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Archive for November 12th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Election Day 2018 spelled pretty good news for national Democrats with the House of Representative now wrested from Trump control, though a lot of work still needs to be done heading forward to 2020.  Local Democrats as always won in Fairview unopposed with the county candidates and Senator Menendez winning 3 to 1 in the Borough.  This past week J.D. Lafrance published a great essay on John Carpenter’s They Live.  Jim Clark will be featured this coming week with another essay in his superlative Ingmar Bergman series.

James Uhler’s spectacular Horrorfest 2018 is nearing the end but several capsules still unpublished are offered, each masterfully written.  This annual endeavor is quite the treat for classic and contemporary horror fans.

Disconnected (G. Bechard… 1983) slasher
A discombobulated film that appears to have started as an ‘arty’ student film; you’ll occasionally see it mentioned online as an ‘interesting/unique slasher’. Watching a film where the filmmaker doesn’t know what they’re doing is neither unique, nor different. With the exception of a few clippable bits of unintentional humor, this is a must miss. Might end of being the worst film I do this season (which has otherwise been very high overall, what with all the old films).
Sisters (B. De Palma… 1973) slasher/psychological
Obsession (B. De Palma… 1976) psychological thriller
Decided to do these two since Christina hadn’t seen either; both hold up magnificently well after all these years for similar reasons. They don’t have the sadistic/cynicism of Dressed to Kill/Body Double and show considerable range. Sisters is near minimalistic and rather touching throughout (you end up spending the rest of the night mourning the passing of Margot Kidder, who is terrific here), with De Palma’s best use of split-screen for me (with Blow Out, it remains my favorite of his works). Obsession, another film built around duality, is his (and writer Schrader’s) homage to Vertigo, and while it’s not fair to compare the two (Vertigo is truly one of the forms masterworks), Obsession is better than you recall, De Palma at his most tender and restrained (which is still pretty lurid). Bernard Hermann is featured tremendously in both, with the slight nod going to Sisters because the score is employed more tastefully (sure, the overuse in Obsession is much of the point as the film is a fever dream) with the anarchic noise during the murder sequence a particular thrill.  
Pontypool (B. McDonald… 2008) zombie/psychological
Mandy (P. Cosmatos… 2018) psychological art/slasher
Two recent works that you could glean a lot about our current state of affairs from; Pontypool an interesting rumination on conspiracy theory and unverified news, while Mandy probes dangerous, cultish behavior and, humorously, ‘snowflakes’. Both are good and recommended—Pontypool the insular story of a small, remote radio station that potentially unearths a cataclysmic event (zombies born from hearing spoken language triggers), before taking even wilder turns, is a remarkable study of assured cinema restraint. We’re thoroughly entertained by a minimal setting, a true testament to captivating acting, tight editing, and a roaming, interested camera. Mandy, has little in terms of restraint, it’s a kaleidoscopic, noisy, beat red nightmare, something of a Antichrist meets Tarkovsky via a drive-in theater (or perhaps more apt, a mom and pop VHS rental house). Infused with a heavy metal sensibility, I’m might not watch a Horror film more to my tastes in quite some time, I loved it, and feel Cage has reached his peak in this second half of his career where he’s asked too often play deranged, over-the-top madman. Here, he has to occasionally emote too, and we’re thankful—I loved Beyond the Black Rainbow, but this is a film way beyond the sum of its influences. Masterful, but not for everyone. Like most great Horror.
Q: The Winged Serpent (L. Cohen… 1982) fantasy/horror
Larry Cohen, easily one of the unheralded masters of cult Horror, or cult cinema in general, for me, offers another fun genre work, this time using his budgetary limitations to blow the film up into nearly nonsensical avenues. You wouldn’t think that sitting down to watch a monster movie about a winged beast that you’d get something approaching a crime picture, but here you get a police procedural and a diamond heist. It’s all pretty loose and easy, and Cohen’s script breathes life into what would otherwise be dull scenes (well, that and Michael Moriarty is a real hoot as he would be again in The Stuff a few years later). The man knew how to make pictures—in my opinion he has 3 or 4 top notch schlock works—and you really wonder what could have been had he ever had a real budget—you imagine Ghostbusters straight away here, that’s a straight comedy and this isn’t, but there is just so much overlap. In a more just world Cohen’s Special Effects would look as polished as a De Palma, and we’d recall it as one of the more ingenious post-Hitchcockian deconstructions. Oh well, he has a definite fan in me regardless.

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