Punk Zombie Classic: The Return Of The Living Dead

John Russo who helped write the screenplay Night of the Living Dead went on to write his own sequel to the 1968 film, called Return of the Living Dead.  Since both Russo and Romero owned the rights to Night each of them retained privileges to its title.  Romero kept Dead and Russo was able to keep Living Dead.  John Russo wrote his screenplay the same year Romero released Dawn of the Dead (1978).  An independent producer, Tom Fox, purchased his script and gave it to Dan O’Bannon.  Return of the Living Dead was released into theaters one month after Day of the Dead and received an instant fan base and reputation as a punk inspired horror/comedy.
           
Originally Tom Fox wanted Tobe Hooper to direct the film and supposedly it was to be in 3-D, but Hooper was tied up working on his film Lifeforce and could not take the job.  Dan O’Bannon was connected to Lifefoce as the writer and had been interested in directing so Fox gave the script over to him.  O’Bannon began his film career working along side John Carpenter in his first film Dark Star (1974) and went on to win acclaim for his screenplay for Alien (1979).  O’Bannon didn’t want to make a sequel to Night of the Living Dead which is all that Russo’s original script was.  He felt it was too serious and re-wrote the screenplay with more humor.  The executive producers tried to contact George Romero to offer him a chance to produce the film but were never successful in reaching him.  Return of the Living Dead parodies Romero’s vision and makes fun of his conventions such as destroy the brain and kill the ghoul, to the slow moving and mentally inferior walking dead.  The film is full of references to Romero’s trilogy while still being a complete film on its own.
           
“The events portrayed in this film are all true.  The names are real names of real people and real organizations.” – A phony disclaimer at the beginning of Dan O’Bannon’s Return of the Living Dead

O’Bannon’s film as Reynold Humphries wrote, “cleverly alternates monumentally sick humor and superbly creepy and atmospheric sequences in a cemetery.  The film is less a spoof of Night than a successful working through of a number of elements from the Romero film (134).”  Frank (James Karen) tells Freddy (Thom Mathews) in the opening of the film, ”Did you ever see that movie Night of the Living Dead?  It was all based on a true story.”  Frank proceeds to tell him that Romero was forced to hide the truth about the army’s experiments, and that the real story was covered up.  The Daryl chemical company created a gas called 245 Tri-Oxin to spray on marijuana fields, but instead of destroying pot it reanimated corpses.  Freddy is scared by the story but remains skeptical.  Then Frank asks him if he wants to see them.  Apparently the army took the reanimated corpses and shoved them into canisters to keep the epidemic from spreading and the Uneeda Medical Supply Warehouse has stored a few of the canisters.  Through, “a typical army fuckup,” they were sent a few zombies.  Frank and Freddy head down to the basement and check out the drums.  Frank opens the cover to one of the canisters and protected by a plate of glass they look at a deteriorated corpse.  “Do these things leak?”  Freddy asks.  “Leak!  These things were made by the army core of engineers,” Frank replies as he hits the tank.  The side of the canister tears open and gas escapes into the air.  Frank and Freddy take a deep breath and start coughing as they fall to the floor.  The credit sequence begins with Frank and Freddy convulsing on the floor as the gas seeps into every crack of the building, including the cadaver locker.

