I have 68 films on my list, but I'm going to aim for 13 solid write-ups. All of my chosen films are new to me, and have been selected from the 🌈Pride: A Chronological History of Queer Interest & LGBTQ+ Cinema list.
|# ¿ Apr 30, 2021 19:14|
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2021 14:29|
1. Lyle (2014) Tubi(US)/Shudder(US)
Lyle presents an upwardly mobile lesbian couple, who move into a trendy Brooklyn apartment with their very young daughter. What follows, without giving too much away, is a twist on the Rosemary's Baby format, following the aftermath of their daughter's mysterious death. The film is a hair-raising exploration of grief, paranoia, isolation, and anxiety, creating a permeating unease, culminating in some fantastically stomach-churning moments.
The film's focus is Leah, played in a raw, unflinching and unglamorous way by the wonderful Gaby Hoffman, as she suspiciously stalks a small tenement building, throwing accusing glances at her landlady, and sharing her wild theories with the attractive neighbour downstairs. All whilst being subtly reminded of her pain by everything that crosses her path.
To say that I loved the film would be an understatement, but it's unfortunately hard to recommend. A minor problem is the extended cast, or more specifically Michael Che, whose lack of acting experience combined with his pivotal role drags the film down in a small but painfully apparent way. My biggest complaint, however, is with the length of the film. No, it's not too long, it's actually far too short at only 62 minutes, and brevity hurts it deeply as much of the third act seems to be missing. There is an ending of sorts, but it goes out with more of a whimper than a bang.
To touch on the queer representation for a moment, it's so good that it's barely worth commenting upon. The fact that the couple is gay has no bearing on the plot, no one comments on their sexuality, everyone treats them normally and respectfully. You could easily swap them with a heterosexual couple, and the film would be identical. In some ways, this is the holy grail of queer representation, but it's also a bit, I don't know, boring? I guess it's progress that we get to be boring now, but eh.
The production elements are straightforward and stripped back and clearly embrace an independent though bougie sensibility that works well, focusing on quieter character moments, mood, and psychological horror. It's fine. You won't regret watching it, but it's not worth rushing out for.
2. Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers (1988) - Tubi(US)/filmin.es(EU)
"He went into a psycho ward a couple of years ago, and while he was there, the doctors gave him a sex change, and our parents' taxes paid for it!"
Last May I watched the original Sleepaway Camp for the thread, and it was an absolute revelation. For as much as the deeply transphobic reveal marred the series, I still maintain that the original film, for the most part, is a sensitive and deep exploration of gender, sexuality, and childhood bullying. Felissa Rose' depiction of a shy girl dealing with gender dysphoria in an unfamiliar space is one that touched me deeply and reminded me of many of my childhood experiences. However, this isn't the original Sleepaway Camp, and the team here are clearly going for a different kind of film.
Initially, it's difficult to parse what SC2 is attempting. We open with a familiar campfire scene, with several camp counsellors regaling each other with urban legends and spooky tales. Then much of the film almost seems to follow a strict Friday the 13th formula of nudity, sex, cavorting, and then the bloody murder punishments. But whereas Friday has a large stoic, masculine presence in Jason, SC2 has teeny tiny adorable Pamela Springsteen portraying Angela, and the effect is still menacing, but it's more comedic and almost cute.
To delve into trans representation, other than a few moments of throwaway transphobic dialogue, this really didn't have to be a trans narrative, it's just not strongly dwelled upon within the text itself. At one point, Angela points out that her she's undergone electroconvulsive therapy, psychological examinations, hormone therapy, and gender-affirming surgery, to which she exclaims "I'm cured!" whilst surrounded by the corpses of her victims. It's a tricky needle to thread, as much of the SC story is missing because we don't hear Angela discuss her gender identity, beyond that small moment.
Does her dysphoria come from being AMAB, and therefore she hits out at a world that rejects her, or is her dysphoria from being forced to present female by her aunt/doctors? The latter makes slightly more sense in why the "cure" didn't hold. Angela is yet to express who they really are, and is caught up in this moralist Christian camp counsellor mentality of scaring the other counsellors "straight". Equally, however, there could be a reading that the "cure" didn't hold because the film itself is just transphobic and doesn't subscribe to gender-affirming treatments.
My personal reading is the more positive one. Angela really does come across with the fervour of a conversion therapy counsellor, and it doesn't seem to be an accident that she scolds the women in the camp for exposing themselves to other women. We see an Angela who has fully embodied the puritanical morals of cisheteronormative society. They act out the violence perpetrated against them by their aunt, the bullies, and an unsympathetic medical establishment. The series then, for me at least, says more about intersex people who undergo forced bottom-surgery as infants and then attempt to assert their gender later, than it actually does about trans people.
Have I actually said anything about the film yet? It's fine, it's cute, the kills aren't remarkable, but neither were the kills in the original. I think the film works best as a comedy, and as a love letter to the slasher genre, and all of the clumsy problematic bullshit that entails. It's alright.
|# ¿ May 1, 2021 22:17|
So, I'm not counting non-list movies towards my total, so I guess these are supplementary and unofficial? Let's call them the X-Files.
1. In Fabric (2018) - Date night with my love
This is my third watch now, and honestly, it just gets better and better. Yes, it's a flawed film and clearly should have either been an anthology or should have leaned harder into exploring the first half. Once you accept the framework however it becomes so much easier to love, and just settle into the surreal dark humour, the many references, the bizarre tone, the playful arcane whisperings, the constant uneasy horny gestures. I feel like this was a film that was made for me specifically, and it's just my happy place.
2. Vampires vs. the Bronx (2020) - Bracketology stream
This is a lot better as a group than going solo. It's fun, it's light, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and it's wonderful to see stories centred on the lives and experiences of minority groups, not least in the South Bronx which has a special place in my heart. It reminds me so much of hanging out in West Farms, and chatting up sweet old gay Cuban santeros, stroking bodega kitties, being bitten by bodega kitties, and grabbing murder burgers. Fun times.
3. The Thing (1982) - Bracketology stream
I've seen this so many times now that I actually started fidgeting with my phone halfway through. I love it, it's a perfect film that can only be nitpicked, but I've gone to this well a few too many times now.
4. Legion of the Dead - Sunday Chill Stream
Just a huge mess of ideas, held together with a few fun moments and a certain manic energy. If you loved Feast and wanted a worse version, this is for you.
