“Radcliffe Embraces His Inner Demon In Horns”

A film in which the main character is accused of murder, pleads innocence, and then sets out to clear his or her name is nothing new. “Horns” based on the 2010 novel written by Joe Hill, takes that familiar plot, and gives it a radical transformation. At the start of the film, Ig Perrish, portrayed by Daniel Radcliffe (The Woman in Black), is a tormented man, and the pariah of the small town he lives in. Most people in the community believe he brutally murdered his long time girlfriend, Merrin, played by Juno Temple (Killer Joe). The only reason Ig is still free is because key evidence has been destroyed. However, the destruction of the evidence presents a double edged sword, because it could have provided proof that he wasn’t the killer.

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After a night of hard drinking, during which Ig performs a sacrilegious act while relieving himself, he wakes up and discovers he has horns growing out of his forehead. That in and of itself would be enough to freak anyone out, but along with the horns, comes supernatural power – the power to compel people who he comes in contact with to reveal their innermost thoughts and desires, regardless of how private or incriminating they might be. Furthermore, the horns give Ig the ability to make people act exactly the way he wants them to. For example, he has the members of the media, who have been relentlessly hounding him, beat each other up; informing their collective assemblage, that the winner will get an exclusive interview with him.

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Armed with his new abilities, Ig sets out to find the truth behind Merrin’s murder. Through a series of flashbacks, the viewer is shown how the relationship between Ig and Merrin began, as well as the incident that transpired a short time before her murder. It doesn’t help that a gossiping waitress, Veronica, played by Heather Graham (From Hell), is outright lying to the patrons of Eve’s Dinner about the events that took place on the night Merrin was killed. Everything she says leaves no doubt as to Ig’s guilt.

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In addition to the previously mentioned cast members, in the role of Ig’s best friend and lawyer, Lee Tourneau is Max Minghella (The Social Network). For some unknown reason, which will only be made clear to the viewer and those who haven’t read the book, later on in the film, he can’t see Ig’s horns. Not only can’t he see the horns, but they have no power over him. Joe Anderson plays Ig’s drug using brother Terry, who may know a good deal more about the night of Merrin’s murder than he is letting on. In addition to Lee, he is one of the few people who believes that Ig is innocent of the crime. Even Ig’s parents, Derrick and Lydia, who are acted by James Remar (Dexter) and Oscar and Golden Globe nominee, Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13), admit to Ig while under the power of his horns, that they think he is the one who committed the murder. Another actor of note is two time Emmy nominee David Morse (The Green Mile) who portrays Merrin’s grieving father.

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Directed by Alexandre Aja (High Tension), the film premiered on September 6, 2013 at “The Toronto International Film Festival.” Written for the screen by Keith Bunin, the movie is a blending of the drama, fantasy, horror and thriller genres. I was looking forward to watching this film. I applaud Radcliffe for taking on the role of Ig. He continues to distance himself from the iconic boy wizard he brought to life on screen in the Harry Potter films. His character is someone who a viewer can feel sympathy for, and his American accent was perfect. With that being said, at least in my opinion, the film doesn’t live up to Hill’s novel. Certain events that took place in the book, were only touched on in a tertiary manner, or not at all. In addition, the conclusion of the 120 minute movie, which left out a good portion of what transpired at the novel’s end, felt rushed. I would gladly have invested an additional ten to fifteen minutes of my time watching this film, if there was more inclusion of the tree house of the mind, which I know is meaningless to those who haven’t read Hill’s novel. It was one of the parts I wanted to see shown on screen, but it was completely ignored by the filmmaker.

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While the film never had me scared, I guess depending on a viewer’s sensitivities, there are moments that some might find intense. For those of you who are afraid of snakes, this is a movie you will want to skip out on. When it is all said in done, “Horns” is certainly watchable, if for no other reason than Radcliffe’s performance, but I felt too much that went into making the book the page turner that it was, was left out.

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“Stephen King’s A Good Marriage”

At the conclusion of the film that shares the same name as the title of this blog, my first thoughts were not about what I had just watched. Instead, they were about a biography I had seen on cable several years prior. The biography was on serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and there was a period of time, where it, and biographies of other members of his deadly and disturbed ilk, were shown on the BIO channel, on what seemed a regular basis. I am not sure if the channel is contractually obligated to show each individual biography a certain number of times, but the one on Gacy seemed to be on quite a bit.

