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Saturday, May 31, 2014

All Cheerleaders Die (2013) Horror Witchcraft

All Cheerleaders Die (2013) - I've seen a lot of films from Lucky Mckee. In fact I am a bit of a fan. (I hate that word because trust me if he started turning out shit I would find other favorites to follow.) The first was the wonderfully imbalanced May (2002) with Angela Bettis that was made even better by the leads performance of the sad and horrifically damaged young woman May who can't seem to connect to the people around her. Roman (2006) which stars McKee as another person incapable of connecting in a healthy way, where an accidental death and a budding relationship with the lovely Kristen Bell drive the mind of the lead character to horrific places. The Woods (2006) was a cool supernatural mystery set at a boarding school in the 1960's. In 2011 he came out with The Woman (2011) a whole different kind of fucked up that has to be seen to be believed. So here we are with the new Lucky McKee film this time he shares both the writing and the directing chores with Chris Sivertson who did get some buzz around his 2008 film Wicked Lake unfortunately not as loved by some. All Cheerleaders Die seems to be a re-imaging of a project the two did together in 2001 of the same name. That is not a fact just conjecture on my part.
One thing you really don't have to worry about in a McKee film is that the screenwriting is poor. McKee has structure down. I'm reminded of this in the very beginning of the film. The dialog is not some throw away bullshit but instead a foreshadowing of what is to come. In it an off screen interviewer talks to a cheerleader about the dangers of the sport. In her 'so full of herself' way the cheerleader talks about the injury frequency and how you have to be in shape to be a cheerleader. The scene accomplishes two things at once, the already mentioned foreshadowing and a character development letting us know through actress delivery what kind of person the cheerleader is. All through the script of this film there are these well put together scenes that accomplish the goals of the plot while still developing or expressing the characters, As a viewer it may go a bit unnoticed but when this quality of writing is not there it stands out like a pimple on prom night.
  You see this again when after the horrible incident at the intro section of the film we see Lexi's car drive up to the school a couple days before senior year. In the car is Terry already introduced as Lexi's man. His character is display by the fact he is driving her car and is there with another cheerleader the lovely Tracy. The way he looks at her and the way she is so obviously with him show us what is going on and while still letting us know what has happened.
  When you get down to the heart of All Cheerleaders Die it is a story about Maddy Killian (Caitlin Stasey) a lesbian infatuated with her friend, head cheerleader Alexis (Felisha Cooper). Whether there was a relationship between the two other than friends is a question to think about.  It is not evident from the early footage and Alexis is student profile #4 in Maddy's film not number one. There is though a foreshadowing of another relationship in the early going of this film. When we see the drive Maddy has to promote her friend through a video project we get the impression that there is a desire on her side that is beyond wanting a good grade, when it comes to Lexi, as she is called in the film Maddy cares deeply. It may seem strange to note that Maddy is a lesbian but it certainly does play a part in this film. Whether taking the approach that there is a unrequited love between Maddy and Lexi and she is just jealous of her friend's attention for football hunk Terry (Tom Williamson) when the tragedy that starts the film happens we hear Maddy in her own words talking about a revenge that she feels has to happen. Also early on after Lexi leaves the picture Maddy is trying out for the squad herself and says "Did you know Alexis and I did gymnastics together in seventh grade? Then she went her way and I went mine." It is a subtle but useful line. Well without talking to the writers I can't prove any of this so on with the show. After Maddy makes the cheerleading team we get the some of the picture of what is going on. A faint about how she is upset that Terry is with Tracy so soon after Lexi's death. She lets the audience know that she plans on ruining the couple's senior year and getting on the squad was the first step in that plan.

A side note: There is a moment in the early filming of Lexi that is interesting in that there is a music slow motion cut as she walks into the school. Since at this moment the video maker Maddy is reviewing her footage you can assume that she created this scene even so it is very clever of the film maker to work in this stylistic approach through the guise of the student's film.