5. Tideland - Sunday Chill Stream
This is actually a first time for me. I loved the spin on the Alice in Wonderland story, and how the film effortlessly portrays countless bleak situations, but in a way that's fun, and almost bright, and enjoyable. We really get the sense that we're seeing the world through an optimistic and creative child's eyes, even when it's exploring death, and abuse, and I guess even mass-murder? My experience of the film can be boiled down to: "Oh, you could show this to children, they'd love it. Oh no, never show this to kids, this is horrific."
6. Freeway - Sunday Chill Stream
If you caught the stream you already know how much I love this film, and how enjoyable it is. This is my second time watching it this week, and I may go for a third. This is exactly the energy I want from a film, and these are exactly the characters I want to spend 90 minutes with, and it fills my heart with such joy that the sequel is just as good (if more than a little transphobic). Highly recommended.
7. Deerskin - Sunday Chill Stream
This is the second time for me, and it still holds the same pervasive charm. Watching demented clueless narcissistic characters descend even further is just a joy, and this film captures all that in an extremely funny and surreal way. It's also only 75 minutes, so that's incredibly hard to argue with.
8. Wild at Heart - Sunday Chill Stream
Lynch's exploitation movie and Wizard of Oz tribute. For me it's one of his weaker features, perhaps even the weakest, but for Lynch that's still head and shoulders above where most filmmakers are. There are just enough horny, surreal, violent, and bizarre moments to keep me hooked, even if the whole effect is a bit loose for my liking. It all just needs tightening up, maybe ditch half of the cast, or focus primarily on Laura Dern and Nick Cage's characters.
9. Blue Velvet - Sunday Chill Stream
Here is another film I could fidget and chat through because I've seen it too many times. It's perfect, it's maybe my favourite Lynch film, certainly in the top three with Inland Empire and Fire Walk With Me. It's an exploration of sex, of power, of relationships, of fear, of coming of age, all wrapped in a surreal neo-Noir shell, and imho it contains several lifetime best performances, most notably Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rosselini. Is Dean Stockwell's Ben a homophobic trope indicating Lynch's underlying unease, or at minimum disinterest, in depicting queer characters positively unless they're attractive women? Yes. I could never hate Lynch though.
10. Varan - Bracketology Stream
This is just bad. The characters are negligible, the story is meaningless, the conflict could be a statement about the evils of imperialism but it really isn't, it might even be the complete opposite and probably is. The camera is mostly interested in watching howitzers fire. Just bad, bad, bad, and more bad. I'm putting it at the same score as Red Zone Cuba, and Beast of the Yucca Flats, and Monster-a-Go-Go if that's an indication, this is the score I reserve for non-movies that want to trick you into watching them.
11. The Roost - Bracketology Stream
Another bad, bad, terrible, no good movie, but not maliciously so. Here it's all just amateur incompetence, slightly saved by the presence of Tom Noonan. He stands like an island in the film, a William Castle figure, reminding you that it's all just for fun, and to enjoy yourselves, but there's no enjoying this Tom. You lied to me, you little scamp.
Official - 2/13
X-Files - 11/?
Debbie Does Dagon fucked around with this message at 21:34 on May 4, 2021
|# ¿ May 4, 2021 19:11|
So I watched these a few days ago and then had a horrid mental health episode, and I can't really remember much of my experience at all, but I have notes and gifs, and that's a start, right?
3. Vampyres (1974) - Tubi (US)/Shudder(GB/US)
This is my second film directed by José Ramón Larraz, and I'm definitely detecting a theme of coldly detached sensuality in his films. He doesn't have the eye or the charisma of a Jean Rollin, but the gaze and the emotional depth here is much more my speed. Connecting my previous experience with him whilst watching Symptoms, there's a connecting material of old aristocratic manors, inhabited by Sapphic, vampiric, ghostly entities, luring in unsuspecting victims, and then exploring the conflicting emotions which inevitably arise.
Given the above, I think this is a less successful film than Symptoms. For one, there isn't a clear focus on any one character. I couldn't, for instance, tell you who any of these people were, beyond the mere events portrayed on screen. I didn't sympathise with anyone in particular. I didn't understand their motivations once events pivoted, it just all seemed a lot more shallow and inconsequential, but I did highly enjoy it as a mood piece. It has a sultry, decadent, alluring charm to it that goes beyond the usual male masturbatory fantasies that we usually get in this period. Larraz is clearly focused on the internal emotional lives of his characters, even as he is showing boobs, butts, and yes, even boy-butts I will say though that the kissing in this era is a little perplexing.
Did I say what the film is about? Sapphic vampires pose as hitchhikers to lure men to a stately home to have sex with and then eat. It's really not complex. It is a lot of fun though, definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of the era or the subject matter.
4. Remington and the Curse of the Zombadings (2011) - Tubi (US)
Let me just quote verbatim the description of this movie.
"Remington lives in a small provincial town. He’s a typical macho. During the day he works his rear end off and at night he gets drunk to blow off steam. As a child Remington mercilessly harassed his homosexual neighbour until the man put a curse on him. One day Remington would turn gay. And it seems like the curse is slowly but surely working its magic. Remington is being forced out of a closet he never thought he’d be in. First his body language turns pink, then the way he talks and finally his sexual preference. Poor Remington finds himself entangled in a confusing threesome with his best friend and girlfriend. In the meantime his mother, a police officer, tries to find the perpetrator of a series of murders in the city’s gay and transsexual community. And the victims do not intend to remain under ground. They’re coming out of their coffins, Gloria Gaynor style!"
I made a joke in the Discord that I was sure the film would be a sensitive and thoughtful exploration of its subject matter, and surprisingly it actually is. This is perhaps the best queer representation I've seen in a film for a very long time. Now one thing there are a lot of in this film are tropes, there's perhaps a focus on the more stereotypical elements of gay culture, but if you can see beyond that, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
First, while the plot is ridiculous and could easily fall into the trap of just being another awful gay-panic, heteronormative snooze-fest, this is definitely a film that centres the queer experience first, and whilst the twists in the tale may be predictable enough, they're actually handled in such a way as to be impressive. For instance, and this perhaps the slightest of spoilers, but there's a "curse", so the focus of course must be in breaking this "curse" and returning to being straight, correct? Absolutely, but the writers actually bother to lay out the issues in such a way that, even as a queer person, I was rooting for this character to undo their curse. And I don't want to reveal the deft sleight-of-hand at work here because it's breathtaking and honestly extremely moving how they made the pieces work together so effortlessly. I feel like I'm complimenting a point that I'm also dancing around, but it needs to be seen to be believed!
