Archive for the Controverisal Films Category

THE PURGE (2013)

Posted in 2013, Bad Situations, Cinema Knife Fights, Controverisal Films, Dystopian Futures, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, Masks, Suspense, The Future, Thrillers with tags , , , , , on June 10, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE PURGE (2013)
By L.L. Soares (with a brief appearance by Michael Arruda)

The-Purge-2013-Movie-Poster(THE SCENE: Interior of a house at twilight. The annual Purge ritual is about to begin)

L.L. SOARES: Ah, it’s almost time for the Purge, Michael! I can hardly wait. (starts strapping on axes and handguns and chainsaws and hunting knives and chainsaws and shotguns and ice picks and rocket launchers).

MICHAEL ARRUDA; That sure is a lot of stuff.

LS: You bet. I take this holiday seriously. It’s the one time of the year I can get away with murder, literally, without it being a crime.

(LOUD NOISE is heard. The sound of metal crunching)

LS: What the hell is that? (contines to strap on things like battleaxes and longswords and maces and a gattling gun and poison darts and venomous snakes and the shiny ball from PHANTASM)

MA: Oops.

LS: What do you mean…Oops?

MA: I think I accidentally pressed the “Lock Down” button. Nobody can get in now.

LS: That’s okay. I can still go outside, right?

(MA does not respond)

LS: Right?

(MA twiddles thumbs)

LS: RIGHT??

MA: Well, you see, I’ve got my system on a timer. No one can disarm it until the Purge is over. So you can’t leave.

LS: You’re telling me I waiting all year long for Purge night so that I can commit whatever crimes I want and not be arrested, and on this momentous night, you have rigged it so I can’t leave your house?

MA: Bingo.

(LS straps on one last item, a little tiny Derringer, and goes to take a step forward, and collapses under the weight of everything he has strapped to himself.)

MA: Looks like you wouldn’t be able to make it ouside with all that stuff anyway.

LS: I could always downgrade!

MA: Look, you can’t join in on the Purge this year. Deal with it. In the meantime, we can make popcorn and review this week’s movie. Which just happens to be THE PURGE. Do you want to start?

LS (starts crying and stamping his feet): But I wanted to do some killing and pillaging!

MA: I said I was sorry.

LS: Okay, I’ll start the review. But you owe me one.

MA: You start. I’ll go put some popcorn in the microwave. (Leaves the room)

THE PURGE takes place is a dystopian future. Or is utopian? I guess it depends on your point of view. There’s low unemployment, a low crime rate, no war, and lots of prosperity. How did society achieve all this, you ask? Well, there’s some talk of “New Founding Fathers,” so I’m guessing a new kind of government has taken over. And part of this new regime is an annual ritual, the Purge, which states that one night a year—from 7pm until 7am the next morning—all crime is legal, including murder (of course, there’s a clause in there where certain government people with a clearance of 10 or higher are exempt and cannot be killed. Those guys always have to cover their asses). There’s also a restriction on the kinds of weapons you can use, I noticed, too. Well, enough about that….the idea is that if society can cut loose and go bonkers one night a year, it will purge everyone’s violent tendencies so they can go back to being model citizens again the rest of the year.

I actually found this premise really interesting. Finally, a horror movie about IDEAS. Most Hollywood horror movies are more concerned with body counts. Could a future like this ever really happen? Who knows. But it’s an interesting theory. I for one have always really dug the theme of civilization vs. savagery; it’s a theme that has even popped up in some of my fiction.

(Pulls out a copy of Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents and thumbs through it)

Anyway, our protagonists are your typical American family, the Sandins. There’s the father, James Sandin (Ethan Hawke, most recently in last year’s above-average thriller, SINISTER) , mother Mary (Lena Headey, probably best known these days as the villainous Cersei Lannister in the megahit HBO series GAME OF THRONES), daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) and son Charlie (Max Burkholder). Daddy made big money selling security systems to rich families just like theirs in anticipation of the Purge. The family sits around the TV to celebrate the beginning of the news coverage—like it’s New Year’s Eve or something—and the big lockdown of their home. All seems well in SandinLand.

That is until Charlie sees a wounded man (Edwin Hodge) desperately seeking shelter from a gang of psychos. The kid can’t just sit by and let the guy be murdered, so he opens the doors to let him in. James immediately locks things up again, but there’s suddenly a stranger loose in their house. Meanwhile, up in Zoey’s room, her boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) snuck into the house before lockup, so he can reason with her dad about their relationship (James thinks he’s too old for Zoey). His logic being “He can’t throw me out, he has to listen to me.”

Oh yeah, and there’s a gang of psychos outside, banging on the door to be let in. Seems that they were hunting the wounded man for sport, this being Purge Night and all, and since they’re completely within their rights to do it, they are rather ticked off that someone has spoiled their fun. So they offer the Sandin family a choice. Send the wounded guy out to them so they can finish having fun. Or they’ll force their way in and kill everyone.

The psychos look like preppy Ivy League college kids wearing creepy masks and carrying various weapons. They’re led by  led by a “Polite Stranger” (that’s what they call him in the credits) played by Rhys Wakefield. He’s so psycho, he kills one of his own friends for speaking out of turn during the negotiations. Polite Stranger is also the only one of the gang who removes his mask, so we can see his leering, preppy-boy face.

So what’s going to happen? Is the family going to track down that homeless guy and send him out to be butchered or will they stand and fight? Can the bad guys really get inside when the house has state-of-the-art security that James had installed himself? And what about Henry, will he finally earn James’s respect and the right to date his daughter?

All this and more will be revealed when you see THE PURGE.

(Sound of microwave beeping in another room)

LS: Sounds like Michael is almost ready with that popcorn. I’d really like to hear his opinion of this movie. Hey Michael, get in here.

Anyway, like I said before, I thought the concept of “The Purge” was kind of cool. This is not the first time we have seen something like this, of course. This film has elements of “siege on a house” movies like STRAW DOGS (1971) and ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (1976) — both of which have been remade in recent years—the teenage thugs are reminiscent of the Droogies in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971); the creepy masks and sense of mystery and menace are right out of THE STRANGERS (2008), and even the concept of the Purge itself is similar to the sacrifices made by the kids in THE HUNGER GAMES, (2012) by just as merciless a government (which in turn brings to mind Shirley Jackson’s classic story, “The Lottery,” and the Japanese movie BATTLE ROYALE, 2000). As I said, it’s not a completely new idea, but it’s a clever spin on it, and it works well here.