 More clever writing in a what could be seen as a scene to establish the relationship between Maddy and Leena (Sianoa Smit-McPhee) at the end of the scene where Leena is talking about the cat named Madeline she mentioned that the cat died, yeah the cat she is holding which is alive and well. So easy to overlook but so well placed. Even more subtle is when Leena casts her crystals after Maddy leave the four green crystals surrounding the purple one one, nicely done in that case.
  A good part of the film is centered around that plan and its affect on Terry. He is a wolf as the girls call him and is not one to let a high school girl come between him and what he wants. In fact as much as Maddy is the protagonist Terry is an equal if not larger antagonist.
  Another thing that this film does well is the dynamic between Terry and Maddy. We are focusing on her but really we could be focusing on him. When she is trying out for the squad he is there at football practice, he sees her and takes notice. When she uses Tracy's phone to text "Asshole" to him he is quietly watching the girls from Lexi's car nearby. He sees as Maddy seduces Tracy into kissing. While she is infiltrating his life to ruin it he is in the know of what is happening. When we finally learn the reason for their animosity we fully can appreciate their interactions.
 Too much appreciation for the script could give too much away so even though I could continue to dissect this film let me talk more about my feelings about how the whole picture works. The main players here are the cheerleaders, Maddy, Tracy (Brooke Butler), Martha (Reanin Johannink), mascot Hannah (Amanda Grace Cooper) and Maddy's former relationship Leena. When the escalation of Maddy's plan to piss off Terry get to be a crisis these five women find themselves in a supernatural state which is a giant turn in the film. Their condition dictates what happens next and moves towards the climax which again shifts into virgin territory. There is some really cool things to like hear, particularly the immersion in the world where after the magic happens it is then a given. There is no trying to explain it. Sure we see the consequences of how the girl need to operate in order to have strength but there is no tedious exposition about why its happening. They are in their condition and what follows the conditions rules are laid out in a couple quick scenes. I appreciate that.
  Now I must be getting old, my daughter Joy graduated college this year and I have to say she is a more mature complete woman than when she graduated high school. Having seen her then and now I can't completely buy the actors in this film as high school students. Many are in their twenties and it is just too hard for me to see them as high school aged. Suspension of disbelief is key here but I am just saying that everyone in this film are just too grown up. I understand it is necessary, certainly it makes the look of the characters much more appealing. I suppose in the hyper reality of the film it is necessary to have actors to reach the depths that these characters have to get to.
 The film was a bit PG-13 for my tastes and I can see that teenagers may love this movie if they get to see it. Although I appreciated the script, some of the style choices and surprises of the story. I did not like some of the boxes that the characters were put in. Jocks as assholes, with Terry leading the way as the predatory sociopath. Cheerleaders as superficial ditzes who have shared orgasms when one of them feeds or has sex. The exploitative clothes of the girls, who wears cheerleader outfits to school? Who is buried in it? So much of the structure is teen movie predictable it must be on purpose. Luckily this can all be taken as satire on these kinds of teen movies. If not satire then really it was a bit immature. Still I liked it and enjoyed the subtlety of the writing while watching the absurdity of the humor. Humor both in the story and in the use of music, with purposely sappy music at certain times. Has to be satire. It is a world after all without parents, authority figures or police and full of magic. The third act heads to a climax that I don't think anyone could predict. Although it tried to up the brutality quotient I think it was a bit inexplicable. I suppose love wins out over evil.  Overall I wish the film was a more harsh in its delivery but that's just an old guy who came into his own on Argento and Fulci talking. This film gets a recommendation from this blog, it has many strengths and a few possible drawbacks. I can imagine some people being harsh on this as a bit too bubble gum but I think if you read into it a bit more you will see there is more than meets the eye.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Godzilla (1954) Monster Movie

Godzilla (1954) -"Gojira" (original title) Ah the original, the one that started it all and 28 Japanese and a couple American movie later and it is still going strong. I grew up in Boston in the 70s and 80s and if you happened to want entertainment on a Saturday afternoon during those years, you could turn the dial on the black and white television (we used a pair of pliers since the plastic knob broke off in the first year of that set.) to channel 56 on the UHF band and watch Creature Double Feature. Each week this amazing show provided viewers with two horror / monster movies and as a poor kid it was my first exposure to the wonders of horror. We were a urban poor family in those days and going to the movies really consisted of going to the drive in a couple times a year. Creature Double Feature and Godzilla was a giant part of that education in horror movies and I have watched so many of the early films that everyone of them is like visiting an old friend. The original though tended to be rarely played so in celebration of the latest incarnation of Godzilla here in the States I thought it would be nice to visit the first film. It is a film I knew as a child and as a child my view of it was simple. A large monster comes from the sea and destroys a city. The people fight it with the weapons they have but they seem powerless against this force of nature. Never did I really know the meaning behind the film, for me it was an entertainment. As an adult though, seeing this with mature eyes I see the incredible message that this film is and in in awe.