Nothing that transpires in the 102 minute thriller, “A Good Marriage,” specifically reminded me of Gacy. Stephen King, who wrote the screenplay, adapted from one of the stories in his 2010 novella “Full Dark, No Stars” was inspired by the real story of BTK (Bind, Torture, Kill) murderer, Dennis Rader. BTK killed ten people in Kansas between 1974 and 1991. What I remembered hearing spoken at the end of the Gacy biography was by his sister. She said that none of what Gacy had done, in relation to his killing, and the other acts of depravity he had committed on the men he had murdered, made sense for his character. She knew him, as her loving brother John, and was crying, as she spoke of the last time they saw one another, before he was put to death by the state of Illinois. Why did the film remind me of that part of the biography? The answer is twofold: Firstly, at the heart of King’s story and the film, is the question: How can we be certain we know all there is to know about the people we love the most in this world? The individuals who are the closest to us shouldn’t be able to hide an inner monster that commits heinous acts. They aren’t supposed to be capable of extreme evil, come back home and once again resume the role of devoted, loving spouse and doting parent, without exposing to us that something with them is not right. Secondly, King took Dennis Rader and his wife, as the models for the villain and the horrified, unknowing spouse, in his story because he remembered the media hounding BTK’s wife. She was constantly asked: How she couldn’t have known that she was married to a murderer for all the years they were together.

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Directed by Peter Askin (Trumbo), the film was released in a limited number of theaters on October 3, 2014. I didn’t get a chance to see it while it was playing in the theater. Instead, I watched it a few nights ago on Netflix. At the start of the movie, Bob and Darcy Anderson are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Darcy, portrayed by three time Academy Award nominee Joan Allen (The Contender), runs a rare coin business. Bob, acted by Golden Globe and Emmy winner Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace), is an accountant. Bob shares his wife’s love of coins, and has been looking for a penny from the year 1955. He won’t purchase the penny on ebay or another website that sells coins, he wants to find the penny by chance. In addition, making one of several brief appearances throughout the film, before he is given any real screen time, is Stephen Lang’s (Avatar) mysterious character. The motives for his watching the seemingly happy couple are made clear toward the film’s end. He is sitting at a nearby bar, observing Bob and Darcy’s anniversary party. He witnesses, Bob give Darcy a gift of gold fish earrings. Bob states that he got them for her because her astrological sign is that of a Pisces. The next day, he leaves Darcy, to go on one of his frequent business trips.

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While Darcy is watching the evening news, a story comes on about the latest victim of a serial killer known as ‘Beadie.’ An individual who has raped and murdered a dozen women. His signature, after the gruesome act, is to always mail the driver’s license of his latest victim to the authorities. He does so to show how proud he is of himself, and how he views the police department as nothing more than a bunch of incompetent fools who can’t catch him. After the news story is over, while changing the channels, Darcy comes upon a slasher film; eager to change the station, the batteries in the remote stop working. Out of frustration, wanting to get the graphic images and sounds off of her television, she walks over and unplugs the cord from the wall. Afterward, she heads into the garage to find some new batteries.

While in the garage, Darcy discovers magazines that she had been looking for. Hidden amongst them, however, she discovers one of a pornographic nature. Not just a typical X-rated magazine, but one that specifically caters to those into bondage. She also makes another more startling discovery. Hidden in a piece of wall, behind the box, where she found the magazines, is an another small box, that was made for Bob by their daughter, Petra (Kristen Connolly), when she was in elementary school. What is contained within the box repulses her, not because of the item itself, but because of what she knows it could signify. Darcy goes backs inside the house and immediately goes on-line; it doesn’t take her long to come to the realization that Beadie, and her loving husband of over two decades, are one and the same person. I am not giving away any spoilers there. The trailers for the film and the promotional material make that fact known to the viewer before watching the movie.

What makes matters even worse for Darcy, is that soon after she learns the truth about the father of her children, the aforementioned Petra, and their son Donnie (Theo Stockman), Bob arrives home. He lets Darcy know, without any pretense, that he realizes after a trip into the garage and checking the search history on her computer, that she has discovered his secret identity. He assures her that he would never hurt her. Beadie he explains, is a compulsive voice in his head and that he fought it off for many years, before he gave in to what it was asking him to do. The voice was sparked from an incident from his childhood, and a friend of his who died; not, however, before giving Bob some strange ideas on how girls should be treated. He explains to Darcy that nothing positive will come from her revealing his identity to anyone. Her business would be ruined, along with the lives of their children; Petra in particular, who is getting married in the very near future. Bob makes a promise to Darcy that if she refrains from turning him in, he will stop killing.

