Archive for the David Cronenberg Category

Jenny Orosel’s TOP SIX DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, David Cronenberg, Jenny Orosel Columns, Worst-Of lists with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by knifefighter

MY TOP SIX DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2012
By Jenny Orosel

CabinintheWoods.jpg

6-The Netflix DVD for CABIN IN THE WOODS didn’t have the audio commentary

A small complaint, but I was really looking forward hearing what Whedon had to say.  Damn, you Netflix!  Damn you!

SINISTER-POSTER

5-SINISTER (2012)

It could have been a great movie.  But instead of taking the “found footage” subgenre into new directions, it was predictable and seemed like most of what they did had been done before.  That said, I realize I am one of about six people in the world who didn’t like SINISTER, so perhaps someone had urinated in my Cheerios that morning.  I might give it a chance again sometime, but my disappointment was so strong it will be a while before I’m willing to sit through it again.

Has director David Cronenberg abandoned "body horror" forever?

Has director David Cronenberg abandoned “body horror” forever?

4-2012 was the year I gave up on two of my favorite horror directors ever returning to the genre: David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson.

Sure, Cronenberg’s still has style.  But first he went all action movie with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and EASTERN PROMISES (2007).  This year came A DANGEROUS METHOD (technically 2011) and CHRONOPOLIS (2012), two almost exclusively cerebral movies and polar opposite his signature “horrors of the flesh” philosophy that made films like SHIVERS (1975) and VIDEODROME (1983) classics of the genre.  No one can do that kind of horror the way he could, and I miss that.

THE HOBBIT? No BAD TASTE or DEAD ALIVE!

THE HOBBIT? No BAD TASTE or DEAD ALIVE!

Peter Jackson followed the LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY with KING KONG (2005) and THE LOVELY BONES (2009).  He’s shown that he’s interested in dark works, but both are so well-polished and well funded they lean more toward LOTR than, say, MEET THE FEEBLES (1989).  Now I find he’s going to follow his HOBBIT trilogy with a TINTIN movie (2015).  I lost all hope for another BRAINDEAD (1992, also known as DEAD ALIVE) or BAD TASTE (1987).  And that’s a shame, because he seemed to be the last director out there who had a childlike sense of fun about grit, slime and general grossness.

american horror story

3-AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM (2012)

I loved the first AHS season.  I will be the first to admit that it wasn’t anything groundbreaking.  But it was a great combination of ghost story and soap opera, a sort of PEYTON PLACE for the horror crowd, and fun Wednesday night entertainment after the Tiny Human had gone to bed.  The second season tried way too hard to be Important with a capital “I”.  There were Statements to be made, and Issues to make people aware of.  Unfortunately, they tried to put too many into the series and cluttered it up so much that, even compared to the archetypes of the first season, there was no character development beyond what was barely needed to get from scene A to scene B.  By the time I gave up on the show halfway through I felt like I was being yelled at by someone who read one Yahoo news article and now thinks they’re an expert.  If there’s a third season I hope they bring back the guilty fun of the first.

Ray Bradbury and friend.

Ray Bradbury and friend

2-Ray Bradbury wasn’t immortal.

Growing up in Los Angeles, he was a fixture of the city.  He never passed up an opportunity to help out a library, and even after his stroke when he was mostly deaf and partially blind, he gave a lively and inspiring lecture at the Encino library on Venture Boulevard, and as the night wore on and he was visibly exhausted, he still took the time to give a kind word to each of his fans and sign a book or two.  He wasn’t just an example of how to behave as a writer, but as a human being.  I cried when I heard he passed.  Godspeed, you Prince of Awesome.

Where oh where are the SONS OF EL TOPO?

1-SONS OF EL TOPO still hasn’t been filmed!!

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

(Jenny writes the regular column “Meals for Monsters” here at Cinema Knife Fight)

COSMOPOLIS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, David Cronenberg, Enigmatic Films, LL Soares Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 1, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: COSMPOLIS (2012)
By L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: The interior of a stretch limousine. L.L. SOARES sits in back, dressed in a suit, when the door opens and MICHAEL ARRUDA looks in, dressed as a limo driver, with a shiny cap)

MA: Everything going okay back there?

LS: Of course. There’s a mini-bar. What else would I need?

MA: So what movie are you reviewing this time?

LS: The new David Cronenberg flick, COSMOPOLIS, starring Robert Pattinson from the TWILIGHT movies.

MA: Oh, that one’s only in limited release. It’s not playing anywhere near me.

LS: Sorry to hear that, but it is playing near me, so I saw it, and I’m going to review it.

MA (looks sad): You’re reviewing it alone?

LS: Looks like I don’t have a choice. Hey, why don’t you do me a favor? Why don’t you make yourself useful and go up front and drive this thing? I want to get a haircut.

MA: But you’re bald!

LS: Sshhhhh. Just do as your told, lackey! Here’s a dollar (hands him a crumpled dollar)

MA (frowns): Gee thanks.

(MA closes the limo door and goes up front to drive. The limo pulls away from the curb and begins its slow trek across midtown Manhattan during a traffic jam)

LS: So let’s take a look at the new David Cronenberg movie, COSMOPOLIS, shall we?

It’s based on a novel by Don DeLillo, and most of it takes place in a limousine driving through Manhattan, just like this one. It’s the story of Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a dot com billionaire who tells his driver he wants to go across town to get a haircut from the old guy who used to cut his hair as a child, and cut his father’s hair. But this is easier said than done. First off, the president is in the city, which means that traffic is moving at a snail’s pace. There’s also the funeral procession of a beloved rapper clogging the streets, and protestors blocking traffic in a scene that looks like the end of the world. Hell, at one point there’s even a water main break that floods some streets. So it takes the entire movie for Packer to make it from Point A to Point B.