Secondly, whilst the key players are ostensibly cishet, a large swathe of the extended cast are LGBTQ+. In fact, and this is another slight spoiler, the last shot of the film is of a smiling trans woman as she comes to feel accepted and loved by the community around her, and it's gorgeous thing to behold. And while there is a plot involving a serial killer who targets the LGBTQ+ community, there's a wonderful shot of the killer explaining why he has a distaste for gay people specifically, and filmmakers allow this character an unbroken shot to monologue their hate into whilst also completely drowning them out with loud background noise. It's such a wonderful moment because it punctuates the fact that we've heard this poo poo, and we're not listening anymore.
I feel a little bit carried away with this... can I even call what I do reviewing? The film itself is what you might expect from a fluffy horror comedy without too many teeth. While there are ghosts, zombies, and serial killers, there are no scares really. It's all a backdrop for some light comedy, a much-needed exploration of queer issues from a uniquely Phillipino perspective, and did I mention that the curse-spirit is a swelteringly hot muscle daddy in a leather thong?
Does it deserve 5/5? I don't care it's perfect.
|# ¿ May 7, 2021 05:19|
I love The Incredible Melting Man so much, I can't count the number of times I watched the MST3K episode. And of course, the best part...
|# ¿ May 8, 2021 03:24|
12. Elle - Date night
Elle is a fascinating addition to the rape/revenge subgenre, and I don't want to spoil any of the plot because from the first shot onward it's full of surprises. The general gist is that Michele, played by Isabelle Huppert, is raped in her home. We then follow her in the following days and weeks, as we see her muted yet seething response, and get to know her as a character.
The central thesis of the film appears to be the conflict between men and women, and it's not the first time Verhoeven has tackled this issue. My wonderful girlfriend was quite on the fence while we were watching this, unsure as to whether the depiction was sexist or not. As a Verhoeven fan, I have a much more forgiving interpretation, but I acknowledge that doesn't necessarily equate to the correct one.
The women of the film do fall into the somewhat traditional binary of madonna and whore. Elle is the CEO of a games company that produces brutally graphic games, containing extremely violent rape scenes. Her mother is sexually promiscuous despite her old age, her son's partner is shown as a vicious philanderer, and the next-door neighbour, by contrast, is a saintly figure largely devoid of character. Whereas the men are pretty evenly depicted as easily lead slaves to their biology.
It'd be quite easy to take these facts, and construct an MGTOW reading of "Women are evil, men are blameless victims", but I feel like the film takes that premise and adds enough layers of nuance and character development, such that our interest and sympathies are with the women characters. Michele, for instance, is perhaps one of the more complex characters I've seen on screen. She is simultaneously a victim and a relentlessly "bad" person, but none of her actions are beyond understanding or sympathy. There's a terrific scene in which she purposefully vandalises a car, and then later we learn the emotional significance of the act, and how the act is used to protect herself.
Any fan of Huppert or Verhoeven will definitely love this film too, for me it's easily my favourite film from both careers, which is a tall order as I'm a huge fan of The Fourth Man (Go watch The Fourth Man). While it perhaps isn't as visually inventive as some of Verhoeven's other films, the combination of the taught storytelling, ceaseless emotional manipulation, and the razor-sharp performance from Huppert, is just unbeatable. If you take any recommendation from me this month, let it be Elle.
13. On the Silver Globe - Bracketology Stream
For me, this is the superior version of Mother!, complete with religious allegories, manic crowds, and an atypical time-bending narrative. I could see this being remade as an HBO miniseries, it's an absolutely fantastic sci-fi romp, with plenty of deep symbolism, and powerful visual elements, it's also dense and imposing enough to force the viewer to wrestle with its themes. I think it will take me a few viewings to really pin down my thoughts, but I'll be taking away images that will last a lifetime.
14. The Phantom of the Opera - Bracketology Stream
This is the Dario Argento version, and while there are cheeky and humourous moments, I can't get over how leering the camerawork is, and how so often the object of these leers is Dario's daughter, Asia. Added to that, it's just not very good. The changes made to the original text don't aid the story at all, and the characters frequently make baffling choices to get back on track. It's just a mess.
15. Vampire's Kiss - Sunday Chill Stream
People so often focus on Nic Cage's bizarre performance here, and I think that focus misses the point. The whole film is a bizarre comic-book version of life, the kind that could only come out of the late '80s, and yet the subject matter here is unrelentingly dark. Nic comes to believe that he is turning into a vampire, and expresses this by harassing and raping his secretary, murdering a bar patron, and then ultimately wandering the streets, having imagined conversations, as onlookers look on perplexed. You could easily remake this in the New French Extremity style, and change nothing but the tone, and it'd still work, and still be just as horrific. The real point, however, is that stark mix of comic-book humour combined with the horrific subject matter, and how the '80s created a tissue paper artifice to hide the realities of Reagan-era abuses.
The film itself is fine. It's laudable that New York is presented as the multicultural mecca that it is, and isn't white-washed as it was in Seinfeld and Friends et cetera, but there's nothing here that screams timeless classic. It is definitely of an age and limited by the clear inexperience of the crew. Not incredible, but very good.
16. Kissed - Sunday Chill Stream
Kissed is a sweet, sensitive, sensual coming-of-age story of a necrophile, who meets a man who wishes to love her, and who quickly understands that there's only one way to make that happen. I was really quite taken aback by this film, it feels like an earnest Todd Solondz film. There's a stilted, though wonderful sweet and innocent quality, where we explore the life and loves of Sandra, played sensitively by Molly Parker, who reminded me here of Sherilyn Fenn.
My one complaint is that I didn't want the romance, or at least I didn't want it to be heterosexual. I want to explore the internal workings of this fascinating character, and once the cishet-male character was introduced, suddenly the film became about his grappling with her identity as an onlooker, and then his struggle of attempting to fit into her world. It felt voyeuristic. I wanted to know Sandra from her point of view, or the pov of a sympathetic equal, and I feel like that was robbed from me. May is a much more successful version of this story, I feel, though again there we have humour undercutting the emotions.
In any case, I loved it. Give me more sensitive weirdo girls.
17. Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby - Sunday Chill Stream
This is a rewatch, and I feel I've made my feelings well-known before now. You have puke, you have lesbian serial killers, unfortunately the ending is transphobic, but I'll take what I can get.
18. Mark of the Vampire - Bracketology Stream
Someone in the stream said it's the original Scary Movie style horror parody, and I really can't fault that description. It's cute, but not particularly memorable, and sometimes that's enough. And there's also a kitty in a suit of armour!
19. Tigers Are Not Afraid - Bracketology Stream
A very powerful, touching, and affecting film that uses its gimmicks to perfectly punctuate its emotions, tone, and story. Just wonderful.
