Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Beware!

Because it's almost October, and you should be terrified! Of ghosts and such!

Ah yes, October. What you're currently reading is my annual preamble to the month-long amble that is The Kind of Face You Slash, a project that ordinarily finds me writing about horror fiction -- stories and novels and so forth -- every single goddamn day. Ha ha, not that I don't love it! That's going to happen again this year, starting Tuesday, but this year there's a slight twist. For about half of the month, I will be doing what I always do, which is as previously described, but the other half of the month will be filled out with a roster of guest writers. The rotation will be roughly and alternating-days kind of thing, though this part I can't be certain about exactly, but in any case your takeaway should be: half me, half other folks, each of whom I'm very proud to have on board, and whose posts I think you'll greatly enjoy. There'll be bylines and stuff, even.

On top of the 31 posts vaguely outlined above, I'll be posting about any screeners I happen to have on deck, and I'll be linking to writing I've done/will be doing on other sites next month as well. So it's going to be kind of crowded around these parts, and the total number of posts could well be closer to 40 than 31.

"Dear sir!" I hear you cry. "Will any of those posts be part 9 of your Cronenberg Series? I'm pretty sure we're up to Dead Ringers by now!" Ha ha, indeed we are, gentle reader (or should I say...gentle bleeder!? (Halloween)), and I do apologize most humbly for allowing that project to take a back seat lately. Things have been all balled up at the head office, as a great man once said, and Cronenberg just kind of drifted out of reach for a while. As to whether or not it will return in October, I can't promise that, but if it doesn't, it will kick back into gear in November. I'm committed to this thing. Anyway, with Dead Ringers we're entering into a new phase in Cronenberg's career, so maybe I should have just said "We're entering a new phase in Cronenberg's career, that's why I took such a long break." You guys would've bought that, right? Fuck, I should've thought of that earlier.

BUT ANYWAY. So that's the deal on various fronts. Don't expect a new post until Tuesday, October 1, but since it's already September 25 no one would have blinked at the lack of activity. So I'm just going to shut up now, and I'll see you all on Tuesday...or should I say BOOsday!? (Halloween.)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Merciful God

The last time The Criterion Collection cast their gaze towards the films of Robert Rossellini, they wound up releasing Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy, a set of films the director made during, and shortly after, as well as about,World War II.  Two of those films, Paisan and Rome, Open City, directly led to, well, quite a lot, actually, but specifically to the films that comprise Criterion's new Rossellini set, which bears the unwieldy yet certainly accurate title 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman.  In the extensive booklet that comes with this set is included a brief correspondence between Bergman and Rossellini, Bergman's letter charmingly praising Paisan and Rome, Open City and listing her linguistic ups and downs ("If you need a Swedish actress who speaks very good English,...is not very understandable in French...") as a sort of resume in case he ever might consider casting her in something.  Rossellini's excited response was delayed, he writes, "because I wanted to make sure what I was going to propose to you."  What he goes on to propose to her is the premise behind the first film they would make together, Stromboli.  They would end up making five films together, and I'd sure like to know why the final two, Joan of Arc at the Stake and Fear, weren't included here, but we can't have everything in this life.  It sounds to me, though, like several dominant themes to be found in the films we do have in this new Criterion set -- Stromboli, Europe '51, and Journey to Italy -- such as the dissolution of marriage, sainthood, and grace, are likely to be unevenly scattered among those two as well.  Maybe not so much dissolution of marriage in Joan of Arc at the Stake, though.

In any case, 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman is nothing to sneeze at.  Plus the films included do share one thematic tie that those later films can't boast, which is "Italy."  I sound glib there, but it's something that joins these movies, and it's anything but inconsequential.  Anyway, enough of this:  the films, now, in ascending order of preference:
Journey to Italy - Of course, one of the things that Ingrid Bergman's appreciation for Rossellini's films brought about, in a very indirect sort of way, was her love affair with the director, which began while she was married to Peter Aron Lindstrom and Rossellini was married to Marcella De Marchis.  I bring this up not to traffic in sixty-year-old gossip, but to note that this bit of movie history is hard to not think about while watching any of these three films, and especially Bergman and Rossellini's third film together, Journey to Italy.  Made in 1954 and long considered one of Rossellini's signature masterpieces, Journey to Italy stars Bergman and George Sanders as a married couple who are taking a trip to Napoli after the death of Bergman's uncle, to check out, enjoy, and eventually sell a small villa she's inherited.  Very quickly -- right around the beginning of the film, in fact -- they both almost simultaneously realize that this trip is the first time they've really been alone together and the result of that intimacy is near total indifference.