The movie takes place during a single long day. During this day, Packer will lose millions of dollars in bad trading, break up with his wife (he’s only been married a few weeks) and try to avoid being killed by a disgruntled former employee.

The car is also moving so slow, that Packer can easily get out and do other things along the way. Like get into the cab his wife Elise (Sarah Gadon) is riding in and later meet her at a bookstore, and at a diner to have lunch. He also gets out to have sex with one of his security guards (Patricia McKenzie) in a hotel room.

(The limousine passes a guy holding a sign that reads “Michael Arruda is the smart one!” Suddenly a guy in a Motorhead T-shirt starts pounding on him. LS cannot hear the screams inside the limo)

 

But most of the people he interacts with come into the limo to see him. These include his associates Shiner (Jay Baruchel), who handles his computer security, and his business partner Michael (Philip Nozuka), who are both younger than him, in their early twenties (Eric is in his late 20s).

There are also several women who come into the limo at different times including Juliette Binoche as his lover and art dealer Didi (they have sex in the limo), his assistant

Jane (Emily Hampshire) who wonders why they’ve never had sex, and Samantha Morton as his “theory expert” Vija Kinsky, who rambles on and on about various theories she has about a multitude of things, some actually involving Eric’s business.

There’s also an odd scene where a big rapper named Kosmo Thomas (Gouchy Boy) enters the limo to tell Eric that Brother Fez has died. Eric loves Fez’s music “I play it all the time in one of my elevator,” and takes the news badly, with both men hugging each other at one point. By the way, Brother Fez is the guy who has the huge funeral procession, and in another surreal scene, we see his open coffin revealing his corpse to the world on the back of a truck as his mourners follow.

There are also strange protestors who wave dead rats around in public places while shouting “There’s a specter haunting the world. The specter of capitalism,” who would fit right in with the Occupy New York movement. They even carry a gigantic stuffed rat across the street in one scene, and attack Packer’s limo – spray painting it and trying to smash it apart – while Eric sits safely inside.

(The limousine passes Mickey Mouse, holding a sign that says “I am not a Rat!”)

Throughout everything, lead security guy Torval (Kevin Durand) walks alongside the limo, a microphone always in his ear, giving him information. He constantly tries to discourage Packer from this cross-city trek, but his warnings fall onto deaf ears, even when Torval explains that there is someone out to kill him, and that it is a very credible threat.

In another odd scene, Packer has a doctor enter the limo—he has a doctor give him a complete physical every day because he is terrified of dying young. On this particular day, his regular doctor takes the day off and sends an associate, who is roughed up by Torval before his story checks out and he can enter the limo. The doctor even checks his prostate (for what seems like a long time) while Packer has a conversation with Jane.

As you can see, the movie is just a series of strange vignettes, featuring interactions between Packer and the people of his daily world.

(The limo passes a legless Porky Pig on crutches with a sign that says “Don’t Eat Pork.”)

The dialogue, for the most part, is taken right from DeLillo’s novel, but while it might work well in prose, it doesn’t always seem very natural coming out of actors’ mouths. In fact, it sounds rather stagey at times, as if we’re watching a play, when it’s not sounding downright stilted. Most of the characters talk in a weird, unnatural way, including Packer, and it adds a real dream-like quality to the proceedings, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. At first, I found this unnatural dialogue to be annoying, but after awhile, it established a kind of rhythm that made it more palatable, and I even started to enjoy it as it went on.

The relationship between Eric and his wife is uncomfortable most of the time. She comes from a wealthy family, and while they have been married only a brief time, it already looks as if the marriage is unraveling. Whenever Packer suggests they have sex, she rebuffs him. It was her he originally was going to have sex with in that hotel room, where he instead screws the woman working for Torval as one of his security people.

Some characters are more annoying than others, though. Most of them grew on me as their scenes developed, but Samantha Morton’s character, Vija, spoke in such a meaningless, pretentious way that I almost wanted to strangle her. She was easily the most affected and irritating character in the movie.

There are also recurring questions. Everyone asks everyone else how old they are at various times. Considering how young many of the rich characters are, this seems to be a point of curiosity. Also, when the doctor tells Packer his “prostate is asymmetrical,” he takes it to heart and repeats it several times to various people, wondering exactly what it means.

(The limo passes a hideous-looking Jeff Goldblum, holding a sign that reads, “Flies Are People Too.”)

The movie goes on like this for awhile, yet it’s never boring and it kept me fascinated throughout, as if I were watching aliens interact on another planet, until a scene toward the end where Pattinson has a long conversation with Paul Giamatti as a character named Benno. Normally I think Giamatti is an amazing actor, but his long scene here goes on much too long, and brings the entire movie to a screeching halt in the process. By this point, I started to get bored, as the rhythm and pacing of the rest of the movie was ruined.

Pattinson, in the lead, is still an enigma to me. Considering the odd way everyone delivers their dialogue – including Packer – it’s hard to judge their acting here. I still am not sure how good an actor Pattinson is. I certainly can’t tell from his role as Edward in the TWILIGHT movies, and I can’t really tell here, either. But there must be something about him that makes him so fascinating to so many people. And he and Cronenberg became good friends during the filming of COSMOPOLIS and it’s already been announced that Pattinson will star in Cronenberg’s next film.