  I am working off the Criterion Collection print and the quality is excellent. Godzilla particularly the early ones can be seen as a metaphor for the United States, a massive destructive power that seems to rage uncontrollably destroying all in its path. The original film features a atomic created monster and according to Wikipedia can be said to relate the fears of the Japanese people after the devastation inflicted upon them by the USA with the blast of the  atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of  Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lets remember that this film first showed only nine years after those events. Even still the fact that the Japanese learned to love the lumbering beast is more fascinating than the metaphor. There is a story I saw in the interviews in this collection where lead actor Akira Takarada was excited to be chosen for this part. When he arrived at the set he introduced himself as the lead actor and expressed his pleasure to be working with his fellow actors. He was pulled told by director Irhiro Honda that he was not the lead but that Godzilla was. The Monster has continued to be the lead in some twenty some odd films and a beloved part of the Japanese culture. Not being an expert on the meaning behind the movie, let me stop here and refocus to the pleasure it is to see the Japanese version of this film. I probably saw the western version of the film Godzilla: King of Monsters more than the original, it has the Raymond Burr voice over and scenes to help it be accepted in the United States. Still I was surprised by how many scenes I recognized during my viewing of Godzilla and now with educated eyes the amazing power of many of those scenes.
  The first scene is of sailors on a fishing boat resting in the night playing music and games. The days work done they are unsuspecting victims of the radioactive monster sleeping below. Flashes of that radiation and then the sinking of the ship give the first signs of the danger ahead. The ship the Maru is lost and the survivors radiation burned. It is a direct reference to the Daigo Fukuryu Maru a fishing boat caught in the fallout of a United States nuclear test on the Bikini atoll in 1954. It was certainly current when the movie was made and it is no mistake that the two boats were similarly named and the flashes and radioactive exposure paralleled actual events.
  Later when Godzilla is attacking Tokyo there is a heart breaking scene where a widow has fled and is hiding with her kids in a doorway. As the monster closes in on their location she says to her children that they will all be with Daddy soon. A heart breaking hopeless scene that is very touching with the context of the history of the film. This scene is closely followed by scenes of the devastation left behind by the monster. A broken landscape of barely a standing structure that could be mistaken for newsreel footage of the aftermath of the h bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  We switch to the human side of the aftereffects and visit a hospital where orphan children are being treated for radiation sickness. The audience knows this is the after effects of the nuclear world, one of pain and suffering and loss. It is pivotal to the personal story that is part of the film because it is the catalyst for the sister Emiko (Momoko Kochi) to reveal the secret weapon.