So the couple drift from lazing around their property, drinking wine and napping in the afternoon, to separating and doing their own thing.  Sander's Alex goes to parties and smiles hopefully at young women, and Bergman's Katherine goes to museums to marvel at Ancient Roman sculpture, and figuratively travels even further back in time as she tours smoldering volcanic plains, inspired by the memory of an old, supposedly platonic, if only in the physical sense, departed friend.

Journey to Italy is a quietly complex piece of work as it contrasts Alex's more traditional rebellion, melancholy as it is, with Katherine's existential disappearance into time.  It's not just the past as the past that awes her, it's how the idea of the past relates to the reality of her standing before its ruins, and how her standing before those ruins relates to her husband out there doing God only knows what.  Death haunts the film, as you'd imagine given where Katherine spends her time, but in an interview included in the aforementioned booklet Rossellini scoffs at an idea expressed in the film that Italy is "a country of death."  And indeed death as it's represented in the film is, while unavoidably morbid, can be seen as a step along a path, and its remains as instructive, but not in a "don't touch that or you'll die!" kind of way.  When Alex and Katherine visit Pompeii towards the end, what they witness being uncovered by archaeologists is not a horror, though Katherine flees from it.  It could even be hopeful.  Then again, Rossellini rejects that notion, as well.  But if one day a volcanic eruption were to baked Alex and Katherine into their home, future archaeologists and tourists could take from them a certain comfort.
Europe '51 - A stylistic choice Rossellini employs in Journey to Italy that doesn't sit well with me, and never has if you must know the truth, is putting Katherine alone in a car, speaking her thoughts aloud.  As I say, I've never much liked this, not least because it kind of sends the actor in question with the monologue up the creek, because it's often without context in the sense that it doesn't branch off naturally from another scene, as a stage monologue frequently does.  Even more bluntly classical, though in a different mode, is Rossellini and Bergman's second film together, Europe '51 (from 1952, naturally).  Rossellini described this as a companion to his earlier film The Flowers of St. Francis, with the saint in this case being Bergman's wealthy Irene.  Believing herself a kind and giving mother to her son Michel (Sandro Franchina), Irene lives a social life with her husband George (Alexander Knox) that she believes is both busy and important enough to giver less and less of herself to the young boy.  After a terrible fall that may, horrifyingly, have been a suicide attempt, Irene listens to her bed-ridden son recall the warmth and love of their earlier days together as post-war refugees.  Shattered by this, and all but destroyed when Michel subsequently dies from his injuries, Irene slowly begins to shed the trappings of her comfortable life -- among the items and comforts shed is her husband -- as she slowly begins to notice Rome's downtrodden, and particularly its population of poor single mothers.

When I say Europe '51 is blunt, I mean it is in political terms; it's very much a classic social message film.  Typically in such films, at least the weaker ones, the good-hearted protagonist might as well be a saint, and it can stick in the craw to see a filmmaker's idea of the Moral Ideal spread across a movie screen telling us what we're not doing correctly.  In the case of Irene, however, Rossellini and Bergman haven't created some grotesque Christian cipher, but a real, beat up, and suffering person, whose Christian characteristics are found as much in her flaws as in anything else.  There's even something of the Passion about Europe '51, and in going that far, a film will have a hard time being subtle about it, subtlety being a frequently overrated quality anyway.  And while the middle section of the film, which finds Irene bouncing around Rome helping people (including a pre-La Strada Giuletta Masina) who badly need somebody to lend a hand, is the film at its weakest, it is, of course, that chunk that gives the strong beginning and powerful, almost Bressonian (in some ways, but I don't want to go nuts with that comparison) final stretch the context they need to work.  The kind of bluntness, found mostly in the script by Sandro De Feo, Mario Pannunzio, Ivo Perilli, and Brunello Randi, used to dramatize Irene's eye-opening shouldn't be lightly dismissed on the grounds that it's unsubtle.  I mean, it is, but in a way it's unsubtle in the way brick and mortar is, while the beauty of the architecture is found in the tragedy of the beginning, the grace of the end, and in Bergman's powerful work throughout.
Stromboli - My favorite of these three films is this one, Bergman and Rossellini's first collaboration, from 1950. Stromboli is kind of a combination of the strange complexities of Journey to Italy with the religious awakening through suffering of Europe '51.  It also contains a stunning performance from Bergman as Karin, a refugee we first meet in a prisoner of war camp as Allied forces after a new government have come in and are trying to clean out the camp and send the many prisoners from all across Europe to, if not their homes, a suitable, or anyway workable, substitute.  Because her documents and finances are not quite in order, Irene can't return home to Lithuania, but this stings less than it might as she has fallen in love with another POW, a fisherman named Antonio (Mario Vitale) who comes from a small fishing village on the Sicilian island of Stromboli.  The two marry, and Antonio takes Karin home with him.