(Looks around)

LS: Where the hell is Michael with that popcorn? And he better have stocked up on beer, too.

(LS wanders down the hall and downstairs, heading toward the kitchen. When he gets there, there’s no sign of Michael. And the microwave is still beeping)

LS: Michael, where are yooooou?

That’s funny. (Pops open the microwave and starts eating the popcorn)

Anyway, back to the review. Director James DeMonaco previously gave us the drama LITTLE NEW YORK (2009), which also starred Hawke, and was previously a screenwriter, one of his scripts in fact being the 2005 remake of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (coincidence?). DeMonaco does a good job building suspense here, and maintaining it throughout. I thought this movie was a solid piece of filmmaking.

The score, by Nathan Whitehead, is also quite good, helping to set the tone and build suspense throughout. (Barry Lee Dejasu interviews Whitehead for his Scoring Horror column tomorrow).

The cast is very good, beginning with Hawke and Headey. I was on the fence about Hawke for a long time, but he’s been in a string of interesting films lately. And it’s ironic that the same day THE PURGE comes out, his other new film BEFORE MIDNIGHT, a smart romantic drama by Richard Linklater, which could not be more different, also opens in several cities. The man is on a roll.

Even the kids are good in this one, although I was cursing when Charlie unlocked the house so the wounded guy could get in. I know he thought he was doing the right thing, but to put his whole family at risk, I wanted to strangle the brat. His is the first of several moral decisions these characters have to make, though.

Rhys Wakefield is also really good as the “Polite Stranger.” He has an almost Joker-like quality to him that reminded me of the late Heath Ledger. Wakefield is suitably creepy here, and I wanted more of his character, and I wanted to know more about him. But there isn’t a lot of room for character development when everything hits the fan.

I also like how THE PURGE deals with issues of class and race. In this future of lower crime, there’s also more poverty, and the evening news debates whether the Purge was thought up to legally wipe out people that society didn’t want. And by society, they obviously mean “rich society.” The wounded man who is given sanctuary in the Sandins’ house is black, homeless and, judging by the dog tags around his neck, a veteran of one of those wars we no longer have in this alternate future, and yet he’s hunted like an animal by privileged preppies in Halloween masks.

I really enjoyed this one. It was well-acted, suspenseful, thoughtful and shined a light on the ugly side of human nature. That’s what good horror is supposed to do! Show us the sides of humanity we would rather not see.

I give this one three and a half knives.

Now would normally be the time when Michael pipes in with his lame-brained review of the movie, but he’s clearly not around. I bet he’s playing some kind of prank on me.

(A MAN enters the kitchen, wearing a creepy mask and holding a machete)

MASKED MAN: It’s Purge night. Time for you to meet your maker.

LS: Who the hell are you, and how did you get in here. And what did you do with Michael?

MASKED MAN: Who’s Michael? I snuck in through a cellar window that wasn’t covered up. And now, say good-bye (raises machete)

LS: And me without all my weapons. Seems like I left them all upstairs…Uh oh.

MASKED MAN: Here I come. Ready or not.

(LS grins and pulls out an AK-47)

LS: Except for this one. (Blows the guy away)

LS: Hey, that was fun. I hope more people sneak in!

(MA enters the room)

MA: What’s going on in here? What’s all the racket? I leave you alone for a couple of minutes and you’re already getting into mischief.

(Looks at the dead guy in the mask)

MA: How did he get in here?

LS: He said something about an uncovered cellar window?

MA: Uh, oh, I better go check that out.

LS: Hey, wait a minute. I just finished my review of THE PURGE. Do you have anything to add?

MA: I was so busy preparing for Purge Night, I didn’t have time to see it.

LS: You’re kidding me.

MA (shrugs): Oops.

LS (looks at the clock): Well, my review is over and there’s still 10 hours to go of the Purge. I just thought of something. I can’t go outside to cause mayhem, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun. I’m in here, after all, with you.

MA: Umm…what are you getting at?

LS: You’re it. I’m going to count to 100 and then come looking for you with a chainsaw. Won’t that be fun? So after you check the cellar, make sure to hide real good!

(MA presses the “UNLOCK” button)

MA: I suddenly remembered how to let you go outside.

LS: Hurray!

(LS then proceeds to strap on guns and knives and chainsaws and swords and rocket launchers and battleaxes, and then topples over when he tries to go outside)

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE PURGE~three and a half knives.

Transmissions to Earth: THE ABCs OF DEATH (2012)

Posted in 2013, Anthology Films, Asian Horror, Body Horror, Controverisal Films, Dystopian Futures, Just Plain Weird, LL Soares Reviews, Murder!, Surgical Horror, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2013 by knifefighter

TRANSMISSIONS TO EARTH

zontar_sage_2

presents

THE ABCs of DEATH
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

The-ABCs-of-Death-Poster

The concept is in an interesting one, give 26 filmmakers $5,000 each to make a short film, roughly about five minutes long (some more, some less). The only caveat being that it has to be about death in some way. So we’ve got maybe the most ambitious horror anthology film so far, on the heels of some good ones like THE THEATRE BIZARRE (2011) and V/H/S (2012). But with 26 shorts, it’s not the easiest film to review, so a critic inevitably has to stick to the highlights.

The structure is as follows: a short film plays, followed by the screen going to red, and the name of the film (and the director’s name) spelled out in children’s blocks. While trying to guess who did what is part of the fun (unfortunately, I haven’t heard of a lot of the directors here, so I guess it wasn’t that much fun), I would have preferred if the film names and directors had appeared before each film, but C’est la vie.

The movie begins with Nacho Vigalonodo’s “A for Apocalypse,” where a woman attempts to kill her bedridden husband for past sins, first by stabbing him, then throwing hot grease in his face and bonking him on the head several times with the oversized frying pan. Unfortunately, he won’t die, and just stares at her, while we hear the sounds of cars crashing outside their apartment window. It’s an interesting enough start.

As the movie unfolds we’ll be treated to everything from disturbing films to dark comedies, from traditional animation to Claymation, from Japanese surrealism to South American grit. The list of directors includes people from all over the world, and it’s interesting to see what each of them comes up with. The other thing about anthology films is that, if you don’t like what you’re watching, there will always be a new one starting soon enough.