When Frank and Freddy wake up they are covered in sweat and look extremely pale.  They climb the stairs and realize the cadaver has come back to life.  Frank decides to call the boss, “Burt…  It’s me, Frank, we have a bit of a problem.”  Clu Gulager plays Burt Wilson the owner of Uneeda and has perfect comedic timing.  His brilliant solution is to destroy the zombie and get rid of the evidence so his business won’t suffer from the bad publicity.  “How do you kill something that’s already dead?” Freddy asks.  Burt relates to Night of the Living Dead and figures if they destroy the brain they can kill the zombie.  When Freddy unlocks the door to the cadavers we see our first glimpse at this evolved zombie.  This zombie screams and more importantly runs after Burt.  They pull the zombie down to the ground and Burt drives a pickaxe into the cadaver’s head.  Frank screams out, “The brain!  The brain!”  Burt shouts back, “I hit the fucking brain!”  “Well it worked in the movie,” Frank says.  Freddy in total shock yells out, “didn’t the movie lie?”  Burt grabs a hacksaw and saws off the cadaver’s head, but even then the zombie runs around without his head trying to kill them.  Here we realize that these zombies are immortal and cannot be stopped.  Night’s zombies were easy to escape or destroy; you just ran away from them or hit their head with whatever weapon was handy.  Even when Burt enlists the help of his mortician friend Ernie and burns the cut up cadaver in his crematorium, the undead threat continues.  The smoke from the reanimated corpse is so thick it causes a storm and when it rains down the chemical seeps into a nearby cemetery bringing all of those corpses back to life.  As Freddy’s friends - a gang of me-generation punk stereotypes - figure out, the rain is like acid rain, so full of 245 Tri-Oxen that it burns the skin.  The zombies that dig themselves out of their graves come back with one motive, to eat as many brains as possible.  These corpses aren’t the all-consuming zombie culture we are accustomed to; they only eat brains.  They represent punk culture’s ‘damning of the man,’ saying that the government is trying to conform all of us by limiting information from the masses.  These undead lobotomize everyone they come across, leaving their victims to become slaves to their own ignorance.

“They turn out to be able to talk, a new element that the film exploits for ghoulish humor but also to disturbing effect (pg.134 The American Horror Film).”

While O’Bannon’s zombies retain speech and mobility, their every action is in accordance to their need to dull the pain of being dead.  After the death of one of the punks, Burt and Ernie are able to pull in one of the zombies and tie her down.  This zombie is only the top half of a woman’s skeleton, her spinal column wags like a tale as she answers Ernie’s questions.  She tells them that her appetite is not for people, but for brains because they help to relieve “the pain of being dead.”  Knowing that these corpses feel pain goes against everything logical: the dead are not supposed to feel anything.  This destroys our view of a peaceful afterlife, showing instead that at the moment you die you feel the ache of your muscles and flesh stiffening and the pain of deteriorating.  In Return there is no God or afterlife; there is only flesh and suffering.

It is only fitting that the people trapped in this situation are punk stereotypes and business owners more concerned with public view than the safety of their fellow man.  Freddy’s friends include his girlfriend Tina, (Beverly Randolph) a good-girl that doesn’t seem to fit in the group, Casey (jewel Shepard), Chuck (John Philbin), Spider (Miguel A. Nunez Jr.), Trash (Linnea Quigley), and Suicide (Mark Venturini).  All of them drive to pick up Freddy from his first day of work at Uneeda, but have a few hours to kill before he gets off.  They all decide to hang out in a graveyard to pass the time.  In the same fashion as the original Night this John Hughes mix of anarchists shows total disrespect towards the dead.  They party with “The Cramps” playing loudly on a boom box and discus partying and suicide.  Trash describes the worst way imaginable to die.  “Do you ever fantasize… about being killed?  I think the worst way would be to have a group of dirty old men grabbing me and ripping my clothes off…”  Trash undresses and dances naked on top of a tomb.  In this scene Linnea Quigley single-handedly became known as the ‘B’ movie scream queen.  This group’s nihilism eventually causes their death.  By making a mockery of the dead, they have sealed their fate to a death filled with irony.

Return of the Living Dead is a good zombie film not because it makes fun of Romero’s conventions, or spoofs the genre successfully, but because it is also filled with social satire like Night, Dawn, and Day.  The gore effects look believable and the zombies have a wonderful aesthetic to them because they have just crawled through mud and are drenched by the rain.  From sawing a corpses head off to bits of brain matter lying all around this is a genuine zombie film, not just a typical horror comedy.  The true intellect of this film, aside from a group of people running around desiring ‘more brains,’ is presented in the finale of the film.  Burt finally calls the army’s number listed on the side of the canister and gets transferred to Col. Horance Glover (Jonathan Terry) who assures Burt that they have a plan on dealing with the crisis.  Col. Glover has been searching for twenty years for his lost “batch of Easter eggs.”  As he says to his higher ranks, “unfortunately one of the eggs hatched.”  He gives the coordinates to a private in a missile silo who punches them into a computer.  A nuclear warhead is loaded and shot toward the area.  The army’s brilliant way of dealing with the zombie crisis is, of course, nuclear warfare.  In a decade of cold war, where nuclear threat ruled our government, it seems only right that the Army would desecrate an entire neighborhood of a town to extinguish any threat.  In a conversation between the private and the corporal we hear that the Army is relieved to know that only a few thousand have died as a result and left hundreds with burns.  The private tells Glover that it has started to rain so the fires will put themselves out.  It sounds like they are congratulating each other for a job well done.  The Army may have destroyed twenty city blocks, but have saved the rest of Louisville, Kentucky and America with their ‘fail-safe plan.’