(The limo passes two guys fighting. One has a shirt that says “Team Edward” and the other has “Team Jacob” spray-painted on his bare chest)

As for Cronenberg, this is a filmmaker who was once one of my Top 5 favorite directors. He’s made several movies I would include in a list of all-time favorites, and yet his recent output has been disappointing. He seems to want to be taken seriously as of late, and has abandoned the genre trappings of his earlier films. It began, ironically enough, with his films A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and EASTERN PROMISES (2007), which I actually enjoyed a lot, even if they were a bit too mainstream for my tastes (when I go see a Cronenberg movie, I expect something different). But his last film, A DANGEROUS METHOD, which dealt with Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung, just seemed boring to me. Cronenberg movies used to be exceedingly WEIRD, similar to the way David Lynch films are weird, and Cronenberg seems like he’s trying to eliminate that part of his style. There was a time where unexpected things happened in his movies. They were unpredictable. Now, they’re much more conventional.

And despite the fact that the use of dialogue is so strange in COSMOPOLIS, there is only one real moment that I felt was unexpected and shocking. It involves Torval and it comes completely out of nowhere. But otherwise, the Cronenberg of old is hard to find.

COSMOPOLIS is a hard film to rate. I don’t know if a lot of people would find it entertaining. I’m sure TWILIGHT fans who went to see this because Pattinson is in it were scratching their heads. But I have to admit that, as it went along, I liked it a lot. Until the dreadful scene with Giamatti that just stops the movie cold.

I give it three knives. Because I enjoyed most of it. Because I was able to groove to its rhythm for most of the movie’s running time. But I would have given it a much better rating if not for that scene where poor Giamatti is misused.

MA (from the front): Are you done yet? We’re almost out of gas!

LS: Yep, I’m done. How about we get something to eat.

MA: Okay.

(The limousine runs out of gas, and LS and MA abandon it in the middle of the street.)

 

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives COSMOPOLIS ~three knives.


Quick Cuts: Favorite Movies by DAVID CRONENBERG

Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, 80s Horror, Body Horror, Classic Films, Cult Movies, David Cronenberg, Disease!, Disturbing Cinema, ESP, Evil Kids!, Hit Men, Indie Horror, Parasites!, Telekinesis with tags , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2012 by knifefighter

QUICK CUTS Presents: THE MOVIES OF DAVID CRONENBERG
Featuring: Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel

Director David Cronenberg has been giving us nightmares for over 40 years.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  With the release of David Cronenberg’s latest movie, COSMOPOLIS (2012), we’ve decided to take a look at our favorite Cronenberg movies.

*****

L.L. SOARES: David Cronenberg is such an iconic director, and has made so many great films to choose from. But, without a doubt, my all-time favorite Cronenberg film is CRASH (1990), which happens to be based on one of my all-time favorite novels (of the same name) by J.G. Ballard. With an amazing cast that includes James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger, Rosanna Arquette, and Elias Koteas as charismatic anti-hero Vaughan, it’s the story of a man (Spader as “Jim Ballard”) who experiences a traumatic car accident and then discovers a strange cult-like group of people that fetishizes (and just about worships) car crashes. Cronenberg captures the cold, antiseptic feel of Ballard’s very bleak novel, and the movie was pretty controversial (like a lot of Cronenberg films) when it first came out.

(Not to be confused with the Paul Haggis film “Crash:” from 2001)

Cronenberg has made so many great movies. But my other favorites include:

DEAD RINGERS (1988) —With Jeremy Irons in one of his best performances ever as twin gynecologists who share a relationship with one woman (Genevieve Bujold), who can’t tell them apart. Then things start to get violent.

VIDEODROME (1983)—With James Woods as a man who finds a very disturbing cable TV channel that changes his life in scary ways. Including the famous scene where Woods has a VCR slot in his stomach. Also starring Blondie lead singer Deborah Harry.

THE BROOD (1979) —the first Cronenberg film I ever saw, and still a favorite, with little monster kids created from the rage of Samantha Eggar. With Oliver Reed.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) —The underground classic novel by William S. Burroughs was considered unfilmable, but that didn’t stop Cronenberg from bringing it to the big screen. He makes it coherent by mixing a lot of Burroughs’ wild imagery with biographical incidents from the writer’s life.

*****

JENNY OROSEL: I have a soft spot in my heart for CRASH (1990), seeing as I got my driver’s license in a CRASH t-shirt (I got my license late—I’m not that young). The humor was lost on my tester.

NAKED LUNCH (1991) blew me away because I had no idea how anyone could turn that book into a movie, and I think he pulled it off the only way possible.

*****

 

NICK CATOSHIVERS (a.k.a. THEY CAME FROM WITHIN) (1975) is my personal favorite Cronenberg film. It’s a genuinely scary tale of a parasite that turns the residents of a luxury condo into possessed sexual predators. It’s not his best technical achievement, but it gets the goosebumps going better than most standard horror films.

While I’d like to list VIDEODROME as my second favorite, that honor goes to CRASH (1996). Only Cronenberg can take such a bizarre subject (people turned on by car crashes) and make it a film that holds up amazingly well to repeat viewings. It’s unlike any film before or since.

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Without doubt, my favorite David Cronenberg movie is THE FLY (1986), which is one of my favorite horror movies from the 1980s, one of my favorites of all time, and certainly one of my favorite remakes.  I love the performances by Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis, the gruesome special effects, and how this film captured how it would really be to have your DNA mixed with the DNA of a fly, a concoction that would occur at the molecular level.  Cronenberg is masterful at the helm here.

Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

I’m also a fan of VIDEODROME (1983) and THE DEAD ZONE (1983).

