Saturday, August 6, 2011

Three Films Make A Post: Beyond the black mouth of the cursed cave lurk the unfleshed...

YellowBrickRoad (2010): This turned out to be a real exercise in frustration for me. Thematically and conceptually, this could and should be a major milestone in indie horror that goes for the truly weird instead of the usual generic stuff. In practice, the potential effect is ruined by directorial decisions that seem wrong-headed and self-sabotaging, bland photography, and acting that can go from decent to horrible in the span of a single scene (I dare you to watch the first character death without laughing).

Priest (2011): Speaking of exercises in frustration, Scott Stewart's manhwa-based Priest is even worse than YellowBrickRoad, because, given that Stewart does actually have a bit of experience in his job, and a budget high enough to finance an indie director's entire filmography at his disposal, there's just no excuse for how crap this turned out to be. You'd think there's not much that could be done to keep a vampire SF western from being at least a bit diverting, but Stewart and scriptwriter Cory Goodman know how to ruin a perfectly fine set-up: just ignore everything that might be entertaining or interesting to watch and only go for full-on bad action movie clichés and total lack of drama or believable human emotion in every single second. There's bathos and mumbling about faith and stuff, sure, but this is one of those films that believes that it's enough to go through the motions of the same tired old crap to produce an emotional reaction in one's audience.

The action scenes are boringly staged, the film's look designed to show as little of what looks like it might be rather inventive steam-punky production design as possible, and nobody ever turns on the fucking lights. Colour desaturation (the world, it turns out, is mildly brown) and disinterested acting (not even Karl Urban seems to make an effort) are obviously a given. So it's pretty much like Stewart's execrable Legion all over again.

Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror (1938): This is the third and last of the three films about the British pulp detective where the character was played by actor George Curzon, and the only of the three I've seen. It's a British programmer by numbers - light on substance, with a bit too much "comic" relief but entertaining enough for what it is. There's also Tod Slaughter doing his usual sleazy mugging.

Only real point of interest is how bad a hero this incarnation of Blake is: he's the kind of guy who blubbers out confidential information in public, nearly burns evidence, bumbles and stumbles mindlessly into danger only to be saved by chance or a competent woman (Greta Gynt) he still goes on to patronize, and leaves the final hunt for the film's criminal mastermind to the police because he prefers to have dinner with his lady friend. Frankly, he's more than just a bit embarrassing. Was the literary Sexton Blake as bad? Is this conscious deconstruction? I certainly don't know.


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