Cabin In The Woods: Intellectual Post-Modern Horror

Poster from Alamo Drafthouse
Reviews and essays abound for Drew Goddard & Joss Whedon's Cabin In The Woods. Some compare Cabin to Scream while others are convinced that Cabin exceeds Scream as a post-modern text. We belong to the latter camp. If you haven't seen Cabin then you shouldn't be looking at reviews so long after the the film's release.

In 1996 Wes Craven along with a brilliantly written script by Kevin Williamson breathed new life into the slasher film. They took all of the archetypical constructs of the slasher sub-genre and directly exposed them to the audiences while staying within the confines of the genre. This was not new, parodies had done this in the past, but Scream kept a straight face and managed to produce fear. Spoof and parody of horror has been around since the days of Abbot & Costello, but more direct to our discussion is the 1982 classic Student Bodies. Made in the midst of the early 80's slasher boom, Student Bodies, features a literal onscreen body count, a wheezy phone prankster, a weapon of choice sequence (a'la Argento's giallo films), point of view kills, & a convoluted ending/jump scare. Student Bodies played up the comedy and was never meant to be taken seriously. Another precursor to the post modern slasher can be seen in Fred Walton's 1986 April Fools Day, known ultimately as the film that ended the slasher cycle. April Fools Day plays out with all the same tropes as earlier films in the cycle and does not go directly for humor (indirectly it is there through poor production). Instead, the film itself is a joke played on the audience. When we arrive at the final reel it is revealed that no one has died, they have all played an elaborate choose your adventure slasher game. If Cabin needs to be compared it comes closer to the post modernism of April Fools Day rather than Scream.

If art describes the modernist movement as the search for universal truth, than the logical evolution would be the deconstruction of those truths. Post-modernism works to exaggerate and replicate earlier art to find new meanings or to destroy earlier preconceived notions. Often the use of pastiche, collage, or spoof are methods toward post modernism. In film there is also literal or homage intertexuality. Scream is home to both, whereas Cabin plays toward homage. The characters in Scream know horror films & they constantly cite genre titles. The irony is that they are living in one. Whedon's script does not rely on literal film language, instead his layered plotline is geared to the intellectual horror fan. For those of us indoctrinated into the genre we know there are homages to Evil Dead, Hellraiser, The Strangers, Corman creatures, Zombies, and countless others. Even though the film is rife with reference never does anyone say, “its like we're in some Sam Raimi film.” Even the stereotypes normally found within the slasher film are present, but through manipulation they are transformed into the whore, the fool, the athlete, the scholar, and the virgin. There are plenty of interpretations of Cabin's plot because of its layered design.

We begin with a couple of middle-management types going to work talking nonchalantly about their weekend plans. A sequence normal enough to the realm of drama or comedy, but unsettling in the slasher genre. We then turn to our group of college friends and our worries are laid to rest. They are going on a weekend trip. We know this story. At this point we understand there will be some inane banter that will hopefully allow us to care about the characters long enough to fear for them and in turn mourn their demise. We know a moral compass will emerge from the group and during our final sequence we will switch our perspective respectfully from the killer/monster to the heroine “virgin” of the group. We also know the prophet of doom will attempt to save them, but through misguided fear and machismo our characters will remain stubborn to their plan. There will be sex, drug use, and incomprehensible reactions to dire situations. Whedon knows the genre and all of these elements are present, it is the controllers that take us out of our lovingly predictable slasher plot.

Richard Jenkins and Bradly Whitford are our controllers, they act as the writer and director of the film we are watching. In interviews Whedon has said that Richard and Bradly are representative of Drew and himself. Tiny bits of plot are released here and there. We learn the prophet of doom is one of their employees and the group is under complete surveillance. Later the controllers' role is made clear, their mission is to place our group into a horrific situation and watch them die. By the end their motives are very clear. Each sector stages an event similar to this one (there are multiple events in case one or more fail) that will sacrifice these Jungian archetypes to appease the dark lords/ancient ones. If they all fail then the dark lords return. Dana (the virgin) and Marty (the fool) survive the terror of the undead redneck family and make their way into the control station. On their voyage through the rabbit hole they see a smorgasbord of evil entities. Horror fans rejoice at naming all the homaged villains. At this point they have realized their weekend was set up. A division of the audience occurs here – the ones satisfied by current mainstream trends and those who are fed up with the recycling of past fictions. The intellectual audience that Cabin caters to is represented by our survivors. Mainstream Hollywood are the controllers. The director of operations acts as a producer of the “film” the kids are in.

We see in the control room that each section has failed. We can posit that foreign horror surpasses US horror. A failed event means the group under attack was more intelligent than the controllers. The subtext here implies that foreign markets are quicker to shed themselves of easily predictable plotlines. On the monitors we see a typical J-horror scenario a'la Ringu or The Grudge and the kids defeat the evil spirit quickly and thus fail the event but win in terms of evolutionary horror. This is Whedon/Goddard's main thesis on horror and mainstream cinema. Through repetition audiences seem sated and the dark lords are kept at bay, but by freeing the dark lords we open the doors to the truly great cinema that studios believe is unprofitable.

The in-depth analysis of current cinema culture is not spelled out in hip citations or a direct violation of the fourth wall, instead these ideas reside right below the film's surface. Cabin is not an inter-textual meta-pop horror film, it's post-modern status is a result of in-the-know horror consumers. If this was your first foray into horror, the subtext and homage would be lost on you. Whereas if Scream were your first, the name dropping of other horror titles would immediately signal the post modern style and consequently enable you to believe yourself to be a slasher connoisseur after your first viewing. Without Cabin's grand themes, layers, and subtext it is easy to spot the voyeurism and torture that inhabit the main plotline. This scopophilia is inherit to all post Blair Witch horror. It may have originated with Hitchcock's Rear Window or Michael Powell's Peeping Tom, but it is in full force with today’s found footage/mockumentary horror movement. We are a culture that loves to watch, weather it be torture videos from the middle east or the cheaply produced reality shows that have filled the network time slots. We love a manipulated showcase of hyper-reality and it is our desire that pays for the staged events in Cabin In The Woods. Even if the events themselves are created to sate the dark lords or the numbed mainstream audience those events are given to the public to be consumed and therefore pay for another event to occur. This is the cycle of horror, and ultimately, the cycle of every consumer fetish that dreads change or progress. Thus Cabin's true goal is to show you the difference between innovation and invention. While there will be mainstream consumers that will walk away from Cabin thinking the ending to be bleak and nihilistic there will be the inventors of progress that will see it as hopeful and uplifting. What camp are you?


Top 11 Horror Films Of 2011

Welcome to our first list.  2011 was a great year for horror, maybe not mainstream horror but the independent and foreign markets made up for it.  We saw for the most part an uprising of the absurd.  Films that may not be strictly canonized as horror filled the gaps simply because they had no set genre.

Our list features no remakes, but interestingly enough two sequels, a parody, and a slew of homage films.  While other lists include Attack The Block, and The Dead our writers were slacking on that front.  Stay tuned, we may have to amend our list.  Without further digression here is the CineNiche top 11 of 2011.

11.) Paranormal Activity 3
The Catfish guys were tapped to make a follow up film for the Paranormal franchise and came up with another prequel.  This marks the only trilogy to ever work backwards.  The scares are made more intense by the total lack of newer technology.  The story, even with a few plot holes, deepens the mythology of the series.  This is a must for fans of the supernatural, or found footage horror.

10.) Hobo With A Shotgun
Another throwback to a time of bloody unrealistic violence and over-the-top characters.  This film came to be by winning awards for best faux trailer during the promotion of Grindhouse and Rutger Hauer truly lives up to his character's titular name.

9.) YellowBrickRoad
We get madness in the woods as a group of journalists take the same trail as a village did years before.  None of the villagers were seen again and we wonder if the same will happen to our journalists.  A hallucinogenic trip of terror awaits viewers of this intense research gone wrong film.  Aside from a rather blase ending, YellowBrickRoad is an innovative modern masterpiece.

8.) Scream 4
Wes Craven and Kevin Williams have done it again, they've actually created a sequel that lives up to the original.  You almost no longer need the second and third entries.  The wonderfully confusing into plays into you expectations and supersedes them all the while poking fun at the Saw series.  The kills are great and the guess who game is well crafted as well.  Again, we'd like to reiterate: Scream 4 lives up to the original.

7.) Bellflower
Not a horror film in any regular sense of the term, instead a wildly imaginative romantic drama with a few beautifully crafted horrific scenes.  This ranks on our list because of its true genre bending independent nature.  Evan Glodell who wrote, directed, acted, and edited actually built everything for this film.  He created the Mad Max muscle car, the flamethrower, and most importantly the cameras that shot the film as well.  If Bellflower is not this years recipient of the Cassavettes award then Glodell will truly be robbed.

6.) The Woman
Lucky McKee is the proud owner of an abomination of social commentary with his beautifully conceptualized torture film.  The film is abound in misogyny and thoroughly questions the paradigm of the once adamantly coveted nuclear family.  From its infamous first screening this film has been destine to disturb audiences into conversation.  Sean Bridgers is superb here as Chris Cleek, his ability to posit himself as the ultra moral patriarch of the Cleek family while brutally torturing and raping (or as he calls it 'civilizing') the last of a violent clan takes this film way beyond the horror realm.

5.) Tucker And Dale Vs. Evil
This is the new Shaun Of The Dead, Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon, or The Return Of The Living Dead.  Here we have a foray into the hillbilly world of horror.  We play off the stereotypes created in Deliverance, I Spit On Your Grave, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Cabin Fever, and Wrong Turn.  These films always featured the privileged city slicker filled with arrogance and convenience going out to the country just to make fun of the locals and stomp on their customs.  In most country vs. city films the city barely wins, but here it is Tucker and Dale who prevail.  Their latent homosexual relationship juxtaposes the offensive misogyny of the city kids perfectly.  The humor and the horror go hand in hand as they should in a well done horror parody.

4.) Rubber
See our official write up for Rubber  Please, if you haven't met Robert, do so immediately.

3.) Amer
Turn off logic because Amer is a sensory experience.  This film works as a perfect homage to seventies giallo films without a hint of a detective story.  It is difficult to compare any film to Dario Argento's opus Suspiria, but now we have a film that comes close to the initial feeling of watching Suspiria.  The colors, imagery, and the music match those of Italian film from the most affluent horror decade.  What adds to the sensory overload is the overly sexual undertones connected to each element of the production.  As far as story goes we can gather through the triptych fashion that the film is presented that we are given a glimpse at the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of our central character.  These vignettes work to bloom, blossom, and destroy respectively.  Each sequence dealing with a curious facet of sexuality.  The film has nearly no dialogue either so that narrative does not get in the way of it's subconscious beauty.

2.) I Saw The Devil
Jee-Woon Kim gave us A Tale Of Two Sisters, and The Good, The Bad, The Weird so it came as a total shock that I Saw The Devil is such a coherent revenge film - possibly the best revenge film ever made.  The film begins with the brutal torture rape murder of Kim Soo-hyeon's wife by the hands of Oldboy himself Min-sik Choi.  Quickly into the film Kim finds his wife's killer, but he does not seek fast retribution instead he uses tracking to continue stalking him.  Each time he faces him he leaves him a bloody mess and this happens again and again until his ultimate vengeance.

1.) A Serbian Film
Be sure to find the uncut original film, otherwise the ultimate in disturbing cinema will have at lease 4 minutes cut out of it, making it just disturbing.  This film features rape, brutal stabbings, eye-socket sex, infant porn, humiliation, suicides, pedophilia, necrophilia, and bestiality to name a few of the taboo elements.  This is the only film to ever rival Salo: 120 Days Of Sodom.  A must see for anyone who considers themselves ready for all that horror has to offer.

Who Directed Red State?

Red State does not feel like a Kevin Smith film at all.  Since leaving and reuniting and leaving his View Askew universe Smith has not been able to find his own voice.  Zach & Miri Make A Porno felt as though it rode on the coat tails of the Judd Apatow empire and here in Red State Smith seems to have made a Tarantino Cohen Brothers film.  While Smith has always infused a bit of politics within his films, here he does so in ample amounts.

To give away the plot would spoil the uneven thrills that populate the film, but to say the film digs at the Westboro church is an understatement.  Tarantino veteran, Michael Parks, gives us long winded but perfectly acted monologues about the fire and brimstone God who hates homosexuals and seeks the fear of his wrath.  Red State feels more like a political novel rather than a film.  Each character we believe to be the main protagonist works only to lead us to the next chapter.  This doesn't allow us to feel for anyone in particular but aids in telling a story with a bigger picture.

Overall we are given a few scenes of torture and a positively well pieced together gun fight, but there is no true horror.  Red State is worth viewing, but never rises to the occasion as a film of worth.

Rating: III/V

Friends With Kids: Why?

Normally we here at CineNiche have standards, but on this particular day we were roped into this one.  Jennifer Westfeldt wrote, directed, and stared in this slightly amusing rom-com that offers you and hour and a half of fulfilled expectations.

The moment Friends With Kids starts you already know the end, and as usual the perfectly acceptable retort to this type of film is that it is all about the journey.  The only trouble with stock answers is that they normally come attached to sub par films.

The journey Friends With Kids offers is the very American institution of monogamy.  From the offset we have two best friends who sleep around in an attempt to find, "the one," this is not their fault because popular culture dictates that soulmates exist so we cannot foul them for their search.  What comes next is the fundamental flaw of having a child - not that child rearing is a flaw but the instilled notion that it is what one is supposed to do, is.  Having not yet acquired a perfect mate the friends decide to create a child thus allowing them offspring while searching for "the one."

Even if up to this point you are still buying into the premise, then you want what we all do while watching, we want to see them fail.  Not only fail at obtaining someone significant, but fail as parents as well.  Had Westfeldt taken a few cues from Todd Solondz we would have had an interesting film indeed.

Friends With Kids as directed by Todd Solondz: Jason Fryman (Adam Scott) would have been a repressed homosexual while Julie Keller (Jennifer Westfeldt) a secret heroine user.  They have a baby - a girl with down syndrome.  Jason is brutally stabbed on his way home and left paralyzed.  Julie attempts to stay clean to raise the baby and take care of Jason, but when it gets to be too much she goes to get a fix.  She leaves Ben (Jon Hamm) to watch the baby and Jason.  While away and with Jason asleep Ben molests the infant.  Jason awakens to the baby screaming and Ben explains that the baby must be sick.  Ben brings the baby in and she calms down.  Jason then initiates a sexual advance to which Ben accepts.  Later when Julie comes back with her fix, Ben leaves and she does a dose which kills her.  Jason wakes up again to a screaming baby and a dead girlfriend unable to do anything about either.   A classy comedy - only slightly cliche.

Unfortunately in Westfeldts uninspired comedy we are given only cliche via a strong yearning for indie street cred.  One would hope that Ed Burns, Myah Rudolph, Jon Hamm, and Kristen Wiig would have been able to elevate this film at least to par level, but alas this is not the case.  Megan Fox was the only actor present with nothing to loose.  Once again, she plays an insipid debutante and she does so with such conviction it's hard to determine where her onscreen persona ends and her real 'self' begins.

Do yourself a favor and choose this film when your only choices are Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, or Friends With Kids.  We do believe that Jennifer Westfeldt is wonderful, it is just this film that falls flat.

Rated: 1/5

It's a mutant baby & It's Alive

Larry Cohen is not known for style, nor gruesome effects, or even good horror.  Most of his films can be easily overlooked and have been.  He's not likely to acquire a lifetime achievement award or any accolades for horror.  He has made a better name for himself in the last decade as a screenwriter of a few mainstream hits such as Phone Booth and Cellular, and while these films make him more money than anything he directed they don't have the power of his horror fare.  His directed films speak volumes about society.  Comparisons can be drawn between Cohen and Romero in this regard, but Cohen is often a bit more subtle.

Cohen began his filmmaking career interestingly enough working within the blacksploitation sub-genre.  His first feature film was Bone made in 1972, then Black Caesar in 1973.  As all the films within the sub-genre they featured a dominate black male figure.  Bone  is a thug who breaks into a white couple's home and hyjinks ensue, all the while commenting on white racism and male dominance.  Black Caesar is the rags to riches tale of Toby Gibbs (Fred Williamson) stealing significantly from Little Caesar and the original Scarface with a little Godfather thrown in.  Its gritty illegal realism makes Caesar top notch exploitation and its sequel Hell Up In Harlem offers even more.

Cohen switched genres during the filming of Hell Up In Harlem.  He spent Monday through Friday working on It's Alive leaving the weekends open to shoot Harlem.  His quick low budget filmmaking kept him working during the 70's and most of the 80's.  It's amazing to think that a few decades ago all one had to do was stay under budget and deliver early.  If you kept to those simple rules you could continue creating.

He's made many films since It's Alive, like God Told Me To, two sequels to It's Alive, Q: The Winged Serpent, Special Effects, The Stuff, and A Return To Salem's Lot.  As we mentioned before he's also kept working through writing with Captivity and Maniac Cop (also the others mentioned above), but it his first trip into horror that still receives the highest praise.

It's Alive begins with a pregnancy and ends in pandemonium.  The Davis family seems to have it all.  Frank (John P. Ryan) has a well paying public relations position, Lenore (Sharon Farrell) is a stay at home mom content with keeping up their suburban home, and then there is their son Chris who is a normal pre-adolescent boy.  Why wouldn't they want to bring another bundle of joy into this world?  Our film begins with Lenore going into labor and Frank carting her off to the hospital.  Once she's in the delivery room something terrible happens and the next time we see her all of the doctors are dead and she's screaming, "let me see my baby!"  When the police canvass the scene they find only a small opening in the ceiling where the 'killer' escaped.  They are a bit too quick to assume it was a mutant baby who killed everyone, but commentary films are never too worried about subtle plot devices.  Quickly there is a chase for the demon newborn.  We are able to see a few of the infant's kills through blurry POV.  It becomes evident that the baby is trying to make its way home.  While everyone is pursuing the baby, Frank is fired, Lenore goes crazy, and doctors persuade the family to sign over the body once the child is killed.  Sub plots abound that give us our commentary.  Pharmaceutical companies want the child completely destroyed so they may not be held responsible for the mutation, while the doctors want to cut it up to see what pollutants may have caused the abnormality.  After a number of kills the baby finds his family, the mother protects him and at first the father wants to be the one to kill him (for ruining his life) but in the last moments of the film finds the patriarchal connection and wants the baby to live.  Of course the police, doctors, and companies cannot let the thing live so they shoot on site.  Never fear though, since this baby represents environmental fears the last thing we hear is that another one has been born.

This is classic 70's horror filled with the fears of the times and the paradigm shift of what constitutes a normal family.  Cohen's craft as we've indicated is not overt but within his low budget and quick pace he was able to churn out a film that dealt with more than just a mutant baby on a killing spree in suburban America.

Rating: 4/5

David Fincher's Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

David Fincher's eccentric film resume gives him the upper hand in this needless remake.  The tone of the film is in perfect balance with last years Social Network.  In the future people will discuss the pre Social Network era of Fincher and the post as if one film divided his work.  There is a sense of authorship in Alien 3, The Game, Seven, Fight Club, Panic Room, Zodiac, and Curious Case Of Benjamin Button.  Each of his films relied heavily on inventive cinematography, whether it was amazingly orchestrated movements of the camera or his ability to light his scenes in a way to aide in character development.  There is a contrast on the celluloid that cannot easily be explained - a mysterious secret ingredient that allows for an immediate identification that the film is indeed a Fincher creation.

The Social Network is Fincher's transitory film within his oeuvre.  The cinematography and lighting are the same, while less extravagant.  It was the inclusion of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' score that made The Social Network more accessible.  They emphasized the drama within their haunting score.  Tension and pace build with the music, and without it we would have a rather bland litigation film.  We at CineNiche love The Social Network and the awards and nominations were deserved, but it sparked a new Fincher that may be cause for alarm.

The Girl With The Dragon Tatoo is as the taglines read: an international phenomenon.  The remake the film isn't necessary, but nevertheless during a period of recession - remakes and sequels are cash cows.  Droves of Americans were interested in the cultural hype of the originals, yet did not want to read the books or "read" the films.  This is where the studios step in, believing that rather than allow Americans to suffer and miss a zeitgeist, that they will save the day and line their pockets.  We can detest remakes elsewhere since we may have already given the impression that we disliked the film, but the reality is: everyone's excited by a new Fincher film.

Our qualms about his new directing style or his choice in accepting a remake are made moot by the pure beauty of the film itself.  While it does not meet our pre Social Network standards it does tell a semi convoluted story with surgical skill.  The differences between the two are in most cases subtle, with the exception of Blomkvist and Salanders' "love" affair.  Perhaps this is the Americanization of the couple or possibly some overlooked text from the book, but Lisbeth is interested in Blomkvist yet completely maintains her fierce independence in the original.  In this remake there are scenes that give the impression of a semi-domestication that feel as out of place as the music video credit sequence (created to be an artistic interpretation of all three novels).  All other differences were thoroughly enjoyable and elevated the film to a nearly equal footing to the original.

Our only wish is that Fincher bet the one to handle the other Millennium films, good or bad his versions will be the best American's get.


The Fly: Cronenberg's Abject World Of Mutation

David Cronenberg's take on the 1958 classic The Fly is remarkable.  In the original we simply have a science gone awry parable, whereas the remake offers us a god complex and a philosophy on decomposition as only Cronenberg can.

Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) is a reclusive scientist who has been working on the theory and practice of teleportation for six years and the moment his dreams come true, a nightmare is created.

Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) is a reporter that chats up Brundle at a science convention.  She finds him charming and decides to go home with him.  Once they arrive at Brundle's loft/lab/home their fates are sealed.  To impress her, he teleports her stocking across the room.  This is the beginning of the end for Brundle.

He pushes his experiments further and faster to continue to impress Veronica.  When he is finally able to teleport a Baboon without it turning inside out Brundle understands it is only a matter of time before his contribution to science will change transportation forever.  Unfortunately, due to jealousy and drunkeness he truncates the timing and decides to attempt teleporting himself.  The experiment is a success with one minor caveat, a housefly joins him in the chamber.

A few hours after his success he feels revitalized - a new man - a god.  He is only granted this ubermunch mentality for a short time before he learns what he is truly becoming: Brundlefly.

The transformation into Brundlefly is what the film is known for.  The Kafkaesque man to insect plays out for shock value while still maintaining the integrity of the storyline.  The practical effects used in the disintegrating metamorphosis could rival anything produced today.  When one references elements as being Cronenbergian they are referring to scenes of an abject medical abomination and nothing solidifies this more than the vomiting decaying tumorous Brundlefly.

Cronenberg's issues with maternity and birth come up again in The Fly, culminating in one of his many cameos.  The question of abortion is brought up when Veronica becomes pregnant and dreams of giving birth to a maggot (pulled from the womb by director David Cronenberg himself).  There is a familial sensibility that is covered here like The Brood.  Brundlefly doesn't want his offspring destroyed and in a poignant dialogue expresses that it may be the only part of his human life that carries on, but soon after he decides that a mother-father-child-fly mutation would be the perfect hybrid.  Only in a Cronenberg universe can that sentence make any sense.

We know from the horrible Fly II that a son is born, but because the film is too aweful to view we don't really know what continuation Cronenberg had in mind.  Recently there have been talks of a real sequal helmed by the Dr. of doom but only time will tell.  We may have to wait until he gets Viggo out of his system before he returns to the genre that empowered him.


Play Misty For Me: A Cautionary Tale

From his roots as the stranger with no name, to Inspector Harry Callahan, to various secret service men, to his turn in Gran Torino no one can deny that Clint Eastwood is an American icon.

It doesn't matter what taste you have in film, Clint has spiced them all either as an actor or as a director.  In 1971 he was given carte blanche to fulfill his dream of filmmaking.  The studio only asked for him to defer his acting wage which he did without a second thought.  Eastwood's thriller was lensed in 21 days and marked a complete departure from all the work he had accomplished previously.  Clint delved into the world of obsession and penance seemingly without effort.

Clint's onscreen persona Dave is a locally famed radio D.J. who has had his ample fill of women, to which he left them all in the dust, except for Tobie (Donna Mills).  Dave believes he has finally reformed, he's willing to give up his playboy ways and settle down to a nice monogamous relationship.  The only problem is his last fling is completely crazy and will stop at nothing to make Dave her mate.

Jessica Walters (known later as Lucille Bluth from Arrested Depelopment) plays the insane Evelyn with perfection.  Walters is able to pull off a split second shift between hysteria and tranquility multiple times in the film.  Clint is his normal stoic persona until Jessica burrows her way inside him.  Upon first viewing it is very easy to side with Dave, to feel sympathy for his dilemma, and while Dave tries to do the right thing at every turn one should never forget that his problem with Evelyn is his penance for his once carefree sexual attitude.

Play Misty For Me is at it's core a cautionary tale for men.  Dave's former flame Tobie, whom he's reforming for provides us with Dave's back-story by telling us that she had to runaway because she was growing jealous of all the other women coming and going.  Dave's revenge is received cold in the form of Evelyn.  Only after he has decided to end his philandering does Evelyn come into his life as a temptation - a siren if you will.  This time the girl cannot be tossed aside and while we sympathize with Dave, he gets exactly what he deserves.  If you haven't seen Play Misty, then you need to.


Sexy Beast or How To Deconstruct A Heist Film

Jonathan Glazer's feature film debut is a gem to behold.  If you ever had a doubt about Ben Kingsly this is the role he was born for.

In most of heist cinema you have a formula to follow:

1.) The Pitch: this is the who, what, and where of the scheme.
2.) The Roundup: you must collect the right thieves for the job.
3.) Planning: meticulous scouting and preparation that sometimes crosscuts into the action.
4.) The Job: self explanatory (the action we were waiting for)
5.) The Getaway: usually if everything else has worked out this is the step in which everything goes to hell.

Sexy Beast spends most of the film in The Roundup stage leaving only a fraction to the rest of the formula.  Glazer is able to take the genre and turn it on its axis - to find new truths in old cliches.  While he doesn't pander to recreating the wheel as Tarantino did with Reservoir Dogs, he is able to use the formula to delve into character and drama - two things sometimes missing in heist cinema.

If you're expecting Ocean's Eleven or Snatch you will be let down.  Even if you only see it for the astoundingly evil portrait of criminality that Kingsly embodies, we promise the rest will pay off.  The tension builds simply because we have no idea where Glazer is leading us, and while our journey has well established elements, the overall outcome is unknown till the end.


The Soderberghian Contagion

This is our formal declaration: Steven Soderbergh is not an autuer.  While others may have already came to this decision, we had hope.  With a director like Soderbergh with around 27 titles under his belt we had assumed there may be some subtle nuance of authorial style, some flourish that when seen one can say, "oh, there's that Soderbergh moment."  This is not to say there is no merit to his work, and overall we find his films enjoyable, but his mainstream fare is only entertaining the first time.  Contagion is no different.

We at CineNiche believe Contagion to be a more horrific rendering of Wolfgang Peterson's Outbreak.  We were drawn to Contagion not by the overwhelmingly star studded cast, but by the theme of apocalypse.  Of course we had assumed the film would play out like the awesome first half of The Stand and on a lesser scale it does.  It creates a world of palpable paranoia while trying to maintain the logistics of an epidemic.  Unfortunately the two are not well balanced and while you walk away afraid to touch anything you also maintain faith in the American government and our Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Had this been in another filmmaker's hands there may have been no hope provided, which in the end is with every fan of apocalypse cinema looks forward to.

Perhaps faith in a happy ending is the new Soderberghian concept, but it seems like a fall from grace when you consider his Sex, Lies, And Videotape roots.