*****

 PAUL MCMAHON:  It feels traitorous to choose only a single Cronenberg film as my favorite, so I’ll pick two.

First, A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005). Its brilliance starts with the emotionless opening sequence of random cruelty that mirrors our fears. The film moves you through the realization of a specific act of violence and explores the way that one event changes the people involved. Violence shoves its way into your life and grows roots. No matter how you try to hide from the memory of such a traumatic event, it never goes away and never lets you forget. Cronenberg’s movie dramatizes this brilliantly, and is very uncomfortable to watch.

Second, and I’m just realizing this is another brilliant representation of trauma —THE BROOD (1979). This time the violence comes from divorce and the ensuing custody battle over a young daughter. THE BROOD features a progressive psychotherapist who has developed a way to make his patients’ internal and invisible pain manifest physically, where it can be seen and acknowledged. Cronenberg himself was struggling through just such a divorce while he directed this movie, and his pain bleeds through the screen. Like the patients of Dr. Raglan, David Cronenberg crafted a physical representation of his inner turmoil. He has said that it’s the one film of his that he cannot bear to watch again.

*****

MARK ONSPAUGHSCANNERS (1981) —So audacious and amazing! I remembered hearing something about this movie and my wife and I were at a theater where they showed a red band trailer. I whispered, “I think this is the movie where people’s heads blow up,” knowing she’d want to look away —she didn’t hear me —man, did she shriek when that happened! For months after it came out, a friend and I kept repeating Michael Ironside’s line, “I’m gonna suck your brain DRY!”

THE FLY (1986) —It was Cronenberg who layered in the romance into Charles Pogue’s script, elevating this movie from mere creature feature to a masterpiece of horrific tragedy. I don’t think Jeff Goldblum or Geena Davis have ever been better.

So many to choose from, including EASTERN PROMISES (2007), HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and SPIDER (2002). If you want to take what amounts to a class in cinema, watch SPIDER with the director’s commentary – I don’t want to spoil it for those who didn’t see it, but there is a major change in the movie I didn’t even detect, at first – brilliant.

*****

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  And that about sums up David Cronenberg.  Thanks, everyone!

L.L. SOARES:  And thank you, readers, for joining us today!

—-END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Nick Cato, Paul McMahon, Mark Onspaugh, and Jenny Orosel

Me and Lil’ Stevie Get Lost in THE DEAD ZONE (1983)

Posted in 2012, 80s Horror, David Cronenberg, ESP, Killers, Me and Lil' Stevie, Near-Death Experiences, Peter Dudar Reviews, Psychic Powers, Stephen King Movies, Supernatural, Thrillers with tags , , , , , on August 7, 2012 by knifefighter

Me And Lil’ Stevie
Get Lost In
THE DEAD ZONE (1983)
By Peter N. Dudar

(Exterior: Night. Establishing shot of a gazebo on a lakeside park. Camera slowly zooms toward the gazebo, where a grizzly scene is taking place. We see a young girl being charmed by a stranger into thinking she’s safe, until the stranger pulls her close and produces a set of medical scissors, which he handily uses to stab the girl repeatedly. While this is occurring, there is another figure huddled in the far corner of the gazebo watching all of this take place. As the camera zooms in, we see the figure is a man holding a ventriloquist dummy in the form of Master of Horror, Stephen King).

Lil’ Stevie: This is terrible! Somebody should do something about this!

Peter: Welcome, Constant Viewer, to another episode of ME AND LIL’ STEVIE. Today, we’ll be examining the 1983 David Cronenberg film, THE DEAD ZONE.

Lil’ Stevie: Which, I’ll have you know, is based on my 1979 novel…My FIRST book to reach #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Ka-Chow! Who’s your daddy?

Peter: It also happens to be the first Castle Rock story. Fans of Stephen King are already aware that Castle Rock is King’s signature fictional town; the Norman Rockwell-esque portrait of Everywhere, USA. Castle Rock and its characters transition over several other novels and short stories, including CUJO and NEEDFUL THINGS. But for now, let’s just focus on THE DEAD ZONE (1983), and the tragic tale of Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken, SLEEPY HOLLOW, 1999). Johnny is a school teacher in Castle Rock, living a perfect, happy life with his plans to marry his sweetheart, fellow schoolteacher Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams, INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, 1978). The movie begins with a glimpse of the young couple finishing off their Friday at school, only to slip off on a date to a local amusement park to ride the roller coaster.

Lil’ Stevie: What the hell is going on with Walken’s hair? He looks like the goofiest nerd you ever saw. What a Poindexter! Nobody on the planet would believe a hot chick like Brooke Adams would fall for him.

Peter: No argument here. Walken, fresh from THE DEER HUNTER (1978), is geeked out to the max with his goofy hair and glasses. But he and Sarah look very happy together and very much in love, which is exactly what King and Cronenberg want to convey. That’s the essence of this tragic tale…that fate can be so cruel to one man that everything he loves will be carried away, until the only thing he can tangibly call his own is his privacy, and he can’t even have that after his accident.

Lil’ Stevie: You mean he wets his pants?

(Peter hauls off and slaps Lil’ Stevie, forcing his wooden head to spin around comically on his body).

Lil’ Stevie: What’d you do THAT for?

Peter: You know very well what I meant by “accident.” Johnny and Sarah ride the roller coaster, and in the middle of the ride, he begins to feel a terrible pain in his head. His little joyride gives a touch of foreshadowing of what is to come. The ride is quickly over, and Johnny takes Sarah home. A rainstorm comes out of nowhere, just as he is kissing Sarah goodnight. Sarah offers to let him stay the night, wants him to not go home, but the unusually prudish Johnny tells her that “some things are worth waiting for” before kissing her one last time and heading back to his car…and driving off to meet his true destiny.