As for highlights, the more squirm-inducing entries come to mind first. These include Timo Tjahjanto’s “L for Libido,” which involves men being forced to partake in a kind of “circle jerk to the death,” where what they have to watch (and get aroused by) gets more and more disturbing. This one, which comes right about at the middle of the overall movie, might just be the roughest of the bunch. Close contenders include Marcel Sarmiento’s “D is for Dogfight,” where a boxer fights it out with a vicious dog, while spectators shout and gamble on the outcome (all in slow motion), and Xavier Gens’s “X is for XXL,” where an unattractive, overweight woman who yearns to be like the pretty girl on the TV commercials she keeps seeing, subjects herself to a very radical diet involving an electric carving knife. Ti West’s “M is for Miscarriage” is another one with a killer last scene that will leave an impression.

A scene from the intense "D is for Dogfight."

A scene from the intense “D is for Dogfight.”

I also liked Ernesto Diaz Espinoza’s twisted “C is for Cycle,” Bruno Forazni’s self-explanatory “O is for Orgasm,” and Jake West’s hi-octane entry,“S is for Speed.”

More light-hearted and/or stranger fare includes: “H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier,” by Thomas Cappelen Malling, a fun, live-action cartoon where an anthropomorphic dog (dressed like a British aviator) sits at a table next to the stage at a strip club, while an enemy (Nazi) cat woman’s act gets more and more lethal; Noboru Iguchi’s installment, “F is for Fart,” where a Japanese girl’s crush on her teacher leads to an odd exploration of bodily gases that come in various colors; the final short, Yoshihiro Nishimura’s “Z is for Zetsumetsu,” which involves naked Japanese people eating sushi and shouting as the world comes to an end; and “T is for Toilet,” by Lee Hardcastle, where Claymation parents who are trying to get their young son to use the toilet for the first time are in for a nightmare.

A scene from the twisted live-action cartoon "H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier."

A scene from the twisted live-action cartoon “H is for Hydraulic Emulsifier.”

One of the more visually impressive entries is “V for Vagitus,” by Kaare Andrews, taking place in a dystopian future where procreation is against the law, but you can earn “special privlidges” if you join the police force.

Some disappointments include Ben Wheatley’s “U is for Unearthed” shown from the point of view of a monster (vampire?) – it had the distinctive look of Wheatley movies like the brilliant THE KILL LIST (2011), and I guessed who it was immediately, but the short itself was pretty much a throwaway and I wanted something more ambitious from such a talented director. Also, with “R is for Removed” by Srdjan Spasojevic (who also directed 2010’s controversial A SERBIAN FILM), I was expecting something with a real wallop, instead getting something more surreal and strange – a burn victim’s skin is peeled off by doctors section by section, and immersed in fluid that reveals the skin is really strips of celluloid from a movie reel. And “B for Bigfoot,” by Adrian Garcia Bogliano, doesn’t even really have a Bigfoot in it (it should have been called “B for Boogieman,” instead).

"T is for Toilet"

“T is for Toilet”

I hate to jump around so much, but that’s the way you remember these films: some are instantly memorable while others you might forgot soon after watching the movie. For the most part, there aren’t many total duds here. There are exceptional installments, and then ones that are just okay (even the “disappointments” I listed above weren’t completely awful). And I liked the way that there were so many tones and styles and flavors, like visiting a visual Baskin Robbins.

If you’re a fan of anthology horror films, there’s a lot to like about THE ABCs OF DEATH, and you should check it out. You’re bound to find several installments that you really like.

It would just be too difficult to list every single short and rate it individually, but overall, I give the movie three knives.

(This movie is currently in very limited theatrical release and is also available on cable OnDemand in some markets.)

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE ABCs OF DEATH  ~three knives.

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Bikini Girls, Compelling Cinema, Controverisal Films, Crime Films, Exploitation Films, Femme Fatales, Gangsters!, Hot Chick Movies, Independent Cinema, James Franco, Just Plain Fun, LL Soares Reviews, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , on March 26, 2013 by knifefighter

SPRING BREAKERS (2013)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Spring-Breakers-International-Movie-Poster

If you think this is going to be just another Spring Break teen sex comedy, then you are in for a surprise. SPRING BREAKERS is another kind of animal altogether, and it’s the kind of pop/art hybrid that will be playing at your local arthouse theater, as well as the nearby multiplex. The arthouse crowd will have some idea what they’re in for, as soon as they see the director’s name, Harmony Korine. The multiplex audience will have no clue, and might just get their heads blown.

So who is Harmoney Korine, you ask? Well, when he was 19, he wrote the screenplay for the movie KIDS (1995), still probably the most notorious project he’s been associated with. But he went on to become a director in his own right, with weirdo masterpieces under his belt like 1997’s GUMMO and 1999’s JULIEN DONKEY-BOY, two movies that will seriously screw with your head. The last movie of his I saw in a theater was 2007’s MISTER LONELY, which is about a Michael Jackson impersonator who goes to live on an island populated by nothing but celebrity impersonators, and there’s Werner Herzog as a skydiving priest. I think there were five people in the audience when I saw it. In contrast, the theater was pretty packed when I saw SPRING BREAKERS.

SPRING BREAKERS is an underground film with above-ground stars, and what an interesting collection of celebs we have.

The movie begins with four girls wanting to go to Spring Break and escape from their boring lives as hard-working college students, but they don’t have enough money for the trip. Fed up with being deprived of fun, Candy (Vanessa Hudgens, who your kids might know from Disney fare like 2006’s HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and the TV series THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY), Brit (Ashley Benson, currently playing Hanna on the ABC FAMILY series PRETTY LITTLE LIARS)  and Cotty (Rachel Korine, who also happens to be Mrs. Harmony Korine, and who was in the previously mentioned MISTER LONELY, among other films), decide they are going to Florida for the time of their lives, no matter what. So they don some ski masks and rob the local chicken shack, armed with a realistic looking water pistol and a heavy duty hammer. They get enough money for the trip, and bring their virginal friend Faith (Selena Gomez, another Disney star, from the series THE WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE) along for the ride. Faith is sweet and religious and doesn’t seem like the other girls at all, but she goes along for the ride, even after she finds out how they got the money.