20. Brew House - 𝚈𝚎𝚎‐𝙷𝚊𝚠 🤠's Tubi Tuesdays
Yee-Haw on the Discord is starting a terrible Tubi movie stream on Tuesdays, or Tubi Tuesdays to be short. And the movies are definitely bad, bad, bad, and plain no good, though often humorously so. Brew House is one so obscure I had to create the Letterboxd entry for it, and while it's let down by the painfully wooden one-note acting, and bafflingly obscure script, this spooky-house found footage movie isn't too terrible. There are a few cute character moments, and the effects, whilst cheap digital efforts, actually work as intended. It's hard to become invested in a script when all of the tattered edges are so obviously on show, however.
21. The Leprechaun's Game - 𝚈𝚎𝚎‐𝙷𝚊𝚠 🤠's Tubi Tuesdays
If you've seen a Leprechaun movie you already know the set up here. Lep wants his gold back and will kill anyone in the way, with his one weakness being four-leaf clovers, and to give this film its due, there are some nice shots, there's a nicely diverse cast, and not all of the performances are awful. It is however a no-budget Leprechaun rip-off with no Warwick Davis, no professional actors, scenes that go on for far too long, no interesting kills, not a shred of an engaging plot, and a six-foot-tall Leprechaun in a shake-and-go wig. It's awful, but it's watchable and funny enough to group-watch.
Fran Challenges: 0/13
|# ¿ May 12, 2021 22:45|
It is also a bit funny how up-front the film is about what it's saying. There is no subtext, it's all text. The rich are the ruling class and we are pawns of consumption. I think this approach is why the film has managed it's longevity; the message doesn't get lost under the story-telling.
I think there is subtext. It begins as a takedown of Reagan era America and Capitalism, then it pivots toward being about a shadowy cabal of others manipulating the system for their own ends. The conclusion of the film is that the system isn't broken, it's the people behind the system who are to blame, and they importantly are different from us genetically. We're just lucky that they were aliens and not lizard-people.
|# ¿ May 13, 2021 16:11|
Fran Challenge: Scream, Queen!
I thought I'd try something a little different, and rather than do a review I'd do a compare and contrast of three versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray. My subjects are:
5. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) - filmin.es(EU)
6. Dorian Gray (1970) - Amazon Prime(UK)
7. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1973) - Tubi(US)
The plot of Dorian Gray is quite straightforward, and while there are certain deviations between each version, they tend to be rather minor, aiding only in accentuating certain plot points or creating a slightly different narrative flow. The gist is that Basil Hallward, an artist and a morally upstanding figure, has created a portrait of Dorian Gray, a young wealthy aristocrat, with seemingly no responsibilities, attachments, or dependents. Lurking in the background, and quipping voraciously, is Lord Henry Wotton, a sharp-tongued decadent, who reminds Dorian that his youth is temporary and that he should seize the hedonistic day. Dorian, moved by this speech, wishes that his portrait would age in his stead, and barters his soul in the process.
Dorian soon falls in love with Sibyl Vane, an actress in the source material and in the 1970 version, but updated to be a general working-class performer in the other films. As quickly as the love blooms, it soon wilts, as Dorian scorn and rejects Sybil, leading to her suicide. At that moment Dorian recognises his connection with the painting, it bears for him the wither of not only age but sin, and while his face remains youthful and fresh, his portrait begins to snarl viciously. Emboldened by this discovery, Dorian decides to devote his life to excess, safe in the knowledge that the portrait will act as his conscience, hidden away deep within his home, where he nor anyone else need look upon it.
After varying periods of debauchery, Dorian eventually confesses to Hallward that a record of his soul exists, and reveals to him the painting, now showing a deep and grotesque rictus. Overwhelmed by the guilt of his actions, and the anger it provokes, Dorian kills Hallward and bribes a friend to dispose of the body. In his grief, Dorian attends a house of ill-repute, where the brother of Sybil confronts him after 18-years, following being away at sea. Dorian uses his apparent youth to escape from the brother, claiming a case of mistaken identity. When the brother eventually realises the ruse, he goes to confront Dorian again, dying in the process.
Moved by these events, Dorian attempts to escape his life of excess, and ease his conscience, by marrying the niece of a friend. Within this change of heart, he confronts the painting and stabs it, the wound in the painting is reflected on Dorian however, and he dies, ageing in the process into the spectre that once haunted the frame. The end.
To begin with the 1945 version, I really think this is the outstanding film of the three. It's the most compelling in terms of narrative structure, it has the strongest performances, and it's the most visually impressive. While the two above portrait screenshots are in colour, the body of the film is actually in black and white. Colour is reserved for these shots alone, and it's a remarkably powerful effect that, even as a modern audience member, I was quite shocked by it. The other two films are far more ordinary in terms of appearance, cinematography, set design, lighting, it's all just very workmanlike, and barely worth commenting on. Whereas the 1945 version offers us shots like this:
I loved the performance of Hurd Hatfield as Dorian in '45 version, he plays the role with such a wide-eyed seductive innocence, that barely conceals the ravenous appetites which lay beneath his cold, unfeeling visage. It's a quality that's missing from Shane Briant ('73) and Helmut Berger ('70). Briant can be somewhat forgiven for pulling forth a televisual performance, as this is a made-for-television film, but Berger on the other hand was clearly hired for his body rather than his talent. The first moment of the '70 version, the foundation upon which the tone of the film will be set is his wooden, lifeless, mechanical, limp line-read. What makes it worst is that the film begins at the dramatic climax, the murder of Hallward. If you can't elicit emotion at even the most fraught and dramatic moment, what good are you?
Of the extended casts, the strongest players have to be the Lord Wottons of the '45 and '70 versions, played respectively George Sanders and Herbert Lom. It makes complete sense as well, as Wotton receives all of the best Wilde quips, and is just the perfect role for any character actor to sink their teeth into. Sanders especially is just effortlessly devilish and cool, it's really no surprise that he was chosen to be so scandalous in Hitchcock's Rebecca, he ruffles so many feathers and barely lifts a finger in the process. It's also wonderful to see Herbert Lom given the opportunity to be camp, and sleek, and sexual. I've only seen him in cantankerous old man roles up to now, so seeing a younger effervescent mischievous version of him was a revelation. And did I mentioned Angela Lansbury is in the '45 version, and she's a hottie?
I keep failing to mention the '73 film, and it's not that it's bad in any particular way, it's just not extraordinary. It simply fails to stand out. Here is a film that was written by a gay man, Oscar Wilde, and containing quite obvious gay subtext, and a deep ethical back and forth, and yet the film is so dully heterosexual, and such a languid straightforward morality tale. There is a lot I didn't enjoy about the '70 version, but I can at least praise it for doing something with the subtext.