Trouble begins almost immediately, because Karin was evidently accustomed to a life that was a bit more glamorous than would even be conceivable on the desolate, volcanic Stromboli.  To Karin, the home she shares with Antonio would pass for abandoned anywhere else, but Antonio has apparently lived their for years.  She berates Antonio for not having enough money, for dragging her here, for ruining her life.  Indeed, in the early going Karin is enormously unlikable, but she's not just some shrewish stick figure.  For one thing, Stromboli manages to ask, without actually asking, an audience who at least is able to see movies on a movie screen, a luxury alien to the citizens of Stromboli, the question "Well?  How do you think you'd like it?"  Plus Karin doesn't walk around spitting or sneering at the other villagers -- it's not a matter of her feeling superior to anyone, exactly, but a matter of her simply not being able to take it, and knowing from the beginning that she can't.

But she's still tough to like a lot of the time, as her bitterness and paranoia, fueled by her outsider status, deepen.  At one point she's walking along with the village priest (Renzo Cesana) and as they are about to pass one particular doorway, a woman ducks out to throw a bowl of dirty water into the dirt.  Some of the water apparently splashes Karin, and she asks the priest "Why would she do that to me?"  It never occurs to her that the woman couldn't have known Karin was approaching, and simply needed to get rid of the water.  The island is a place of such psychological menace that she's incapable of thinking of herself as something other than a target.

Stromboli is brutal, though, both physically and spiritually.  The casual killing of a helpless rabbit sickens and enrages Karin (I didn't care for it myself), the taunting of Antonio by other villagers leads him to beat her, and Karin even learns that periodically the entire village must take boats out to see in case the boiling over of the volcano should jump to a full-on eruption.  "See?" Antonio says as they return.  "Our house is fine."  Okay great.  Karin eventually breaks, and her actions following that break are ignoble, courageous, and hopeless, her stumbling journey across a blasted wasteland filled with a religious fervor that has about it a uniquely, even medieval texture that you don't often find...well, now you never find it, and well there you go, there's Bresson creeping in again (or there's Rossellini creeping into Bresson, as the French master's major work in this vein wouldn't begin for another year).  For her part, Bergman, as far as I can tell, is giving one of the performances of her career, and especially in the final minutes seems to be genuinely suffering.  Karin is an astonishing creation, deeply imagined and thoroughly empathized with, unlikable and selfish, by the end surrounded by smoke and screaming for mercy.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bombastic Ignoramous

"I'm less interested in pointing out ostensible flaws than I am in going where the movie takes me." - Richard Harland Smith

Well excuse me, Richard Harland Smith!

Oh, hello. As you may already be aware, today sees the release on Blu-ray of director Jean Yarbrough’s 1940 Bela Lugosi vehicle The Devil Bat, courtesy of the good people at Kino, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to give it a look. For the second time in my life, as I quickly realized -- I think it hit me that the film wasn’t new to me when Lugosi’s Dr. Paul Carruthers is on the phone, warmly speculating that the family party he’s been invited to might include among its celebrations the engagement of Mary Heath (Suzanne Kaaren) to "that rascal" Don Morton (Gene O'Donnell). This is very early in the film, before, though not long before, we discover that Carruthers plans on slaughtering the apparently nice Heath and Morton families (for whom he has worked, developing new and powerful shaving lotions, and who Carruthers believes screwed him out of a fortune) with his giant mutant bats (okay, we know the bats exist), but even so that kind of sentiment coming out of the mouth of a character played by Bela Lugosi seems alien. I’m sure there are exceptions – I mean, hell, Lugosi even played a good guy now and then – but Lugosi very often played villains who, if they didn’t come by their evil naturally, had nevertheless been driven ‘round the bend long before we meet him. Contrast this with Boris Karloff, who frequently played villains whose descent we get to witness. Anyway, over the years I’ve learned not to trust Lugosi’s smiling face.