RATING: V/V

Where werewolves make us laugh: An American Werewolf In London

Werewolves are wanderers like vampires, but they have the benefit of leading a normal life with the exception of three nights a month.  A werewolf is the release of our id.  The person transforms when the moon is full, the time of the month when oceans pull back and the polarity of the world is in flux.  The werewolf is our release, it is when all the troubles of life pile up and we can’t take it anymore and we let the wolf out.  It is the easy way out, instead of dealing with trouble and pain we just allow our darkness to take over all of our bodily functions.  The werewolf just kills everything in its way.  It is an animal; it is our animalistic-primordial state.  It is when we put ourselves on auto-pilot and allow ourselves to live only by instinct alone.  This can seem like a source of freedom, but it is also de-evolving.  We are a progressive species; we are the only animal whose brain grows before the skull does.  We need intelligence before we need protection.  So, it may seem like a werewolf is the power we have in ourselves, it is nothing more than reverting to a more primitive state or in a sense, regressing.

Werewolves have been a dying breed of monsters within the horror film until most recently with MTV's Teen Wolf or the terrible Jacob from the Twilight series.  To rephrase our former statement good werewolf films are few and far between.  Among the great films that depict lycanthropes John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London can be seen as a large landmark not only within werewolf lore, but in horror cinema as well.  Before Werewolf in London, films like this showed the transformation with jump cut dissolves, but after Werewolf in London horror films knew that to make a successful werewolf film, it is all in the transformation.  Rick Baker designed the special effects for Werewolf in London and recreated how we watch horror films.  Before Baker innovated techniques and won awards for his contributions to cinema, werewolves were created by overlapping dissolves and the addition of yak hair.  Rick Baker was among the three most talented minds within horror film special effects.  Baker, Rob Bottin and Stan Winston perfected make-up designs to incorporate a face elongating and becoming wolfish.  They showed us how humans contort and twist into lupine shapes and how canines grow into sharpened steel. In American Werewolf in London, David Naughton’s character, David Kessler falls to the floor of his apartment and his hand becomes elongated, he grows fangs, his back tightens, his nose and mouth stretch out, hair sprouts from his skin and he becomes a wolf.  This scene was the first to show full detail of a transformation.  The monster within us comes out.  David is an introvert who normally allows others to step all over him; you can tell his aggression has been bottled up, so you can logically see how anyone like this could erupt.  In David’s case the beast that comes out of him is powerful and ferocious, things that David could only wish to be in real life. 

An American Werewolf in London set another new precedence in most horror films to follow.  The film showed in equal amounts that comedy and horror can work together.  It was not a spoof; it showed that realistic life is funny.  A sense of humor is all we have in some cases.  This provides a release of tension within a horror film.  Unlike exploitation and slasher films of the seventies that showed a build up of suspense with unrelenting force, An American Werewolf in London shows that it is okay to laugh in a horror film.  This blend of dark humor made the film successful, it wasn’t only a werewolf movie it was a self-reflexive horror film.  The film shows that werewolves are preposterous by nature, they are lore and legend, they are make-believe.  The audience gets into the plot, but they also know they are being entertained because it makes them laugh.  There is a scene at the end of the film where David goes to a porn theater (Landis always refers to the fictitious film See You Next Wednesday, here it is portrayed as a porno) and is confronted by his friend Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne) who died the same night David was cursed.  His friend tells him that to free the souls of the people that David’s killed, David must die.  The souls of his victims are trapped in limbo until the last of the werewolf’s bloodline is severed.  His friend forces him to meet the people he viciously attacked.  There is a group of homeless men, a married couple, and another man who all tell David to commit suicide.  They give him ideas on how to ‘off’ himself, and the genuinely nice tone of the married couple telling him to “blow your brains out” is hysterical.  For me, my favorite moment of the film is the very end when David is gunned down and his girlfriend Jenny Agutter, stands over his naked corpse crying and the credits begin to roll with really upbeat music playing over them.  This juxtpositioning of music and context of the film cause an uneasy reaction within the viewer, it causes confusion.  It allows us to laugh, because normally when music is used in film it is non-digetic anyway.  The music comes out of nowhere and takes us out of the moment in the film, especially when the mood of the music doesn’t match the mood of the images.  The music takes us out of the film and places us back into the seats of the theater.  Werewolf in London works on many levels to engage the viewer, even to the point of laughter, one of the first films in the horror genre that tried to generate a large range of emotions, instead of just fear.

