Thursday, April 28, 2005

A Pox on All Your Houses

The best reason I can think of not to have blogged in three weeks is that I have been busy battling the vengeful, predatory haints that have been haunting my house. Dude, I almost died. Repeatedly.

Okay, for the time being, I suppose, this is technically a lie, but given that every other house around is being racked by angry spirits, I wonder how much time I've really got left in this department. Three movies this weekend, three venues, three seriously deranged abodes. No masterpieces, but no disasters, either.

The weakest of the three is easily the American remake of The Grudge, which I rented on DVD as preparation for the other two. The film makes do with the pleasing reticence and formal simplicity of mdoern Japanese horror, but the basic logic of the thing is pretty screwy (esp. once the haunting spirits start popping up all over Tokyo), and it's a shame that—calm down, Buffy fans—Sarah Michelle Gellar is such a stinkeroo actress on the big screen. If some spirit would haunt the space between Gellar's ears, at least in this movie, we might have more to say. Otherwise, the film settles in right at the midpoint of its genre, reliably unsettling but fatally cheeseball at the same time. Screamed Out Loud: Only twice, though I had some butterflies at other times.

Newly arrived on DVD is the easily superior Korean thriller A Tale of Two Sisters, which I was lucky enough to catch in a second-run 'plex. This time, the angry house is a seaside cottage, but it turns out that a country house can be just as pissed as its urban and suburban relatives. The best part of the compulsively watchable Two Sisters is its superlative sense of visual restraint. Director Kim Ji-woon and cinematographer have flawless instincts about how much to show and how much to reveal of their fearsome baddies, and yet some of the scariest shots don't have anything scary in them. Check out that backward-tracking handheld shot that lurches and pauses at odd, indifferently framed intervals—it'll take a second before you realize this is the creeeeeepy POV of someone dragging a dead body. If the screenplay for Two Sisters were as disciplined as the images, we'd really have something here, but the film's undoing is its Swimming Pool-level addiction to gratuitous layers of mystery and audience-baiting alternate realities, none of which explain nearly as much as they could, or even should. Still, when I walked out of the film and overheard a fellow patron sigh, "That sure is a fucked-up way to die," I knew exactly what she meant. Screamed Out Loud: About 7 times, twice with some vertical leap from the seat.

Finally, I hit the mall for the newly revised Amityville Horror, which can hardly be accused of too much narrative tomfoolery. In the sepia-toned prologue, they show you some truly fucked-up local history. Then, the same scenario plays out among a modern family moving into the same house, as though you didn't already know when you bought your ticket. Despite the admirable urge to ground all this horror in the lead character's nerve-wracked conscience (does he like his stepchildren? can he afford this house?), Amityville is really just a scare machine, and an increasingly silly one. Still, say this for a good ol', crass, all-on-the-surface American horror flick, especially after two nights of the more temperate Japanese aesthetic. These images really punched me in my fraidy-cat bone, particularly a sequence when li'l Michael Lutz needs to pee in the middle of the night, plus anything involving the wee sprite who lives in the closet (no, not in that sense). Screamed Out Loud: At least 12 times, and heartily.

Along with my pal Ann, I dashed straight from the 1:10 Amityville to the 3:50 Interpreter, which, as loyal readers know well, basically constitutes a mad-dash straight into the soothing arms of my husband. (I'm getting as lame as Rosie O. in the Tom Cruise days, you guys. At least I know it.) No blurting out my reactions to the Pollack movie yet, though. After three weeks of silence, I better leave myself a little more to say. But, here are some more words by way of coming Blog attractions: Interpreter. Pillowman. Eva Braun. Willy Brandt. 100 Women. Brushes with fame. Truth and reconciliation. Notes from Underground. And sweet, sweet Jane.

Stay tuned, babies.

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