  When the attacks begin everyone is powerless to stop it. The main character Hideto Ogata (Akira Takarada) and his girlfriend Emiko do not have answers but are observers of the attack. Emiko's brother is a scientist who will eventually be the person with a solution but she has sworn to him not to reveal his experimental work. The oxygen destroyer and its existence is the one way the monster can be destroyed but the film takes the time to ask just because you have a weapon of great power, should you use it? Although it is ultimately used in the film the creator gives his own life so that the secret of the weapon dies with him. In the end Godzilla is a pretty amazing movie. It is so much more than I remembered as a kid and I am sure to do more research into this series. So while the big screen is filled with the remake 'full of sound and fury...' here we have a classic that more than holds its own. This film is very recommended by Soresport Movies.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Jug Face (2013) Horror Supernatural

Jug Face (2013) - Sometimes ideas for independent horror there is a crystal of an idea that has to be  cut and polished up to be a gem. When that happens the buzz is palpable in the horror community, with everyone seeing and reviewing, and others talking the movie up on their podcasts. When that happens even the smallest of film making companies might recoup the cost of their endeavor, hell they even might make some money for the next film. We love it when this happens, its what keeps the independent horror scene alive and vibrant. Unfortunately there is another side where that crystal pretty much stays what it was, its pretty and has its own value but there may never be a demand for it. This is the case with the film Jug Face, it has its solid structure and an idea worth exploring but it just never quite shines.
Soresport Movies may be in the minority when it comes to this film as there have been some glowing reviews on it after it came out last year. (looked after wrote this review so apparently saw this differently than many.) The film is a small budget affair and the gore a minimalist variety that get the point across without costing the film makers too much budget. Bloody water, sliced throat effects and some scattered body parts give the impression of horrible savage violence without actually having to show any. Cloudy eye contacts also make serve a purpose to cue the audience to what is happening. Advertized as a "character driven" story one has to wonder if the person who wrote that copy watched the film since the story arc of the main character is really small and centers around an inevitable decision to accept responsibility for her quite reasonable decisions. My daughter Joy joined me in the viewing as I have been trying to get her to watch horror in a way that would allow her to contribute to this blog. She watched but very quickly tuned out and played on her phone. Multitasking is a behavior her generation does but I was surprised at how quickly the tune out came. At the end of the film her first response was "That sucked." I tried to steer the conversation to what she liked or didn't. In the end the most I got out of her was:
1. You never see the monster and it is never explained what it is or why the people would make a deal with it.
2. The main character is not very likable, she fucked things up for everyone.
3. The special effects sucked.
  Now I agree with her to an extent but I also felt that there was some value to this film. The plotting structure is well done. It leaks the story of these people a bit at a time until at the third act you know what the full picture is. Some things did not make sense to me though, and maybe the second watching will clarify my questions. A pretty good cast Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) as the main character, Sean Bridgers as Dawai the potter, Larry Fessenden as Ada father Sustin,   and Sean Young as her cruel mother.  First during the images accompanying the credits we see the story of this community, a group who has given up on the existing organized religion that was in place but now instead prays to a pit of muddy water. We see them sacrificing their minister to the pit and later images of community members bathing in the pool at the bottom of the pit. We learn later that in the past during a smallpox epidemic ( maybe the big one 1775 - 82?) the people figured out how to make a deal with an entity in the pool in exchange for a sacrifice every now and again the pit provides healing waters. Now this deal when you think of it as a solution in the 1700s seems reasonable and it truly did become the religion for these people. When a sacrifice is wanted by the pit it puts "the sculptor" into a trance and that person creates a jug with the face of the next victim. The community then gathers and sacrifices that person at the pit. Now though we see in the film that the people in those hills have trucks and cars and interact with the town nearby selling moonshine for cash. So although presented as isolated  the insular nature of the community does not cancel the fact that health care is readily available in the civilized world. So really the thing that keep the arrangement going with the pit is that it has become a sacred relationship. To me it seems that the arrangement of killing one of your own so others can be healed is stupid when you can drive in town to a hospital. Talk about death panels the pit is a one entity death panel.
