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There is something about these movies that absolutely scares the shit out of me.

To wit: I’ll be the first to admit that I’m more likely to cry during a movie than scream. I didn’t scream during the first one, but it was a well metered thriller that kept its high levels of suspense until the all-black credits.

This one, a prequel-ish movie, made me scream out loud twice. I wound up putting my sweater in my mouth for the last half hour just in case this shit got real.

It got very real.

This film, which tries to capture the lightning in a bottle of its predecessor, went the typical sequel route of more of the same but bigger. It worked the first time, don’t fuck it up.

This is where it succeeds, unlike the sequel to the Blair Witch Project. They made the creative to decision to, instead of making a typical slasher/supernatural horror film, take the bigger budget and bigger crew and create a bigger, scarier version of the first film.

Luckily, they also found a director in Tod “One D” Williams who could capture the same metered suspense that Oren Peli captured in the first film.

That’s why this film succeeds on an absolutely base level. It didn’t fuck with anything. It just got bigger. And tied itself into the original in a few very original ways that give an amazing amount of context to the first film.

And boy did it get bigger. The last twenty minutes of this film is some of the scariest shit I’ve ever seen. The movie trots along with weird shit getting weirder, freaked out people getting more freaked out and then, in the final third, everything just gets amped up beyond belief.

Horror films rely a lot on their sound design (and score) to create atmosphere and tension. Every door creak, every footstep, every little moment is nuanced to create that suspense.

This film does that to perfection–to an Oscar worthy level, even (Seriously? Seriously.). Every tense moment is preceded by an ominous, David Lynch-esque, low-bass rumble. So you know something’s about to happen. And the camera is static. There’s nothing, just this rumble. Then things start happening. I don’t want to spoil anything, but a lot of my reaction to this film was based on the way that they cranked it up to 11 during the most frightening scenes.

This is also known as the “startle effect,” when something jumps out at you unexpectedly and makes you jump. You’ve seen this before–like in Alien when Harry Dean Stanton (and the audience by proxy) gets startled by a cat coming out of a locker. This movie relies heavily on that–and, for once, it’s not a bad thing. Because it’s tied so well into the sound design instead of it just being faces jumping out and a violin shriek, it’s natural sounds crashing into unnatural sounds as something incredibly small–or, in some cases, nothing at all–is occurring on screen.

In spite of it being a found-footage film with all the rote shitty camera work, this is definitely one for the big screen simply because it’s a major experience to see it with a crowd.

When a movie like this gets its body count in the theater up towards max capacity, the tension on the screen becomes tension in the crowd. Everyone, except one douche boyfriend, is enraptured by what their watching.

That undivided attention, too, helps. I can’t imagine that this movie would work as well if I watched it at home, making a frozen pizza, checking my facebook (and probably naked). This is a front to back, all eyes forward, movie.

To work on absolutely gut-level, though, you have to buy into the premise. You can’t go into this movie jaded, thinking it’s bullshit, and ready to laugh at every moment. Your mind’s already made up. Stay home, check your facebook naked and watch a Saw sequel again.

If you go into this movie thinking, “I’m gonna get the shit scared out of me,” and you buy into it, then you’re in for the thrill of a lifetime.

You can’t just sit there, head in hand, observing all the plot holes and whatever. You have to give yourself over to this movie–especially since it gives back in a big way.

Oh, and one more thing:

I’ll be the first to admit that it was disappointing that this film had credits as opposed to the first one that just went black for a minute and a half.

I understand, though. It’s a bigger budget film and it’d be a real bitch to get everyone to sign off on completely forfeiting their screen credit like they did in the first film.

It was a nice touch, though, that they had 30 seconds of black afterwards and the credits were overlaid with creepy noises from the film. I’m willing to bet they couldn’t get the rights to Giacchino’s Ode to Godzilla (or something) that was over the Cloverfield credits.

9x9x9: Lost Highway–Dick Laurent is Dead

 

Robert Blake plays the devil. Then his murder trial delayed the DVD release. Coincidence? Not fuckin' likely.

 

I don’t remember what sparked my desire to see this movie–it might’ve been that it was Richard Pryor’s final appear in a film though he’s only in it for about 30 seconds.

I do remember that it was really hard to find because of Robert Blake and his murder trial. At least that’s what I had heard was delaying the DVD release.

The first time I saw it, it was on a bootleg dvd from Europe (don’t worry, I bought the DVD once it came out, and destroyed that copy. Or sold it in Santee Alley. You’ll never know.)

This was also the first true mindfuck movie I’d ever seen. So it absolutely blew my mind as the movie turned in on itself at about the halfway point, then turned around at the end of it and started all over.

Essentially, this movie is an ouroboros[1]. Or a Mobius Strip[2]. It starts at one place and ends at the same place, but on the other side of the wall.

The main part of the film that fucks with everyone’s mind is when the perverse world of Bill Pullman the avant garde saxophonist who’s married to Patricia Arquette gets arrested then becomes Balthazar Getty in prison, gets released, and then becomes intertwined with another version of Patricia Arquette. Then turns back into Bill Pullman, naked in the desert. Then back to the Hollywood Hills.

I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a spoiler with this film because there’s no true beginning or ending to it. The snake eats its tail.

Let’s try an interpretation, though, for fun.

What I’m figuring is that all of this is taking place in the mind of Bill Pullman[3] while he sits in prison. The tapes are his memories he’s trying to erase. The murder he chooses not to remember. But, eventually, it all boils down to reminding himself that Dick Laurent is dead. Ah shit.

The Balthazar Getty half is basically Pullman going back in time to remember when he first met Patricia Arquette. The problem here is that everyone wants to know what happened to him in prison—assuming they’re talking about when he got released in this timeline. It could also be that Getty, dressed and acting like a badass, was already in prison and, let’s say, gets sodomized. That’s something else you wouldn’t want to talk about.

But it’s played as if they’re talking about this release from prison. So it makes everything real fucking weird. Especially when blonde Arquette is seen pictured next to redheaded Arquette. Maybe they were twin sisters or something. Who knows.

The biggest clue/key to this is that, when Pullman is asked by police whether or not he has a video camera, he states, “I like to remember things my own way.” The cop is confused, so he claries, “How I remembered. Not necessarily how they happened.”

So, then, the picture of the dual Arquettes could represent his mental interpretation of her going from being an innocent blonde with a batshit/powerful father to the being the adulterous, lecherous, redhead that fucks around while he’s playing gigs.

Look, this movie is real fuckin’ weird and there’s basically no one way to interpret it, or make sense of it. Unless you’re David Lynch, and he never gives anything away overtly. His movies are some that run the risk of being overanalyzed because every line of dialog, every shot, or every prop could be that clue. The ashtray; zooming towards the flowing red curtain and the ringing phone; quotes like this one from Robert Blake: “In the East, the Far East, when a person is sentenced to death, they’re sent to a place where they can’t escape, never knowing when an executioner may step up behind them, and fire a bullet into the back of their head.” It all might mean something and be that final piece to the puzzle that makes you go “Aha!” and then show it to your friends just to watch their reactions when the President during an alien invasion turns into Balthazar Getty, otherwise known for being kind of familiar because he was on some show you watched once.

I accept the Mobius Strip concept—that this is a movie that turns and folds into itself and then restarts at the exact same spot, with all important parts of a life covered along the journey without touching the end.

 

Patricia Arquette in full on tart mode.

 

I think the biggest problem I have with Lynch films like this is that once you’ve settled on an explanation, or that you’ve figured it out like Mulholland Drive, the film itself becomes a lot less exciting.

This isn’t to say that I absolutely won’t ever watch it again. Quite the contrary. Not only is the movie really weird, it’s also an incredibly terrifying experience. A lot of this is thanks to Lynch’s signature low bass rumble as well as some beautifully done acting that makes even the sex scene not very sexy. Watch the pain in Pullman’s face while he’s copulating and tell me he’s a happy man. You can’t.

No one in this movie is happy. No one ever will be. Because they’re in an inescapable place, never knowing when that bullet is going to tear apart their cerebellum.


[1] The snake that ate itself:

[2] Here’s the link to the Wikipedia article. It’s hypermathetical, and way over my head.

[3] It’s interesting what an actor is able to pull off. In this film, he plays a murderer with some serious mental issues. The year prior, he played the fucking president in Independence Day.

quick hits

NOTE: THESE REVIEWS ARE MERELY STANDINS. WHENIF I REWATCH THE FILM, IT WILL MORE THOROUGHLY REVIEWED. EP

The 40-Year-Old-Virgin (9–the unrated scenes actually add something, unlike many movies where it’s just a fucking ploy)

Dazed and Confused (4–fuck you Richard Linklater. Your high school experience was like this? Well, then, you’re an asshole.)

Wild at Heart (8–Fuck you David Lynch. You scare me. You’re the Freddy Kreuger of directors. I can’t sleep after watching ANY of your films.)

Animal House (5–John Belushi. That’s the only reason it got a five.)

The Squid and the Whale (8–the most depressing fucking movie you will ever watch. Yes, even more depressing than Requiem for a Dream and American History X. And no one even fucking dies in this movie. Or loses an arm. Nothing like that. I’m so pissed off right now at Jeff Daniels’ character in the Squid and the Whale. He’s a pretentious-ass-fucking cunt who says shit that doesn’t even mean anything. And his sons take after him. That’s when a movie’s good: when it’s resounding so hard in your mind that you’re straight-up-fucking-pissed-the-hell-off. Goddam. I just finished it and I am so damned depressed.)

Bottle Rocket (6–Wes Anderson’s start. It’s only okay and a mere shadow of his better later films. As an aside: fuck you critics who think that the Darjeeling Limited was a self-parodying mess.)

oscar coverage from a bus going north

let’s talk Oscars. On the bus ride home, Kelley was sending me results since I couldn’t view the actual program. I’m glad that the Coen brothers finally won Best Director(s). It’s an award they’ve deserved for almost every movie they’ve done (except the Ladykillers. What was that shit?!)

In the Best Supporting Actor category, I thought Paul Dano was nominated for his role as Eli Sunday in There Will be Blood. But he wasn’t. And that was probably a good thing because it was already a hard enough category between Casey Affleck (one of my new favorite actors after Gone Baby Gone and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) and Javier Bardem. Both did a great job–I was rooting for Affleck more so than Bardem simply because of the last 45 minutes of TAOJJBTCRF truly break your heart. Affleck thought he’d be received as a celebrity. But instead it’s the opposite. He’s treated like scum because he killed a national star.

In Supporting Actress, I’m sad that Blanchett lost. She was an awesome Bob Dylan. And I love me some Bob Dylan (well, before his 80’s phase. Reaganomics even turned the music into shit!).

The Best Score award was skewed because of Greenwood using, say, thirty seconds from his previous composition (Popcorn Superhet Receiver. It’s actually pretty cool) in his score for There Will Be Blood. And that definitely was one of the best musical compositions for film I’ve heard in awhile.

But, as in previous years, at least one of my favorite films had to be completely ignored. Last year, it was The Fountain and Inland Empire. This year, it was the Darjeeling Limited.

And that’s okay because the Academy doesn’t make your opinions. You do.