What will Darcy do? Does she agree not go to the police about Bob, in the hopes that she can live through the night, so the next day she can do just that? Will Darcy take Bob at his word because of how he has treated her and the kids for all their years of marriage? Can she believe that a man with his proclivities can just change his ways? All of those questions will be answered by the film’s conclusion.

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The film’s violence is kept to a bare minimum. There is no gore, and no blood, which is fine. I always prefer a good story, to scenes that are just added for shock value. Sadly, however, the film also contains almost no tension. I could understand the anguish Allen’s character is going through in terms of deciding what she should do regarding Bob, however, I felt no emotional investment in her character. The original story by King is excellent. The problem, I feel, is that getting the inner thoughts of characters on screen has to be shown, it can’t be described like in a piece of fictional writing. The director demonstrated to me nothing special with this work. I am not familiar with other material Askin has done, so perhaps this was just a miss for him. I recommend this only to hardcore Stephen King fans, like myself, who need to read or see anything that has his name attached to it.

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Tales From The Darkside: The Complete Series

Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality. But… there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit…a DARKSIDE.

Those are the words spoken in a foreboding voice-over by Paul Sparer, at the beginning of each episode of the anthology television series, “Tales from the Darkside,” which sprang to life from the mind of director, screenwriter, editor, and sometimes actor, George A. Romero, who gave movie-goers the iconic horror film, “Night of the Living Dead.” Romero wrote the narration that appears at the start of the show as well as the ending narration; I can write with absolute certainty that when I was a child both stuck with me, from the time the show was over at night, until the sun came up the following morning. Why did mere words have such an effect on my psyche even as a young boy? Words are, after all, just that…merely thoughts written out to express oneself, and due to all of the real life horror one can usually find on the news, the words, by themselves, don’t offer much in the way of chill inducing fright, but they are not just spoken words. No, those words, which made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up as a child, are accompanied by the eerily haunting composition co-created by Donald Rubinstein and Erica Lindsay, and performed for the show by Rubinstein.

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In the spirit of shows such as “The Twilight Zone,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “The Outer Limits,” and “Amazing Stories,” “Tales from the Darkside” originally aired in syndication from 1983 to 1988, and each episode was a stand-alone story that would end with a plot twist. The series’ episodes spanned the genres of fantasy, horror, science fiction, and sometimes the show would dabble in some dark humor. On occasion, when I would reflect on this show over the years, I would always think that the episodes had a terrifying effect on me. I set out to determine whether the show would have the same effect on me as it did when I was a boy. Sadly, most of the shows did not; that’s not to say they aren’t good…some are downright excellent, but things that frightened me as a child are vastly different from the things that cause my mind to be disturbed these days. I am in no way attempting to speak for anyone but myself. What may not frighten me anymore might perhaps scare the wits out of some of you.

Fans of best selling author Stephen King will be treated to two episodes penned by the master, “Word Processor of the Gods,” and “Sorry, Right Number.” In addition, works of other fine writers are showcased such as that of Michael Bishop (Would it Kill You to Smile), Robert Bloch (Psycho), Fredric Brown (The Fabulous Clipjoint), John Cheever (The Enormous Radio), Harlan Ellison (I, Robot), and Fredrick Pohl (Jem). Clive Barker creator of the “Hellraiser” movie franchise based on his novel “The Hellbound Heart,” also makes a contribution to the series. In addition, the episodes featured well known actors from both film and television. Among those making appearances were: Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), Justine Bateman (Family Ties), Marcia Cross (Desperate Housewives), Victor Garber (Argo), Sean Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Christian Slater (Heathers), and Brent Spiner (Star Trek: The Next Generation).

Even though it doesn’t have the same effect on me that it used to, I can still appreciate “Tales from the Darkside” for the following reasons. Firstly, the gore content is kept to a bare minimum. The viewer will be able to concentrate more on the plot of the show instead of, depending on what sensibilities one has, being put off by gruesome scenes of extreme carnage the likes of which can be found, for example, in the films of the “Saw” and “Hostel” franchises. Secondly, the acting is, for the most part good, and done in a way that doesn’t convey ‘hokiness’. Lastly, even though the budget was small, and the special effects would be considered not even second, but third rate by today’s standards, I feel the shows’ producers did their best with what they had to work with, and I can never fault anyone for that.