  Second I question is around the choice to make the main character unlikable. Ada is the main character and the plot is driven by her decisions. I think as a way to define the hill people as isolated we see Ada and a young man playing in the woods and having sex. Then we learn they are brother and sister and the whole thing is fucking creepy. Not just that it perpetuates stereotypes about hillbillies but  come on really the film has to go there that early. Later when we see the size of the community you have to wonder if resorting to incest was really necessary or just a gimmick.  It all fits the plot though and like I said earlier the pieces of information are well structure so we learn more of the full story as the film progresses. Pregnant from her brother and promised to another man she finds the jug face of the next sacrifice and it is her. Her story arc is that she hides the jug face with horrible consequences for all. She must come to her decision to take responsibility before too many innocents are taken by the pit. Since escape  from this community is never presented as a achievable option we know what she will have to do, its just who will have to die before the guilt gets to her enough for her to act.
  Helping her along the way is a ghost who is trying to convince Ada to return her jug face. He is a shunned one, a soul that can't rest because it was taken from the pit and as punishment for not fulfilling a sacrifice. The device is to give expository dialog to fill in the mythology but I am not totally sure that it works since the "why" would it communicate question is never really explained.
It is not really a happy ending film and you really expect anything good to come out of it. Instead you can marvel at the hill freaks who believe stupid shit and suffer for it. I am not sure that I am ready to give this film a recommendation I am a bit on the fence. Written and directed by Chad Crawford Kinkle,  It is certainly well thought out and the idea of an alternative religious centered group is okay. I just think that there was no outside the community characters to bounce the sanity of the belief system off so it just comes off as an acceptable way of doing things for these characters, when lets be honest it is not. I wished there was more money for special effects there is a problem when you have a monster but never get to see it. I wish the vague agreement this group had with the was more clearly explored because honestly the reasons for killing loved ones did not seem very strong. So I will pass on recommending this film. Note I am in the minority if you look around the internet.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Triangle (2009) Thriller Time Loop

Triangle (2009) - The first watching of this horror / thriller time loop is the most compelling, you are on this ride of discovery that is cool and freaky at the same time. Then as you learn more you start to question if the plot actually makes sense. If all the things that are happening would actually happen they way we see them with the knowledge we have learned by the end of the film. This is the area of this film that needs to be explored. There is a dreamy forgetfulness that the film contains that allow for all we see but is it really clear in the end is it all just a riddle? Now I imagine that this movie has been talked about to death, but I try not to read too much before watching a film. I go in cold and then often after writing my first impressions go back and watch again. If I really like the film I will then watch commentary tracks. In the end the film is fully explored and I have an entry for this blog. So not to spoil the film too much I will leave that discussion until I have recapped the plot but this feels like one of those films where it will be really hard to work through without spoiling it. So if you have not viewed this film but want to; you may want to see it before reading on. STOP READING HERE TO AVOID SPOILERS!!!
   The starting about six people who go for a day of sailing. Greg (Michael Dorman) the ship captain, his friends Downey (Henry Nixon) and Sally (Rachael Carpani), Sally's friend Heather (Emma Lung), shipmate Victor (Liam Hemsworth) and Greg's date Jess (Melissa George). The inter workings of the group are there to add depth to the character. Heather brought along as a possible love interest for Greg while he is more interested in the girl that works at the diner Jess. When things go horribly wrong for the group we are in the story with them. There has been a bit of character development and when they are put at risk we can connect with their plight. A sudden storm that come out of no where ends the day of sailing. Heather is lost in the overturning of the boat and the remaining five are adrift sitting on the bottom of the overturned boat waiting for rescue. Jess the mother of an autistic child named Tommy (Joshua McIvor) is feeling the guilt of not being with him, having come out for a day that is for her when normally he has to be the only thing in her world. After a day at see the group sees an ocean liner the Aeolus and make it onto the ship. Surprised to find no one on board they investigate the ship. They are sure they could make someone out on deck before they boarded but the giant ship now seems deserted.
  This is where we pick up the story proper and all its time loopiness. We we from this point on refer to the main character as "Early Jess", she is the single character that we will follow for the rest of the story. There as we will learn are more versions of this character in different parts of the ship but it is easiest to define we know she is the one we saw get on the sailing boat at the start of the film. There will be like I said several versions of her already on the boat is a version I will call "Later Jess" she is the version of Early Jess who is starting to figure out what is happening on the boat but has yet to make a vital commitment on how things have to go. A third version who has committed to the inevitable path is "Killer Jess" these three versions of the same character play out roles, that in time transform Early Jess into Later Jess and then into Killer Jess, but lets not get too far ahead of our selves.