Once in sunny Florida, the girls go wild, and then some, everyone but Faith, who has some naïve idea of this being a chance to bond with her girlfriends, when the others are just thinking about drugs and sex and booze.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

The stars of SPRING BREAKERS (from left to rigth) Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine and Vanessa Hudgens (standing). Behind them, James Franco.

When a particularly out-of-control party they are at gets busted by the cops, the girls end up in jail. Without money for bail, they are rescued by a rapper, drug dealer, and gun hoarder named Alien (James Franco, who we saw just a couple of weeks ago as OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL). With his corn rows, tattoos and mouth grille, Franco is a force of nature here, and steals every scene he is in.

Alien (“My real name is Al, but I’m out of this world”) is so much the polar opposite of OZ that it’s amazing this is the same guy, and yet Franco works his magic without having to try. Just what does he want in return for springing these cute college girls from the hoosegow? Well, Faith gets so scared thinking about that one that she takes the next bus home (no big loss, since she was the least interesting girl anyway), and the other three find that chicken shack robbery to be just the start of their life of crime, as they take part in a violent crime spree, this time with Alien leading the way.

SPRING BREAKERS is chock full of bikinis, bongs and guns. There’s also lots of Spring Break nudity (although  Rachel Korine is the only one of the main girls to really let it all hang out), and violence. So if you go into the theater expecting to just see some typical drunken behavior, you’re going to be in for a surprise.

Korine’s direction (he also wrote the screenplay) is all quirky and cool, shooting some scenes in slow-motion with musical accompaniment by Skrillex (along with Cliff Martinez, they did the soundtrack). Mainstream audiences might be scratching their heads by the time the end credits roll, but I was completely hypnotized by this one. As a long time Korine fan, I would have seen this one anyway, but the added pleasure of a rip-roaring, bigger than life James Franco, and good performances by the girls, just multiplies the pleasures.

spring-breakers-movie-poster

The girls turn in good performances. I really liked Rachel Korine a lot  as Cotty, the most uninhibited one of the group, and Ashley Benson and Vanessa Hudgens turn in super-intense performances as the two most violent ones, a dynamic duo who even scare Franco in one scene. (Hudgens may have gained fame on the Disney Channel, but she was also in the controversial movie THIRTEEN in 2003 and was in the slightly edgy but ultimately disappointing SUCKER PUNCH in 2011. So she’s not completely new to this “edgy” thing.  As for Benson, she’s my favorite of the female leads here, hands down).

By the time Alien starts taking the girls on missions to rob other college kids at gunpoint (and a wedding!), and Alien’s arch-enemy Archie (Gucci Mane) feels he needs to put Alien in his place and starts some violence that needs payback, we have reached the point of no return, and the drunken parties have become a faint memory, replaced by the barrel of an AK-47.

One especially fun (and demented) scene features the three bad girls in pink ski masks singing along with Alien (who is playing piano beside his swimming pool) as they do a group rendition of Britney Spears’ song “Everytime.”

If the Disney girls climbed aboard this project to change their images, they succeeded,  and Harmony Korine succeeded in churning out his first potential hit with mainstream audiences since he wrote KIDS back in the 90s. And like KIDSSPRING BREAKERS will probably seem like a horror flick to some parents (especially of daughters), a nightmare about what could happen during those Spring Break vacations.

SPRING BREAKERS is big and loud and out of control. And I found myself really digging it. In fact, this might just be my favorite movie of 2013 so far.

I give it three and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives SPRING BREAKERS ~three and a half knives.

MOVIE 43 (2013)

Posted in 2013, All-Star Casts, Anthology Films, Bad Situations, Controverisal Films, Dark Comedies, LL Soares Reviews, R-Rated Comedy, Raunchy Fun, Sex Comedies, Sleaze with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2013 by knifefighter

MOVIE 43
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

Movie-43-Poster

I’ve always been a fan of anthology movies, and they’ve been making a comeback lately. Most of them have been showing up in the horror genre—in fact, the anthology horror flick V/H/S  was one of my favorite movies of last year. So I was really interested in seeing MOVIE 43 as soon as I heard about it. There hasn’t been a good comedy anthology movie in a long time. The most famous was probably 1977’s THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE. There were also 1974’s THE GROOVE TUBE and 1987’s AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON. In a way, the fake trailers that accompanied the main movies in the Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration, GRINDHOUSE (2007), were also a variation on this concept too, since most of them were pretty funny. The basic idea is that a bunch of different directors and casts get together to make a bunch of short films, usually with a wrap-around storyline to tie them all together.

No matter how much fun these kinds of movies are, one thing that almost always happens is that the short films in question turn out to be a mixed bag. Rarely are they all equally good (or bad). And MOVIE 43 is no different. Made over the course of three years (as directors and stars had time), MOVIE 43 is at least a fresh idea compared to most of the comedies that have been in theaters lately. So how do the short films measure up? Let’s take a look. (I’ll give each one its own “grade” and then an overall rating at the end.)

The movie begins with its wrap-around story, in this case called “The Pitch,” and starring Dennis Quaid as Charlie Wessler (the name of one of the movie’s producers, by the way), a deranged guy who forces his way into the office of a movie studio head named Griffin Schraeder (Greg Kinnear) in order to pitch his movie ideas. We then get the various pitches, which make up the other short films in the movie. Get it? This wraparound segment was directed by Peter Farrelly of the Farrelly Brothers (who gave us THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY (1998) and, more recently, THE THREE STOOGES, 2012)

The Catch” is the first short. It features Kate Winslet as a businesswoman named Beth, who going on a blind date. Her date is Davis (Hugh Jackman), a famous, successful lawyer and philanthropist, and she’s amazed that he is still single. When they go on their date, all seems to go well, until they go to a restaurant and Davis reveals that he has a very strange physical condition she was not expecting. I will not reveal what it is, but, despite the A-list cast, I thought this was one of the weaker entries. While it is funny when Davis’s deformity is revealed, and Winslet is great at playing it completely uncomfortable, it’s soon obvious that this is going to be a one-joke sketch and after a few minutes, I was already eager to see the next one. This one has good acting, great production values and prosthetics, but doesn’t have much of a pay-off. This segment was also directed by Peter Farrelly and is at least better than “The Pitch.” (I give this one a C, since there’s no real payoff.)

