Flick Clique: October 30 – November 5
Cronos (1997). Seeking a scary movie for Halloween night, we ended up with this creepy Spanish thriller. One of the earlier efforts from director Guillermo del Toro, this film might as well be called The Steampunk Egg of Dorian Gray. The story concerns a grandfatherly antique dealer named Jesus (Federico Luppi) who comes across said mysterious brass object in his shop. While his granddaughter watches, the man ponders the object in his hand while discovering how it works — it grows legs and attaches itself to his hand, delivering a painful sting! Jesus recovers, but he finds himself rejuvenated. He also finds that the brass egg is a 16th century artifact that is sought after by a wealthy, dying industrialist (Claudio Brook) and his henchman (Ron Perlman), who is willing to kill (and does, or at least he thinks so) to get the precious item for his boss. More creepy than chilling, actually, and not nearly as absorbing as Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone and even the semi-overrated Pan’s Labyrinth. The DVD does contain a nifty tour of Del Toro’s guest house, filled with his fantastic collection of curiosities, books and movie memorabilia. Apparently the man has a serious jones for Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion!
Freeway Killer (2010). In our continuing efforts to find a scary movie, I scrolled through the horror section on Netflix streaming and came across this taut serial killer indie. This one tells the real story of William Bonin, a Californian who slayed a couple dozen young men in a relatively short time (1979-80) before being imprisoned and eventually being the first man to die of lethal injection in that state. In the film, we see Bonin (chillingly played by Scott Anthony Leet) as he scopes out victims from the safety of his van. He uses the help of a local guy (Susty Sorg) to snag them, but the guy eventually gets replaced by another easily taken in trainee (Cole Williams). This was a modestly budgeted film which reminded me often of the Jeremy Renner-as-Jeffrey Dahmer film (both share the same screenwriter). The movie’s micro budget and many anachronisms are off-putting at first, but I found it gripping and better done than other projects of this sort (the snoozy Dahmer included). It doesn’t really break any ground and Bonin’s actions are strangely sanitized here, but Leet’s intense performance kept it watchable to the end.
Giorgio Moroder Presents: Metropolis (1984). Kino has recently reissued this MTV-influenced version of the Fritz Lang silent classic on home video; my DVD Talk review is posted here. I remember watching it on VHS eons ago (it was the first silent film I ever saw, actually), and was jazzed to check it out again to see if it holds up. I ended up giving it a Highly Recommended rating. Fantastic film and an intriguing ’80s relic, even if this particular version is no longer the best one available.
A Stolen Face (1952) and Blackout (1954). This “Hammer Film Noir” DVD double feature was Christopher’s second choice for scary Halloween viewing, even though neither film is particularly scary (or even film noir, for that matter). Like many, I had no idea that England’s Hammer studio, so famous for its horror flicks from the ’50s and ’60s, did anxious melodramas as well. Both of these films have American stars (Lizbeth Scott and Paul Henried in Stolen Face, Dane Clark in Blackout), but what’s most notable about them is their very British locales and sensibility. A Stolen Face has Henried as a plastic surgeon who falls so intensely in love with pianist Scott, and is so painfully rejected by her, that he re-creates Scott’s face on that of a badly scarred ex-con. Totally ridiculous, and with a let-down of an ending, but Scott is a lot of fun in the two separate parts (she affects a cockney accent as the luckless dame who finds out that her new face isn’t original). A half-hearted stab at noir, but hysterically campy at times (and Scott looks great in a wardrobe designed by Edith Head). Blackout is a more typical, serviceable drama which is undone by a convoluted plot. Dane Clark, reedy faced star of many a Warner Bros. melodrama, headlines here as a regular guy who emerges from a drunken bender in London to find that he married a beautiful yet manipulative blonde (Belinda Lee). Waking up the next morning in the flat of a lady artist, he learns that his “wife” is a debutante whose father has just been murdered — he then spends the rest of the film attempting to locate the real murderer before that blood-stained trenchcoat he’s wearing leads to the wrong conclusions. Rather dull, but I always liked the attractive-in-an-offbeat-way Clark. Belinda Lee is quite gorgeous, and very good. I was wondering why I hadn’t seen her, before learning she tragically died in her ’20s in an auto accident.