Not sure why it took me so long to get around to this, given my long-standing admiration for Polanski’s wonderfully lurid Rosemary’s Baby. Based on Repulsion‘s reputation as a dark psychological thriller, I wasn’t expecting it to work so efficiently as a straight-up horror movie — perhaps that classification is another case of conventional wisdom classing up an especially well-respected film by lifting it out of the genre ghetto.
When Hollywood types assimilate exploitation tropes and tactics, they start concocting films like Obsessed, in which Skinny White Bitch Ali Larter runs seriously afoul of Virtuous Black Woman Beyoncé Knowles by throwing herself at Good Husband Idris Elba. In fact, Obsessed is less a movie than it is a marketing plan, calculated to snare audiences entranced by its whiff of sex, celebrity, and dysfunctional race relations.
Either it runs in the family or Jennifer is one hell of a mimic, because there’s an unmistakably Lynchian undercurrent to much of the goings-on in Surveillance, which lends some juice to a somewhat pulpy yet dry and familiar scenario. During the opening scenes, as Bill Pullman and Julia Ormond show up at a tiny police precinct wearing the kind of blue suits that denote FBI badgeholders, the younger Lynch adds an otherwordly soundtrack drone to the activity that flashed me right back to the first reel or so of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
New York Times critic Bosley Crowther once complained of Stanley Kubrick’s harrowing and hilarious Cold War satire Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, “Virtually everybody turns up stupid or insane — or, what is worse, psychopathic.” Crowther’s concern was not just that Kubrick was making a sick joke out of the idea of nuclear war, but that he seemed (to Crowther) to be out to undermine, discredit and mock the entire American military and executive establishment, depicting the U.S.A. itself as a dangerously deranged member of the global community. Dr. Strangelove is, of course, essential satire and a stone classic. Observe and Report is more derivative and less urgent. Still, it’s quite something. Watching it made me feel a little bit like Bosley Crowther fussing over the Kubrick. “Somehow, to me, it isn’t funny,” Crowther wrote. “It is malefic and sick.”
Whatever happened to the red-meat, teens-in-trouble, blood-and-breasts American horror film? On the
evidence here, it’s been driven nearly underground. To be clear, The Lost,
which played the festival circuit and got a handful of theatrical showings in
Angeles, isn’t a great film. It’s limited by its
budget, a general flabbiness around the midsection, and genre conventions that
serve as reminders of the film’s status as horror product. But, compared to the
cynical teen-scare flicks and semi-competent J-horror knock-offs clogging multiplex
screens, The Lost feels unhinged and even a little dangerous. Its climax has a
ferocity and evokes a sense of helplessness that’s hard to shake. If the ability to
genuinely disturb is any measure of a horror film’s quality, then The Lost is a
pretty good one.
No Country For Old Men is, probably,
the single most critically lauded film of the Coen Brothers’ career.
It’s also a departure, especially in that it largely subjugates their
own exhibitionist hallmarks of style and characterization to those
established in the source material–in this case an expertly grim
genre potboiler by Cormac McCarthy.