s nice if there is an element of philosophy in the movie, especially if it’s science fiction. But I am not going to get all worked up if it doesn’t deliver. The philosophy is only as good as the writer and there aren’t that many Philip K. Dicks or Issac Asimovs out there.  In science fiction horror films what you want and come to expect are  science fiction theories and horror film tropes. That’s what you get in Alien, and with Ridley Scott you get the best.  No one does it better.

With all that said, I loved this movie! The film was two hours long, but you didn’t notice as the time flew by. The aliens were scary and the atmosphere was dripping with human gore imbued. The encounters were exciting as the creatures picked off the married crew members one by one (they were all married.) There was even an obligatory sex scene in the ship’s shower. Yes, Virginia, there is sex in deep space, where the lovely couple is joined by an unwanted intruder.

The last man standing was actually a woman, Daniels, played convincingly by Katherine Waterston. Not quite Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, but close enough. Strong female leads are a recurring theme of the Alien franchise which is a good thing. In an exciting battle with the alien on the deck of the freighter craft we are treated to not one but two climaxes : “Give a girl a hand?” Most satisfying.

Michael Fassbender plays the androids Dave and Walter in a neat bit of acting that is totally believable and uncanny . He truly runs away with the show. This is the heart of what Alien is all about and the real philosophy behind the film raising questions about creation, gods, and monsters in the fashion of Mary Shelley in Frankenstein.

While not perfect I give this film high marks. Ridley Scott remains at the top of his game. Can’t wait for Blade Runner 2049.

TITUS ANDRONICUS

20161030_161315.jpg

This is where they disposed of the bodies…..

Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare’s more out there plays. It was presented recently by Kentucky Shakespeare at a warehouse in the heart of Butchertown near downtown Louisville just in time for Halloween. How very appropriate in both cases for this was the most bloody and horror haunted of all the Bard’s pieces.

Titus was one of Shakespeare’s early plays and written when he was quite young. It is not one of his best plays but it is certainly one of his goriest. Perfect for the October Country and very fitting fare for Halloween.

Director Matt Wallace gives us plenty of atmosphere by staging the play in an abandoned warehouse with with dark interiors, concrete floors, exposed pipes, and plenty of fog. Lighting  was from utility lamps pressed into service. The play is set in set in ancient Rome but the warehouse space and the costuming of the actors give the play the right horror haunted feel. Just right for torture and mayhem. The cast was dressed in black leather and Tamora, Queen of the Goths, was appropriately outfitted in a black leather corset suitable to her name.

Harold Bloom has called this play a testimony to patriarchy’s ultimate oppression of its females. In an act of revenge, Lavinia, Titus’s daughter, is savagely raped by Tamora’s sons, Demetius and Chiron. Tamora says to them, “…when you have the honey of your desire, let not this wasp outlive, us both to sting.” After raping Lavinia the boys cut out her tongue and slice off both her hands so that she cannot identify them.

titus-jumbo

Later Titus continues the cycle of revenge by killing both of Tamora’s sons by cutting their throats. He drains their blood and bakes their remains into a pie and then feeds the meal to Tamora unbeknownst to her. When she finds out horror ensues.

The actors were uniformly excellent and the play was as good a Shakespeare as you will see anywhere in the country. Titus Andronicus was a marvel to behold.