  Early in the exploration of the ship the group comes to a information display that will be helpful in understanding the plot better. The ship is named the Aeolus and the display the name is from Greek mythology, he was the god of wind. His son Sisyphus made a promise to Death that he did not keep, as punishment Sisyphus was made to push a rock up a mountain each day for eternity, but at the end of each day the rock would roll back down and he would have to do it again. Connecting this to the experience of Early Jess helps us understand what is going on with her. Later in the film we learn what promise she made and did not keep and how she came to this strange repeating nightmare.
  As they investigate the ship there are several things seen through Early Jess that are suppose to clue us in to the mystery of the ship and her role in it. First is that she starts believing that things on the ship seem familiar, the sense of deja vu is really strong. Naturally her ship mates are less likely to believe that she has been here before. When the group hears something drop they find keys, keys that belong to Early Jess (dropped by Later Jess) but the group can't believe her. It makes no logical sense. Then when Greg is asked by Downey what time it is, he replies 11:30 but at the same time the shot is of Early Jess looking at her watch and behind her hand the clock on the wall, they both read 8:20 another indication that she is on boat time and not necessarily connected with the reality of the others in her group. Then after seeing herself, at least a glimpse in the mirror of the banquet hall Victor heads off looking for who ever it was while Greg and Early Jess walk into room 237 and we see Early Jess framed in three mirrors again signifying the different versions of her. Is this all in her mind? Good question by Greg and after returning to the banquet hall alone we see that Early Jess now sees the food display that was fresh just moments before is now rotten. A great sense of the supernatural is built in this early part of the film and Early Jess is established as the main character. Then people in her group start dying and Jess fights for her own life as the last survivor. She succeeds in forcing the killer (Killer Jess) off the boat with an axe. This is not before Killer Jess says "You have to kill them. Its the only way to get back home. You have to kill them."
 So this is where the first transition comes in we know that Killer Jess is now off the boat, but "Later Jess" who we don't see, who has been shadowing Early Jess all this time is going to become the new Killer Jess, while Early Jess stands on the deck and is surprised to hear shouting off the ship. Looking out she sees her group back on the overturned sail boat. She sees herself and realizes a lot more about what is happening. There is a symbolic movie making device for this transition where Early Jesse hears music, "Anchors Away" and there is a cut as she turns away from it where there is a double take of her doing it twice like a record skipping back and repeating. Now with a new version of herself on the ship, lets call her 2nd Early Jess, this character we have been following becomes Later Jess, her action that we get to follow are similar but not exactly the same as the original Later Jess and so we the audience get to see another part of the characters development that was hidden from us earlier.
  The significance of this section of the story is to show how much the cycle has been going on and it is done in three cool and interesting ways. First as she goes through the emotional trauma realizing what is happening, that she has just seen a version of herself coming on the boat and walking around she ends up in a locker room with papers strewed across the floor. Each one has the words "If They Board, Kill Them All" She writes those words to demonstrate to the audience that it is in her handwriting. There are about 30 of these papers in that room so we know that this moment has happened many times before. She also finds a version of the locket she wears, it has a picture of her son in it so she knows even more strongly what is going on. Looking down a grate she sees a pile of said lockets before losing the one she is wearing to that pile. We follow her as she has the idea to change what happened from when she went through it. She knows what she experienced and what the 2nd early Jess is about to experience and sets about trying to change the direction. Yet she never really does the one thing that could really make a difference and that is to reveal herself to the group who just came on board. Instead she tries to change things a bit, but soon realizes that she can't so much, particularly because there is a version of Killer Jess going around killing off the latest group.