Rating: V/V

Audition For Your Role In Hell

This film has us stumped, not in the sense that we don’t have any theories on its ending, but in the way that the experience was so perfect it has left us with writers block.

The film begins with Aoyama’s wife dying and his seven long years of loneliness.  This leads him to need to remarry – “men can’t maintain without female support.”  He and his friend Yoshikawa set up a fake film audition for a project called “Tomorrow’s Heroine.”  Asami is one of the applicants and through spilt coffee Aoyama is completely smitten.  The titular event is creative in the way it is edited – a montage of mixed questions and answers (i.e. have you ever been involved with the adult film industry? This is the scar from my first suicide).  The only straight forward audition is Asami’s.  Over the course of what seems like weeks the two finally stay the night together in what we consider the biggest scare within the film – commitment.  It ends badly, full of regret.  After their tryst Asami vanishes, this is the point in the film where Miike begins to cross genres or emulate his influences.  The fist third of the film is meditative, slow, uneventful and framed in long shots and long still takes causing a subconscious or archetypical feeling of what complete loneliness means.  It is isolation, the un-nerving quietness, the infinite moments of pause we’ve all felt when alone for long enough, and as Aoyama begins to obsess over Asami we begin to do the same for the film. 

A lot of Aoyama’s long shots in the start of the film are from far away and only show his back – we are not even able to help him as an audience.  Yoshikawa fills this silent space with drunken misogyny to which Aoyama’s - equally inebriated - agrees to his friend’s views.  This is the point in which the feminist interests prick.  From here we have a man caught in a web of sexual inequality – where his beliefs in finding a mate that is ‘obedient,’ ‘talented,’ and ‘pretty,’ are qualities that are not only old fashion patriarchal, but superficial and a recipe for disaster.  This disaster’s name is Asami whom from a feminist standpoint represents an image of revenge – a poster child for equal representation.  Other readings of this film suggest that love in Asami’s life has always been tied to abuse and pain – so for her to share this with someone is to love them.  She could also just be an actress that gets really pissed off when she doesn’t get a role.  I think its variety of reasons is what appeals to us the most - the ambiguity. 

The second third of the film plays out like an Argento or Bava giallo film where flimsy clues lead to the truth.  On this journey to find Asami we find a character that rivals Denis Hopper’s gas inhaling Frank from Lynch’s Blue Velvet, this character plays the piano in an abandoned dance studio with his back to us and Aoyama.  He asks questions about Asami and the man reveals he is in a wheelchair with two false legs.  The disgusting man asks about Aoyama’s trysts with Asami, “how did she smell?”  “Did you hold her?”  Each time he asks a question he lets out a malicious laugh.  We learn later that this character is Asami’s step-father and had abused her after her aunt and uncle already ruined her purity and innocence.  From her childhood experiences she has become a lonely woman who believes that only through pain can she love. 
        
The end of the film is the most discussed aspect of Audition because it features excruciatingly disturbing images cut together by a style of editing that could be called cross-cut reality.  This end sequence sums up my belief that Audition was somehow inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.  The film cuts between Aoyama being drugged, the complete truth of Asami, her music director tied in a bag rolling around (still scares the hell out of us), even back to the night of making love and everything works out and Asami stays.  Miike cross-cuts back to Aoyama who is paralyzed and being tortured by Asoami.  The quiet normal world immediately cuts to the scary place of Asami’s world where she cuts his left leg off.  Aoyama was warned of her three times but didn’t heed the advice: his son, his friend, and his maid all told him to stay away or not be fooled.  The ending is amazing, after waiting and being drawn in slowly the film pays off in getting under your skin.  We feel as though we're being tortured every time we hear “kitty, kitty, kitty” which means deeper, deeper.  We can still feel those acupuncture needles.  This surreal and abstract nightmare of dream and reality could be a hallucination – a way to take himself out of the pain and try to give reason for her insanity, but no matter what he ends up with his leg cut off.