Homeschooled” is one of the better entries. This one features Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber as parents who are homeschooling their high school-age son, Kevin (Jeremy Allen White, who is also really good on the Showtime series, SHAMELESS). Things get out of hand when it’s revealed that they not only teach Kevin at home, but also want to give him the “whole high school experience,” including bullying and..er..dating. (I give this one a B)

The Proposition” stars Anna Faris and Chris Pratt as couple who are celebrating their first year of being together. To commemorate the special occasion, Vanessa (Faris) wants Jason (Pratt) to do something extra special in the bedroom. What she wants might surprise you, and chances are good it may repulse you as well. Kind of funny, depending on your sense of humor. (I give this one a B-)

Veronica” might be the weakest of the bunch. Neil (Kieran Culkin), a cashier at a grocery store, is having an increasingly explicit conversation with his girlfriend, Veronica (Emma Stone), but he left the microphone on that he uses to announce specials over the intercom in the grocery store – so all of the customers get to hear the most intimate details. The customers look like a bunch of homeless people, and this is another one that pretty much is one-joke that goes on too long, except, unlike “The Catch,” this one isn’t funny at all. I thought it was a waste of Emma Stone, who is usually pretty good. Director: Griffin Dunne. (I give this one an F, since it’s pretty pointless).

movie-43-poster03

iBabe” is a parody of iPod commercials, where people listen to an MP3 player that just happens to look like an attractive, naked woman. When it turns out that there has been a rash of accidents where adolescent boys have been hurting themselves trying to get intimate with the iBabe, the company that makes it (headed by Richard Gere) has a meeting to try to determine what the problem is. This one was okay – but nothing great – although nudity is always a plus in my book. (I give this one a C)

Superhero Speed Dating” features a lonely Robin (Justin Long) trying to get a date in a Gotham City bar on “speed dating” night. Unfortunately, a mean-spirited Batman (Jason Sudekis) shows up to torment him and ruin his chances at finding a girlfriend. Featuring Leslie Bibb as Wonder Woman, Uma Thurman as Lois Lane, and Kristen Bell as Supergirl, with a very funny appearance by Bobby Cannavale as a thuggish Superman. For some reason I always find superheroes indulging in bad behavior funny, so I liked this one. The performances are also spot on, especially Sudekis, who is pretty sadistic as a real jerk of a Batman. (I give this one a B)

Middle School Date,” features Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit Girl from KICK-ASS, 2010) as a girl who is spending time at her boyfriend’s house when she has her first period. Unfortunately, everyone in the house is completely clueless, and her young boyfriend thinks she is bleeding to death. Not as funny as it could have been, but it foreshadows Moretz’s upcoming role in the remake of Stephen King’s CARRIE. Directed by Elizabeth Banks. (I give this one a C-)

Happy Birthday,” is probably my favorite of the shorts. Pete (Johnny Knoxville) gets his buddy Brian (Seann William Scott) a special birthday gift – he’s kidnapped a leprechaun (Gerard Butler shrunk down by CGI) and demands the sprite give them his pot of gold, with hilarious results. The last line of this particular short is killer. Directed by Brett Ratner. (I give this one an A)

Truth or Dare” is another good one. This one features Stephen Merchant (a familiar face from the British version of THE OFFICE and cable series like HBO’s EXTRAS with Ricky Gervais) on a first date with Halle Berry. To break the ice, they indulge in a game of Truth or Date that starts out innocently enough and gets more and more deranged as it goes on, and they dare each other to do more and more outrageous acts. Could have been a lot crazier than it is, though.  (I give this one an B+)

Victory’s Glory,” is set in the early 1960s and features Terrence Howard as the coach of a black basketball team giving his kids a pep talk before a big game against an all-white team. This is one of the sketches that was hurt the most by the trailer for the movie, which gives the joke away, but in the movie itself, with more R-rated dialogue, it’s actually somewhat funny, even if it is another one-joke bit. Directed by Rusty Cundieff. (I give this one a B-)

When the end credits begin, you may not want to get up and rush out the door too fast, because there’s one more short to come, “Beezel” features an “adorable” cartoon cat that is actually pretty vicious (and perverted) when his master (Josh Duhamel) isn’t looking. The object of the cat’s ire is Duhamel’s new girlfriend (Elizabeth Banks), who threatens the very close (too close?) master/pet relationship. We’ve seen this plot before (most recently in the far superior TED), and it’s actually one of the weaker entries in the movie. I just didn’t find it that funny. Directed by James Gunn, a director I normally like a lot. (I give this one a D.)

Meanwhile, the wraparound story (“The Pitch”) escalates, popping up between the shorts, as Quaid’s character grows more and more demented, eventually pulling out a gun and demanding the studio buy his movie treatments. For the most part,  the wraparound story works to tie things together, but isn’t  funny, a fact that the cast seems to realize themselves, as everyone kind of gives up toward the end and the actors break character. (I give this one an F)

There are also a couple of fake commercials that are actually pretty good. One is called “Machine Children” and the other, which is better,  is a very clever short short commercial for Tampax, of all things.

I’ve listed the directors who I know worked on specific shorts, but it is very difficult to track down a list of who directed what (without going to see the movie a second time). Maybe this is on purpose, but other directors who worked on the movie include: Steven Brill, Steve Carr, James Duffy, Patrik Forsberg, Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan van Tulleken.

The big draw of this one is the cast—which is made up of some very big names who actually worked for scale (there is no way the budget could have covered them all otherwise) —doing outrageous things. Unfortunately, not all of the material is good enough to appear in (most isn’t), and over all, this movie seems to think it is much more shocking than it really is. In fact, in several cases, I don’t think it went far enough to be truly daring, although MOVIE 43 does earn its R rating.

From what I can tell, most critics have given this movie dismal reviews, but I didn’t think it was all bad. MOVIE 43 is a very mixed bag, with some shorts delivering laughs, and others not. If you like anthology films as much as I do, you might want to check it out, but go to a matinee showing (don’t pay full price). I give it two knives, and that’s probably being generous.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives MOVIE 43~two knives.

