Friday, September 21, 2012

Olive Street Cinema, no. 7 | of suicide cults, stuntmen, and supernatural widows

La Vampire Nue (1970) - For those of you whose French is creaky, the translation of this film title is, indeed, The Nude Vampire, which should be explanation enough for how it is we came to watch this.  I have aspirations to become something of a Eurohorror/Eurosleaze aficionado, but as of now, this is the first and only Jean Rollin film I've ever seen, Rollin being known for films that are stylized and elegant, but also messy and tedious.  La Vampire Nue is those things, exactly.  There didn't seem to be much by the way of plot, and continuity and logic were not of the highest importance to Rollin.  Costumes, color, and movement, there was plenty of, in a fascinating array.  The movie was riddled with striking, highly sexualized, totally superfluous scenes--scenes which stretched for minutes, or tens of minutes, without adding anything to the plot.  Really, this felt like a collection of arthouse softcore vignettes.  And though this is classified as horror, the horror element is incredibly downplayed.  Very little blood appears in thie movie, and only three deaths, all of which are at the hands of humans.  In fact, the end seems to suggest that Rollin had some metaphor to convey: the vampire isn't a vampire, but a mutant, the highest evolution, and it is mankind who are the vampires.  Nonsense, mostly, but visually effective nonsense.  Also, I like my weeknight movies to be ones I don't have to pay close attention to, which is why I love this subgenre so much, I must admit. 3/5 stars.

via Crypt of the Sorcerer

Hot Rod (2007) - I am a fan of the Lonely Island.  I feel like it's important for me to inform you of that, as a sort of disclaimer, because now I'm about to say something that could be kind of controversial.  Funniest movie I've seen in years.  In fact, I'd go so far as to say this is the funniest movie made in the last decade.  This is more consistently funny than Anchorman (which is mostly solid) and Hangover (which doesn't hold up on a second viewing, imho).  It's not just that this is funny.  I'm particular about comedies, and though in every day life I am a laugh slut (I'll give it up for just about anything), when watching films and stand-up routines meant to make me laugh, I'm a tough sell.  What makes Hot Rod so perfect a comedy is that while playing with the same old tropes--slapstick, manboy embarrassing himself in front of the object of his desire--it also has so many unexpected jokes.  There were so many moments in this movie when I thought I knew where a joke was going, only to be blindsided by something so strange, so silly, so pleasantly surprising and new.  Jorma Taccone, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride are each perfectly contained, in a way which doesn't allow for cheap laughs or caricatures.  These actors have been boiled down to the very essence of the sort of funny they can bring to the table, as are the periphery actors (Sissy Spacek, Ian McShane, Chris Parnell, Chester Tam).  I have only two complaints.  Will Arnett's part as the smarmy boyfriend is one I've seen a million times, and though Will Arnett does smarmy boyfriend well, it would've been nice to see him given something truly strange to do, to deviate from the stock character a bit (I'm thinking of his part as smarmy nemisis in 30 Rock).  And, lastly, Isla Fisher, (because she is a woman? because she is beautiful?) got stuck playing the straight character to all the silliness around her, which is such a terrible waste.  Isla Fisher is the only reason to watch Wedding Crashers, after all.  This is a funny actress, who doesn't mind doing ugly and crazy on screen.  It would've been nice if she, like Will Arnett, had been allowed to deviate a bit from the trope. 4/5 stars.

via Krystal NEFF

Dracula's Widow (1988) - Netflix sure is good at recommending some turds to we Wolfpeople.  (Can we blame Netflix, though, for not understanding the difference between B movies so-bad-they're-good and movies that are bad because they are boring and mediocre?  Perhaps the day a machine can tell the difference is a day I should fear, not look forward to.)  Written and directed by Nic Cage's brother, Christopher Coppola, this is the story of Raymond (Lenny von Dohlen--squirrely Harold of Twin Peaks), an eccentric waxworks creator in Hollywood.  Raymond receives an extra crate in a shipment of Dracula memorabilia for an upcoming exhibit, that extra crate being Vanessa (Sylvia Kristel of 70's softcore fame), the eponymous widow of Dracula.  As Raymond kicks back, creep-style, with a brandy snifter and a film reel showing Nosferatu (of course), Vanessa attacks him, telling him that now he belongs to her and feeding on him.  Raymond becomes a sort of Renfield slave, enthralled, terrified, repulsed, and giddy in turns.  I would be inclined to say that Lenny von Dohlen is a fair actor except that he portrayed all these same emotions, to the same degree, in almost the same order, in Twin Peaks.  Though Raymond is being made to witness Vanessa's slaughters and, in one scene, is relegated to feeding on a fish plucked raw from a creek, Raymond holds onto his humanity through his precious virginal girlfriend, Jenny, who still lives with her parents in a sort of baby doll bedroom and dresses like a school marm.  Though there is obviously a sexual element to Vanessa's hold over Raymond, it's not explored, which I think is a waste of casting an actress like Sylvia Kristel (and then dressing her, inexplicably, in an unflattering 80's power suit).  Coppola's focus, instead, is on the grotesque savagery of Vanessa.  This vampire is most certainly a monster, one who transforms into a creature (somewhat bat-like, and moreso later in the film when she fully transforms into a naked, stop-motion animated bat/human hybrid), which literally tears into its victims with elongated claws, leaving behind unrecognizable, pulpy messes.  This is, actually, my preferred version of vampire--the 30 Days of Night Vampire, who is animalistic and, undoubtedly, smells like rot.  (A note: it is possible for smell to be portrayed effective makeup and other effects; the effects in this movie are not quite at that standard but are decent enough.)  There's some nonsense about a hard-boiled cop and the gleeful grandson of Van Helsing; Coppola wanted this to feel like a film noir, but none of the narration amounts to much.  Really, this movie can be summed up in a series of cut-shots of body parts and a wimpering Raymond.  2/5 stars.

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