Which brings me to a few things, the first of which is sort of the key to where I want to go with this whole post. That is, the way Lugosi delivers the line about the engagement struck me, both times I’ve seen the film, as ridiculous. By which I mean, I laughed at it. Not, I don’t think, with derision, but more with a “Oh, Lugosi sure wasn’t suited for that kind of thing!” attitude. To what kind of thing? you may well ask. Happiness? An emotion we soon learn is a put on anyway. Well, get off my ass, it sounds funny the way he says it. Still, this kind of thing can infect a person, and taint how they engage with a movie, any movie, really, though I submit that horror and science fiction films of a certain vintage, and usually made for a certain budget, are the most likely to suffer at the hands of the infected. The process of watching such movies, and the early days of the revival of Ed Wood probably began the popularization of this, often seems to be one of presumption followed by a need for quick and relentless confirmation. If The Giant Claw is not bad enough, then your seventy-five minutes has just been wasted. And it naturally follows that whatever might actually be good or interesting about The Giant Claw might easily be missed because it is not why we're watching the film.

And this seems like a good time to refer back to the quote that opened this post. I know Richard, and I think of him as a friend -- how I think of him is immaterial -- and this quote, which comes from his excellent commentary track included on the Kino's The Devil Bat disc, is a more baldly-stated version of a philosophy that has been clear in his writings for Movie Morlocks and his superb yet now sadly mostly inactive blog Arbogast on Film. The philosophy, as best I can express it, is "Don't start a movie with your fists up." Or with a smirk on your face, is maybe better. This way of watching a film is not something I'm immune to. I mentioned The Giant Claw before, and I don't honestly know if there is anything good or interesting about it, because when I saw it I wasn't looking (that bird is something else, though). I mean, it can be a great deal of fun, and movies can also be a great deal of fun for all the wrong reasons. Many who lean towards the Smith/Arbogastian side of things can get so wound up about it that they're unable to enjoy Mystery Science Theater 3000, and that's not the kind of life I want for myself. But some years ago, at his blog Cinema Styles, Greg Ferrara, another friend of mine and of Richard's, hosted a blogathon, back when people did that sort of thing, called The Spirit of Ed Wood Blogathon. The idea there was not to have any illusions about Wood's talent, or to burn your leg with a hot needle any time you thought of laughing at something ridiculous in Bride of the Monster, but rather to celebrate the intent and the passion, and even the clumsiness. The Doing Of It, whatever it might finally look like. Otherwise you can find yourself not being amused by the content of an ineptly made film, but by its very existence.

And maybe it's not actually as inept as the hype, or "hype," has led you to believe. The Devil Bat, Richard strongly argues, is not inept. This being a Poverty Row production, it is cheaply made, but that's not the same thing. It was made by a crew of professionals (and by the way, a not entirely brief digression: Richard's commentary is of the "film historian" stripe also favored by your Eddie Mullers, your Tom Weavers, your Steve Habermans, and so forth, by far my favorite type, and as such is something of a juggling act between cast and crew biographies, necrologies, film analysis, and sidenotes. The connections, in a six-degrees kind of way, that Richard unearths between The Devil Bat and The Three Stooges, The Red Skelton Show, Notorious and lots of other stuff proves, if any more proof was needed, that the early days of the studio system in Hollywood was a crazy goddamn time. Richard also makes a point that might make "What was the first slasher film?" types throw up their hands in despair) who weren't delusional about what their job was in this particular instance, but tried to use their experience and imagination to make the best out of their limited budget, an admirable way of going about things that can lead to Cat People or it can lead to, well, The Devil Bat, which I do not, as it happens, like as much, or rather sincerely like as much, as Richard does. The film is structured around the deaths of the Heaths and the Mortons, so that outside of Lugosi and the the wise-cracking journalist pair (Dave O'Brien and Donald Kerr) who come in to investigate, all the characters are related, or betrothed, and yet the deaths register as nothing much at all. This heedless, ever-forward kind of filmmaking can be thrilling, but in a story like this kind of begs the audience to scoff -- it matters to no one onscreen, so why should it matter to me?