Lil’ Stevie: Time-out! In my novel, Johnny’s “destiny” actually begins way back during his childhood, when he fell and bumped his head on this frozen lake we’re standing beside, and had his first bout with extra-sensory perception. If you’ll recall the whole “Wheel of Fortune” incident at the beginning of the book…

Peter: Calm yourself, Lil’ Stevie. As always, we’re not concerned with the book. Your point is duly noted, but the movie is self-sustaining as it is. For us, Johnny’s “gift” is revealed after his accident while driving home in the rainstorm. An 18-wheeler, piloted by a sleepy driver, provides all the bad luck that destiny can throw at him. Johnny’s car crashes into it, and he is consequently plunged into a five-year coma. When he awakens five years later at the Weizak Clinic, he’s lost and confused. He’s baffled over the fact that there’s not a scratch on him, until his parents and his doctor, Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom, Chief Inspector Dreyfus from THE PINK PANTHER films) break the news to him that he was asleep for all that time.

Lil’ Stevie: And that everything he had is now gone. “Sarah’s turned her back on ya…she now cleaves to another man, a husband” his rabidly Christian mother informs him.

Peter: Yeah, what the hell is up with that? Nobody talks like that. It sounds so silly it’s almost irritating. That’s one of my bugaboos about this near-perfect movie: There’s some very bad dialogue in some of the scenes that left me wishing I could rewrite the screenplay. But it’s forgivable. What King is trying to convey is that Johnny’s mother is, indeed, a stern Christian woman.

Lil’ Stevie: It doesn’t quite build the same level of conflict I was trying to create in my novel. I was going for the whole “ESP as a blessing and a curse” vibe.

Peter: Again, it’s not necessary for the movie. We already get that through the tragedy of Johnny losing his love, and the psychic episodes he’s about to begin having, that leave him feeling like a part of him is dying. His first episode comes in the form of a vision he has when one of the nurses tries to comfort him. He sees her daughter huddled in the corner of her burning bedroom. The vision is striking, with Johnny stretched out in the little girl’s bed, watching the flames quickly consuming the house as the little girl screams out in terror. Windows break. The fishbowl boils over until it, too, shatters. Even the bed Johnny is lying in has flames growing off the blankets. It’s frightening and intense, and when it ends, Johnny screams at the nurse that “It’s not too late!” And, of course, the scene continues with the nurse pulling up outside her burning house, just as the firemen carry her daughter out, alive and badly frightened.

Lil’ Stevie: See? It’s a gift!

Peter: But it’s a gift that he doesn’t want. Or understands just yet. The REAL Stephen King is fascinated with psychic phenomena. We’ve already witnessed it with CARRIE (1976), and will see it again later in FIRESTARTER (1984). I think it’s the same appeal that many folks have with superhero stories; where the average person (or the “nobody”) has their world turned upside down with supernatural powers and abilities. THE DEAD ZONE almost feels like an allegory, only the hero never preoccupies himself with using this ability to better his own lot in life. Johnny draws a parallel between himself and Ichabod Crane from “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” about being “a bachelor and in debt to no one, nobody troubled their head about him.” “It’s what I want,” Johnny concludes, meaning a life of anonymity.

Lil’ Stevie: And that’s the curse. Once people hear about his psychic episode, they all want his help for their own selfish, personal reasons.

Peter: And that includes Sheriff George Bannerman (Tom Skerritt, ALIEN, 1979). Sheriff Bannerman shows up at Johnny’s home and asks for help in tracking down the Castle Rock Killer, who has been murdering young girls during the five years he was in a coma. Which is what brings us here to this gazebo.

Lil’ Stevie: I could have very easily made this the focus of my novel. The Castle Rock Killer is both frightening and intriguing.

Peter: Yes, but its Johnny’s story. If you look at how this movie is presented, it doesn’t appear to be laid out in a three-act play. Rather, it’s broken down into smaller sub-chapters that run consecutively. Each of his “episodes” plays out like a self-contained television show. The Castle Rock Killer is only one small portion of the complete story. The same with Johnny’s episode with his student, Chris Stuart (Simon Craig, CONCRETE ANGELS, 1987), where he has a vision that Chris and some of his friends will fall through the ice and drown…a fate that Johnny slowly begins to realize he has the power to change.

Lil’ Stevie: And this ability is what gives this story a title. THE DEAD ZONE is the part of the psychic visions where the outcome is not certain. It’s a blind spot, and that blind spot is that place where Johnny can alter the outcome. The whole “Wheel of Fortune” thing I mentioned earlier isn’t just a carnival game that Johnny wins thanks to his psychic ability. It’s a metaphor for life. Johnny’s gift is that he can interfere with the “Wheel of Fortune” as it spins.

Peter: Okay, that’s kind of deep. But again, we don’t need the metaphor on the big screen. Whatever exposition we need comes through in the action parts of this movie. And in the moments of dialogue between Johnny and Dr. Weizak.

(From somewhere nearby, we hear the sound of a brass band playing patriotic songs. A crowd has gathered in what looks to be a political rally).

Peter: What the hell is going on over there?

Lil’ Stevie: That’s the final piece of this puzzle. Greg Stillson is running for the US Senate. Of course, Stillson (Martin Sheen, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN, 2012) is just as deranged and dangerous as the Castle Rock Killer, only in a much grander fashion. By way of a huge coincidence, Dr. Weizak had his life hugely altered by the Holocaust, where he was separated from his mother during the raid of their European town by the Nazis. We all know the historical significance of Hitler’s reign. And through a vision Johnny has while shaking Stillson’s hand, we see that Stillson will one day achieve the office of the President of the United States, and will ultimately start a nuclear war.

