The Fly (1986)

The Fly, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, is a crowd-pleasing body transformation movie about a self-made monster covering his face with the hunched back of his own mutated ugliness. Seth Brundle (Goldblum) is an obsessive scientist, focusing all of his energy on the prospect of teleportation; he has created a machine and tested prototypes, but both Seth and the audience are very conscious of his lack of humanity: people, such as his poignant love-interest, Veronica, aren’t as important to him as science.

Seth compares himself to Einstein through his practice wearing the same clothes everyday, a fresh pair, mind you. He doesn’t have time to think about what slacks to wear in the morning.

Brundle’s dreams of scientific glory are disrupted when, anxious to see the results of his machine prototype, he disregards using a viable test subject and instead calls his own number and climbs inside the small chamber of his invention. A buzzing fly follows shortly behind him and miraculously, the teleporter works: but what happened to the fly? Cue a haunting drum sound.

The movie is a character-driven exercise, a tragic and classic beauty and the beast love story. It boasts great performances from Goldblum and his sporadic love partner Veronica, played by Geena Davis. It enwraps us in Brundle’s decline, as many great films do: We know how it starts and we see where it goes. A rousing meditation on intellectual-burden, scientific-awareness, and unfiltered love.

Plan 9 from Outer Space

Plan 9 from outer-space is a passionately made film by a very, very incompetent director; his characters shout to each other in dramatic tones; the monster monotonously growls as his hands are extended far out his chest. Plan 9 is an uproarious movie that visibly gets everything wrong. The introduction is redundant and unedited, and with dialogue as laughable as a comedy. But the effort is there: through the tin-foil suits and the pretentious voice-overs, Ed Wood shines in the background, gleefully watching: and the idea of him designing these scenarios is what makes his films so loved, not necessarily even the movies themselves.

The film casts seemingly unknown stars, and has a continuum of poor voice overs, like the old man slowly walking out his house, fore-lorn of his wife’s passing.  The plot follows the arrival of a starship and their ability to rise the dead; grave-diggers from outer-space! In glossy purple and silver suits, the space-agents talk to their captain with soldier-like gesture, chin-straight. The attempt at nuance is very funny, with stern saluted faces, and a fantastic scene where the woman space-agent cant control her freeze-gun, and the ginormous ex-police chief now zombie heads straight for the kill, the homosexual-like male space-agent, who horrendously gasps in fear, arms flailing. Phew, that was close, they say. Too close.

The all American storyline of a pilot and his worry for his wife is entertaining, also; he first spots aliens as he points it out to the other man in the cockpit, flashing in the sky. It all ends with the man with the blonde hait with a little curl on the front re-appearing, re-assessing the importance of what we have seen today.  The importance of our place in: The worlds greatest cheese movies!

Psycho

Pyscho changed the way America looked at movies, and how much they really could tolerate while sitting in them. For the majority, Psycho liberated the isolated horror genre, and created a world of mystery and deceit worth the price of a ticket. In Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock weaves together a story in parts consisting of different characters and their points of view. The first is the unassuming Marion Crane, played by Janet Leigh, who steals money from her work and skips town in a hurry, only to find crossing the street her boss, his eyes prying into her guilt-stricken face; their she meets the cinema famous Norman Bates, played by Anthony Perkins, who acts suspiciously, and then, murderously.

The main suspicion in the movie, placed almost subliminally by Hitchcock by way of the winding stairs on the hill, is the house where Norman’s mother resides. We see the silhouette of her torso and head in the top-left window, but never are the characters directly greeted by her. And while her mystery is peculiar, so is her son Norman’s behavior, who has an eerie boyish, suppressed attitude; he seems to be easily over-run and maybe vulnerable.  He cleans, replaces towels, and sustains the motel, even when he knows that they are located in such a desolate, rarely-visited place.

The rain pounding on the car, the windshield fiercely swiping it aside, is a classic scene of paranoia, and we feel almost in the mind of Marion, so intimate and revealing on an endless road of perturbed thoughts. Who knows what Hitchcock was trying to say about karma, but it must have been something. He displays several static shots of fear, like Norman’s bird collection, which somewhat wrongfully seems like a warning of his illness, though their is nothing really wrong with hunting birds. And then, the legendary shower scene itself, the moment where Marion is truly taken over. The rest of the film involves finding what has caused her to go missing, with our consciousness now streaming with the horror of the hotel, a form of dramatic irony for the horror genre.

