THE VISIT

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Twenty-Nine – 10/29/18

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A tense tale about the search for a missing woman in the Old West, (BONE TOMAHAWK), and the story of a punk rock band that accepts a gig from Hell (GREEN ROOM). You wouldn’t think these two films had very much in common, and you’d be right. Except that it not only introduced audiences to two remarkable new filmmaking talents, but also gave them two films that went to some unexpected places, redefining what it means to ‘gaze into the abyss’…and see with terrifying clarity, what it is that’s staring back.

S. CRAIG ZAHLER hasn’t been a big part of ‘the scene’, so when BONE TOMAHAWK arrived, it felt kind of like a random lightning strike, and had about the same effect on fans! When you see names like KURT RUSSELL, DAVID ARQUETTE, RICHARD JENKINS, PATRICK WILSON and MATTHEW FOX associated with a film from a relative newbie, you know that script has got to be something special. And it certainly is.  How best to describe this without spoiling the living hell out of it? Okay – for you film buffs out there who go back as far as I do, think THE SEARCHERS-meets-THE HILLS HAVE EYES. For you latter-day movie kids, think DEADWOOD or TOMBSTONE, with just a taste of THE DESCENT thrown in.

When the wife of a small-town settler (WILSON) vanishes, Russell is the sheriff who rounds up a posse to go after her and the people who took her, probably Indians by all the signs. So in the first half of the film, you think that what you’re getting is a modern-day take on a classic kind of Western.  And for the most part, you are.  Then, the second half kicks in.  And I don’t want to say more than that, except keep the smelling salts handy.

For old hands Russell and Jenkins, this is familiar territory, and their roles fit them like old, worn, favorite gloves. Even Arquette doesn’t have to stretch here, his own cameo pretty much an extension of the role he played in the underrated cult classic, RAVENOUS. (And Arquette gets beautiful support from an unexpected cameo by no less than SID HAIG, but I won’t say where or when that happens).

But it’s Matthew Fox who gets the part that’s the most ‘against-type.’ His leading man good looks serve him well, to augment a character you probably could only spend two minutes with before wanting to kill him. It’s quite the revelation.  But not as much as the 180-degree-turn BONE TOMAHAWK makes, into territory that most Westerns wouldn’t even think about going into. This is one of those you’ll be telling your friends about once you’ve seen it, and there are scenes I can promise that will stay with you for a very long time.

On the other side of this, GREEN ROOM is a brilliantly crafted B-thriller with great performances, and a sad footnote, as the movie that pretty much defined the career of the late ANTON YELCHIN, even as he exploded onto the pop culture scene as the “new” Ensign Anton Chekhov in J.J. Abrams’ retooling of the STAR TREK series.

The follow-up to his bracing revenge tale, BLUE RUIN, writer/director JEREMY SAULNIER brings to light the tragic and unsettling tale of a punk band called “The Ain’t-Rights”, composed of Yelchin as “Pat”, along with JOE COLE, CALLUM TURNER and ALIA SHAKWAT as his band mates. Closing out their most recent tour, they were set to do a gig that was arranged by a college boy fan, which fell through without warning.  Stuck with no other options, their benefactor quickly sets up another gig for them.  Out in the middle of nowhere. At a clubhouse.  For neo-Nazi types.

Not the best of circumstances, but money is money and a gig is a gig. Things are pretty dicey from the get-go, and it doesn’t help that the band kicks off their set with a rousing cover of The Dead Kennedy’s classic “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” Even with that, they do manage to win over the surly crowd. Or so they think.

Retreating back to what passes in this shithole for their “green room”, they’re told not to go in, but someone forgets something in there, and does it anyway. And that’s when they see it: the murdered body of a girl they saw earlier when they were playing in the club.  Things go south fairly quickly, when the skinhead staff trap them inside the room because of what they saw. But two things make it apparent that they probably won’t be allowed to leave alive: when Amber (IMOGEN POOTS), the dead girl’s ‘best friend’ becomes a captive as well, and when the leader of the skinhead cell, Darcy, arrives to take charge of things and “clean up the mess.”  In other words: ‘no loose ends.’

Yet again, we have a script that’s impressive enough to attract an amazing lineup of talent, but especially for the role of the deeply evil Darcy, a complete game-changer for PATRICK STEWART, who said in an interview that when he read the script, the part scared him so badly that he knew he had to do it. Darcy began an arc of parts that Stewart has accepted to change his “Captain Jean-Luc Picard” image, and this was certainly a great way to start.

Every step Saulnier takes with GREEN ROOM proves beyond a doubt, that BLUE RUIN was definitely no fluke, and as a ‘good luck charm’, the cast of ROOM includes the monumentally talented actor/writer/director MACON BLAIR, who was the star of RUIN, and is behind the tremendously dark and funny character piece, I DON’T FEEL AT HOME IN THIS WORLD ANYMORE., made for Netflix. Here in ROOM, Blair has a pretty important role as well as Darcy’s main lieutenant, and that’s about as much as I can say about that.