Peter: Yeah, Sheen is terrific as the evil Greg Stillson. And when all the pieces of this puzzle are in place, we see Johnny finally realizing that what he thought was a curse is actually a gift. The morality behind Johnny’s character and all the struggles he’s endured since his accident are what make this story so effectively compelling. John Smith isn’t a superhero, but he is a hero for the everyday man, in the struggle of good versus evil. Where Cronenberg shines as a director is utilizing the psychological portions of the story to display how Johnny evolves as a human being. There are times when his psychic gift feels more like a terminal disease, or at least a terrible weight that Johnny has to carry. The emotional blows to his life, and the permanent limp that handicaps him, begin to seem trivial compared to the weight of having to decide if he should give up his own life to save the world. It’s just excellent storytelling.

Lil’ Stevie: And in the end, this still comes across as one of the most faithful adaptations of my work, even if they DID cut back and compress everything about Johnny’s childhood.

Peter: (Rolling eyes), I keep telling you…YOU didn’t write anything.

Lil’ Stevie: I knew you were going to say that.

Peter: Would you shut up so we can wrap this up?

Lil’ Stevie: I knew you were going to say that, too.

Peter: What makes this movie stand out in terms of good, successful adaptations is both the excellent screenplay by Jeffrey Boam and Cronenberg’s fiercely unyielding vision as a director. Cronenberg’s oeuvre as a filmmaker is nothing short of impeccable. SCANNERS (1981), VIDEODROME (1983), THE FLY (1986), and A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) are all amazing, disturbing films. What Cronenberg offers with THE DEAD ZONE really underscores the beauty beneath the tragedy. It is a story of unrequited love, and of ultimate sacrifice in the name of love. And it’s accomplished in bursts of violence and darkness and death. I loved this movie, and would put it in my Top 5 Stephen King adaptations.

Lil’ Stevie: It’s amazing what a difference a competent director can make. With no popcorn-scares and no CGI, THE DEAD ZONE is dark and disturbing and atmospheric.

Peter: What’s also amazing is how much this particular title has become a part of our pop culture. Like with cell phones, when we drop a call because we somehow wandered into a DEAD ZONE. They even use it in commercials.

Lil’ Stevie: Not to mention THE DEAD ZONE was also adapted into the cult fan-favorite television show of the same name (2002 – 2007), starring that goofy kid from SIXTEEN CANDLES (1984).

Peter: Long Duk Dong?

Lil’ Stevie: No, the other goofy kid…Anthony Michael Hall.

Peter: Of course, horror fans will also recognize the title of Bev Vincent’s column NOTES FROM THE ZONE, which runs in Cemetery Dance Magazine, and deals with the life and fiction of Stephen King. And Mainers will recognize the call-letters, WZON, the radio station OWNED by Stephen King.

Lil’ Stevie: It’s everywhere!

Peter: I knew you’d say that.

Lil’ Stevie: Cut it out!

Peter: I knew you’d say that, too.

Lil’ Stevie: You’re really annoying.

Peter: Yep…You’re almost predictable.

(Lil’ Stevie whistles over to the Castle Rock Killer, who is kneeling down next to the dead girl on the gazebo floor).

Lil’ Stevie: Hey, Frank…My friend here says you kill young girls because you’re impotent and you like dressing in your Mommy’s underwear.

(Frank stands up and turns his scissors towards Peter).

Peter: Oops…Well, folks, thanks for joining us. See you next time.

The End

© Copyright 2012 by Peter N. Dudar

CInema Knife Fight – Coming Attractions for AUGUST 2012

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Based on a True Story, Cinema Knife Fights, Coming Attractions, David Cronenberg, Ghosts!, Haunted Houses, Horror, Possession, Science Fiction with tags , , , , , , on August 3, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
AUGUST 2012
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A room filled with futuristic contraptions.  L.L. SOARES sits in a chair wearing a weird space-age apparatus on his head.  MICHAEL ARRUDA enters.)

MA:  What’s that on your head?  Are you doing the Recall thing?

LS:  Recall?  Nah.  I was just listening to music.

MA:  I’ve never seen headphones like that before.

LS:  It’s the latest thing:  3-D music.

MA:  What’s 3-D music?

LS:  Where the music jumps out at you, like this.  (Lifts a guitar and smashes it over MA’s head.)

MA:  Wow!  I’ve never had music touch me so directly.  It really resonates!  Let me try.  (puts on futuristic headphones and starts nodding his head to a beat.  Picks up a tuba and conks LS on the head with it.  The tuba breaks in half.)

LS:  3-D is overrated.

MA:  Anyway, welcome everybody to our Coming Attractions column for August!  We’re here in this hi-tech playroom because first up on our list of movies to review this month is TOTAL RECALL (2012), the remake of the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

I remember liking the Schwarzenegger movie a lot, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this remake.  You know, in general, I don’t have problems with remakes.  I like to see different takes on the same story, but these days, there’s just too many of them!  It’s ruining all the fun.  I really don’t see the need for a remake of TOTAL RECALL, a movie that came out in 1990, just twenty-two years ago.  I guess that’s a long time, but I don’t know, it doesn’t seem long enough.

This one stars Colin Farrell in the Arnold Schwarzenegger role.  Farrell, if you remember, starred in the FRIGHT NIGHT remake which came out this time last year, and he more than held his own in that movie, which wasn’t half bad, and so perhaps there’s hope for this one after all.

