Monday, July 24, 2006

Movie Mon. - What, No Tweest?

Very little movie watching this week, due to most of my Netflix rentals going towards TV shows, but more on that tomorrow.

Doll Graveyard: Another fine addition to Full Moon Videos long-standing line of low budget horror films revolving on killer toys, this time 4 of the ugliest dolls you've ever seen put on film. Seriously, what were the designers thinking? Half the success of this sort of film is in the merchandising (see the Puppet Master films for example), and if you create things that are too ugly to look at, you're shooting yourself in the foot. Beyond the crappy creature design, the script isn't too terrible, although much of the acting and production values are. But, it's an entertaining sort of terrible, like many Full Moon productions.

Spider-Baby: Horror film about the Merrye family, an inbred clan whose children tend to suffer from a degenerative mental disorder that turns them into psycho killer cannibals. Offbeat and darkly comic film from the late 60s featuring horror veteran Lon Chaney as the family chauffeur who is tasked with trying to keep the homicidal kids in check and a young Sid "Captain Spaulding" Haig as the most far gone member of the clan. This one was definitely a product of its times, and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Soft for Digging: Odd film about a solitary old man who witnesses a murder and is then plagued by visions of the victim. As I watched this one, one thought kept running through my head: "This is almost like some sort of student film." Sure enough, barely a minute into the commentary, there was the confirmation that this was indeed a class project. This one isn't for everyone, with its lack of dialogue and glacial pace, but I kind of appreciated its efforts to try to do something different. Not that it didn't have its share of flaws, and I probably wouldn't recommend it to much of anyone, but I'm not sorry I watched it. The Anti-Cap'n probably wouldn't say the same . . .

Lady in the Water: The latest effort from M. Night Shyamalan is a meta-textual, self-aware fairy tale centering around a varied group of oddball characters inhabiting an apartment complex who are called upon to help out a strange visitor from "the blue world" who has been tasked with trying to awaken a portion of humanity. My feelings on this one are kind of mixed; I'd really like to see it again before committing a firm opinion on it. Storywise, I think it's the weakest of Shyamalan's films, which is interesting since it's such a self-aware film; I think that very awareness works against it. But while the narrative itself moves in fits and starts, the character moments kept me entertained, especially the scenes with the uber-cynical film critic who performs a hilarious running commentary on the mechanics of horror movie tropes while being stalked by the monstrous skrunt. The movie is a lot easier to take if you just think of it in terms of being a fairy tale, with its obvious moral and convenient plot devices. I do think that some aspects could have been handled more smoothly, or expressed more explicitly; Heep's acceptance of Story as a mythical creature felt rushed and forced, which in turn stretched the credibility of his seeking for help, a problem that a single line of dialogue, or even a meaningful look or two, might have dispelled. And then of course there's M. Night's decision to cast himself in a fairly pivotal role; I have to say that before this, none of his cameos have bothered me, but in this case it did, probably due to the exact nature of the role. A bit too on the nose, you might say. Still, it's hard to fault him for that, when there are many other directors who place themselves in much larger roles in much larger vanity projects *coughKevinCostnercough* In the end, I enjoyed the movie; it had its share of problems, but it also made me laugh out loud several times, which is always a bonus. In my ranking of M. Night's films, I think this one barely edges out The Village just because it doesn't have the huge "What a tweest!" moment that is supposed to turn the whole film on its ear but just makes you yawn; yes, there are a few minor twists here and there, but those are more plot progression points than "everything you know is wrong!" reveals.