Movies reviewed this week: X, Cat People, Spider, Pandorum, Creature from Black Lake, and Village of the Damned.
10/4/2022: X (2022): **1/2
Ultimately nah. There’s this big whacking chunk of backstory that might help a ton but it’s all buried in the prequel. As is, all we know about the killer is that she’s starved for physical attention and that’s a bit dull for me.
Ti West is nonetheless a phenomal director and I’m looking forward to The House of the Devil a lot.
Prompt: watch five films by Ti West (et al)
10/6/2022: Cat People (1942): ****
I’d give a lot to know if Tourneur and Lawton were intentionally telling the story that lurks in these shadows. Probably; they were both, to at least a degree, outsiders.
So the scene at the wedding is both the supernatural making itself present and the young immigrant being horrified that she hasn’t integrated enough. And, yeah, ultimately she isn’t American enough for that scumbag Oliver.
And even at the surface level, purely as a suspenseful supernatural thriller, it’s a great movie. Just oozes craftsmanship.
Prompt: see a film from 8 decades (1940s)
10/7/2022: Spider (2002): ****1/2
I think that Cronenberg’s louder movies often obscure what an incredible craftsman he is. Then he comes along and turns out something like this and it’s easier for some to let it fall into the Cronenberg bucket: a chilly movie about the extremes of human experience, yet again.
I am drifting into critique of critique here. Here’s what I think: this is a brilliant experimental film in which Cronenberg casts aside narrative for the sake of providing a better view of Dennis Cleg’s psyche. It is a terrible place, traumatized by years of avoiding truths that are too hard to bear. That he shouldn’t have to bear.
Everything is closeups; everything is claustrophobic. The cuts between Cleg’s memory and his current reality are just mirrored enough to show us how Cleg’s brain slips from past to present without being so identical as to be laughable. Ralph Fiennes goes deep into his character, and Miranda Richardson more than holds up her end(s). Richardson, man, what a performance. Fiennes just has to be the insane man, but Richardson has to show us what he’s seeing.
It’s full of empathy. You feel for young Cleg and you feel for Fiennes’ Cleg, no matter what their schizophrenia might bring them to. I know Cronenberg always seems detached; I sense that too. But he also finds a way to makes us feel what his characters feel.
Easily one of my top five Cronenberg movies.
Prompt: watch five films by David Cronenberg (et al.)
10/8/2022: Pandorum (2009): **
Over enthusiastic use of the idiot stick. Wildly optimistic theories about surviving on new planets. Weird over-acting. Kickboxing farmers. Overly dark and chaotic action sequences. Good set design.
Prompt: watch a film from 8 decades (2000s)
10/8/2022: Creature from Black Lake (1976): ***
I was surprised at how watchable this was. It’s not all that scary but it’s charming as anything: the leads have some chemistry, and since it was made in Louisiana by Southerners there’s no particular condescension towards the locals. If you’ve always wanted to watch a version of The Blair Witch Project where the investigators get along and things don’t wind up horribly wrong, plus not found footage — I’m extending the metaphor too far, aren’t I? But you get the idea.
There shoulda been a series of movies about these guys.
Prompt: watch five films from Joy N. Houck Jr. (et al.)
10/9/2022: Village of the Damned (1995): ***1/2
John Carpenter is so reliable. It’s a bit rocky tonally as we shift from the ominous mystery of the first third to the overt menace of the kids, but both chunks of the movie work well on their own. The psychic imagery is particularly great, especially in the final scene, especially in conjunction with that little girl’s face.
You don’t often see a Carpenter movie with as much female perspective as this, either, so that was pretty interesting.
This is also a nostalgia trip for me, as we used to spend time bumming around the Point Reyes area where this was filmed. When we saw that early shot of the dock: “We’ve been there!”
Christopher Reeves isn’t at his best in this, but he’s giving it appropriate amounts of anguished glances. Kirstie Alley might actually have peaked here. Mark Hamill is lots of fun in a role that allows him to be just part of the cast.
Prompt: watch a film from 8 different decades (1990s)