Though why is that kind of narrative base-touching all that matters? Richard, who doesn't entirely agree with me about this emotional, or emotionless, depending who you ask, facet of The Devil Bat, would argue that the baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater. And he's right. Nowadays, audiences, particularly the vocal online sort, will throw out that baby and then piss all over it for far less. Prometheus leaps to mind unbidden, and the cries of "But a guy who was a space zoologist..." and "If I was a space robot I would never..." that swarmed, smothered, and torched that film's chances to be seriously engaged with by anyone other than loony-bird "apologists" such as, well, myself. Hitchcock, were he still alive and making movies, would, in the face of the Plot Hole Condemnation Affiliate and the Two-Dimensional Character Persecution Affinity, say something like "Fuck this shit." You get the idea, I think, but my point is the kind of dismissal that Richard argues against is spreading and taking new forms, hiding as sophistication within the bodies of Glenn Kenny's "know-somethingish" types, who, quite frankly, plague us, and whose most distinguishing characteristic is that they walk into a film believing that they know better than the film itself what the film is, and what it's goals are. Or they bring with them a mental checklist of what a film is supposed to be, and if all those boxes aren't ticked, brother, you better watch out (Coppola's Twixt is a recent victim of this, but more on that, and this is a promise I can actually keep, later). This even applies to Ed Wood, which was the idea behind Greg's blogathon. I'm a bit dubious about the levels to which some people have taken their appreciation of Wood -- if he was something other than incompetent, I've yet to notice it -- but if Glen or Glenda? is only hilarious to you, then you didn't sit down with the goal of actually watching a movie. This does not mean that Glen or Glenda? isn't hilarious. It also doesn't mean that the "you" in my previous sentence has never applied to me. It has, and often. But boy is that experience becoming emptier and emptier.

So anyhow, that's the pile we're buried in, and it's left to The Devil Bat to fight its way out. Not liking the film as much as Richard doesn't mean I don't take his point, both in general and as it pertains specifically to The Devil Bat. Lugosi, Richard says in his commentary, is on point throughout. That's true. It's up to the viewer to understand where that point is located.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Hand-Me-Down Dress From Who Knows Where

I know virtually nothing about Rob Zombie's music, beyond the fact that it exists -- for some reason, I feel this is something I need to put on the table before talking about how much I dislike most of his movies. But I don't know his music, so if that somehow feeds into his work as a writer and director of horror films in ways of which I'm completely ignorant, you must pardon me. On the other hand, for a guy who has in the past gone out of his way to talk shit about Zombie's film work, I've seen it all (with the exception of his little-loved animated movie The Haunted World of El Superbeasto). So if I've failed to enjoy that particular experience, a case could be made that I shoulder more of the blame than Zombie. But I'm a horror fan, and it's in my nature to watch a lot of horror movies, so I reject this argument. In any case, that's the only explanation for what led me to actually watch his debut feature, House of 1000 Corpses, a film I thought terrible enough to kill Zombie's film career right off the bat. Since then, I've had to suffer with something of a critical...not reappraisal, because that would have to come some time after the fact, but the construction of a wall of defense by those who would claim that the idiotic and morally broken The Devil's Rejects was a sharp 9/11 allegory, or that his remake of John Carpenter's Halloween was brilliant because it functioned as a biopic of Michael Myers, no pause having been taken to consider that this is a ridiculous idea. So all that's been going on, but it's never been loud enough to bother me too awfully much. My main takeaway from Zombie's two Halloween films was that, however much "original" material he dumped into that old story, he was spinning his wheels just three films in -- so he survived House of 1000 Corpses, but perhaps no longer.

Well, no. Because now, or earlier this year, we have The Lords of Salem, an original horror film that takes as the source of its horror witches, as in "Salem Witch Trials" witches, and this is not a thing that's really done much these days. Curious despite myself, I checked it out tonight, and it's...well. It stars Sheri Moon Zombie, Rob Zombie's wife who has appeared in all of his films, here as the lead for the first time in their working relationship. She plays Heidi, one of three hosts, along with Ken Foree and Jeff Daniel Phillips (whose character, Herman, is Heidi's boyfriend) of a strange, but super popular everybody, radio show based out of Salem, Mass., the premise of which seems to be a morning zoo (but at night) kind of show that regards occult matters with some amount of snark. And I guess they play music too? They at least play music by independent black metal bands who send their EPs to the show for on-air criticism. One album they received comes from a band called The Lords, a name that Ken Foree promptly deems incomplete and therefore expands to "The Lords of Salem," which is the title of this movie you guys. Why Zombie didn't simply call the band The Lords of Salem is beyond me, and the choice is dumb enough that I can't claim he overthought anything. Pretty much all of the radio show stuff is similarly inane -- these guys have every conceivable sound effect drop ready to heighten their extemporaneous conversations with split-second timing -- but the music of The Lords is the point of it all, and is rather effectively industrial and sinister. The music has an apparently nasty physical, and possibly psychological, effect on Heidi, and, we see in a montage, on various other women throughout Salem, who hear the music droning through their radios and immediately become hypnotized.
There's a plot to all this, as you might imagine. The stage is set by flashbacks of 18th century Salem witches, who in this film were actually witches -- that coven was led by Meg Foster, who, based on her performance, and how she agreed to appear, in The Lords of Salem indicates to me that she's down with pretty much whatever -- and a diary from the time, kept by a reverend (Andrew Pine) that provides all of the exposition that modern day Salem Witch Trial expert, and radio show guest, Francis Matthias (Bruce Davison) doesn't. I'm convinced, however, that none of this matters. Bruce Davison's good, I always like him -- he's the kind of actor who can breathe life and personality into even the most thankless role, among which number you'd probably have to count this one, but it's just that in The Lords of Salem, the centuries-old curse Matthias uncovers doesn't matter at all. Or almost not at all -- you need some sort of context, I suppose, to build everything else on top of. But the strength of The Lords of Salem -- and I'll go ahead and say that I think this is Zombie's best film, however little that might mean, considering how I began -- is how Zombie's visual inventiveness is able to shed the trappings of its rote ancient-curse plot and just go absolutely berserk. The film's great weakness is that Zombie still seems to think he's much of a writer, and so it's all equal to him. But in a very nearly good way, it's not equal at all.