The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.

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“James Cameron Directed “That” Movie? Yes, He Did!”

Everyone has to start out somewhere in life even the self-described KING OF THE WORLD, James Cameron. Of course, Cameron was merely joking when he shouted that line out during his acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for “Best Director” (Titanic) at the 70th annual Academy Awards ceremony in 1998. It was a far cry from where his directorial career began on a motion picture called “Piranha II: The Spawning.” The 1981 movie would mark the first time Cameron called the shots on a feature film. Prior to that he teamed with Randall Frakes (who is primarily a writer and has yet to direct another movie) on the 1978 short film Xenogenesis.

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Born on August 16, 1954 in Kapuskasing, Ontario, Canada, James Cameron has written and directed some of the biggest blockbusters in cinema history…films such as “The Terminator,” “Aliens,” and the previously mentioned Best Director win for “Titanic,” and one of the most expensive movies ever made with an estimated budget, according to IMDB  of $280,000,000, the special effects laced “Avatar.” But years before he began to receive accolades, awards, and serious monetary gain for showcasing his creative prowess, he directed the aforementioned “Piranha II: The Spawning.” If he had even an inkling of an idea as to the success that awaited him in the future while directing that sub-par B movie, then more power to him.

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From various sources, the impression I get about James Cameron is that he was a true go getter in every sense of the word. He wasn’t willing to settle for the mundane in life, so he strived and persevered until he was able to surpass what he considered to be the banal existence he was living and achieve the life he desired. It just so happened that the life he craved the most was a career in the cinema arts; and on behalf of all you movie geeks everywhere who’ve been watching his films since whatever age you first laid eyes on them, I say a collective “thank you self-described king of the world.”

On a side note, in regard to Cameron’s movies, I admire the fact that through the years he has populated his films with strong female characters such as: Sarah Connor, played by Linda Hamilton in the first two Terminators; Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in Aliens; and Neytiri, played by Zoe Saldana in Avatar. The same can also be said for the times he has branched out into television. “Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles” (which in my opinion was a good show that deserved more of a chance before being taken off the air) featured actress Lena Headey in the role originally made famous by Linda Hamilton, and the show “Dark Angel” which stared Jessica Alba and had a forty-two episode run on Fox television from 2000-2002.

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Billed as a sequel to “Piranha,” the campy 1978 film directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins), “Piranha II: The Spawning” was released on November 5th 1982 and qualifies as a sequel in name only. Written for the screen by Ovidio G. Assonitis (Lambada), who, perhaps sensing that the “sequel” was going to be panned by critics and the general public alike, didn’t attach his name to the movie; instead in the credits he is listed under the pseudonym H.A. Milton. Rumors abound that Assonitis (who is an international director hailing from Italy) actually co-directed the film, and only hired James Cameron because Warner Brothers, who produced the film, insisted that he hire an American director. There are also stories that say he edited the film, and even though Cameron made a valiant effort, actually breaking into the editing room late one night and re-doing the editing work, Assonitis found out about it and changed all of Cameron’s corrections. I can neither confirm nor deny the validity of those stories, and Cameron has always been the one who has received full credit for being the director of the film.

Now in regard to the movie itself, the cast has no one with name recognition except for veteran actor, Lance Henriksen (Near Dark), who prior to his starring role in the film as Police Chief Steve Kimbrough, had been relegated to bit parts in movies such as “Dog Day Afternoon,” and in a handful of episodes as the character Preston Post on the soap opera “Ryan’s Hope.” The plot of the film is ludicrous, and involves the discovery of eggs aboard a crashed ship, carrying, you guessed it…killer Piranha; but what makes these vicious fish even more dangerous is that they can fly, yes, fly! The film is riddled with plot holes, and peppered with characters that contribute absolutely nothing to serving the story in order to move the movie along to a conclusion. The acting is forced and the dialogue borders on the comical in certain parts; most of the actors in the film seem to have been given screen time in an attempt to make the movie longer, and as a much needed filler between scenes that involve the deadly flying Piranha, which appear to be little more than large toy fish that are attached to string.