“I want you to love me and me alone, do you promise?”  If loneliness leads to this we better find mates quickly, but ask for other’s opinions instead of relying on a prophetic sign in spilled coffee.

Rating: V/V

There's Hope For Uncle Kent

In Joe Swanberg's latest entry Uncle Kent we see that there is still passion in the indie film scene.  Here at Cineniche we have followed the director's prolific career from his debut Kissing On The Mouth in 2005 forward.  Each film seems to offer a different side of Swanberg's own psyche.  His method of treating cinema as a naturalistic forum have caused controversy not only in the film snob community but also with censors.  The standout element of Swanberg is his dedication to telling small stories in such a way that feel voyeristic and comical.  There is always a sense of high energy in each of his films, and this is due to the almost stream of conscious way they are made.  He treats his films almost as documentaries.  In the beginning there is an outline - no script - and from there the non-professional actors fill the films with a deeper meaning than can sometimes be written in a screenplay format.  Uncle Kent is no exception.

Kent Osborne stars as Kent and while he's playing himself this is by no means an exact replication of his life.  Kent in real life and Kent in the film are both animators and are both forty years young.  The story that takes place is one that happened in Kent's life but is embellished here for cinematic purposes.  Uncle Kent uses "Chatroulette" as a catalyst for the film.  In the same way that L.O.L. used technology as a satire.  As a precursor to the film, Kent has become friends with the lovely Jennifer Prediger whom he met on Roulette.  She comes to stay with him for the weekend and the two get very close to one another but Josephine has a boyfriend back in New York.  So while the two seem to share great chemistry we wonder if they will consummate their feelings for each other.

Handled by a mainstream filmmaker, Uncle Kent, would have taken us down the likely rom-com path.  What is so great about Swanberg is his ability to infuse realism within each story he tells while still keeping our full interest along the way.  We care about Kent in a way that we seem to never care about Ashton Kutcher, Gerard Butler, Robert Pattinson or any other leading men in modern rom-coms.  He opens himself up to us and gives us his flaws and method of masturbating which we can laugh with and find endearing at the same time.  This is the brilliance of Swanberg's work.

As a potential spoiler we have to give credit to the clothing choice of Kent.  He wears a shirt that reads: In reality there are no happy endings.  This seems to sum everything up and not only within Uncle Kent but within the entire Swanberg or Mumblecore universe.  These films tell us something about reality that reality television, most documentaries, and all of Hollywood cannot.  By keeping these films small and making them for the sake of making art they keep their philosophical rendering of the human condition intact.  Swanberg's films have always made me think of a perfect combination of Eric Rohmer and early Lars Von Trier - the first in subject manner the second in technique.

Congratulations Joe, we hear you've created seven films in one year and they all sound very promising.  It is our goal to continue supporting you as long as you continue creating.

Rating: V/V




We Are What We Are, Is What It Is.


Do not be confused by the hype machine and its marketing of Jorge Michel Grau's Mexican film We Are What We Are, this is first and foremost a family drama with a splash of horror.  The horror that is publicized occurs for the majority in the last 10 minutes.


We begin with the death of the patriarch and from there we shift perspective to the rest of the family.  Here we have a useless mother, two sons, and a daughter.  It quickly becomes evident that the daughter will function as the mother and the two sons will have to battle each other to secure there place as leader of the clan.


The eldest son is next in line, he's level headed but filled with anxiety.  The other son is the wild card and clearly not fit to lead.  The daughter-mother makes it her job to ready the eldest for the next "ritual."


The plot moves slowly with a few impressive ingrediants, but overall doesn't deliver until the third act when all hell breaks loose.  In most cases a film like this would provide a pressure cooker of a second act, but instead we are given botched attempts at fulfilling the ritual.  In the end everyone brings a candidate home and this is where the film finally gets good.


Overall, this is a strong first feature.  Its major problems could have been avoided in the editing room.  As it stands it is convincing and shows us a slice of life through a demented family dynamic.


