Quick Cuts (Edition 1)

I spent the weekend in bed watching… well, mostly watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I did watch two movies, and I thought I would give you just a very brief review of both, so you can decide whether or not you should see them.  (These discussions will be spoileriffic, well, one of them anyway.)

Firstly, I spent Friday night with the remake of The Last House on the Left.  Yeah, I know.  I mean, I know I said I wasn’t going to see this, but there’s that compulsion.  If shit gets remade, I just have to know.  I hate the original, but it absolutely works.  It accomplishes its task as a film.  Its almost-doc style hits you in just the right place in your braincase to leave you unsettled for days (or in my case, years), and I was so disturbed by it that it actually made me swear off rape revenge films for the rest of my life (or so I thought).

So how does the remake match up?  Well, first of all, the rape narrative of the original is corrupted by the survival of the victim.  No, I have not done any research on why the director/writer made this choice, and no, I am not going to.  I am not sure how I feel about this.  Originally, this was a problem I had with the source material.  I always thought, well, here we go again, another invisible rape victim.  But for some reason, her survival, which is based purely on her unique abilities as a champion swimmer, was played so unbelievably that it didn’t fix the problem, so I am left feeling angry about this.

The family unit of the baddies is corrupted as well.  Krug has a son.  WTF?  Yeah, I typed wtf?  I was so bothered by this fact that I don’t really know what to say.  Not only does he have a son, but the son is good.  I don’t want these baddies good in any way.  I need my violence to be pure at the end of this film.  I need what is done to them to feel completely justified and simple and uncomplicated, and I need to see what lengths these parents are forced to go to.  I believe that the inclusion of the son is one of those things they tend to do in remakes of films that are actually really simple that overcomplicates them and ends up ruining them.  You know how it is.  Like in the new NoES, with the micro-nap shit.  Fuck that.  Keep it simple.  (Sorry, this paragraph was ranting and irritating.  I will try to get on task.  But don’t count on it.)

The last thing I want to mention as regards this particular remake is the level of brutality.  It’s just not there.  In the original, when the girl pisses herself, she is pissing herself.  Or at least that’s what it feels like.  In this film, it feels like a film (as a work friend so nicely put it).  Everything feels clean and directed.  And because of this, the brutality is very distanced, and you never feel quite as aware of the violence as you are when you watch the original, and as such, the film is just not as effective.  And that’s a shame because the original is nothing if not completely effective.  Having said all that, I also want to be clear and say that the way the rape is actually portrayed in both films is absolutely brutal still, but it doesn’t feel as dirty.  Also, there is a crucial element of sexual violence missing from the remake that amps up the level of traumatic experience for the viewer, and I am not sure how I feel about its absence from the remake.

The brutality continues to be toned down when we get to the parents dealings with the baddies.  Do not look forward to seeing the mom bite off business baddie’s dick.  You won’t get that in this remake.  You’ll get a hand in a garbage disposal.  Big whoop, I know.  You’ll get a hammer to the head and some gun shot wounds.  I know, nothing we haven’t seen before.  And I guess, when it comes down to it.  That’s what this movie is.  It’s nothing we haven’t seen before.

Blah blah blah.

EDITED TO ADD: I hadn’t seen the original in some time, so I was wrong about something.  Junior is Krug’s son in the original and has a similar function.  I apologize, and you can all now fire me as your horror guru.

Moving on.

Pontypool is a gem of a non-zombie zombie movie.  I’ll just say it right up top.  I dug this movie hardcore.  I didn’t really know what to expect going in, so I was pretty open-minded.  I mean, I like me some zombie movies, but I don’t have the hard on for them that say Best Friend does.  (Jesus, Best Friend, will you stop with the zombie movies already?)  But I like them, so when I picked up Pontypool used at Blockbuster, I thought, “Well, hey, I’ve heard good things.”

Former shock-jock Grant Mazzy, his producer Sydney, and station researcher Laurel-Ann begin receiving reports of violent outbursts from crowds in the small town of Pontypool, Ontario.  When their man in the “Sunshine Chopper” confirms them from his hideout in a silo, they begin to see what kind of crisis is taking shape.

Now, I actually don’t want to give too much away about this movie because, I tend to get that way about the ones I actually think are good.  The movie, in my opinion, hearkens back to the good ole seventies when people like John Carpenter were doing their best work and showing us what it was like to get scared before you ever saw anything.  It wasn’t about what you could be shown; it was about what you could imagine.  And that is what makes Pontypool one of the best movies I have seen in months.

I’ve read a number of reviews of this film over the past few days, and what I’ve come across are a series of people who either agree with me or a bunch of assholes complaining about the lack of gore.  Hmm.  Let’s debate this little fact.  You all know I love me some quality gore.  Hell, the other night when I was watching City of the Living Dead, I contemplated pausing my TV just so I could take a picture of that chick vomiting up her own organs.  Gore is a beautiful thing.  It is–in a Lucio Fulci movie.  Or in one of these new-fangled French horror films.  But this isn’t that movie.  This is something different.  This is that movie that’s all about what happens off-screen.  I suppose much of the reviewers complaints could have been based in what they expected rather than what they actually received.  We are very much accustomed to ultraviolent zombie movies at this point.  If this be so, it’s a shame.  Their expectations made them miss out on a hell of a good movie.

From what I read, this film was also developed as a radio play at the same time, and I must say I wish I had experienced that as well.  I can only imagine the terror that would have induced in me.  It has a very Orson Welles feel to it all over the place, and I found myself wishing at more than one moment that I was in a better viewing environment to amp up even more of my claustrophobia, but alas it was not to be.  I can still go on and on and on about the elements of the film that worked so wonderfully.

For one, the characters are believable and not overwrought (save for one).  The film relies almost entirely on three characters (with a later introduction of a fourth).  Stephen McHattie is masterful as Grant Mazzy, and the supporting cast follows nicely.  Sydney is a great counterpart to his sometimes asshole-ish wannabe shock-jock.  I read one review that referred to her as a bitch, but this is something I don’t see.  She’s a producer who knows her demographic.  She wants listeners, and she knows they don’t care for his vaguely insulting kind of humor, so she is always just barely controlling her somewhat of a diva radio star.  Their interactions are funny and somewhat tragic as the film progresses.  They care about each other, and it’s clearer and clearer as we see what befalls the also wonderful research assistant Laurel-Ann.  As she becomes infected with the virus, the mourning they feel for her (though buried in some ways) is believable.  They’ve cared for her like a sister, it seems, even though she’s been tough–as one might imagine an Iraq war vet to be (as she is).  These characters are complicated, and their backstories are revealed in ways that do not detract from the actual simplicity of the story, and what a treat that is.  And also what a rarity (see the earlier film for proof of this fact).

The problems in this film lie in the way the infection is spread.  It’s fascinating, to be sure, but I’m not sure it is ever really investigated fully or clearly.  This could be due to the fact that it’s based on a book that is one in a trilogy and that it sounds like the book it is based on is really nothing like the movie that it became.  But I have to say, whatever.  If this third act is the problem, I’ll take it.  This movie was just fucking good.  It was a treat to come across at this particular moment.

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~ by acaseofyou12581 on May 18, 2010.

One Response to “Quick Cuts (Edition 1)”

  1. […] chosen to do this, but we’ve talking about my compulsion to see remakes before.  Hello!  Last House on the Left.)  It’s on Netflix instant view right now, and I came home sick from work (barf), and I sat […]

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