Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Basic Instinct 2 / * (2006)

Sharon Stone so persistently owns what she does on screen in “Basic Instinct 2” that one is likely to find her conviction admirable, even if she is basically a PR agent selling a defective product with a straight face. Far lesser sorts might have inspired a sympathetic gesture, but this is a woman in no need of such pity – with every wince of her stern gaze and gurgle of a monologue she sneers confidently back at the camera, as if fully aware of the punchline before her writers have formulated the joke. In some regards that allows many of her more sub-par pictures to rise above their mediocrity, if for nothing more than for the assuredness of her presence. But that also means we must test ourselves with the limits of witless screenplays and be willing to ask: how far is too far when descending into such lopsided mind games? Here is a film in which all those involved, even the ones who may be ambivalent, are contracted to enslave us in the grip of patronizing hogwash.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Alone in the Dark / zero stars (2005)

I should be issuing warnings to those who may encounter “Alone in the Dark” but instead find my words guided by a greater urge: to maul the film in the same vicious, unfiltered manner that it contaminates the movie screen. Here is an endeavor (if you dare call it one) so utterly bereft of the simplest morsels of intelligence that it inspires a wrath within that I have rarely recognized, leaving me in an elusive predicament – how do you savage something this pathetic, this completely unbothered by the basic concept of passable composition? Those who stood behind the camera weren’t just making a lazy movie, they were allowing themselves to undermine the basic desire of going to the theater. Usually hidden behind all the pomp and circumstance of something superfluous is a motive that at least intends someone to have a good time, and we can cut some bad movies slack when we understand (and accept) those aims. But not a soul involved here is capable of passive intentions, much less a rational thought. Their purpose is to deliberately rob innocent filmgoers of precious time, without anything to show for it beyond regret and empty wallets.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Last House on the Left" Revisited

In some underhanded way a horror film has the capacity to contemplate one’s destructive tendencies just as it does to abuse and torment the souls of the innocent. More perceptive directors discover those possibilities not by holding out optimism in bleak scenarios, but usually by looking through the cracked mirror of passive acceptance. That is the sort of wisdom that informs many of the early Wes Craven pictures, several of which were made with a distinction that raises them above the more sensationalized Hollywood gorefests of later times (even his own). To most they possess the foresight to see a purpose beyond the astonishing violence, and to regard them is to understand that there are some terrible side-roads one must walk before the fates can restore light to an obscured path. But what is one to make of “Last House on the Left,” his nihilistic debut, which by all indications ought to have been one of those endeavors forever lost in the wastes of oblivion? Like a painful secret it persists achingly through the minds of those who discover it, often to a point of mystification; decidedly outside of conventional standards and made quickly and cheaply in a span of weeks, little was there to announce it as anything other than just another trenchant exercise in the murderous tendencies of the disturbed. And somehow that was far more than enough.