Of course, it also stars Kate Beckinsale from the UNDERWORLD movies, Jessica Biel, and Bryan Cranston, so it’s got a decent cast.  And the guy who directed it, Len Wiseman, directed some of the UNDERWORLD movies and also wrote them.

LS:  I like Kate Beckinsdale a lot, but I’m not a fan of the UNDERWORLD series, so I don’t have high hopes for this one. The trailers look very bland. I have no clue why TOTAL RECALL needed a remake, either. Especially since there are other Philip K. Dick stories that have not been adapted for film yet, that they could have chosen instead.

I remember that the original RECALL was a lot of fun. I hope this one surprises us. Otherwise, it will be a long night at the movies.

(ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER enters, dressed as the Terminator.)

ARNOLD:  I’m back.

MA:  Good to see you, but you’re dressed for the wrong movie.  TOTAL RECALL is being remade, not THE TERMINATOR.  Not to worry though.  You’re on the screen for real in THE EXPENDABLES 2, which we’re reviewing later this month.

ARNOLD:  Oh goodie.  I’m in a new movie.  Perhaps I’ll have some new lines to say other than retreads of famous past ones.

LS:  I wouldn’t bet on it.

MA:  Ten to one you’ll say something like “I’ll be back” again.

ARNOLD:  Damn!  I need to start writing my own lines.  I’ll go off and do that now.  I’ll be back.  Damn!  I just said it again!  (Exits in the midst of a conversation with himself).

MA: The following weekend, August 10, John Harvey will be filling in for us as he reviews THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) as we shift from remakes to sequels.

I like the BOURNE movies and at first was disappointed that Matt Damon wouldn’t be appearing in this one, but I do like lead actor Jeremy Renner, seen recently in THE AVENGERS (2012) as Hawkeye.  Edward Norton (the former Hulk) is also in the cast.

I’m looking forward to reading John Harvey’s review.

LS:  Yeah, I like Jeremy Renner, too, and I’ve been following his career since he wowed us in THE HURT LOCKER (2008). I bet this one is okay, but I haven’t seen the previous BOURNE movies and I’m not really all that eager to. Besides, it will be nice to have a weekend off from going to the movies.

On August 17, we’ll be reviewing two movies   I’ll be reviewing COSMOPOLIS (2012) – the new David Cronenberg movie starring Robert Pattinson – Edward himself from the TWILIGHT movies. This one should be interesting. I’m not sure how much of a genre film it is – it’s about a billionaire taking a drive across Manhattan to get a haircut, and the bizarre things that happen to him – but Cronenberg is an iconic director, and his teaming up with Pattinson might be fun. The two of them have already started work on their next movie together, so I guess they got along pretty well. COSMOPOLIS also stars Juliette Binoche and Paul Giamatti, so that’s promising…..

MA:  ….And I’ll be reviewing THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) the star-studded testosterone-filled sequel to Sylvester Stallone’s action flick THE EXPENDABLES (2010).  I enjoyed the first film but didn’t love it, as it fell short of the lofty expectations set by its exciting cast.

The sequel boasts an equally impressive ensemble of action stars, and includes Stallone, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren, among others.

(ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER re-enters the room, reading from piece of paper held closely in front of his face.)

ARNOLD (reading his freshly penned lines):  I’m— here.  I’m walking by in front of the camera, looking forward to shooting some bad guys.  Have you seen any bad guys?  (glares at MA & LS.)

MA:  Don’t look at us.  We’re just critics.

ARNOLD:  Even worse!  (turns towards exit)  I’ll be—leaving now.  Hasta la vista, boobies! (Exits)

MA:  I don’t think he has a career in screenwriting.

LS:  The boobies line worked for me.

MA:  Back to THE EXPENDABLES 2, the first movie was a lot of fun and contained plenty of action, but it was done in by a very weak story that didn’t do its cast justice.  A new set of writers are on board for the sequel, so that’s a good thing.  Stallone also passed the directing duties (he directed the first one) on to Simon West.

LS: Sounds like I got the better movie to review, at least!

MA: On August 24, we’ll be reviewing THE APPARITION (2012) a new horror movie (finally!) about ghosts and paranormal research. The gimmick in this one is that the paranormal baddies are created by fear.  If you believe in them and are afraid, they come to life, or as the tag line says, “Once you believe, you die.”  It reminds me of the old William Castle/Vincent Price movie THE TINGLER (1959) which used a similar concept.  In that one, people had to scream to kill the monster which had come to life through people’s fear.

This PG-13 thriller features a mostly young cast led by Ashley Greene, who plays Alice Cullen in the TWILIGHT movies.  I can’t say that I’m impressed.

LS:  Another TWILIGHT alumnus, oh boy! Seriously, it will be nice to finally see a new horror movie again. It’s been awhile. I just hope it’s not too awful. And we finish off August with another horror movie, on August 31, when we review THE POSSESSION (2012).

MA:  Even though this one is “based on a true story,” I enjoyed its trailer, and as a result, I’m looking forward to it a bit more than THE APPARITION.  On the other hand, I can’t say that I’m too excited about it.  It looks like another standard ghost/possessed by an evil spirit story.  Worse yet, its two screenwriters, Juliet Snowden and Stiles White, also wrote the screenplay for the god-awful BOOGEYMAN (2005).  Ugh!

However, THE POSSESSION does feature Jeffrey Dean Morgan in the lead.  Morgan as you might recall was excellent as the Comedian in WATCHMEN (2009).