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James Cameron is a man who is known for producing work that showcases metaphorically mind-blowing special effects; but the effects in this film are not even second rate. They are more like a watered down third rate, which in fairness to Cameron could have been directly related to the budget he had to work with, so I don’t think it’s fair for me to knock him too hard on that aspect of the movie. Over the years I’ve actually enjoyed watching a number of these sorts of low budget horror, supernatural, and science-fiction films, but this movie has virtually no redeeming qualities, and would be an utter waste of your time unless you’re a die hard fan of either the director or actor Lance Henriksen.

 

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To Be Takei

The life of stage and screen star, Star Trek icon, and political activist, George Takei, has been anything but one mired in mediocrity. Since his earliest days, the man has had to overcome numerous personal and professional roadblocks that were in his path, attempting to keep him from achieving his goals. Where many other men, particularly those with a lesser degree of intestinal fortitude, might have given up and allowed the negativity of life to keep them stationed in a mundane existence, Takei refused to fall victim to those pitfalls. Premiering on January 18, 2014 at the “Sundance Film Festival,” director Jennifer M. Kroot’s (It Came From Kuchar) engaging, poignant documentary “To Be Takei” offers the viewer an intimate look into the actor and activists life in and out of the public eye.

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George Takei is the antithesis of an individual who would be considered one-dimensional. Kroot’s documentary delves into his multi-faceted personality. She spotlights his eloquent manner of speaking, the classy style in which he comports himself, and his hilarious postings on Facbook and Twitter that are virtually devoured by his effusive fan base. But far from his voice, style, and quick-witted sense of humor, he has also given tirelessly of himself when it comes to raising awareness for the social issues that are meaningful to him.

A while back, I wrote a blog on Deforest Kelly, who played Dr. McCoy, a member of the original Star Trek cast. In that post, I described the happy memories I had associated with the original Trek because I used to watch it with my grandparents when I was a small child. Of course, by that point, it was already in re-runs. I wasn’t even born when the show’s five year mission, which sadly only lasted three, aired during the years 1967 through 1969.

Needless to say, I gave nary a thought as to Mr. Sulu’s sexual orientation at the time, and for all intents and purposes, I still don’t. I enjoyed his performance as the top notch helmsman of the galaxy during the course of the three years of the show and in the six films, and I still do. I am certainly aware, however, that the subject of gay rights is something that he feels extraordinarily passionate about. Throughout the documentary, the viewer learns that Takei does what he can to make sure that all human beings, regardless of their sexual orientation, are, first and foremost, treated with dignity. He is a vocal advocate for marriage equality, and wants Gays, Lesbians, Bi-Sexual and Transgendered couples to have the same rights as traditional married couples do.

I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for George and his partner, Brad, who he has been with for over a quarter of a century, and has been married to since September 14, 2008, keeping such an emotionally draining secret from virtually everyone they knew. The only reason it had to remain just that – – a ‘secret’ – – was so that Takei could continue to prosper in his career. The fact that they kept that secret is a powerful statement and speaks to me regarding the sort of loving relationship that George and Brad shared, and continue to share to this day. Brad loved George enough to keep his ‘secret’ so that his career would not be damaged.

Born on April 20, 1937 in Los Angeles, California, Takei was actually named after King George VI, since his father was an Anglophile. Sadly, like all of George’s schoolmates, and for that matter his fellow Japanese-Americans, his, and their lives were radically transformed once Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Japanese Americans, for no other reason, except for their ethnic background, had their homes taken from them, without any type of compensation. Forced to leave their residences, they were permitted to take with them only that which they could carry. Additionally, their businesses, and farms were also confiscated. Collectively, Japanese Americans who lived on the west coast, were rounded up and transported by train to Rohwer, Arkansas to an internment camp, where the living conditions were anything but ideal. Barbed wired fences, armed soldiers walking around on foot, armed sentinels keeping lookout from watchtowers, and trained attack dogs were all part of daily life at Rohwer. Additionally, so were three meals a day of inedible food, cramped living conditions in barracks jammed to capacity, and school days, which consisted of children learning the most rudimentary of skills. At a certain point during their internment Takei’s parents were presented with the opportunity to sign a loyalty statement; by doing so, they would have effectively denounced any and all allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. Takei’s father, knew that by signing the document, it would have been tantamount to an admission that he and his family had been loyal to Emperor Hirohito, and he refused to sign. The punishment for such a refusal was having his family moved to Tule Lake, California to a maximum security internment camp.