THE TALL MAN (2012)

Posted in 2012, Controverisal Films, Family Secrets, Indie Horror, LL Soares Reviews, Mystery, Plot Twists, Scares!, Surprises!, Suspense, Twist Endings, Twisted with tags , , , , , , , , on September 4, 2012 by knifefighter

THE TALL MAN
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

When I first heard about the movie THE TALL MAN, I thought it was another sequel in the PHANTASM series. For those who aren’t fans, the Tall Man is the main villain of that franchise. But this new movie has nothing to do with PHANTASM. So I thought, based on the title and the movie poster (with star Jessica Biel prominently displayed), that this was a standard horror movie. I was wrong on both counts.

Then I found out that THE TALL MAN was directed by French filmmaker Pascal Laugier, who previously gave us the movie MARTYRS (2008), which I consider one of my all-time favorite horror films. It had the same kind of effect on me when it came out as Takashi Miike’s AUDITION did in 2000. Needless to say, I was psyched and immediately sought THE TALL MAN out. It was supposed to be in limited theatrical release, but it wasn’t playing anywhere near me. Luckily, however, it was playing on cable OnDemand, so I was able to see it for myself.

I’m really glad I did.

THE TALL MAN is a movie full of twists and turns that are going to keep you off balance throughout, as you try to figure out who the good guys are, who the bad guys are, and what everyone here is up to.

It begins in a poverty-stricken small town called Cold Rock, Washington. It used to be thriving once, but the coal mines, the main source of work there, shut down, all the other jobs dried up, and people started losing their homes. Oh yeah, there’s one other reason why Cold Rock is such a sad place. Over the years, there have been several child abductions, and the children have never been recovered. A few people swear they got a look at who took their children, a dark figure that has taken on mythic proportions in the town. Everyone refers to the child stealer as The Tall Man.

It’s here in Cold Rock that Julia Denning (Jessica Biel, who we most recently saw in this summer’s big budget remake of TOTAL RECALL) tries her best to help people get medical care. Her husband was the local doctor, but he’s gone now, and since she was his nurse, she’s able to provide some basic services to those in need. It’s clear however, that even though her husband was respected and loved in Cold Rock, Julia will never be completely accepted by everyone in town. There are some people here who trust her, however, like the mute teenager Jenny (Jodelle Ferland) who will become more important as the film goes on.

Since she’s a widow, Julia has her friend (sister?) Christine (Eve Harlow) babysit her son, David (Jakob Davies) when she’s out making her rounds. David seems to be sickly, but lights up when his mother comes home.

Life is rough in Cold Rock, but Julia does what she can, until the day comes when she returns home to find Christine beaten and tied up, and a hooded figure running away from the house, carrying David in its arms.

While trying to retrieve her son David, Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) falls into a pit of mud in THE TALL MAN.

Julia runs after them, down the street to a large truck that drives away. Determined not to let them get away, Julia grabs on to the back door of the truck, and hangs on for dear life. She tries desperately to retrieve her son in a nightmarish sequence involving the truck, a vicious dog, and an accident. But eventually, she loses the trail, and collapses in the middle of the street, where Lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie) finds her and brings her into his car. He drives her to the local diner where Sheriff Chestnut (William B. Davis) is, and tells him to get an ambulance, while Dodd goes back out trying to find the child stealer based on what Julia has told him.

It’s at this point that things get strange. While washing up and changing her clothes in the office of Trish (Janet Wright) who runs the diner, she hears the Sheriff and another man in a heated discussion, wondering what they should do next. It sounds like they mean to harm Julia. What’s going on here?

To give away any more of the plot would be unkind, but let’s say, at this point, THE TALL MAN stops being a typical horror movie and goes in a completely unexpected direction. This is business as usual for director Pascal Laugier, who is used to running us through a maze in his movies, MARTYRS being a perfect example.

The cast here is very good, especially Biel, who is turning into an actress you can count on to deliver a decent performance. She’s actually much better here than she is in TOTAL RECALL, partly because she’s the lead character, but also because THE TALL MAN is a more serious, intelligent film.

THE TALL MAN is out there.

M. Night Shyamalan might still have the reputation as the king of the twist endings – even if it’s no longer warranted and he’s become something of a joke. But Laugier proves here that he deserves the title more, and he delivers the scares along the way.

The other aspects of this film are finely tuned as well, including the score by Todd Bryanton, which compliments the film perfectly. I was very psyched when I found out that Barry Dejasu was interviewing Bryanton about his soundtrack for THE TALL MAN for his Scoring Horror column (this review is being posted as a companion piece to his interview).

THE TALL MAN is so different from the usual horror movies we keep getting, and is so much more ambitious in its storytelling, that it deserves a wider audience simply because it tries to do something different, and I was disappointed to see that this one has been getting such shoddy distribution. But if you look for it on cable, you would do yourself a favor to find it.

While I didn’t like THE TALL MAN as much as MARTYRS, which remains Laugier’s masterwork, I still thought it was head and shoulders above most of the horror movies Hollywood has been giving us lately. THE TALL MAN is in no way as visceral and nightmarish as MARTYRS, but it does deliver plenty of chills and it will surprise you.

One thing about THE TALL MAN, that you don’t normally get with horror films these days, is that you’ll be thinking about it long after it’s over.

I give it four knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives THE TALL MAN ~ four knives.

 

The French movie poster for THE TALL MAN calls it “The Secret” fittingly enough.

COMPLIANCE (2012)

Posted in 2012, Based on a True Story, Controverisal Films, Intense Movies, LL Soares Reviews, Psychological Thrillers with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2012 by knifefighter

COMPLIANCE (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

 

It seems like every movie these days – especially horror – likes to declare it’s “based on a true story.” Yet, as we know, most of these are either based on the tiniest shred of something real (maybe a newspaper headline) exaggerated to the nth degree. Or they’re an outright lie.

So along comes COMPLIANCE, which is declares right away that it is “Based on True Events.” This time, however, it’s not an idle boast. Not only is COMPLIANCE based on a very real news story, it’s also pretty faithful to that story. Even if you’ll be scratching your head while you watch it.

A few years ago, there were a string of incidents where a man called fast food restaurants, claiming to be a cop, and getting managers and other employees to awful things, based on the “voice of authority” on the phone. COMPLIANCE is based on the most famous of these cases, and I remember the news story well. It was the kind of story you found yourself wondering, “How could anyone be so stupid?” But these people aren’t necessarily stupid (well, some of them are); they’ve just been trained since childhood to obey authority, just like most of us have, and it’s so engrained in them, that they react without really thinking.