Lila Crane, played by Vera Miles, and Sam Loomis, Lila’s boyfriend played by John Gavin, are now privately investigating the hotel, the sort of unknowing terror that modern horror films manipulate, in a more characteristically ignorant manner. The film is a masterpiece of terror and suspense, a convention-bending Hitchcock movie that won’t be forgotten in the swamps or the drain.

 

Eraserhead

8/10

Eraserhead is one of those strange movies by David Lynch, with his obsessive use of close-ups and tantalizing stills of silent action. The character, Henry, lives in an industrial nightmare, walking in streets filled with odd, squirmy sounds and metal-racketing. Smoke fills the air constantly,  in the tradition of an old silent movie like Metropolis.  Henry is a quiet fella who lives a modest life as a printer; his lapel is filled with pens, and he wears the suit each and every day. The scenes are filled with odd tweaks to modern design; the light is shaped like a ‘T’ upside down, and their are mounds of what looks like cement, with a plant peaking out the top.

The connections that we make throughout the movie often have little merit: it is inherently metaphorical. It isn’t inherently anything really. The personality of Henry is very interesting, if not the most interesting, aspect of the film to me. He is quiet, yet when he speaks it will be for his benefit; “move over” he says to Mary, his wife, when she is squishing him in bed.  When he does speak, it often feels like he hasn’t completed a sentence and will say more, but he wont: he’ll simply put his head down a little bit, resigned. Henry is invited to dinner with Mary and her parents, and he comes inside the house in his tense manner, though he says later that he is nervous, we do not know for sure because he seems to act the same way all of the time. The news leaks while Henry is cutting the chicken, a biologically-mutated thing, and he is made aware that Mary was pregnant, and the bay is at the hospital.

The baby is the subject of the rest of the film: It is a disfigured, big-eyed, alien-like creature with no hands or legs. It’s bottom half is wrapped in a cocoon of tissue, hidden. The shrieks turn Mary away, for she cannot stand it any longer. What does Henry, with his calm and unchanging gestures, think of all this? Is he sad that his son is so malfigured?  These questions aren’t answered, but through Henry’s actions we are shown his state of mind: his desperation for acquaintance, after making love with his next door neighbor who has always looked over at him, and his somewhat iconic blank gaze at his child, eyes wide in terror.

Most people wonder what David Lynch was thinking about if it took five-years to make Eraserhead; maybe just how to get more money. I really don’t know, because Lynch’s motives, like Henry’s gesture, ultimately seem out of aesthetic purpose, not meaning. A strange, moody piece with a unique style that’s worth witnessing at least once.

Carrie (1976)

9/10

Carrie is another Stephen King adaption that is above par, thanks to psychologically tense directing from Brian DePalma, and Sissy Spacek’s tender performance as the subjected teenage girl. Carrie’s mother is a radical religious type who indoctrinates Carrie with vows of righteousness and conduct: She is devoid of all understanding of what happens to a teenager and instead has to focus on what teenagers ought not do; her lack of a normal life causes her to be ridiculed and made fun of by the girls at  school, and even the one’s who defend her do it behind her back and in small groups; In the end, she has no reason to  spare anyone. Carrie has special, supernatural powers of telekinesis and pyromania. What could these girls do to her to cause her to express the full capability of her powers?

The most intriguing thing I think about, that is never shown, is the mothers reaction to murder: Out of hate of boys and lack of prayer, what terrible quotes could be expressed by her about murder? Or was her life the same as her daughters? I feel the high-school depiction is more nuanced in that era, and the Protestant existence of the mother more accepted and common in her time. But if she doesn’t condemn murder, why do we see the girls who stand up for Carrie? Essentialy, is there any point besides gentle optimism when we are shown these scenes? The ugliness is so the director can over-compose the reaction and conclusion, and it is; the movie is a stylistic treat, a classic that is appreciated even by non-horror fans, and a brooding look at innocence and evil, a common theme that lives in the world of horror movies; The Exorcist being one, and probably the most pivotal.

The film takes domestic and teenage problems and turns them into a study of dynamics. When we see Carrie  getting a date for prom, it is a moment of a hesitant yet great joy, and we hope what she achieves through it is a must-needed sense of rebellion with her mother, which she shows as she sticks up for her right to go to the dance in the first place; but, as the conclusion comes into realization, we have a gut feeling of the emotional wreckage and consequence that will be inescapable: The gym-coach who feels sorrow for Carrie, the boy who seemed to be taking Carrie to the prom with good means, all thrown into nothingness with one outrageous prank, and at the peak of her happiness. An intelligent, kinetic film with much needed doll-like quality from Sissy Spacek that will surely endure as a classic.

Film Review: 2001- A Space Odyssey

2001 is a synthesis of Kubrick and Clarke’s storytelling capabilities, and is an unattainable standard for space-bound pics, at-least the ones with clear hard science-fiction motives. Duncan Jones’ ‘Moon’ is under Odyssey’s wing, among others, including its admittedly sub-par sequel. Like most repeatedly say, the movie is a picture book of poster-ready images, never once escaping its own brilliance.

The beginning of 2001 is at a dry, desolate landscape, filled with wandering apes. The sun and moon rise to form eclipses, a gnostic metaphor for inspired evolution, which soon comes in the form of a dark, rectangular monolith, one of the greatest images in cinematic history. The apes cower and groan at its sight; but this jump-starts their evolution, and the next part in the story flips millions of years later, to a space-shuttle heading for the moon. Dr. Heywood Floyd is preparing to brief a group of supervisors about the cover-story for whats been found on the moon: No one presently knows exactly what it is. The monolith?

The third act is the day-to-day lives of the 2001 Astronauts, Dave Bowman and Frank Poole. The two converse casually, eat the normal vacuum-frozen meals, creating an eerie comfort to their surroundings. They sit at the same table, while looking at two different video-tablets on the same interview. One can see they do their own things, while also able to speak and be friends. The split between them is a robot, named HAL 3000. A rectangular output-device with a glowing red dot as a face, HAL turns the scheduled space-shuttle into horror and chaos; he alleges a part to need maitenance, as part of a scheme to take out the two astronauts and safely clear the way for the missions end-goal. Human-error is what HAL fears the most, but perhaps not as much as having his plug-ripped.

The phlegmatic manner in which the shots are placed, by Stanley Kubrick, is worth a generation of film-students study. Each scene has an importance, and they are all aesthetically innovating; the scene I found the most impacting, was the claustrophobic moment when Bowman and Poole are conniving on the strange actions of HAL, inside a sealed Pod. The camera turns into HAL’s POV, and we see him focusing on each of the astronauts lip-movement, through close-up panning; he’s studying their rebellion.

Anyone interested in this movie should read Arthur Clarke’s ‘The Lost Worlds of 2001’  with some real unique journal entries of him working diligently for months with Kubrick, who he regards very highly as a professional and a friend. The movie will never be forgotten: a dark, pessimistic view of artificial intelligence.

Film Review: Rosemary’s Baby

9/10

Like his earlier film “Repulsion” Roman Polanski  uses a quiet, sensitive woman as the magnet of his camera in his first American film, and also blends her into its themes and shadows with keen cinematic ability. The film starts with a common-day sight of a man and a woman, ready for a child, buying an Old new york apartment several floors above the city streets, and appearing to be occupied mainly by elderly folk. The hard floor echoes and the empty floors are hallow and unoccupied by furniture. The titular character, played by Mia Farrow, stays at home in preparation for the new baby, while her husband Guy, played by John Cassavettes, goes to work as an aspiring actor. His dramas and failures are more expressed than the fears of Rosemary and her pregnancy, suppressing her internal doubts like the stereotypical housewife.

The signature of Polanski is taking the normal patterns of life and twisting them by the mind’s fears and hesitations into something mutated. Child-birth should be celebrated, but it is instead feared by Rosemary, as she thinks the baby is of a different world or somehow cursed by the devil. Through these dark, brooding sequences of terror, Rosemary’s Baby influenced such well-regarded future films as “The Omen” and “The Exorcist”.

The main source of paranoia in Rosemary is her mysterious next door neighbors, Roman and Minnie. Guy takes a fond liking to them and often leaves to have conversations with Roman, while Rosemary fears the two rather eccentric elders are conniving behind her back.  Minnie brings over little bowls of Chocolate Mousse for Rosemary, taking concern over her health, but even the sweet desert seems like a trap, a snare concocted by the odd woman. The film is well-paced and creepy, in huge part due to the performances, especially the older neighbor Minnie,  played by Ruth Gordon, with black, focused eyes and a very strange wardrobe; she commands the screen whenever she’s present with her glossy but shadowy facade.