Throughout the documentary, Kroot shows Takei, expressing in great detail, while: lecturing (for example, at The Clinton School of Public Service), speaking at corporate events, appearing before congressional hearings, and accepting awards for his social work, not only about what life was like inside of the camps, but the detrimental aftermath, once he and his fellow Japanese-Americans were free to return home. Many returned to the shocking realization that they no longer had a home. Most of those who had been interned found themselves not only without a roof over their heads, but were greeted with vehement, anti-Japanese sentiments. (As an aside: Through Takei’s efforts working for redress on behalf of those Japanese-Americans who lost everything when they were uprooted against their will, 60,000 survivors of that horrific time period were, during the Ronald Reagan Presidency, finally given financial compensation for the losses they suffered).

The documentary explores many of the personal and professional roads travelled by this most dynamic individual. In addition to his surviving the unjustified treatment he and his family had to endure when he was a youngster, the profession he choose to peruse was no given. He not only stated he wanted to be an actor, during a time when there were limited opportunities for Asians in Hollywood, with the exception of stereotypical roles, but that is exactly what he did. Yes, he started out dubbing English voices for the American theatrical release of the Japanese monster movie “Rodan,” but he didn’t allow himself to be relegated to just that sort of work. He appeared on ground breaking television dramas such as “Playhouse 90,” as well as co-starred in an episode of the critically acclaimed “The Twilight Zone.” Along the way, due to poorly received advice from his agent, he did appear in some comedic roles that played up Asian stereotypes, but those sort of roles were few and far between for Takei. It didn’t take him long to land an audition for, and get the part of, Mr. Sulu on “Star Trek,” a role that would forever change his life, and permanently cement his name as part of science-fiction.

In the years that followed “Star Trek,” guest appearances on well known television shows were plentiful. Additionally, Takei served from 1973 through 1983, at the behest of former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, on the board of directors of the Southern California Rapid Transit District. Prior to that he ran for The Los Angeles City Council and lost by less than four thousand votes. The documentary features commentary from former Star Trek cast members, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, Leonard Nimoy, and William Shatner. When it comes to Shatner, one can quickly ascertain that there is no love lost on Takei’s end toward his feelings regarding the man who portrayed Captain Kirk. Shatner on the other hand, acts as if he barely knows Takei. All in all, if you’re a Star Trek fan, this is a must watch. For those of you who, in general, enjoy learning about unique individuals then this is also time well spent.

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“Scanners”

The intriguing plot of the film “Scanners” centers around a group of individuals known by the same name as the title of the film, and who have extraordinary mental powers. Not only can they hear people’s thoughts, but they can also, when they choose, enter someone’s mind and make that person think and do anything they want, they can even go so far as to have the person kill themselves. Where did these beings come from? Were they born with the ability or was it genetic engineering that gave them their powers? By the film’s conclusion those two questions and a good deal more will be answered. Written and directed by BAFTA nominated David Cronenberg (Eastern Promises), “Scanners” was released to American theaters on January 14, 1981. The 103 minute film is a combination of the horror and science-fiction genres.

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Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) is one such scanner. His powers are demonstrated in the opening minutes of the film, but the viewer can also discern that, far from being a gift, his abilities cause him to lead a tormented life. This is because he does not possess the ability to control his powers. While Cameron is eating food off a discarded tray in a shopping center, two women are making unflattering remarks about him. Cameron doesn’t take kindly to the women’s remarks, so he causes one of them to have a violent seizure. His actions, while unnoticed by the rest of the mall’s patrons, are observed by two men who know what Cameron is, and have been tasked to bring him in. A short lived chase ensues and Cameron is shot with a tranquilizer dart. When he wakes up in an unfamiliar location, he has been cleaned, is wearing pajamas, and is strapped to a bed.

Cameron has been captured by men who work for a corporation known as ConSec. The head of the scanner program, Dr. Paul Ruth, is played in an understated way by BAFTA and Emmy winning actor, Patrick McGoohan (Columbo). The doctor is an individual who has a duel personality: one is that of the cold, clinical scientist; the other is a father figure. As it turns out, Dr. Ruth is the only fatherly presence Cameron has ever known. Vale is informed that he is one of only 237 individuals on Earth, who possess his unique abilities. Dr. Ruth wants to train Cameron, not only to be able to harness his powers, but to utilize his abilities in order to take down the most powerful of all scanners, Darryl Revok.

