Friday, May 15, 2015

Three Films Make A Post: Enter the mutant

Blackwood (2014): I found Adam Wimpenny’s film immensely frustrating. On one hand, I really appreciate the efforts it makes to do something different with the most clichéd haunted house movie set-up you can get right now (psychologically troubled man, wife and kid move to a lone house in the country to retry the whole family thing; spookiness ensues), as well as Wimpenny’s eye for landscape and the fine cast (including Ed Stoppard, Sophia Myles and Russell Tovey). On the other hand, for a film that is completely character based, the characters never really come to life, with most of the character development that happens feeling more like a contrivance to keep the plot going. And then there’s the whole climax that’s just a big heap of your usual horror movie bullshit that pretty much managed to sour me on the film completely. Filmmakers don’t seem to know, but it’s actually legal to end a supernatural tale in a quiet way.

Housebound (2014): Gerad Johnstone’s horror comedy on the other hand, is neither frustrating nor prone to tone deafness, but rather a joy from beginning to end, starting with the central performances by Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata and Glen-Paul Waru, a flawless pace, and a sure sense for how to shift the tone around between the silly, the macabre, and the pleasantly grotesque while never betraying one’s characters and ending with some joyfully clever subversions of various genre clichés. This one would really deserve a longer piece instead of being sandwiched between two films I’ll never want to see again but how many words do you really need to call a film brilliant?

A Dandy in Aspic (1968): When it came out, this final film of the great Anthony Mann (finished by its leading man, Laurence Harvey) got roundly trounced by critics; by now, there’s a bit of a critical renaissance for it. Frankly, though, I think the old guard was absolutely right about this one. At the very least, the film’s a terrible mess, permanently fluctuating between the more greyish realist elements of the spy film and the kind of psychedelia you get when a director of 60 years tries to make a movie for the kids (which is to say, people under fifty) without the psychedelic elements ever making sense in the context of the film. Add to that an incredible annoying performance by Mia Farrow as a 60s manic pixie dream girl, and Harvey’s typical lack of affect, and you can count me among the displeased.

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