The third significant thing in her final transformation is the scene with 2nd Sally has watched Killer Jess kill her husband Downey and severely wound her. She crawls looking for an escape while Our Later Jess follows her saying it was not her that did this deed. We get this great scene where she climbs up high in the decks and ends up in an area where there are at least 30 versions of dead Sally's all over the place. Our Jess sees now that in the end they all must die. From that viewpoint she sees the 2nd Killer Jess get forced off the ship by 2rd Early Jess and we know that now she will become the new Killer Jess.
  It's all so confusing I am sure in reading this you are having a WTF moment or seven. The third section in the evolution of our Early Jess to Killer Jess is almost complete. Why did it seem that each Killer Jess almost let themselves be forced over the side of the boat. Since they knew that it was the last of the people in the group thus starting a new arrival? They all must die for her to get back home. So committed to that purpose we get the final sequence where our Early Jess is Killer Jess and ends up forced off the boat herself. She wakes on the shores of home, and there is a strange significance to sleeping in this film we can talk about in a while but for now we follow Jess as she returns to her home. Through the window we see the scenes from the beginning of the film played out again. This time though we see a full picture of the events. She sees herself as a frustrated Mother who never gets a break, who hits her autistic child and is not very nice. Driven by the loss she had on the boat our Early Jess decides to change things at home. She kills her mean self and comforts her boy. Together they will leave and start a better life. With her home Jess' body in the trunk of the car she heads out with Tommy for that new life.
  Unfortunately like Sisyphus her cycle is not complete and a gull hitting the windshield of the car stops her in her tracks. She stops,  picks up the gull, and goes to toss it on the beach only to see a pile of gulls there. That vague look of recognition of something she can't quite put her finger on. We of course recognize that she is still in the loop at this point. The car wreck from the yelling child's distractions leave Jess standing looking at the accident. A cabby offers to drive her somewhere and she chooses the harbor, it is sailing day after all. She again sleeps while in the cab and when she gets out the cabby asks her if she is coming back. She promises but then goes to the dock and we see the start of the film again.
 So what to make of all this, a large cycle that repeats and repeats, like the punishment of Sisyphus Jess is stuck. If you take the cab driver as Death, Jess died in a car wreck after the gull hit the window and the child distracted her. Originally she was going to have Tommy come sailing with them so since he also died in the wreck she arrives without him. She accepts a ride from him to the harbor by the cabby. Death gets a promise from Jess about coming back to pay the fare but she does not return, so her punishment, like the mythical character, for this and probably being a bad mother is this loop we witness. But why doesn't she remember and not join the loop? Well sleep seems to be the thing that stops her. When she arrives at the boat in the beginning of the film she has just slept in the car  and is tired and sleeps the first couple hours on the boat. She forgets the loop that happened before ending in the car, so when she ends up on the Aeolus she feels like she has been there but can't quite remember it. Writer / Director Christopher Smith ( Creep (2004), Severance (2006), Black Death (2010)) brings this tale full circle with only a few minor flaws. One is if there have been so many cycles by the time we joined the tale there would have been a lot more blood about the ship. Even though Killer Jess spends time cleaning up bodies there have been at least 30 of these cycles so I imagine the ship soaked in blood. A very cool tail that is well edited and so much that is in the early scenes is shown to have significance in the later scenes. Certainly a sad tale but one worth seeing. A hardy recommendation from the blog on this film. I am not sure how re-watchable it is but I enjoyed it two times through.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Kill Baby ...Kill! (1966) Horror Ghost

Kill Baby ...Kill! (1966) - "Operazione paura" (original title), from Italian master Mario Bava it is a ghost tale set in the 1800s in the small fictional Italian village of Graps. I love Mario Bava as a film maker. He weaves a tale that takes the viewer winding down narrow passages where you loose your orientation and at times feel lost, but right before you are going to panic you see something familar and can relax. This tale starts with a curse, a village woman is distressed and crying but seems to be driven on by an unseen force. We hear a child's laughter as she weaves up a staircase and with blurred eyes views a wrought iron fence below her. Then she launches impaling herself on the fence dead. The music by Carlo Rustichelli is classic horror themed and since he had already been writing scores for film for twenty-seven years the sound scape is full and rich. Working with Bava before (the recently reviewed The Whip and the Body is an example) they seem to know what is needed and it is delivered with expertise. The story of the curse and how it is broken is then told accompanied with a great score and wonderful visuals by masters of film making.
     Dr Paul Eswai (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) is summoned to perform an autopsy on the young victim. He arrives with a warning from his coach driver. "Have you ever seen the like?" the driver says pointing at the abandoned and dilapidated church as they arrive on the outskirts of the town. He will not drive into that town. "When a place is as bad as this its been cursed I tell you. And strangers should keep their distance if they know what's good for them." he says leaving him outside the village. Like in the later Bava directed Lisa and the Devil, Eswai like Lisa passes through an arch symbolically leaving the real world and moving into a world where magic and ghosts exist. He is the counter-force to it and brings his medical training and rational thought to a village steeped in fear of magic and the afterlife. There at the request of Inspector Kruger (Piero Lulli), Paul is the outsider who shouldn't but will inevitably interfere. 
 As the ghostly proceeding take place we learn that the towns people believe they are cursed by the ghost of a girl who died during a town festival. Chasing a ball into the street she was trampled by some horses. Bleeding to death she pulled herself to the church and reached for the bell rope but failed to have the strength to pull it and bled to death on that night while the drunk villagers never noticed her. So she haunts them driven on by the emotions of her grieving Mother the Baroness Graps (Giovanna Galletti) the girl drives villagers to kill themselves as punishment for their failure to save her. The driver of the story is Paul who as an outsider and man of science does not believe what he is hearing and his arch must be to come to grips with the supernatural events that are taking place around him. On this journey with him is recently returned former resident Monica Schuftan (Erika Blanc) Blanc in her seventies is still working to this day with 101 IMDB credits. Monica has a secret that she does not even know. It is a weird twist that may not really have been needed as it does not seem to change the outcome of the story. She has returned to the village after leaving as a child and is the love interest and damsel in distress for Paul.
  Also playing into the story is the village sorceress Ruth (Fabienne Dali), who tries to help (?) the villagers when they are afflicted by the ghost. Her secret alliance with a main character is so she can protect the burgomeister Karl (Luciano Catenacci), the love of her life from the haunting death. In the end though she must help stop the curse and is key in the climax to the film. 
  Paul and Monica slowly learn the whole story and Bava does a great job seeping the knowledge out in bits to keep a mystery to this film. As we learn more the stakes grow until Paul and Monica are pulled fully into the Supernatural world of ghosts and murder. Along the way are some really cool directorial choice as well as some clunky coincidences. Not a perfect film it does have some great moments though. One where trapped in the Villa Graps, Paul is trying to find Monica who has been separated from him. He sees a figure ahead of him and chases him into the next room. then the next, but the rooms start repeating as he closes in on the male figure ahead of him. When his catches him the figure turns and is the spitting image of Paul. Very cool stuff . The later Monica is fleeing the laughing ghost child Melissa, and she runs down long spiral stair case, beautifully lit with levels of different colors then too suddenly seems to be repeating sections of the endless stair. Running until she passes out to wake in the tomb of the dead girl. The lights and zoom of the camera do a great job of showing the craziness of her situation.
  Overall the film is a cool ghost story, a bit pedestrian in plot but executed with skill and vision. The print being streamed on Netflix is a bit shitty and at time feels very old. I guess it is old but I really would have liked to see a clearer version of this film. Certainly entertaining it is a period piece ghost story that still has legs after all these years. Bava knows how to create mood and make interesting shots out of the most ordinary of tales. So a healthy recommendation from this blog, keeping in mind that I am a fan of Mario Bava. A side note IMDB does not Lamberto Bava as assistant director in their credits, but he is listed in the movie credits. This would be some really early training for him at the age of twenty two.