Rating III/V

Meet Robert, The Killer Tire In RUBBER

This years bizarre award goes to Quentin Dupieux otherwise known as Mr. Oizo.  When Oizo's Flat Beat came into the underground techno world there was a shift that occured with club kids, this shift came in the form of intelligent music.  Oizo's music is not only good to bob the head to, but creates an atmosphere you can slip into.  So it is no surprise that years later that when Dupieux put his mind to creating 90 minutes of pleasure cinema - he does so successfully.


The film begins with Lieutenant Chad delivering a monologue that breaks the fourth wall and describes to his audience and us about his theory of "no reason" in great cinema.  In an interview with Speakeasy, Dupieux describes the writing process of Rubber, "I am writing a lot stuff and I realized my best ideas were related to the “no reason” [concept]. Each time I am trying to be too smart or too clever, I think I am not too good of a writer, but when I have stupid, no reason ideas, I think I’m good. “No reason” has been with me for a few years now, and I don’t know how to explain it, but I just realized that my mind likes “no reason.”  Whether you call it "no reason," "absurd," or "surrealist" cinema it works to juxtapose different ideas and metaphors to wake up the normal mainstream film goer. Rubber is not brilliant, even the director believes aspects of it run on too long, but it doesn't matter.  The overall affect of the film lingers on in the viewer, because we are witness to something completely new.  Each aspect of the film taken one by one may not be considered new concepts but placing them together provides something altogether different.


On one hand this film is a comment about artistic creation and the viewers that give it life, and on the other hand we have a semi-supernatural film about a tire stalking and killing his way through a desert town.  Dupieux takes the seriousness out of it to refrain from a sense of overindulgence and in the end finds a balance between all of these elements.


The beginning of the film provides us guidelines on how to view the film.  With the 'no reason' monologue followed by an audience searching with binoculars for a film to start we gain entry into the life of Robert the tire.  We watch, along with the built in audience, and witness Robert's birth.  It is like watching a child learn to walk, and once he learns to roll he learns to destroy.  Rolling over cans and bottles and each time he meets a larger foe he figures out how to destroy it.  He finally realizes he has the power to make them explode and from here on there is no end to his telekinetic bloodshed.  The only way to stop Robert is if the audience stops watching him and there's no way the viewers are going to look away.


So, when you get a chance to see Rubber don't turn away, or else Robert will no longer exist - and that would be an absolute shame.


RATING: V/V




Hilary Swank & Viewers Are Terrorized In The Resident

HAMMER, the iconic label of the 70's is back but it's not necessarily a good thing.  They returned to give us Matt Reeves' LET ME IN last year which didn't live up to its original.  It's second production as a newly revamped studio is The Resident.  Later this year they will unveil Wake Wood and a remake of The Woman In Black, and maybe it's too soon to say, but the future of Hammer films looks a bit lackluster.

The Resident could have been terrifying, it could have been an awesome variation on apartment horror, but instead it's a very dull mixture of Sliver and Repulsion - emphasis on Sliver.  First time narrative filmmaker Antti Jokinen was provided enough backing and talent to produce a psychological masterpiece, but gets caught up in creating the same scare effect over and over again.  We get that you were heavily influenced by the scene in Halloween where Carpenter makes Michael materialize out of the shadows.  The first time Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Denny from Grey's Anatomy, the comedian from Watchmen, and the dad on Supernatural) steps out of the darkness - there is a genuine scare, but after the ninth or tenth time it just doesn't pack a punch.  The biggest problem with the landlord constantly creeping around Swank's apartment is that eventually the audience is more interested in if he gets caught then what he's doing there.  We found ourselves cringing at the fact of him being caught too early, because their would apparently be no film if he did.  Every moment here is predictable, even if one were to write a spoiler free review it wouldn't matter.

Lets look at these two characters: Morgan is the landlord of a beautiful old building in Brooklyn.  His father shot his mother then took his own life.  His grandfather played by the regrettably underused Christopher Lee complains about how weak Morgan and his father were.  He gets his kicks by watching his new tenant masturbate in the bathtub and develops a relationship with her in his mind that nearly comes to fruition but prior to penetration is told to leave.  This of course sets him spiraling out of control: he wants to have her any way he can.  Now for Swank.  She's a doctor in the ER and had a long time boyfriend (the amazing Lee Pace from The Fall and Pushing Daises) who cheated on her and wants her back.  She falls for Morgan, but ultimately wants the cheating boyfriend back.  Her life seems to be coming together when she invites the cheat back in.  So why does this film happen?  Maybe the moment Swank realizes her cheating boyfriend is who she wants to be with and pushes Morgan off of her - his sanity completely snaps.  Whatever the impetus for this film, it never lives up to what it could have been.

When Morgan leaves the real world, he starts drugging Swank and raping her every night.  This isn't really ever shown - and this could have been the film.  That is truly terrifying.  Morgan does carry the film, with his outward gentlemanliness and kindness while underneath his growing insanity beginning to shine through.  Swank is just there.  She's pretty to look at, because most of the time this is how we see her: through keyholes and grates as she's undressing.  When she puts together the puzzle there is no amazing scream queen moment, but we do get retaliation with a great weapon.

The film should have been an homage to Polanski's apartment trilogy, mix that with the recent unrelenting French horror and the film would have been glorious.  Had Swank let Morgan's twin brother die in the hospital and forced her to move into the building just to stalk and kill her for his brother's death.  Add in the nightly raping and surrealistic dream imagery, "This is not a dream, this is really happening," and have her psyche crumbling more and more each day - brilliant.  Yes, The Resident had potential but as a final product, totally blew it.

Rating: II/V

The Vanishing On 7th Street

Brad Anderson the brilliant director behind The Machinist, Session 9, and Transsiberian has created a new realm of fantasy terror with The Vanishing On 7th Street, the only problem is how unevenly all the elements come together.

We've been avid fans of Anderson's work since his psychological breakthrough Session 9.  In his first film he revamps the twist ending by throwing a curve ball no one sees coming and makes it work because the film has an atmosphere and mood that aids in the development of the twist.  The same can be said with The Machinist.  Again he creates a wonderfully told story of a man's guilt that haunts him to the point of his own death.  With Christian Bale becoming a pure method actor and loosing too much weight, they created a world of madness that gave them the buzz they both deserved.  Then we come to Transsiberian, which was another fantastic acting spectacle.  These three films put forth the idea that Anderson is great at creating tense situations through manipulating his actors.

In Vanishing we have the great suspense, horror, atmosphere, mood, and style but what we don't have are actors that can carry the film past its look and feel.  It is almost as if two films were made here by two different filmmakers: One a soapy TV drama that adds dialogue in place of action and Two a tense horror film with great scares, effects, and one hell of a premise.  By looking at Anderson's other accomplishments over the last few years we see where the TVish writing comes into play with his work on Treme, Fringe, Rubicon, Boardwalk Empire, and Fear Itself.  Combining this with his previous horror work we gain further insight into the debacle that is The Vanishing On 7th Street.


In the age of the apocalypse film, Anderson's version of the end of humanity comes as a fresh idea.  There is not one zombie running amok, nor are there nuclear weapons, or a widespread disease, or the effects of global warming but there are shadows in the dark awaiting the light to go out.  In the beginning of the film we are introduced to our three main protagonists and where they are during the "blackout."  When this blackout occurs people are reduced to pile of clothes, and quickly you realize that only people with a light have survived.  Whether it be a flashlight, lighter, glowstick, or safely near a generator these holders of a light are the people who survive the initial wipe-out.  The plot jumps forward 72 hours and there seems to be only Luke (Hayden Christiansen) left.  He dons a necklace of light and is armed with flashlights and batteries.  He finds his way to a well lit bar with a jukebox filled with eerie 50's music.  The bar becomes our central location.  As Luke comments later, they are like moths to the flame.  We gain new characters here and they all pontificate on the cause of the darkness and what remains in the shadows: but unfortunately this is also where the film fails.


It is as though Anderson has spent all of his budget on the horror and left only enough to barely get the character scenes.  For a director that has made a career for himself as the perfect actor's director he throws it all away here by giving us dry scenes with stock dialogue in the face of the apocalypse.  The only thing that caught our interest was the retelling of the Roanoke myth which seems to be Anderson's basis for this film.  An entire society that disappears with no reason and all that is found is one single word: CROATOAN.  For a few of us here at Cineniche we recalled Stephen King's Storm Of The Century as our first encounter with Roanoke, and it has always been such a captivating tale.  So in the end read some books on Roanoke and fast forward through the dialogue and The Vanishing On 7th Street will be a perfect V Rating.