One of the great frustrations of this, and so many contemporary horror films, and I do apologize for banging on this drum again, is that the makers consider it a sly talent to be able to evoke for viewers all the horror movies they've all, as one fandom, seen and enjoyed. It does nothing for me to hear Meg Foster say "cunting daughter," a jolt of a line from The Exorcist, but not a jolt of a line here, because it's not meant to jolt -- it's meant to remind. Similar winks toward Rosemary's Baby just get in the way of a film that, maybe about halfway through, I started to realize had much to recommend it. In terms of imagery, The Lords of Salem eventually becomes genuinely wild and unsettling, in ways both new and gratifyingly old (a couple of times, there are actual monsters on the screen). There's a section that begins with Heidi in the grasp of the contemporary witch coven, played by Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson, and Patricia Quinn, who operate out of Heidi's apartment building, which is almost relentless in its colorfully operatic nightmare. And speaking of opera, or anyway of music, and the score by Griffin Boice and John 5 is quite good, if occasional references are being made they are to Popol Vuh. And since none of it is as tiresomely blatant as "cunting daughter," it could be that the effect is merely similar. Not bad as compliments go, if I do say so myself.
Even so, there's an element to all this craziness that feels somewhat unnatural, or inorganic. It often doesn't feel like the strangeness of a filmmaker whose warped subconscious just comes spilling out of his eyes. It's more like "Okay now, what's a weird thing we can do?" Which, hey, the creative process takes many forms, and one shouldn't have to be genuinely insane in order to create strange things. But again, it's that need to announce your influences that trips Zombie up, because Ken Russell is all over this thing. Yet the ghost of Ken Russell, and I'm not a fan, counts in this day and age, and maybe most days and ages depending on your tolerance, as a honest to goodness shot in the arm, so that I was left, as Heidi and The Lords of Salem as a whole flailed away into Hell, unable to separate my understanding of where Zombie's imagination came from, and actually kind of thrilled to be seeing that imagination on screen in a horror film that, given the paucity of this sort of thing elsewhere in the genre, genuinely new. At its best, The Lords of Salem does a better than average job of depicting Satanic evil let loose.

Of course, Zombie doesn't know his strengths, so after a pretty terrific ending, visually speaking, and in terms of the song chosen to play over it, we have a little bit of, not plot exactly, but even worse, exposition weaving in and out of the closing credits. It's not ruinous, but it is typical. At the top of his game, Rob Zombie is incapable of leaving well enough alone. So the apex of his filmmaker talents ends up being terribly frustrating. But I suppose I'd have to admit that things are looking up.

But please, don't take any of this as a recommendation. I won't have that on my conscience.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Please Stand By

I still plan on writing things, about movies and such.  David Cronenberg and the like.  I just feel so overwhelmed, you guys!  I mean "overwhelmed" in the sense that what I need to do to get back on track is very manageable but I'm kind of lazy.  But stay tuned!  Or "please stand by," as the title of this post recommends.

But The Cronenberg Series will continue, and October is on its way.  This year, though, October...has a twist!  About which more later.  Thank you for your patience.

Here's the first picture that came up when I did an image search for "movie."
You got your popcorn, you got your clapper, and you got a CD of your favorite music.  That's everything you need for a movie.

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