COMPLIANCE begins on a Friday night at a fast food joint called ChickWich, that specializes in fried chicken sandwiches. Friday is one of their busiest nights, and the crew at this particular restaurant are understaffed and overworked. Enter franchise manager Sandra (Ann Dowd), who’s having a lousy day. Someone left the freezer open the night before, thawing out (and ruining) over a thousand dollars worth of food, and everyone is rude to her, including her staff. I’m sure this isn’t anything new for an older woman who is in charge of a workplace, and we feel for her right away.

Sandra (Ann Dowd) gets manipulated by a prank caller pretending to be a police officer in COMPLIANCE.

The other main character here is Becky (Dreama Walker), a nineteen year old cashier who’s cute and perky. She’s worried that Sandra thinks she left the freezer open, and she’s scared of losing her job.

With these things in place, along with a very hectic work environment, Sandra gets a phone call from an Officer Daniels (Pat Healy). He says that he is sitting with a customer who claims that Becky stole money from her purse. He explains that he is in the middle of another case right now, and can’t come there right away, but Becky will be arrested and locked up once he can. In the meantime, can Selena do a few things to help his investigation? He also claims to have her superior on another line, and that the man has said she should cooperate.

Frazzled by her workload, depressed about the freezer, and eager to please a voice of authority, Sandra is more than happy to help out. This involves looking through Becky’s pockets, her purse, and eventually asking her to remove her clothes so that Selena can look through them for the stolen money.

When Becky gets undressed, Sandra asks one her female assistant manager, Marti (Ashlie Atkinson), to enter the room, since she asserts that this is company policy during a search (something Officer Daniels doesn’t argue with). As this continues, Sandra makes it clear that she doesn’t have the time to wait around for Daniels or any officers he may be sending, so Daniels tells her to go back to work, but is there a male employee she can have stand guard in the room until the police get there? This is when things start getting really weird.

COMPLIANCE is a small movie, but it’s well-written and pulls you into the story right away. There’s not much preamble before the phone call comes, just a quick introduction to the characters—enough for us to sympathize with them. Becky, for example, is obviously a good girl who most probably would never steal. And the caller, despite whatever lunatic things he tells the people to do, keeps everyone off guard by seeming to know everything he needs to (he does this by tricking the people on the phone into giving the information he wants, by asking just the right questions), he really does sound legitimate, and whenever his story gets a little ludicrous and anyone questions him, he pulls the “fear of jail” card, demanding that people call him “sir” and threatening to arrest anyone who doesn’t go along with him as a possible accomplice.

Is COMPLIANCE a horror film? Not really, and yet what happens in this film is horrific, and is bound to make most people squirm in their seats. I have heard that several audience members for this movie have walked out during the film, for example. As for me, I found the whole thing fascinating, especially keeping in mind that these things really happened. And the movie makes a great case for how this could have transpired.

Toward the end, we finally get to see the caller in his home (and there’s a reason he’s so good at manipulating people on the telephone), and things continue to escalate, until something truly despicable happens. All of this makes for very uncomfortable viewing, and yet not once does COMPLIANCE seem to be straining too much for believability.

Dreama Walker turns in a gutsy performance as Becky, who is victimized by a sadistic prank caller in COMPLIANCE.

A lot of people have dismissed this movie—including some critics—by saying that the movie is unbelievable. That most people would catch on earlier and prevent the situation from getting out of control. But I disagree with that assumption. I think a lot of people would react very similarly to the people in this movie do. As people in the real life case did. And it’s not all about how intelligent people are.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen people do awful things “because they’re told to.” The Nazis spring instantly to mind—the most obvious and extreme version this concept—and yet we don’t even have to go to that far. There have been several psychological test cases where people showed they were more than happy to obey orders to awful extremes. Like the Stanford Prison experiment, where subjects are broken up into groups of prisoners and guards, and as it progressed, the guards began to physically abuse the prisoners in their care. Or, even more famously, the Milgram experiment, where a psychologist tells people he is going to ask someone a question, and if they answer it incorrectly, the assistant is supposed to deliver an electric shock to them. In this experiment, the “assistants” slowly increased the “shocks” until they thought they were at an incredibly painful or almost lethal degree, yet felt justified because they were following orders.

In order to maintain order in a civilized society, we are told that there are certain authority figures we must obey. Teachers, clergy, policemen, bosses. And it is this passive response, this ingrained reflex for submission, that has allowed so many people over the years to abuse their power. Because people were afraid to say no. And COMPLIANCE shows a perfect (and perfectly awful) example of this.

This is not a pleasant film, but then again, it’s not a pleasant subject. But I found myself riveted throughout.

Craig Zobel does a great job here, writing and directing, and the cast is pretty solid, too. Ann Dowd is completely believable, and almost sympathetic (any sympathy we have for her diminishes as they story goes on, however), as the harried Sandra. Dreama Walker (currently one of the stars of the new ABC series DON’T TRUST THE B– IN APARTMENT 23) turns in a vulnerable,  gutsy performance as Becky. The rest of the cast is quite good, too, from Philip Ettinger as Kevin, a co-worker who is uncooperative with the phone caller and is the first one to actually question what’s going on, to Bill Camp as Evan, Sandra’s  fiancée, who is dragged into things when they get really ugly. And Pat Healy as the caller is quite effective playing a complete sociopath.

As we’re told in the film’s denouement, over 70 such calls were placed to (mostly) fast food restaurants in 30 states, so this was not a solitary incident. Although the case this movie is based on is the most notorious one.

I can see why some people wouldn’t like COMPLIANCE, because of its storyline, but there’s a difference between making an unpleasant film, and making a good film about unpleasant subject matter. I think Zobel handles this story well, and makes us understand how such a thing could occur.

I give it three and half knives. And if it’s playing near you, it deserves to be sought out.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives COMPLIANCE ~three and a half knives.

 

KILLER JOE (2012)

Posted in 2012, Controverisal Films, Crime Films, Disturbing Cinema, Hit Men, Killers, LL Soares Reviews, VIOLENCE! with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by knifefighter

KILLER JOE (2012)
Movie Review by L.L. Soares

William Friedkin is the director who gave us such classics as THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973), and his most recent movie, KILLER JOE (2012), is proof that the man is alive and well, and still turning out top-notch work.  For some reason, the movie is only in limited release in a few cities. On second thought, there is a reason: the movie received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, and Friedkin refused to cut it to get an R, which makes it harder to market. I’m assuming that has something to do with it. Did Friedkin make the right choice? I’d say so.