The Dorian of the '70 version is a Dorian of the Freelove movement, he is openly bisexual, and the film allows him to be sexually aggressive in a way that the other two films shy away from. None of the films actually portray Dorian as a rapist, more of a bounder, a seducer, a corruptor, but here he clearly entraps people in a haze of booze and pressure, and it's a side of the character that's worth exploring. It's worth commenting though that, of course and unfortunately, these two aspects are destined to collide in the "predatory gay" trope.
There's a lot to be said about the meaning behind these films, and of the book. Clearly, there's a lot to be said about the idea of conscience, decadence, of our duty to those around us, of the aesthetic nature of art, and whether it is better to be appealing, or to have depth. And in this spirit of deep internal reflection, I'd like to discuss twinks.
Twinks, for the two of you who might not know, are young, hairless, slender, fresh-faced gay men, and for some very normative people, they are, or were, considered the height of desirability, and for some, the idea of ageing and not being seen as desirable is a fraught worry. It's sort of an unfortunate artefact of hook-up culture that we should judge each other so coldly, and based on such a shallow reading of what is desirable. It is however easy then to draw a line between the decadent desire of living for pleasure, and the ticking clock which comes from the thought that one day we'll no longer be desirable. Lord Wotton spells it out plainly enough:
"Ah! realise your youth while you have it. Don't squander the gold of your days, listening to the tedious, trying to improve the hopeless failure, or giving away your life to the ignorant, the common, and the vulgar. These are the sickly aims, the false ideals, of our age. Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing."
The desire then to hold on to those days, to delay the inevitable, and to ride the twink lifestyle forever must be extremely appealing to some. And I envision a Dorian who, in stabbing his portrait, is actually committing suicide at the expectation of a fall from grace, a loss of appeal, a fall from privilege, and the intermittent section between realisation and seppuku, is a meditation on the immeasurable web of harm he would gladly inflict if allowed to maintain that privilege. It's bear propaganda, in other words.
After all this, would I advise others to do a compare and contrast? Probably not. There's something rewarding in the shotgun approach, as we're likely to hit at least something we enjoy, perhaps even something a bit obscure and in our periphery... Actually yes, yes, blast wildly into the bushes! Maybe you won't hit anything, but perhaps you'll hit an old Seaman. Live bravely!
Fran Challenges: 1/13
|# ¿ May 15, 2021 19:40|
Great writeup DDD. Looks like I picked the right version to watch. Those color shots of the portrait were just incredible.
Thank you! And I'm glad I wasn't the only person who was shocked by the colour reveal, I literally did a double take. It's amazing that those techniques are still so powerful 76 years later.
|# ¿ May 15, 2021 20:34|
Cross-postin from the Bracketology thread
Fran Challenges: 1/13
|# ¿ May 18, 2021 20:13|
I've never understood brackets.
It's basically just an excuse to have a movie club, but with a slightly competitive bent
|# ¿ May 19, 2021 00:43|
8. Harvest Lake - Tubi(US)
Harvest Lake has a very simple premise, a group of horny friends venture out to Harvest Lake, and once there they discover that an unidentified presence is dispatching them one by one. It seems like pretty standard slasher fare, right? When I began watching the film I quickly dismissed it as a skinamax slog with nothing to offer, but then an interesting shot crept in, followed by a compelling tense moment, and then engaging dialogue, likeable characters, and goop, so much delicious horny goop I could barely contain myself. To say this was a pleasant surprise is a vast understatement, and I'm going to gleefully track down the rest of the director's (Scott Schirmer) films.
The characters and the tone are really what keeps the film moving along nicely. When you look into the actors' filmographies they're the predictable schlocky super low-budget horror titles, with names like Hooker With a Hacksaw, Bloody Hooker Bang Bang: A Love Story, and Space Babes from Outer Space. I don't know if these actors are unsung masters of their indie craft, or the director is just an expert at pulling emotion and charisma out of people, but the performances here are rich, naturalistic, compelling, and most importantly warm. I cared about all of these people, and felt like I got to know them at a deep emotional level as they strutted around in bikinis and short-shorts, and sucked fungus dicks.
Speaking of fungus dicks, it's hard to really pin down what the message of the film is, if there is one. The entire film is very sex-positive, body-positive, and warmly embracing of queer people in a non-judgmental, celebratory way. There is eye-candy, but it's joyously equal opportunity, as we get dicks before the opening titles, and a loving shot of boys kissing each other. Yet, there is this constant theme of sex as something menacing. This is probably going too far, but it reminded me of a cross between Cronenberg's Shivers and von Trier's Antichrist, but not at all clinical or misanthropic. There's just this not-so-subtle sense that sex is invasive, and that nature is brutal, rapacious and unquenchable, but then there's also an impression that maybe that's okay. Maybe being a cum slut zombie for an eldritch entity is a valid and fulfilling life choice.
I'm really not expecting anyone else to appreciate this movie, but for me it was an absolute blast.
Fran Challenges: 1/13
|# ¿ May 20, 2021 22:15|
A delightful new industry standard in the field of fungus dicks. I watched Harvest Lake as part of 31-for-October, and when my partner came home from work and asked "So what was today's movie about?" there was really just no appropriate response.
so much delicious horny goop I could barely contain myself
I'm delighted there's another fan It's one of those films I'm persuading myself that everyone should watch
|# ¿ May 21, 2021 01:48|
9. Hide and Go Shriek - Tubi(US)
How little can I get away with saying about this film? Can I just say "It stinks" and move along? Another reviewer described it as a worse version of Chopping Mall and, not only is that accurate, but I also hate Chopping Mall. The set-up here is practically identical, a group of horny teens decide to stay overnight at a
No fun robots here though, instead we have, and spoilers, an ex-con who is haunted by a homicidal gay lover from his prison days. It's not thematically relevant that he's gay, other than the tenuous and largely unexplored relationship with the ex-con, his being gay doesn't factor into the plot or the murders either. It just seems to be there for a bit of cheap gay-panic five minutes before the film ends. Before that point, the identity of the killer is an unimportant mystery.
The main issue with the film is that it's so dull. Even at under 90 minutes it drags unbearably, and I think it's a combination of things. Firstly, there are no engaging characters, despite the cast trying hard (and not in the Simon Mayo way). They simply can't escape the lacklustre script that asks nothing of them and gives nothing to them. Even the wonderful Bunky Jones has nothing to do other than alternate between screaming and whining.
