Monday, December 18, 2006

Weekend viewing

The Slumber Party Massacre (Amy Holden Jones, 1982)
This is another pick from Slant's "Camp Horror" feature, and much more enjoyable than Sleepaway Camp, the last one I watched. It is, of course, far from great cinema, but in less than 80 minutes it delivers more blood, humor and toplessness than almost every mainstream horror movie being released these days, and does so quite effectively. Oddly for a cheapie exploitation horror movie (in which the main character takes her top off within the first two minutes), it was written and directed by women (the screenplay is by noted mystery novelist Rita Mae Brown), and some have put a sort of mild feminist interpretation on it. I don't know about that, but there is a great shot from between the legs of the killer as he brandishes his very phallic murder weapon (a drill) at one of his victims. Later, the heroine slices his drill bit right off. There's a lot of visual humor like that, and at least as many fake-outs as actual murders, probably thanks to the fact that Brown originally wrote the screenplay as a parody of slasher movies. It ended up more straightforward, but still more clever than you'd expect.

Tideland (Terry Gilliam, 2006)
This was the last screener I meant to watch before voting on year-end awards and putting together my top 10 list, and I didn't quite make it in time. Not that it really made a difference - I wouldn't have put it anywhere on my awards ballot or my top 10 list, and I didn't necessarily expect to, given the mostly dismal reviews it received during its very limited release earlier this year. But I love Terry Gilliam, and I even liked the universally panned The Brothers Grimm, so I didn't want to pass up the chance to see this. Obviously it's very different from Grimm, which was a relatively sanitized studio adventure movie with a bit of Gilliam flair. This is Gilliam unfettered, and it's rather nasty and unpleasant to watch, although it's brimming with imagination and fearlessness, perhaps even to its own detriment. Gilliam has always been able to show the darker side of whimsy while still retaining a sense of wonder, but in this film the darkness takes over, and the fantasy world of main character Jeliza-Rose is more disturbing than endearing. That is, the 10-year-old girl is just as insane and delusional as the whacked-out adults around her, and just as frustrating. Jodelle Ferland's performance, exaggerated Blanche DuBois Southern accent and all, is one of the most out-there I've ever seen from a child actor, but I'd hesitate to call it good. That's kind of how I felt about the movie as a whole.

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