Michael Ironside (V) convincingly portrays the broody, villainous Revok, who sports a self-inflicted scar in the middle of his forehead. Ironside brings an intensity to the character that straddles the line between intellect and psychosis. Revok is introduced to the viewer early on in the film. During a presentation by ConSec to demonstrate the scanners’ powers to a select group of people, Revok volunteers to allow a fellow scanner (Louie Del Grande) to demonstrate his abilities to those assembled. What happens instead, is that Revok causes the other scanner’s head to explode. ConSec security manages to subdue Revok. While in the process of transporting him to another location, he further demonstrates to the viewer more of his abilities by taking out every member of the security detail. (As an aside, the exploding head scene, which is the most famous from the film, was done by filling a latex head with dog and rabbit food. Afterward a member of the crew stood behind the head, and fired a 12-gauge shotgun causing the explosion).

While the majority of those at ConSec want to end Revok’s existence, their corrupt head of security, Braedon Keller (Lawrence Dane), is secretly working with Revok to help destroy the company from within. At the start of the film, after the incident with Revok, he recommends to the board of directors, that they shut down the ‘scanner program.’ The only thing that saves the program from being discarded is the recent capture of Cameron.

One of the first things Dr. Ruth does to help Cameron is inject him with a drug called Ephemeral. This drug, when injected into a scanner, acts as a sedative and silences the constant voices in a scanner’s head. Afterward, Dr. Ruth begins Cameron’s training. The scenes involving the training don’t take up much screen time. Overall, there is very little filler during any part of the film.

Initially, with not very much information to go on, Cameron seeks out another scanner; a deeply disturbed artist, Benjamin Pierce (Robert Silverman). While searching for Revok, Cameron also comes across an underground group of peaceful scanners, led by Jennifer O’ Neill’s character, Kim Obrist. Unfortunately, Revok does not like those who are unwilling to join him in his quest to take over, so he sends a hit squad to kill the members of Obrist’s group.

Through a series of events, Cameron and Kim, are led to a factory which, as it turns out, is run by Revok. The factory produces the drug, ephemeral, the same drug that was given to Cameron to silence the voices in his head. The ephemeral is being produced under the auspices of something called ‘The Ripe’ program, and is being shipped to ConSec. Armed with this information, Cameron places a phone call to Dr. Ruth, indicating, that he wants to come in, and that he has an informant from Revok’s organization who is willing to talk. Dr. Ruth makes the necessary arrangements to have Cameron and Kim brought safely to ConSec headquarters, but they are hardly safe; in fact they are heading into a trap arranged by Keller.

When Vale and Obrist arrive, Keller allows Dr. Ruth to interview Cameron. He is insistent, however, on interrogating Kim. He informs the doctor that if he has a problem with his actions he can take it up with the board, knowing full well, that by the time any sort of decision was made, it would be too late. Keller intends to find out exactly what Obrist knows and then execute her.

The film does have its detractors who are quick to point out flaws in the movie. For example, Stephen Lack’s wooden performance as the leading man. Lack was not a trained actor, his profession was that of a painter, and it does show. The rest of the cast, however, give spot on performances and the story held my attention throughout, which made overlooking Lack’s performance an easy thing to do. Some have also found portions of the dialogue to be too expositional, as well as some of the scenes to be overly contrived. Again, I take the movie in the context of that of a low-budget, science-fiction and horror film, from a director who was still in the early stages of his career.

The film, never ceases to entertain, and minus the presence of the dated technology showcased throughout, it holds up well. The fact, that for the most part, the film was met with critical praise and did achieve commercial success, means that the overall positives of the film, outweigh any of the negatives. The real strength of this film relies on its story, the direction, and the special effects. Dick Smith, who created the effects for the film, won The Saturn Award at the 1981 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA for Best Make-Up. Credit must also be given to Howard Shore’s score, which perfectly accompanies what is being shown on screen, and, never fails to help add to the tension.