Based on a play by writer (and sometimes actor) Tracy Letts—who also collaborated with Friedkin on his last movie, BUG (2006)—KILLER JOE is a tale of seedy characters living desperate lives, and the lengths they will go to dig themselves out, even when it’s clear they’re just digging themselves deeper down.

The movie opens by introducing us to the Smith family. Chris (Emile Hirsch) is a gambling-addicted low-life who owes a lot of money to a loan shark. After having a fight with his mother, Chris goes to see his dad, Ansel (Thomas Haden Church)-who lives in a trailer and doesn’t seem very bright, about a possible solution to his problems.  Chris’s mom is Ansel’s ex-wife, and he’s now married to his second wife, Sharla (Gina Gershon). Right away, the family members are bickering and hitting each other, and you know they don’t have much of a shot at getting up from the bottom. But Chris thinks he has the answers to their problems: what about killing his mother for her insurance money? Ansel listens, because he’s too dumb not to be seduced by the idea.

Oh yeah, there’s also Dottie (Juno Temple), Ansel’s daughter and Chris’s sister, who seems a little slow and who lives with her daddy and Sharla.

In order to get away with the murder, Chris suggests they hire someone outside the family to do it. This is where Killer Joe comes in. Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is a Dallas police detective who also has a “side business” as a hit man. For twenty-five grand, he’ll get rid of Chris’s drunken mother (who we only see briefly in the movie). But there’s a problem. Chris and Ansel can’t pay him his money up front, as Joe demands. They won’t have the money until after the deed is done and they get the insurance money, since they know the mom’s policy makes Dottie the beneficiary.  So they have no way to pay Joe beforehand. He is about to walk out the door when he decides to make them a deal. He’ll take a retainer until he gets paid, and that retainer is Chris’s underage sister. They hesitate, then agree to it, and set up a special “private” dinner between Joe and Dottie, so they can get to know each other….

From here, it’s a matter of whether Joe goes through with the murder, and what happens to Dottie. There are also a few double-crosses along the way.

You can tell that KILLER JOE is based on a stage play at times, since there’s a lot of dialogue here , and some of the scenes seem a little stagey. However, this does not detract from the film version, mainly because the story is well-written and the acting is so damn good.

Hirsch is suitably scruffy and pathetic  (yet also sympathetic at times) as Chris, a guy who gets himself deeper and deeper in debt, but who wants to redeem himself in the end, even if his idea of redemption doesn’t exactly make a lot of sense. Church is also well-cast as Ansel, who willingly agrees to awful things, partly because he just doesn’t seem to have any kind of moral compass, but also because he might just be a little slower than some folks. Gershon is pretty amazing as Sharla; a trashy trailer queen who answers the door without pants on and thinks she has all the men in her life wrapped around her little finger. Gershon has shown fearlessness in her roles before, and KILLER JOE just ups the ante. This is a woman who will go to great lengths when she needs to in a performance. And it’s for that reason that I think she’s very underrated as an actress. And then we get to the main characters here.

Juno Temple does a great job as Dottie. While Dottie is supposed to be fairly young, it’s clear that Temple is over 18 (for the obvious reasons), but she’s good at emanating a naïve innocence that hovers between youthful exhuberance and brain damage (her father is Ansel, after all, but we also find out that when she was little, her mother tried to smother her death, and thought she had, which may have deprived her brain of precious oxygen for a spell). You care about Dottie, and you can understand why some of the characters feel the need to protect her, even while they’re selling her like property. For her part, Dottie is also willful and may be a little smarter than her family thinks she is, since she’s capable of selfish acts when given the tiny bit of power to act them out. Her character has been compared to Carroll Baker in the film version of Tennessee Williams’ BABY DOLL (1956), and the comparison is apt. Strangely enough, we most recently saw Temple as Catwoman’s sidekick in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.

But the real reason to see KILLER JOE is Matthew McConaughey, who is simply awe-inspiring here as Joe Cooper. Intense, always in control, and downright scary, Killer Joe is a character who exudes cool, even as he does the vilest things. It’s fascinating to see McConaughey here, playing against type as a vicious murderer in contrast to his roles in countless light romantic comedies. There is nothing light about Joe. He’s a stone-cold killer, and even his “romantic” side is focused on a slightly slow, underage girl who doesn’t know any better. Needless to say, there are times when he makes your skin crawl.

Matthew McConaughey turns in an Oscar-caliber performance here as the very unpleasant character, “Killer Joe” Cooper.

In every scene McConaughey is in, he’s the camera’s main focus. He owns this movie and it’s such an excellent showcase for his acting chops that I think he really deserves an Oscar nomination for this role, even though he will probably be overlooked because Joe is so unpleasant, and this movie is so damn dark and disturbing.

McConaughey’s role here reminded me a little of Lou Ford, the protagonist of  THE KILLER INSIDE ME, the classic novel by crime fiction god Jim Thompson (twice filmed, first in 1976 with Stacy Keach and 2010 with Casey Affleck), but McConaughey makes Joe all his own. I’d really like to see him in more roles like this, because he was fascinating to watch. Kind of like a coiled, venomous snake, walking around on two legs.

As for that NC-17 rating, I didn’t see a lot here that should have denied it an R, but there are two scenes the MPAA might have been squeamish about. One involves the outcome of Joe and Dottie’s first “date” in that trailer. The other involves Joe, Sharla, and a fried chicken leg, that is bound to upset some viewers.

Despite the subject matter, and the fact that there really isn’t one character here who deserves the redemption they crave, KILLER JOE is a solid, emotionally-powerful piece of work. Friedkin shows he’s still at the top of his game, and everyone involved here does an exceptional job. Obviously, a movie this dark is not for everyone, and there are people who probably shouldn’t see KILLER JOE. But if you think you can handle it, it’s worth wading in the slime for 103 minutes. Hell, there are even a few moments of (dark) humor to keep it from being overly oppressive.

In a summer that gave us superhero extravaganzas like THE AVENGERS and sci-fi mammoths like PROMETHEUS, I found KILLER JOE to be both more emotionally effective, and more satisfying as a cinema experience.

I give it four and a half knives.

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives William Friedkin’s KILLER JOE ~ four and a half knives.