Well, that wraps up August.  It looks to be a less than stellar month, as it’s full of remakes, sequels, and potential bottom-of-the-barrel horror movies.

LS:  Let’s get back to our 3-D music.

MA:  Good idea.  Okay folks, we’ll see you Monday with our review of TOTAL RECALL.

LS:  Thanks for joining us for our August Coming Attractions column!  See ya!

(LS & MA put on their futuristic head-sets.  A heavy metal band jumps out from behind LS and begins to pummel MA with their guitars.  MA rolls away, gets to his feet, and motions to a large marching band which stomps towards LS, attempting to knock him over and trample him.  Marching band members and heavy metallers begin brawling in the street as the camera fades to black.)

—END—-

Meals for Monsters: SHIVERS (1975)

Posted in 2012, 70s Horror, David Cronenberg, Jenny Orosel Columns, Meals for Monsters, Parasites! with tags , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS: SHIVERS (1975)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

Considering his output for the past two decades, it’s easy to forget David Cronenberg was once the undisputed master of anatomical horror.  Before his more cerebral exercises like SPIDER (2002) and A DANGEROUS METHOD (2011) or his action movie dabbling like A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and EASTERN PROMISES (2007), he made a career out of scaring his audiences with images of our flesh gone horribly wrong.  SHIVERS (1975, a.k.a. THEY CAME FROM WITHIN), his first feature, was a unique exploration into these fears, and was a sign of his greatness to come.

In urban Canada, an apartment complex stands alone on an island, an insulated haven for its residents.  There is an on-site store, dry cleaners, even a medical center.  They never have to leave, if they don’t want to.  It’s the perfect environment for Dr. Hobbs to conduct his latest experiment—a parasite that will rid humans of (what he believed to be) their false pretenses of civility, and bring out our basest instincts for pleasure.  This parasite was supposed to remain contained to one girl—his sixteen year old lover.  However, the parasite is spread sexually, and she has started the epidemic.  One by one, the residents are infected, becoming thoughtless hedonists themselves.  And, as each becomes a sex-crazed zombie, they spread the infection on to new victims, and the rate of infected multiply.  Can the one doctor stop the parasite before the entire complex falls victim?

SHIVERS is different from most horror films, because there is no killer.  People aren’t fighting any great monster or psychotic murderer, but rather their own base instincts and desires.  And what’s more frightening: losing your body or losing your soul?

That’s really a question that only the individual can answer for themselves.  All I know is a movie that steeped in the id deserves a delicious, indulgent meal with perhaps one or two aphrodisiacs.  After all, why should mindless nympho Canadians have all the fun?

Two things that can increase the libido are champagne and strawberries.

CHAMPAGNE AND STRAWBERRY COCKTAIL

Make sure the berries are very ripe (almost to the point of being over-ripe), and smash them in a bowl.  Add a couple scoops to the bottom of the glass and fill with sparkling wine.  As you drink, the bubbles will help break down some of the strawberry, mixing it in with the beverage.  After the liquid has been drunk, the berries are even tastier after absorbing a bit of the alcohol.

The main course is where you can really fill your loved one full of mood-enhancing foods.  Some of the most popular (and perhaps most effective) are asparagus, pomegranate and scallops.  They can become a fun, wonderful meal.

SCALLOPS WITH POMEGRANATE AND WINE SAUCE

Cook a batch of plain white rice.

In a small saucepan, combine ¾ cup rose wine (such as white zinfandel), a cup and a half of pomegranate juice, a pinch of salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil, and continue to boil at medium heat for twenty minutes.  Just before serving, whisk in ¼ cup butter, one tablespoon at a time.

Season scallops (I used smaller bay scallops, but the large sea scallops will work fine) with salt.  Sauté in olive oil until opaque.  Place on a bed of the rice.  Top with a few spoonfuls of the sauce and thinly sliced fresh basil.

For the asparagus:

Rinse the asparagus and break off the tough, woody bottoms.  Wrap them in bunches of six or seven with a slice of prosciutto.  Sprinkle with a little bit of red pepper flakes. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about fifteen minutes, or until the prosciutto is crispy. There is no need to add salt, because the prosciutto is salty enough, and since the fat renders off with cooking, you will not need to add oil or grease the pan.

For dessert, one of the most popular aphrodisiacs for women is chocolate.  Home-made truffles may sound difficult but are surprisingly easy.

HOME-MADE TRUFFLES

Put chocolate chips in a small bowl (any kind, semi-sweet, milk chocolate, even white chocolate works fine).  Heat heavy cream over medium-low heat until just before boiling.  Pour the hot cream over the chocolate a little at a time, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the cream is incorporated (it should take between ¼ and ½ cups for your standard size package of chocolate chips).  If it cools before the chocolate is completely melted, microwave for fifteen seconds at a time.  Let the mixture cool in the refrigerator until just set.  Roll the chocolate into balls (this is a VERY messy step, so if you are planning on making this a hot date, you might want to prepare these before putting on your nice shirt).  The truffles can then be rolled into any number of coatings.  I used cocoa powder and chopped pecans, but coconut flakes, rainbow sprinkles, even bacon bits can be delicious.  Keep the truffles refrigerated until serving.

SHIVERS was an amazing directorial debut, and a perfect introduction to the “body horror” Cronenberg would build his career on.  By the time he got to such masterpieces as VIDEODROME (1983) and DEAD RINGERS (1988) he had nearly perfected his sense of style and dread.  It’s a damn shame he seems to have moved away from terrors of the flesh.  If we’re lucky, he’ll come back to the genre.  But in the meantime, at least we have SHIVERS and a tasty meal to keep us going.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel