Preview: Scary Movies At The Film Society Of Lincoln Center
If one so chooses, they may get their "Garko" on starting tomorrow, Friday, October 26th, when FSLC's Scary Movies 6 rumbles ominously into town. The maniacs and monsters stick around at Lincoln Center's Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center til Halloween night. The series offers up a mix of new and old across the horror spectrum, so there is bound to be something to appease all manner of cinephile. Would you like a fresh-faced Michael Fassbender with your social commentary laced horror? Eden Lake is playing. Now how about undead clowns out for revenge? The Irish produced Stiches has its North American premiere. Aching for some good old fashioned gore? Well between American Mary, the newly-restored, above-mentioned and very, very classic Night Of The Devils, plus the Elijah Wood starring Maniac there's bound to be enough blood to soak the screen through. Twice.
But please, don't take my noob word for it as our very own Peter Gutierrez knows a real thing or two about the genre and he wants to give you a proper little taste of some of this year's offerings. So without further ado, Peter Gutierrez on...
With its intriguing, Scheherazade-like framing story, and its gloss-plus-gore aesthetic, this utterly unpredictable antho is never boring. That's not to say that it's ever really terrifying either, but with generic material that's all over the map (serial killers, cannibals, long-haired ghosts, and bio-zombies all share screentime), this is Halloween-timed popcorn fare at its best. Ignore the poorly translated subtitles--or let them be part of the fun--and settle in for the peaks and valleys that characterize any omnibus. Fair warning, though: a strong strain of the Irrational runs throughout the five stories... something that I actually happen to dig.
Yep, there are reasons to be leery of this remake. Alexandre Aja's sensibility meshed with William Lustig's? Joe Spinell's compelling homeliness replaced by Elijah Wood's cuteness? To his credit, however, director Franck Khalfoun expertly leverages these apparent contradictions to create an original and striking portrait of, well, the ultimate "creepy guy." And then there's Maniac's impressive commitment to its subjective camerawork: just imagine Robert Montgomery in The Lady in the Lake except every time a woman enters his field of vision he's tempted to attack her savagely. A flawless pic? Nope. But far more successful than anyone could reasonably expect.
Countless other films share the premise of idyllic-getaway-turns-nightmarish, so what sets this apart? For starters, writer-director James Watkins has crafted, both narratively and cinematically, a suspenser that's incredibly tight without ever giving the impression that he's mechanically streamlining things. Indeed, impeccable plot-construction is one reason Eden Lake comes across as more "thriller" than "horror." But that's only because it horrifies on deeper levels: by making the monsters so ordinary, it's who they are and how they became that way that so devastates us. As for Michael Fassbender's presence, Eden Lake gives ample foreshadowing of the formidable star he'd soon become.
At once anomalous and solidly at home in Wes Craven's body of work, Deadly Blessing certainly deserves another look. Its theme of a community dealing with sin prefigures Elm Street (as does a silly but memorable bath scene)... while its grand, gender-based twist happens to anticipate a classic '80s slasher. Here Craven tackles rural-gothic elements head-on, without intrusion from the modern world, and as a religious elder the late Ernest Borgnine provides the gravitas that's necessary to avoid outright camp. James Horner's gorgeous score and a fascinating, female-centric storyline are just two other reasons why Deadly Blessing is worth catching.
Sinister cults flourishing among New York's upper crust? You can trace this theme from the 1943 Robson/Lewton The Seventh Victim (which screened at SM5) through Rosemary's Baby and The Believers. The timeless feel of the latter is an aspect I didn't appreciate back in 1987, when I found the film predictable and tepid. Now I love its old-fashioned pulpiness, updated via a '70s-era Lumetesque atmosphere. The jury might be out on whether John Schlesinger, a brilliant director, had a natural feel for horror but there's little doubt he achieves some great moments here while smartly crafting subtext about religious/cultural assimilation.
Really three different films united by relentless stylishness: the first act presents a meta-rich, if occasionally mean-spirited, feminist critique of slasher flicks that's intriguing when it's not undercut by the title character's stereotypical girliness/"bitchiness"; the second act yields a surprisingly engaging, albeit macabre, rom-com; and the final half hour has our leads being besieged by monsters in a manner one really can't see coming (hence my deliberate vagueness). With a handful of terrific sight gags, numerous references to horror classics (The Evil Dead), and exceedingly (blood-) slick set pieces, this should be a real crowd-pleaser... for certain crowds, that is.
Need more Scary Movies? Oh, there's plenty more, so head on over to FSLC's website to get the lowdown on the lineup and to purchase tickets. Scary Movies 6 runs October 26-31 at the Ellen Bunin Munroe Film Center At Lincoln Center.