Bracing, razor-sharp and violent, GREEN ROOM isn’t for the squeamish, and provides some pretty sweet surprises not only for lovers of survival chillers, but mystery lovers as well, as The Ain’t-Rights begin to learn that there’s more than just a case of domestic violence going on behind the scenes.

So that gives you two options of films that gained a lot of traction from word-of-mouth, and rightfully so.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: THE WITCH, THE INVITATION, THE VISIT, CRIMSON PEAK, KRAMPUS, THE FINAL GIRLS, INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 3 and GOOSEBUMPS were just some of the movies that gave horror fans a widely diverse selection to choose from, in both quantity and quality, for 2015.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FEATURED CONTENT, GORE OR EXTREME HORROR, HALLOWEEN, MONSTERS AND CREATURES, MYTHS AND LEGENDS, OPINION, SLASHERS AND BAD HUMANS, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments

HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day THIRTEEN – 10/13/18

10/13 – 1999: THE SIXTH SENSE

How in the wide, wide world of sports could it be possible to make and break your career right out of the gate, with your first smash box office hit? Ask extremely controversial director M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN, because that’s exactly what happened with THE SIXTH SENSE, one of the best paranormal ‘mind-fuck’ chillers ever made. And there had been some really good ones that came before, and that followed it. But none had quite the same impact that this did, only the third film he’d made.

BRUCE WILLIS, whose last big film the year before, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, didn’t exactly set multiplex box offices aflame (although now it’s a beloved sci-fi cult classic) stars here as Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a disillusioned child psychologist. Tragically attacked by one of his former charges, who then commits suicide, Malcolm considers himself a failure, and is looking for redemption from the horrific debacle.

His potential chance comes in the form of Cole Sear, the role that defined the career of HALEY JOEL OSMENT, although he’d done some films and TV before, including a small role in FOREST GUMP. As the famous line goes, Cole sees “dead people”, who don’t seem to know they’re dead, and worst of all – they all want to talk to him, though he has no idea why he has this connection to the spirit world.

It’s Malcolm who finally seems to be the most helpful adult that Cole can confide in, as he advises him to listen when the spirits communicate with him, to see what it is that they want. And as it turns out, they want many different things. Perhaps the second most stunning sequence in the film is Cole’s encounter with the ghost of a young girl named Kyra Collins, (future star of “THE O.C.” MISCHA BARTON), whose untimely death via a mysterious illness, turns out to be a lot more than her family knew about.

Shyamalan’s greatest gift isn’t just the cleverness of the storytelling. He has real empathy for all of his characters, even the unlikable ones, and therefore you become equally invested in them.  So much so, that until you’ve seen this multiple times, you don’t realize how he’s setting you up for one of the most stunning ‘reveals’, not just in horror film history, but film in general.  And that’s how he also managed to make and then break himself all at once. Not unlike ORSON WELLES did with CITIZEN KANE, Shyamalan made one of the most audacious debuts to come from a fledgling director up to that time period, and in the films that followed, audiences expected every “Shyamalan twist” to be just as gasp-inducing as the first time. But he soon discovered that the hardest act to follow was himself.

Willis gives one of the best performances of his career outside his usual forays into action blockbusters, (DEATH BECOMES HER has the other great turn). HALEY JOEL OSMENT seemed destined for super-stardom, as one of the least saccharine, real little kids ever to break into cinema. OLIVIA WILLIAMS has what amounts to a cameo as Malcolm’s wife, Anna, but what she does is effective and vitally important to the story, and she’s perfect for it. DONNIE WAHLBERG as the distraught former patient, whose horrendous act of violence sets the plot in motion, shows where the acting chops in that family really are.

But the one to really watch here is TONI COLLETTE, as single mom Lynn Sear. I would go as far as to put her performance right up there with ELLEN BURSTYN’S in THE EXORCIST. As a mother desperately trying to understand what’s going on with her kid, and feeling nearly powerless to help, she neither overplays or underplays it, hitting the sweet spot particularly in a scene that is a tear-jerker: when she truly comes to believe in her son’s abilities, as he reveals something to her that he couldn’t have possibly known about otherwise. (Everyone who’s seen it remembers that scene.) In fact, watching it back again, it comes as no surprise that THE SIXTH SENSE was nominated for – you got it – SIX Oscars, including nods for Osment, Collette and of course for Shyamalan’s directing.

After a rough period of diminishing returns on his features, that seemingly began with LADY IN THE WATER, going rapidly downhill from there, “Night” has made a considerable comeback with THE VISIT, SPLIT, and the soon-to-be-released GLASS. (I wonder if that one holds any interest for me? Hmmm…)  But THE SIXTH SENSE is that one that every director wishes they had in their arsenal, but also fears…because it’s that ‘lightning-in-a-bottle’ that you can only really capture once, and never again.

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: This was the same year that also gave us RAVENOUS, AUDITION, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, STIR OF ECHOES, SLEEPY HOLLOW, and existenZ.

Posted by Samuel Glass in EDITORIALS, FAMILY HORROR, FEATURED CONTENT, HALLOWEEN, OPINION, PARANORMAL, THRILLER, TRIBUTE, 0 comments