What will happen to Cameron and Kim, once they arrive at ConSec? Will Keller succeed in killing an unsuspecting Kim? Does she escape and inform Cameron and Dr. Ruth that Keller is really one of Revok’s pawns in his quest for world domination? Will the origin of Darryl Revok be revealed? Do we as viewers find out why he has gone rogue and decided to use his abilities for evil, as opposed to helping make the world a safer place? What is Revok’s ultimate goal when it comes to the ephemeral drug? “Scanners” takes the viewer on an interesting journey, where all of those questions will be answered. I should caution those of you who have not yet seen the film, but are interested in doing so, that while the exploding head scene is something which is widely known, even amongst film fans who do not consider themselves connoisseurs of the horror genre, it happens within the first ten minutes of the movie. Don’t go into watching the film, thinking that you are going to be viewing an array of special effects of that caliber because you will be sadly disappointed.

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“Everyone is Dying to meet Girly”

Sonny and Girly appear to be in their late teens, but they still dress in school uniforms, sleep in large converted cribs in a child’s nursery that is stocked with toys, and engage in conversation better suited for kids in elementary school.

Sadly, over the years, I have heard complaints from people I know regarding how much they dislike going to the homes of their relatives during the holidays. The answers I usually receive when I ask why are as follows: My family is so dysfunctional. My family serves as a source of embarrassment to me. Certain members of my family can’t help but fight as soon as they get in the same room. Well, for those who’ve told me those sorts of things over the years they should be thankful that at least their family is nothing like the one portrayed in British cinematographer and director Freddie Francis’s (Tales From The Crypt) gem “Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly,” A.K.A. Girly.

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Released on February 12, 1970, the 102 minute film written by Brian Comport does not fall into one thematic category, but instead treats the viewer to an interesting movie which adeptly blends elements of social commentary, horror, and dark comedy. From the outset it is never established what, if any, familial relationship Mumsy, Ursula Howells, (The Many Wives of Patrick) has to Sonny, Howard Trevor, (ITV Playhouse) and Girly, Vanessa Howard, (What Became of Jack and Jill). Nor do we learn how, when, or why the Nanny, Pat Heywood, (Wish You Were Here) became employed by the wonton, well-to-do, pseudo family, but then again this particular piece of cinema is far from conventional. It has no interest in explaining the characters’ back stories, the lack of a father figure, or, most importantly, the motivations behind the depraved games that are played with the men Sonny and Girly lure back to the secluded decaying country manor house they live in.

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Sonny and Girly are tasked with finding new “friends,” as the entire family refers to them, to engage in the criminal quartet’s games; unsuspecting victims are typically found at the public park. Having grown tired of the typical drunks and homeless people that are brought back to the house, Mumsy instructs Sonny and Girly to seek out the latest “friend” elsewhere. They do so, and come across Michael Bryant, (The Ruling Class) simply known during the movie as “new friend,” coming out of a party with his girlfriend, Imogen Hassall (Carry on Loving). At first angered when approached by Sonny, “new friend” quickly changes his mind when he spots Girly sitting in the backseat of his car. After engaging in some silly playground type antics, Sonny’s actions lead to the killing of “new friend’s,” girlfriend and due to his intoxication “new friend” is horrified because he believes that he accidentally killed her. Having little recourse, but to join Sonny and Girly at their home, “new friend” flees with them, and that’s where the games really begin, but not the type the household is used to. At first “new friend” is willing to suffer through the jokes and other indignities that come with being a guest of the household, but his complacency doesn’t last forever. I’ll leave it at that, so I don’t ruin what happens during the rest of the film, for those of you who hate spoilers.

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The acting for the entire cast is notable, but it is Vanessa Howard, who was used to market the movie to American audiences, who stands out. She portrays Girly in a manner which reminds me of Sue Lyon’s (The Night of the Iguana) role in director Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita, based on the novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Howard injects into the part a mixture of school girl innocence combined with a Lolita like essence of flirtatious sexuality, all the while allowing the viewer to see the madness that is festering within her ready to erupt.

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The film did not garner great success upon its initial release. For many years it was thought that there were no complete prints available for hardcore cinephiles who were obsessed with seeing it. Several years back at a Freddie Francis film festival, the organizers couldn’t even find a bootleg VHS copy to show to those hungry to see the quirky film they had always heard about. No one has that trouble these days, thanks to the release of the DVD in March of 2010.

The transfer, for the most part, is sharp and contains a good contrast, with only occasional blemishes or changes in color tone. The dialogue heard on the mono audio soundtrack is clear and crisp. The disc contains numerous extras such as theatrical trailers – both in English and Spanish – a commentary by screenwriter Brian Comport, and a television spot.  I  recommend this film for those of you who love both off-beat cinema and films that contain horror that is more implied than actually shown on screen.

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