Secondly, there's a line in the film about not wanting to turn the lights on so as not to attract the cops and, putting aside the question of why not turn the lights on once people start being murdered, the effect is that the entire film looks incredibly dull and samey. There is little to distinguish locations, or make shots interesting, it's all just a boring predictable darkness.
There is one fun kill however, and I present it to you here so you need not suffer through the film as I did
Fran Challenges: 1/13
Debbie Does Dagon fucked around with this message at 02:13 on May 22, 2021
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 02:09|
Good influences are so overrated
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 02:15|
Fran Challenge: Short Cuts
Because I'm extra, I'm doing horror cinema (that I haven't seen before) in chronological order.
A Terrible Night (1896) - 1 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
A very early Méliès featuring a sleeping man being crawled upon by a puppet spider, the man then attacks the spider with a broom. Fin. It's very cute, but it's clear that Méliès is still exploring and learning his craft here.
A Nightmare (1896) - 1 min
Directed by Georges Méliès
A man experiences a nightmare, in which the world transforms and twists around him in magical ways, and we begin to see more of who Méliès would later become. There are two notable things about this, first, this appears to be a dress rehearsal for Méliès' later film The Astronomers Dream, which is almost identical if not for the improved effects. Second, it also appears to be the first instance of blackface on-screen, unfortunately.
The Hallucinated Alchemist (1897) - 2 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
I think this would be my favourite film if I were alive in 1897. The camera is static, but there's so much vibrancy and drama and magic on screen. The basic plot is of an alchemist being tormented by his chameleonic creation, a homunculus, maybe? Very cute and humourous, and evidence that horror needn't be scary, it can be whimsical and fantastic too.
The X-Ray Fiend (1897) - 1 min
Directed by George Albert Smith
A couple canoodling on a bench are peeped upon by an x-ray camera, revealing their ghoulish skeletons! The man then gets a little too fresh and is abandoned by the woman. Maybe the first rape-revenge film, if you want to stretch definitions to incredulity.
The Dancing Skeleton (1897) - 1 min
Directed by Louis and Auguste Lumiere
Credited as the first animation, it's somewhat strange to me as it's clearly a puppet being moved with strings. Perhaps I'm missing something? Either way, it's a cute dancing skeleton. What more do you want?
The Devil in a Convent (1899) - 3 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
This is basically Ken Russell's The Devils, right? The devil appears in a convent, letting loose all manner of mischief. This is more like Méliès in full swing, as the first magician of cinema, the Zack Snyder of his time, if you will.
Maple Leaf Viewing (1899) - 6 mins
Directed by Tsunekichi Shibata
"A reel was shot of the Noh drama Momiji-gari (Maple Leaf Hunters, or Viewing Scarlet Maple Leaves), in which Danjuro played opposite Onoe Kikugoro V (1844-1903) as an ogress who has disguised herself as the Princess Sarashina."
The film begins with an exquisite display of Japanese fan dancing, in fact, the bulk of the film is traditional Noh dancing, the nuances of which are completely lost on me as a layman, or laywoman? As someone who gets laid? The short culminates with a great battle between two swordsmen, one of whom looks extremely demonic, twirling a long main of hair, that looks something between a whip and a great fountain of blood. It's hard to comment on something so unfamiliar beyond surface impressions, but it was very beautiful and visually dramatic at least.
Davey Jones’ Locker (1900) - 1 min
Directed by Frederick S. Armitage
It's the skeleton dance, but now with a backdrop of a ship. Maybe technically the first kaiju film? At a stretch? Regardless of how simplistic it is, it's definitely a successful experiment.
Faust and Marguerite (1900) - 1 min
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
A poor and confusing impression of Méliès' style, though at least it shows the spread of ideas. The plot doesn't really relate to Faust at all, but there is some form of a struggle over the heart of a woman, involving teleportation. It's an Edison film, and going through early cinema has taught me that Edison labs are a bunch of hacks mainly, so not too much of a surprise.
Uncle Josh in a Spooky Hotel (1900) - 1 min
Directed by Edwin S. Porter
A ghost irritates two easily angered men into fighting, before scaring one away and taking their place. Again, not up to par with what's happening in Europe, but at least there's comedic potential here.
Turn-of-the-Century Surgery (1900) - 2 mins
Directed by Alice Guy-Blaché
Several surgeons perform their art on an unsuspecting
Explosion of a Motor Car (1900) - 1 min
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
The first film today to actually get an audible belly laugh out of me. A car races down a street, only to explode, and the investigating policeman is showered with falling gore and body parts. Just wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
How It Feels to Be Run Over (1900) - 1 min
Directed by Cecil M. Hepworth
After the absolute triumph of Explosion of a Motor Car, I had far too high hopes for this, especially given the title, and while it's nowhere near as good, it's fun enough. We have a static shot of a car approaching, and the immortal words of "Oh, mother will be pleased!" It's cute enough though, I can't hate.
The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901) - 2 mins
Directed by Walter R. Booth
An old man is haunted by a ghost who turns themselves into a black lady in order to scare them? Honestly, it's well-done and kind of cute in parts, but I'm far too much of a sensitive baby for this era sometimes.
The Devil and the Statue (1901) - 2 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
This is remarkably restrained for Méliès, with fewer quick effects, instead focussing on beautiful sets and the growing effect. It also tells a much more straightforward story of a devil appearing and being vanquished. It's fine.
Bluebeard (1901) - 10 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
A 10-minute long film!? It's absolutely indulgent of Méliès to think people would wish to sit in a cinema for a whole 10 minutes. What's next, a 20-minute director's cut!?
This is the classic Blue Beard tale of marriage and forbidden rooms, only now with the benefit of a large cast, multiple gorgeous sets, and effects used more sparingly to advance the story. That's right, this feels like an actual film! And it's kind of wonderful. There's also a wonderful scene in which Blue Beard manhandles his wife, and she's briefly exchanged for a ragdoll, and dragged around hilariously.
The Treasures of Satan (1902) - 3 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
But aren't the real treasures of Satan the friends we made along the way? This is a return to the Méliès of the 1890s, with lots of quickfire effects, little plot, but now a gymnast! Eh. It's fine.
The Infernal Cauldron (1903) - 2 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
Two devils cook a person in a cauldron, releasing spirits in the process. There's some nice experimentation with colourising the film, but nothing much else to comment upon.
Faust and Mephistopheles (1903) - 2 mins
Directed by Alice Guy-Blaché
A quite comprehensive, though obviously extremely truncated, telling of Faust. It's quite mesmerising how Guy-Blanché has woven the story with the effects in such a seamless and beautiful way. It's also notable how sensuous and erotic the film is in parts, which is an aspect not often touched upon in film up until this point, and when it was, it was often very clumsy with a male gaze.