Rating: III/V (The idea alone is nearly worth a IV, but the acting ruins it)

Dear Mr. Gacey, You Really Don't Capture Well On Film

Dear Mr. Gacey

Svetozar Ristovski's adaptation of Jason Moss' superb book The Last Victim plays out like a made-for-TV movie.  Jason Moss was a young eager student who developed a theory to gain unfettered access to the mind of a serial killer by portraying himself as their perfect victim.  He wrote to Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Henry Lee Lucas, Richard Ramirez, and of course John Wayne Gacy.  The correspondences between himself and these monsters led Moss to his darkest place.  His desire to become an FBI profiler was eventually met with open arms and his research provided a deeper understanding of the psyche of these killers.  Unfortunately this film really doesn't dive into the complete story of Jason Moss, instead it keeps to a simple plot of being driven mad by his encounters with Gacey.  William Foresyth plays Gacey extremely well and the film delivers most of Gacey's brilliance in manipulation: which did cause the real Moss to break down little by little.  This breakdown is potrayed as a loss of reality and a push towards complete paranoia.  We were very let down by this film, had Ristovski actually followed the book he may have had an intense film that could have done Moss' life justice.  We hope that another, more capable filmmaker attempts this work and possibly shows his life leading up to his suicide back in 06-06-06.  That is a feat worth waiting for.

Rating: I/V

Let Me In: A Complete Waste Of Time?

Instead of a lengthy comparison between Let The Right One In and Matt Reeves remake, we'll just stick with the basics.  Yes, this is an inferior remake of a foreign film.  Yes, Reeves takes out the subtlety and ambiguity that made the original such a powerful and beautiful work of art, and instead replaces these elements with bouts of action and decent make-up effects.  We would like to say that there is no merit to Let Me In, but that may be too harsh so lets look at the facts.  The in-medias-res beginning we thought would take this film into the realm of the book, but instead it is needlessly placed to spruce up the twenty minute test (for non-screenwriters out there this is the captivating twenty pages/minutes that will ultimately capture your viewer and if this fails then the rest will as well).  Our new Hakan is now played by the brilliant Richard Jenkins and is miscredited on IMDB as "The Father," this may shed some light on how exactly Reeves ruins entire storylines in this adaptation.  We begin with "The father," being rushed off to the hospital suffering severe burns to his face and cannot be identified.  Upon questioning by the police in connection to a series of murders, he has no answer.  Instead he writes: "I'm sorry Abbey," and in the next scene plunges to his death from his hospital window.  We were excited, because in Lindquist's version Hakan then is taken into the morgue where he wakes up and becomes a terrible threat to Oskar and Eli.  Instead the film then begins as the original did.


In no way does Reeves even attempt to add any of the layers that are offered in the book.  Instead it seems as though he keeps only to the original film for his source material.  This is unfortunate because if he wanted to create an amped up version of Let The Right One In all he would have had to do is read the book.  Alas, what he does change are the relationships and this is where a deep-seated anger develops withing lovers of the original work.  Hakan has been stripped of his child molester status and transformed into only a caretaker, Eli is now Abbey a female vampire not a castrated male vampire, Oskar now Owen is not struggling with his developing homosexuality as learned from his alcoholic father, and if there was any question as to whether or not Oskar would become like Hakan or become a vampire himself it is answered clearly in a set of pictures taken in a photo booth.  We cannot understand how Let Me In has made its way into the top ten horror films of 2010.  We guess there are entertaining elements to this version.  Richard Jenkins is great, which is no surprise there, and when he wears his kill suit it's genuinely scary.  We asked ourselves why he only gave himself one eyehole for his trashbag face, but figured it was just to be more menacing.  Another great element is Chloe Moretz from Kick-Ass, she's an amazing young actress.  If given better writing she could have been a perfect androgenous Eli. 


All in all without its background/mythology and had Reeves been the first one to tell this story, and if he had made it for intelligent audiences, or never concerned himself with action scenes, or hadn't directed Cloverfield before embarking on a subtle story, we may have granted it a place among the landmarks of horror.  As it is, it infects the strong feelings you have for the original.  We just hope that with the revival of Hammer Films that it doesn't mean a long string of haphazard remakes and sequels.


Rating: II/V



Here's the superior version: