Film Fatale Archive for October, 2006

Radar Love For 10 Horror Movie Villains

No Damien?
Neither the bratty pre-school son of the Devil (Harvey Stephens) of THE OMEN (1976) nor the distractingly handsome Sam Neill of THE OMEN III made Radar’s list of the top ten horror movie villains. (I guess the SOUTH PARK episode pretty well destroyed Damien’s villain cred – and besides, he was always more of a pouty icon than a truly active villain.)
Who and what did make the list?
A cannibal with a chainsaw.
A camp-counselor hating drowing victim.
A doll possessed by the spirit of a dead serial killer.
A child possessed and persecuted by Satan (wouldn’t that make Satan the villain?)
A fundamentalist Nebraska boy who hates everyone over 19.
A Dutch Colonial house (boathouse included) located at 112 Ocean Avenue.
Who didn’t make the list?
No supernatural villains from other countries: No little boy from THE GRUDGE. No Samara from THE RING. No undead, no vampires.

Sequels, Prequels, Babyfications

Newsweek, noting the existence of BATMAN BEGINS, THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING, and refreshed 007 in CASINO ROYALE, has an overview of movie-prequels This is great! My nephew loves A PUP NAMED SCOOBY DOO and FLINTSTONE KIDS.
On the horizon: new installments in the HALLOWEEN and FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH movies, featuring earlier adventures of Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees. (Or maybe Jason’s mother, when she was young.)
There’s also HANNIBAL RISING. Director Peter Webber (THE GIRL WITH THE PEARL EARRING) says the movie will cover a time period well before the starting point of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and RED DRAGON, leaving room for sequels to the prequel. French actor Gaspard Ulliel (A Very Long Engagement) will portray adolescent Hannibal Lecter, who’s sad because during WWII, Nazi soldiers ate his sister. Don’t get Hannibal wrong. All the killing and cannibalism he does later on isn’t his fault–it’s because Nazis friggin’ suck.

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Only Mildly Oppressive, Less Equine Urine Than Expected: Travels In Kazakhstan

Carol Cadwalladr, a writer for the Observer, visits Kazakhstan and discovers that despite BORAT’s slurs, the former Soviet state is not nearly as dictatorish and flooded with fermented horse urine as she expected.
That’s nice.
You, too, can experience the beauties of this exotic land by viewing A LEADER IN CENTRAL ASIA, a 30 second ad that’s run on ABC and CNN. Pretty horses!

The 'SAW' Trilogy Reviewed in Brief

The Guardian’s John Patterson (Rated: Cranky) hasn’t seen SCENES OF A SEXUAL NATURE or SAW III, but that hasn’t stopped him from getting his bitch off over the MPAA’s tell-all, explain-nothing film ratings and classification system.
Here is my annotated MPAA-type guide to the SAW movies.
SAW (2004)
Rating: R
For strong grisly violence and language.
Edited for re-rating. Previously rated (NC-17) in (2004).
Translation: R-rated version? For wussies.
SAW II (2005)
Rated R:
For grisly violence and gore, terror, language and drug content.
Translation: Less grislier, more druggier. Also, terror. If you consider flashbacks terrifying.
SAW III (2006)
Rated R for strong grisly violence and gore, sequences of terror and torture, nudity and language.
Translation: Same shit as first two. Plus: boobies!
After the jump, experience a moment from SAW III.

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Alan Moore's 'Lost Girls' Will Be Found in UK…But Not Till Jan. '08

Alan Moore’s LOST GIRLS will be available for bookstore sales in the UK after all. Though the illustrated “porno-graphic” novel featuring the erotic adventures of Peter Pan’s friend Wendy, Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Alice from Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
The adult sexual nature of LOST GIRLS did not amuse the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, which has been funded by the proceeds of Barrie’s beloved children’s play for nearly 100 years. (
Now the illustrated novel’s publisher, Top Shelf, has agreed not to offer Moore’s book for sale until January 2008, when the British and E.U. copyright on J.M. Barrie’s novel and play expires.
Here’s a link to Galleycat’s thorough coverage of the dispute between Moore and the Great Ormond Street Trust.
Galleycat’s been following the dispute between graphic novelist Alan Moore and the

The Onion Axes Smart Questions About Horror

The Onion’s AV Club writers (Noel Murray, Scott Tobias and Nathan Rabin) do a political reading of some horror films you may or may not have thought twice about, including the best of Showtime’s MASTERS OF HORROR series, Joe Dante’s “Homecoming.”
In What Monster Could Have Done This? Horror Movies For Left Wingers, Horror Movies For Right Wingers, the critics write that this genre is often a “better gauge of what’s making the country anxious than opinion polls are.”
Both DEATHDREAM (1974) and HOMECOMING (Showtime, 2005) carry echoes of H.H. Monro’s short story “The Monkey’s Paw,” in which traumatized soldiers, more dead than alive, come marching home from foreign wars–to the horror of the homeland.

The essay mentions Abel Ferrara’s surprisingly effective 1993 remake of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, set on a military base. The most chilling moment: when pod person Meg Tilly reminds her still-human stepdaughter that no one cares about the alien takeover because “There’s no one like you left.”
Paranoid yet? Another remake is due in 2007. INVASION stars Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. The director is Oliver Hirshbiegel, who’s best known for making DOWNFALL, the about living and working in the dead heart of the Third Reich in the last days of Nazi Germany. The most chilling moment: when Goebbels refuses to agreea surrender to British and American forces, even though it will mean sparing civilian lives. No, he says, the very young and the very old should be prepared to die in the streets. “It’s their own fault. The people gave us the mandate.

To Hell In A Handbag

Have we talked much about fashion here at Film Fatale?
I’ve never quite understood why women need to more than two handbags. One for day, one for evening. And these things should be small. A woman’s handbag should be just large enough to hold her wallet, her keys, and her gun.
I bring this up because Radar has rounded up some truly terrifying accessories that bear suspicious resemblance to faces from the movies. Scary, fugly faces. Click on the link and scream. Look at the prices and scream again. The Bag Lady, who chronicles the accessory life, sees this sort of thing all the time, so she’s obviously built up a tolerance this kind of thing. But I have to say it shocked me.

Playing Politics With 'Death of a President'

No film could have stood up to the film festival hype that was piled onto DEATH OF A PRESIDENT, a faux documentary about the crimes against justice committed after the assassination of the U.S. president — President George W. Bush.
Though many political pundits are having a hard time believing this, the film’s “what if?” form is a means to get people thinking about what’s happening now–not an excuse to do evil, whenever.
With its incendiary subject matter and election-year timing, Death of a President was bound to be in the spotlight. Then festival programmer Noah Cowan, in his notes on the film, wrote that Death of a President is “easily the most dangerous and breathtakingly original film I have encountered this year.”
So like hundreds of other reporters and critics at the Toronto Film festival, I lined up for at least two hours to make sure I got into the first press and industry screening of Death of a President — I heard that at least 150 people were turned away. (WHEN CRITICS SWARM! If only the Fox TV reality show cameras had been there. It wasn’t pretty.)
I spoke to Gabriel Range this week about why he believes his approach, the “what if?” docudrama, can attract a larger audience than a straight up documentary about the Patriot Act (which is what his movie’s really about.) The interview is in Sunday’s New York Daily News. The film opens Friday, Oct. 27.

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Been There, 'Saw' That': TIME Rings The "Horror Is Hot" Bell

Have you heard? The Young People of Today love horror movies? Sometimes they love scary slashermovies with Roman numerals in the titles. And sometimes they scary, subtle supernatural horror movies with lank haired Asian girl ghosts. Right now they love gore-filled disembowel-oramas.
Yes, horror is hot again, as it always is. But why does this kind of horror film touch a nerve?
TIME, Oct. 30, 2006.
Rebecca Winters Keegan: The Splat Pack: Wondering where all those ultraviolent movies are coming from? Meet horror’s new blood.

“People say, ‘How can you put this stuff out there in the world?’ Well, it’s already out there,” says Eli Roth. He appeared on Fox News and proclaimed that it was because of George Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld that Americans are watching horror: “You’re so scared that you want to scream.”

For a much earlier and more thoughtful look at this trend, see USA Today’s
USA Today, Oct. 25. 2004. Susan Wloszczyna, “Extreme Cinema Returns With a Vengeance

“I definitely love to be scared,” says James Wan, Saw’s director. “It draws the primal side out of you.”
Or as screenwriter Leigh Whannell, who also co-stars in Saw, puts it: “Humans are still violent animals, and you need to get that out. The killer has done a lot of the work for you by exorcising your subconscious for a while.”
Some cite The Passion of the Christ as an example of the new tolerance for extreme viewing.

And for a template of the Horror = $ = ? story, here’s Time’s 2005 piece.
Newsweek, April 3, 2006.
Devin Gordon: “US Audiences Hungry for Blood”
One prominent critic views the trend as torture porn:
New York Magazine, Feb. 6, 2006.
David Edelstein: Why Has America Gone Nuts for Blood, Guts and Sadism?

“The issue of where the spectator’s sympathies lie at violent movies has always been a complicated one. But there’s no doubt that something has changed in the past few decades. Serial killers occupy a huge—and disproportionate—share of our cultural imagination: As potential victims, we fear them, yet we also seek to identify with their power…
[Watching IRREVERSIBLE..after the first two minutes] I didn’t understand why I had to be tortured, too. I didn’t want to identify with the victim or the victimizer.”

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Presto! A Non-Spoilery Rave for 'The Prestige'

This is a slightly expanded but still spoiler-free version of a review I wrote for this week’s Boston Phoenix.
Postmodern turns out to have been the wrong word, and world, for the Nolan brothers (director Christopher and screenwriter Jonathan) of MEMENTO fame. In THE PRESTIGE, a Victorian-set sci fi tale of rival magicians in search of the ultimate trick, the Nolans revel in embedded flashbacks, purloined diaries, mad scientists (David Bowie, in a deft cameo), and presto-change-o stagecraft (“Abracadabra!” will never again sound cheesy.) Hugh Jackman, cast as a proto-Vegas showman at first appears to have the meatier role, but it’s Christian Bale, as the illusionist whose art blights the lives of those he loves, who makes a darker, deeper impression.

Though the film’s slowish pacing, early on, over-indicates how both magicians’ marquee misdirection –a disappearing act–will be achieved, The Prestige still pulls off a neat trick of its own. So what if you twig to the how of the deception; what remains is the horror of how any human being could stand it.

Architecture of a Movie Cliche

Was it Joe Queenan who wrote an essay why so many movie heroes are architects?
In the Guardian this week, Paul Arendt takes another look at the cinematic obsession with architects: this time, the movie hero is a photogenic Jude Law in BREAKING AND ENTERING, whose job shows that he’s brainy enough to have attended graduate school, rugged enough to show him getting his hands dirty on a building site, but artistic and sensitive enough to stay late at the office doing sketches, collages and model-making.
Personally, I always thought movie makers love architects because they get to commission cool miniatures of the the hero’s dream project — which they can then destroy, preferably with the main character’s fists (“Why, God, why?“) scene when the heroes hopes and dreams are temporarily destroyed.

Q&A With Kazahkstan's Pop Cultural Ambassador

Getting a little tired of the buildup. Enough with the buzz screenings. Will the movie just freakin’ come out already?
But Sacha Baron-Cohen–BORAT–I can’t stay mad at you. Enjoy his sexytime Q&A with the Times of London.

Who's The Best Film Composer?

Since the departure of David Edelstein, Slate’s film section hasn’t had a single, strong critical voice. But it’s had a series of intriguing essays about various aspects of cinema, including this week’s look at the best film composers.
Writer Jan Swafford looks at the work of Max Steiner (KING KONG, DARK VICTORY), Bernard Herrmann (PSYCHO, TAXI DRIVER) and Toru Takemitsu (WOMAN IN THE DUNES, RAN).

Whose film music carries you away? Whose soundtracks have you sought out, even when the film doesn’t live up to the score?


Christian Bale's Prestigious Film Roles

Do what you can this week to avoid reading reviews of THE PRESTIGE, the new film from Christopher Nolan. Despite the entreaties of Touchstone’s PR reps, critics can’t help spoiling some of the duelling-magician thriller’s finest surprises. (The movie’s trailer, by the way, contains some masterful misdirection, setting up the conflict without ruining the coolest trick.)

What no review can wreck is your impression of the lead actors’ performances. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman are well cast as the rival showmen. Bale has three films this fall. Werner Herzog’s RESCUE DAWN debuted at the Toronto Film Festival, and HARSH TIMES, due later this month. New York magazine’s Logan Hill talks to Bale about Batman, magic and Herzog — take a look.

Scott Foundas’ review from LA Weekly praises the seductive mysteries of THE PRESTIGE without wrecking any of the film’s pleasures. I hope my review in the Boston Phoenix will do the same. It’ll be posted on Oct. 19.

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Battle Fatigue: Anthony K. on Why Iraq Docs Keep Flopping


Indiewire’s Anthony Kaufman has a smart piece in SLATE on why so many documentaries about the war in Iraq aren’t doing well with movie audiences–despite a dearth of US television about what’s really going on over there, and a growing sentiment that US involvement should decrease or end entirely.
Four years and 2,745 US deaths into the war, are Americans too jaded and depressed to shell out $10 bucks to see a movie that’s probably going to be about about casualties, carnage and political clusterfuckage?
In the wake of Michael Moore’s highly poltiical FAHRENHEIT 9/11, which grossed $119 million, there have been at least 10 documentaries about the war in Iraq — but none has grossed more than $1 million. Only the war-machine-in-general exploration WHY WE FIGHT, has broken that barrier. (THE WAR ROOM, about the military’s handling of media coverage from the war front, is nearing the mark).
Beyond GUNNER PALACE, OCCUPATION: DREAMLAND, and THE WAR TAPES, I can honestly say I don’t even remember hearing about press screenings for the other films that Kaufman mentions. Other non-fiction filmmakers have been more successful by pointing their cameras in another direction: at the gross civil rights violations committed here in the U.S. since 9/11.
Watch Lowell Bergman’s two part FRONTLINE series about all the heralded arrests of homeland Al Qaeda cells (Lodi, upstate New York, and Miami) that turn out to be nothing (all charges dropped for lack of evidence)–PBS has made THE ENEMY WITHIN available for free on its website.

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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon