Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Halloweekend.

A run through of my Halloween-related pop culture intake from the past four days:

Nightmare (1964, Francis) [aborted viewing]
The kick-off to the horror festivities was an icy psychological thriller from the Hammer vaults. It's impeccably photographed (in HammerScope no less) and, alas, unbelievably slow. The gathered crowd was demanding gore and Nightmare was not delivering. So we moved onto...

Satanis (1970, Laurent) [aborted viewing]
It's supposedly a documentary about Anton LeVay and the day-to-day in the Church of Satan. All I know is after ten minutes of patient viewing there was not a single virgin sacrifice, goat killing or appearance from the Dark Lord. Satanis got the boot.

The Driller Killer (1979, Ferrara)
Well, it delivered the gore. Unfortunately, it's still an Abel Ferrara film--and his first at that. Do people actually enjoy his films? I've only seen a few, but all of them seem so ugly and full of self-pity/hatred. I mean, hey, go ahead and hate yourself, but could you make it, oh, I dunno, cinematic? Maybe include a hint of an aesthetic?

For those unawares, Mr. Ferrara wrote, directed and starred in this zero-budget exploitation "classic." He intended to cash in and make a gore soaked genre picture, but the project morphed into (an uninteresting and hella dull) document of New York's art/rock scene circa 1978. Ferrara plays a whiny painter who can't deal with his petulant girlfriend(s), asshole agent, The Roosters (the new wave band that's forever playing the "Peter Gunn Theme" in the apartment below), and the skyrocketing phone bill. So he takes out angst by killing homeless men with a power drill.
It's as charmless as it sounds.

I Drink Your Blood (1970, Durston)
Wherein dirty, Satan-worshipping hippies piss off the local town folk and get their comeuppance. (A little boy injects blood from a dog that died of rabies into meat pies. He then sells the meat pies to the famished hippies. After eating said meat pies, the hippies trip balls, start foaming at the mouth, and zombiesque shit ensues.) The end. Not nearly as entertaining as it might sound.


Nightbreed (1990, Barker)
From the imagination of Clive Barker comes a reimagined version of Cats. At least that's what it felt like. The hugely negative: Craig Sheffer is the protagonist. The hugely positive: David Cronenberg plays Sheffer's psychotic psychologist.

"Batdance" (1989, Magnoli, music video by Prince)
Back in the day, MTV used to play this video on Halloween and I loved it. I loved it so much that when Prince released The Hits/The B-Sides, I was furious that he'd left "Batdance"--a number one hit!--off the package. Time has shown me the errors of my ways and I now see the shrewd legacy-minded editing skillz of the Purple One. The song--a medley of three songs from the Batman soundtrack and a shload of dialogue samples from the movie--is pretty damn embarrassing. And the video... It makes me long for the halcyon days of Seal's "Kiss From a Rose" video. That said, propers are deserved for slipping the Dark Knight Returns ref into the video. (See the "Vicki Vale" photo above.)

Brides of Dracula (1960, Fisher)
Hammer Films, round two. Unfortunately, the day's festivities caught up with me and I slept through much of it. I was awake in the middle-section of the movie for, oh, five minutes and I can say that Peter Cushing was an inspired choice for Dr. Van Helsing.

Batman Returns (1992, Burton)
I'm not sure if this counts as a Halloween movie, but it has people in costumes and loads of grotesquery, so I'm allowing its inclusion. First: the film's problems. As much as I love Christopher Walken in the film, the Max Shreck role feels like it was written solely to propel the flimsy subplot about a power-station that sucks energy from Gotham City. Or something. Hell, you can feel the the script's machinery grinding to a halt and then lurching forward throughout most of it. Plus, the action sequences are largely rote and lack any sense of urgency.

Amazingly, in spite of all of that, I really enjoyed the film. Once I came to peace with how creaky the whole venture was going to be, I lapped up the production design, the semi-frequent moments where Daniel Waters's dialogue comes to life with hilarious bits of verbal interplay and innuendo, and uniformly great performances, especially from Michelle Pfeiffer. What happened to MP? She's so outrageously good here--funny/sad/sexy--that it made me realize how much I've missed her. (Can we add her absence to the list of grievances against David E. Kelley?)

It's also a relief to know that I'm not alone in my regard for the film. Anne freakin' Rice really loved it, and you know what an imprimatur that is. Here's a sample of the review (as found on Amazon.com): "A mesmerizing and haunting achievement; a mixture of bold cinematic techniques that reminded me of certain scenes from The Scarlet Empress, or the silent opening of David Lean's Oliver Twist... A shining, brilliant and beautiful film. Gripping, entertaining, worth study. I loved it." See that? She dropped a Lean and a Von Sternberg bomb! How ya like that?

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Anne is an Amazon.com reviewing maniac. She only tackles the products she truly loves and, believe you me, when she loves something, she loves it. A sample:
  • Alan Parker's film version of Evita: "A work of genius on every level!"
  • The Passion of the Christ: "Gibson created something of enduring magnificence."
  • Tolstoy's Anna Karenina "One of the greatest novels of all time. Once you read it straight through and experience its immensity and depth, you can keep it around and dip into it when you need to be reminded that a work of art -- novel, play, film, what have you -- can give you not only continued enjoyment but profound truths."
  • Dr. Andrew L. Stoll's The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program: "This is a book that can be life changing... We live in a wilderness of self help and health care books that can confuse us and numb us with their contradictory claims. But be assured this book is a thorough and brilliant record of the results of actual medical research."
  • Joel Schumacher's adaptation of Lord Lloyd Weber's The Phantom of the Opera: "The film is positively magical -- excessive, obsessive, unapologetic in its pure gothic romanticism, and gorgeous to watch, with sublime music. It will be immortal -- along with The Red Shoes, and Tales of Hoffman [sic]... A real demonstration of what might happen when brilliant talent pays no attention to cynicism or pseudo-sophistication."

I'm willing to ignore the praise for Evita and Christ, but I will not tolerate Ms. Rice comparing Joel Fucking Schumacher and his Duran Duran video on 'ludes move-musical to Powell & Pressburger's transcendence. Nuh uh, sorry, Anne, not on my watch.

5 Comments:

At 3:38 PM, Blogger Dinorider d'Andoandor said...

I can't recollect wether it was carnival or halloween but I agree that Batman Returns was really halloweenistic.

 
At 10:50 AM, Blogger Tuwa said...

Did you catch that really spectacular meltdown Anne Rice had on amazon.com some time back, defending her latest vampire book from dissatisfied readers? Amazing.

 
At 12:00 PM, Blogger Ben said...

Oh I sure did. That's how I stumbled across all these ca-razy reviews.

For those who missed it, here's Ms. Rice's amazon.com defense of her novel, Blood Canticle:

From the Author to the Some of the Negative Voices Here, September 6, 2004
Seldom do I really answer those who criticize my work. In fact, the entire development of my career has been fueled by my ability to ignore denigrating and trivializing criticism as I realize my dreams and my goals. However there is something compelling about Amazon's willingness to publish just about anything, and the sheer outrageous stupidity of many things you've said here that actually touches my proletarian and Democratic soul. Also I use and enjoy Amazon and I do read the reviews of other people's books in many fields. In sum, I believe in what happens here. And so, I speak. First off, let me say that this is addressed only to some of you, who have posted outrageously negative comments here, and not to all. You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective. Indeed, you aren't even reading it. You are projecting your own limitations on it. And you are giving a whole new meaning to the words "wide readership." And you have strained my Dickensean principles to the max. I'm justifiably proud of being read by intellectual giants and waitresses in trailer parks,in fact, I love it, but who in the world are you? Now to the book. Allow me to point out: nowhere in this text are you told that this is the last of the chronicles, nowhere are you promised curtain calls or a finale, nowhere are you told there will be a wrap-up of all the earlier material. The text tells you exactly what to expect. And it warns you specifically that if you did not enjoy Memnoch the Devil, you may not enjoy this book. This book is by and about a hero whom many of you have already rejected. And he tells you that you are likely to reject him again. And this book is most certainly written -- every word of it -- by me. If and when I can't write a book on my own, you'll know about it. And no, I have no intention of allowing any editor ever to distort, cut, or otherwise mutilate sentences that I have edited and re-edited, and organized and polished myself. I fought a great battle to achieve a status where I did not have to put up with editors making demands on me, and I will never relinquish that status. For me, novel writing is a virtuoso performance. It is not a collaborative art. Back to the novel itself: the character who tells the tale is my Lestat. I was with him more closely than I have ever been in this novel; his voice was as powerful for me as I've ever heard it. I experienced break through after break through as I walked with him, moved with him, saw through his eyes. What I ask of Lestat, Lestat unfailingly gives. For me, three hunting scenes, two which take place in hotels -- the lone woman waiting for the hit man, the slaughter at the pimp's party -- and the late night foray into the slums --stand with any similar scenes in all of the chronicles. They can be read aloud without a single hitch. Every word is in perfect place. The short chapter in which Lestat describes his love for Rowan Mayfair was for me a totally realized poem. There are other such scenes in this book. You don't get all this? Fine. But I experienced an intimacy with the character in those scenes that shattered all prior restraints, and when one is writing one does have to continuously and courageously fight a destructive tendency to inhibition and restraint. Getting really close to the subject matter is the achievement of only great art. Now, if it doesn't appeal to you, fine. You don't enjoy it? Read somebody else. But your stupid arrogant assumptions about me and what I am doing are slander. And you have used this site as if it were a public urinal to publish falsehood and lies. I'll never challenge your democratic freedom to do so, and yes, I'm answering you, but for what it's worth, be assured of the utter contempt I feel for you, especially those of you who post anonymously (and perhaps repeatedly?) and how glad I am that this book is the last one in a series that has invited your hateful and ugly responses. Now, to return to the narrative in question: Lestat's wanting to be a saint is a vision larded through and through with his characteristic vanity. It connects perfectly with his earlier ambitions to be an actor in Paris, a rock star in the modern age. If you can't see that, you aren't reading my work. In his conversation with the Pope he makes observations on the times which are in continuity with his observations on the late twentieth century in The Vampire Lestat, and in continuity with Marius' observations in that book and later in Queen of the Damned. The state of the world has always been an important theme in the chronicles. Lestat's comments matter. Every word he speaks is part of the achievement of this book. That Lestat renounced this saintly ambition within a matter of pages is plain enough for you to see. That he reverts to his old self is obvious, and that he intends to complete the tale of Blackwood Farm is also quite clear. There are many other themes and patterns in this work that I might mention -- the interplay between St.Juan Diago and Lestat, the invisible creature who doesn't "exist" in the eyes of the world is a case in point. There is also the theme of the snare of Blackwood Farm, the place where a human existence becomes so beguiling that Lestat relinquishes his power as if to a spell. The entire relationship between Lestat and Uncle Julien is carefully worked out. But I leave it to readers to discover how this complex and intricate novel establishes itself within a unique, if not unrivalled series of book. There are things to be said. And there is pleasure to be had. And readers will say wonderful things about Blood Canticle and they already are. There are readers out there and plenty of them who cherish the individuality of each of the chronicles which you so flippantly condemn. They can and do talk circles around you. And I am warmed by their response. Their letters, the papers they write in school, our face to face exchanges on the road -- these things sustain me when I read the utter trash that you post. But I feel I have said enough. If this reaches one reader who is curious about my work and shocked by the ugly reviews here, I've served my goals. And Yo, you dude, the slang police! Lestat talks like I do. He always has and he always will. You really wouldn't much like being around either one of us. And you don't have to be. If any of you want to say anything about all this by all means Email me at Anneobrienrice@mac.com. And if you want your money back for the book, send it to 1239 First Street, New Orleans, La, 70130. I'm not a coward about my real name or where I live. And yes, the Chronicles are no more! Thank God!

 
At 4:04 PM, Blogger girish said...

Awesome.

 
At 10:15 PM, Anonymous dvd said...

I like to save Batman Returns for Christmas, myself; that Burton was simultaneously working on Nightmare Before Christmaswhen he made it is pretty evident.

 

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