The Mistletoe Bough (1904) - 3 mins
Directed by Percy Stow
A very cute film about the hide-and-seek world champ. A newlywed woman hides in a chest, and there she lays undiscovered for 30-years until a premonition persuades her partner to seek out her body. The conclusion is quite sad, but the story and execution here are remarkably simple. It's fine. Apparently, there's a 9-minute version out there, but it currently eludes me.
The Merry Frolics of Satan (1906) - 20 mins
Directed by Georges Méliès
The plot here seems reminiscent of The Hallucinated Alchemist, as we follow the many tribulations of a magician until of course, that magician reveals himself to be Satan. We then veer off into a magical fantasy journey of circus exploits, and practical humour, all with Satan in pursuit. The film is tremendously cute and inventive, it's also nice to see that Méliès' experiments in colourisation have reached a very convincing quality, and the sets equally are mesmerisingly beautifully. Can you tell I'm exhausted? It good.
Fran Challenges: 2/13
Debbie Does Dagon fucked around with this message at 22:03 on May 22, 2021
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 21:58|
You're not too bad yourself
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 22:32|
If you watch nothing else, watch Explosion of a Motor Car, it's delightful.
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 22:43|
God I love those early Melies and Melies-esque shorts. Seeing filmmakers literally figuring out how to make movies is incredible.
I know, right? I thought maybe I wouldn't get anything out of the Actualities, why would a 4-second film of a man turning a corner be interesting? But it's amazing placing yourself in the shoes of these pioneers and watching them learn how to crawl, then walk, and at last run. It's also wonderful getting to know some of the early performers, like Loie Fuller who innovated the Serpentine dance and pops up in numerous places.
|# ¿ May 22, 2021 23:50|
lol that was funnier than I expected, the way he just casually inspects severed limbs and jots stuff down in his notebook made me laugh
It kind of reminded me of the beginning of Nekromantik, which is a connection I didn't expect to make
|# ¿ May 23, 2021 00:52|
10. High Tension (2003) ‘Haute tension’
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Watched on date night
I was warned off of High Tension for many years due to the, and I don't want to spoil anything here, possibly homophobic script. And while I can certainly see why so many people might be hesitant in recommending this film, I loved it, I loved every moment. I loved the lead, I loved the killer, I love the suspense, I loved the gore. It was just absolutely dreamy
The basic plot is that Marie and Alexia, two best friends, decide to take a trip into the countryside to visit Alexia's parents. Marie is the window through which we view the events of the film, and she's openly gay, or at least she's winning no prizes for hiding her sexuality. Alexia on the other hand is straight, or at least has a friendly non-romantic and non-sexual relationship with Marie, and this state of affairs seems to satisfy everyone.
That is until Marie accidentally catches a glimpse of Alexia showering. Marie retires to her bedroom, and what follows is an extremely sensual and intimate masturbation scene, which is largely free of the male gaze. While there is a panning close-up, which can often be used to indicate a certain voyeurism on behalf of the filmmaker, it feels a lot more intimate than that, more sympathetic, and primarily expressing the intense sexual yearning of the scene.
Upon the moment of orgasm, a van pulls up outside the home, and what follows is a murderous home invasion reminiscent of Halloween, in which a stoic shape moves slowly through a home, dispatching each member of the household without emotion, and with moments of precise and icy cold brutality. We then follow Marie in her attempts to stay hidden, unnoticed, and alive, and it's in these moments that the film shows itself to be incredibly intelligent, as the methods of survival are extremely atypical and surprising.
Going into the film I actually knew the twist going in, so these scenes of evasion and pursuit worked in two ways for me, first as a first-time viewer experiencing the raw thrills, and second, as someone who is aware that what is occurring on screen is an internal struggle. That might seem like it would ruin the film, but for me, it provided an added dimension of complexity that was incredibly enjoyable to parse.
Now there is of course the tricky subject of the internal struggle. It's quite clear from the text that Marie's sexual attraction and orgasm caused a mental break, and so it's then only a question of ascertaining what the mental break symbolises. I think the last few shots make clear that Marie was undergoing some form of jealousy or separation anxiety from her friend, which of course lays the ground for accusations that the film is trading in some nasty predatory lesbian tropes, and if that's your reading I'm not here to disabuse you of them, I did, however, have a different reading of the film.
I think it's significant that Marie imagines the killer as an older man, gruff, unemotional, reactionary, a clear symbol of toxic masculinity, repression, and of her internal struggle to accept herself. I could easily imagine this man as a kind of father figure, who withheld love from Marie as a child, and taught her that she wasn't worthy of love or affection, and it is the disgust of having a tender, sensual, delightful, innocent moment of self-love, that sends her spiralling into this split personality, and struggle over her identity.
Later, in the car chase scene, we see Marie driver a car with Confederate plates, earlier we hear her wonder aloud if a man chose a Brazilian girlfriend because he wanted something "exotic". She is clearly a woman who has embodied much of the toxicity of the world around her, and uses she it as a vehicle in which she navigates the world, and tries to make sense of it, and as much as this strategy has helped her to make sense of her role in society, it cannot help her in connecting with another person, Alexia, in the way she wishes, and it is this contradiction that causes the break, and not a simple matter of predation.
When we last see Marie she is repeating a phrase similar to "I'll never let them keep us apart", and there's a sadness in this, even as Marie smiles the words. It shows that she has come to accept her sexuality and her love of her friend, but the tole for her was already too large. She has already internalised too much of the world that tells her that she should hate herself, and within that internalisation, she has hurt those who she cares about most. To me, it's sort of like the classic tale of Heracles preceding the trials, and the sadness and tragedy of hurting those we love through an altered mental state. Or it could be just mad homophobic
Fran Challenges: 2/13
|# ¿ May 24, 2021 20:27|
12. The Wild Boys
Excellent write-up! And I'm ecstatic that you enjoyed it so much
|# ¿ May 25, 2021 19:02|
Fran Challenge: Sometimes They Come Back
The Thing from Another World (1951)
Directed by Christian Nyby
Watched on Filmin.es(EU)
Despite hearing how good this film is for a few decades now, I've been putting it off under the assumption that it wasn't going to be for me. It's from a decade of film that I don't particularly enjoy, and, I'm not sure if "creature feature" applies here, but it seemed to share some of the hallmarks of that subgenre that I don't particularly care for, the monster with no personality, who acts seemingly randomly and in a blundering manner. Whilst some of that assessment fits, I actually quite enjoyed the film. On a day in which I watched Nightmare Detective and Hellboy (2004), it was easily my favourite film of the day.
The basic plot is naturally quite similar to John Carpenter's The Thing. A cold remote base discovers an alien being and then spends much of the rest of the movie in a paranoid race to defeat it before it spreads to the rest of the world, replicating itself unfathomably with us as its food source. What's impressive about the film is also, coincidentally, what I'd consider impressive about Carpenter's remake, namely the depth of character building and the impressive practical effects..
Firstly, and despite the large cast, I actually got the sense that I knew each of the characters, understood their motivations and quirks and even got to like a few of them. Margaret Sheridan's Nikki, in particular, stands out as a fun, rich, characterful, and strong presence, which was incredibly impressive to me. Her character is perhaps a step down from some other women characters from the '30s and '40s, but compared to Julie Adams' Kay from Creature From the Black Lagoon, she's practically a firebrand suffragette.
Secondly, the effects are just magical. The suit is deceptive, as when you see still images you assume the monster is a two-dimensional Frankenstein, and he absolutely is in some ways. What really sets it apart though is the fantastic cinematography, the lightning work, and, yes, the fire stunts. I think the only other fire stunts I've seen that compare with this are in Maniac Cop 2 and House of Wax (1953), and even there the fire didn't feel as menacing or as dangerous. Maybe there's just something unpredictable about fire, that it's almost like cheating to use it, it's just going to bypass logic every time, regardless however I was incredibly impressed.
I'm sure I could go on but I've probably said enough. It's just a wonderfully surprising film, and one I would highly recommend, despite any misgivings you may have.
Fran Challenges: 3/13
Debbie Does Dagon fucked around with this message at 23:04 on May 25, 2021
|# ¿ May 25, 2021 22:56|
|# ¿ Jun 16, 2021 14:29|
Fran Challenge: Cavalcade of Creepiness
The Field Guide to Evil (2018)
I quite enjoyed the mini-reviews I did during the short film challenge, so, as this is an anthology film, I thought I'd apply the same method here. When Goat was watching this, he described it in a way that was absolutely irresistible to me, a mix of queer themes, fetishes, and bizarre horror. I just couldn't resist.
The Sinful Women of Hollfall
Directed by Veronika Franz & Severin Fiala (Austria)
This very shallowly reminded me of Hagazussa in setting and theme, being that it's a pre-industrial setting that focuses on outcasts, the peasantry, and the Christian moralistic panopticon. We also get some Sapphic themes, which I feel Hagazussa touches on briefly. Unfortunately, this film isn't quite as ambitious, and leans a little heavily on the "spooky scary CGI ghost lady scares me" subgenre for my liking, but we do get to see a lady masturbate furiously whilst brandishing a knife, so that was fun for me.
Haunted by Al Karisi, the Childbirth Djinn
Directed by Can Evrenol (Turkey)
There's something about young people caring for older frail people that always chokes me up. I've been in that position many times in my life. It's an honour to be there for people in their final days, but it always takes its toll. This short plays upon those themes of laboured duty, and twists it in a typical moral-tale format, of how mistreating an older loved one will come back to haunt you, though here it's very literal. I do love the focus on body horror here, it's very reminiscent of Drag Me To Hell, but a less obviously objectionable version.
The Kindler and The Virgin
Directed by Agnieszka Smoczynska (Poland)
This short is from the director of The Lure, and it's easily the most beautifully filmed of the shorts here. The plot is quite simple, as a spectral, ghostly, vampiric woman promises a man wisdom and power if he can only eat three hearts of the newly dead. What follows is a mix of fairytale logic, body horror, and, well, the plot is a bit perplexing honestly, it feels like it's missing an act or two. The general feel is that it's a Faustian/monkey's paw wish situation, but much of the time is given toward showcasing the beautiful cinematography, the plot really feels like more of an afterthought, but that's honestly fine for me.
Beware the Melonheads
Directed by Calvin Lee Reeder (USA)
I agree with Goat that this is a weaker entry, but not my least favourite. It feels like a less transgressive, less amusing Troma film, but it's not without its charm. The general gist is that a family goes out into the wilderness and stumbles upon a cult of hydrocephalic cannibalistic children, which, sounds like a great premise, right? Unfortunately, it's very ordinary, the camera work is bland, the effects look lazy, and none of the characters are particularly interesting, with the father being perhaps the one exception.
Whatever Happened to Panagas The Pagan?
Directed by Yannies Veslemes (Greece)
This had perhaps the opposite issue for me. The story is simple, a goblin comes to Earth at Christmas, is captured, hijinks ensue, yadda yadda. It's a beautiful film too, it just felt very lacklustre, very low stakes. Our sympathies are with the goblin, but there's no real attempt to give character to them, and the effect is that my interest waned rather quickly.
The Palace of Horrors
Directed by Ashim Ahluwalia (India)
This is my least favourite of the bunch, and unfortunately, it might also have the most to say. The story is of an English collector who comes to India to exploit the locals for monetary gain, and becomes unstuck in the process. But the scope is just so narrow, the acting is so wooden, and the point is laboured so clumsily that I quickly lost patience with it. If I could, I'd remove this, the Greek entry, and the US entry, and it would improve the film immensely.
A Nocturnal Breath
Directed by Katrin Gebbe (Germany)
To continue in the long-running tradition of Goat and I disagreeing, I found this story to be a little dry, dull, and unengaging. The folklore being explored is quite close to that seen in Tilbury (1987), with a possessing spirit leaving the host's body at night to feed. While the concept and effects are well-done, a lot of the shots are rather uninventive, and there's a distracting and needless vaseline smear effect throughout much of the film. There's some interesting body horror here, but not enough to make even this meagre runtime feel worthwhile.
Directed by Peter Strickland (Hungary)
And here is the real treat, the reason to watch, the segment that will send you home with fond thoughts, debating whether you can justify giving the whole film 5/5. This is a short from the director of In Fabric and Berberian Sound Studio, and it's just absolutely glorious. It's beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, with just immaculate costuming and art direction. The story concerns two foot-fetishist cobblers in an old fairytale Kingdom, both of whom fall in love with the feet of a Princess. One of the cobblers then asks for the Princesses' hand in marriage, and to prove his worth, must journey to retrieve a flower guarded by foot-fetish sirens. Need I say more? It's funny, it's whimsical, it's weird, it's gross, it's supremely inventive, it's just everything I look for in a film.
Fran Challenges: 4/13
|# ¿ May 26, 2021 18:14|