Spalovač mrtvol [1969)

This is one of the strangest films I’ve ever seen.

The Cremator.

Directed by Juraj Herz.

Even if you are familiar with the Czechoslovak New Wave, this film will still take you by surprise.

It is a mélange of times and themes.

And truly a horror story.

But there is a Brechtian detachment at work.

This would explain labels such as “comedy horror”.

It’s perhaps more absurd and surreal than it is funny.

But it is certainly frightening.

A very creepy piece of cinema.

Everything revolves around a crematory official/director named Kopfrkingl.

That name alone is enough to jar the most languid viewer at each pronunciation.

Historically speaking, this was not a successful film upon release.

No, it was too weird to be incorporated into the Czechoslovak communist pantheon moving forward.  And so the world would have to wait until 1989 to get a look at this thing.

The whole film feels like a dream.

A bad dream.  With some particularly vivid violence.  [Or vintage violence.]

Mr. Kopfrkingl is a truly, outrageously delusional man.

And he only becomes more so as the film goes on.

Modern viewers might notice a bit of Eric Cartman in Rudolf Hrušínský’s performance as Kopfrkingl.

Seen behind an iconic ribbon microphone, Kopfrkingl invokes the manic strains of Hitler and we feel the sick surge of idiocy grab hold of our dear cremator.

The strangest part of Kopfrkingl’s delusion is his obsession with Tibet.

It makes me wonder whether David Lynch saw this prior to Twin Peaks?

Thubten Gyatso dies, and Hitler comes to power.

1933.

Based on a novel by Ladislav Fuks, this tale must be seen to be believed.

There are short-circuit edits akin to Sidney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker. 

Indeed, director Herz is himself Jewish.

Truth be told, there have been few films which deal with the Holocaust as effectively (if obliquely) as The Cremator

Every shot of Hrušínský from the back evokes the Peter Lorre of M. 

This is a thoroughly fascinating cinematic experience.

 

-PD

The Silence of the Lambs [1991)

Wouldn’t it be neat if the FBI actually did things?

Good things.

When’s the last time the FBI actually caught a criminal?

A real criminal.

They had a lovely chance to save America.

By investigating 9/11.

And so we have been investigating the investigators.

Special Agent.

So special…

I was wrong about Twin Peaks.

Because you have to add to the propagandistic litany The X-Files.

And finally this hulking slab of mind control.

Lies can be so beautiful.

Perhaps…once upon a time…the FBI did something.

After Hoover…and before OKC.

A small window.

But let me pause for a minute and admit.

That I love this film.

It is one of the few true masterpieces of American cinema.

It stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Rosemary’s Baby.

The only real heirs to the legacy of Hitchcock.

1991.  1991.  Nineteen-ninety-one.

Does America have any honor left?

Do American troops read books?

Do military officers ever avoid the most grave corruption?

Where is the genius to save our country?

What can we learn from serial killers?

Which animals are the most clever?

At the bottom and into the middle are good men and women.

Like Clarice Starling.

Mozart’s pet bird.

A requiem.

Apocryphal.

Lachrymal vases.

My intellect is miniscule.

Our computers would have picked it up.

Desperately random.

How far can you push an old body.

How much fear can you handle?

How much panic can be breathed!

Such genius to personify.

The pathetic fallacy.  They all fawn.

But it is rather reverse reification.

Humanizing.

It.

The way of no way.

Swing hovering to deal with ambush predators.

That’s a quote.

When life mattered.

Isolation savors detail.

Real, not fake.

Hans Selye will never know.

Everything you need to know is here.

The dossier.

Two acting masterpieces.

Jodie Foster.

And Anthony Hopkins.

Once in a lifetime.

The auteurist glue?  Jonathan Demme.

What kind of game is this?

It is the biggest test.

 

-PD

Rosemary’s Baby [1968)

There are a handful of great horror movies.

Movies which came late enough to set the bar.

Although the early days of cinema were horrific.

A different style developed.

Rosemary’s Baby has a Hitchcockean subtlety to it.

And so Psycho would be the first true horror movie.

1960.

It was a new style of filmmaking.

But Roman Polanski advanced that style.

Here.

Perhaps we wouldn’t get another in this line till The Shining.

1980.

When great directors dabble in horror.

1960.  1968.  1980.

But horror is an everyman genre.

And so Tobe Hooper made a great one.

1974.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.

A progression from subtlety to overt gore.

But all these films are artful.

Silence of the Lambs resurrected that tradition.

Art.

Fear.  Terror.  Poetry.  The flowers of evil.

1960.  1968.  1974.  1980.  1991.

We feel it in Twin Peaks.

Possession.

But perhaps no film captured the essence of the occult so artfully as Rosemary’s Baby.

It is a truly terrifying film.

Spooky.

But classic.

Austere.

Every element is well-placed.

It is an art film.  But equally a spectacle.  An entertainment.

Most notably, it is a philosophic reflection upon evil.

As I’ve said…science doesn’t admit such.

The existence.

But we have to wonder.

When such powerful people believe in such mumbo jumbo.

Whether there is power or not.  In their ceremonies.

They believe.  Ostensibly.

It is a frightening prospect.

A very disturbed element of the intelligentsia.

But always…

Always.

Strive.

To understand your enemies.

 

-PD

Hard Candy [2005)

Norma Bates.

[sic]

Meets Paul Kersey.

Vigilante.

You know…

It’s not often I watch horror films.

I had a bad experience once with the schlock of the genre.

Sleepwalkers (1992).

I never really forgave Stephen King for that one.

But perhaps the story was just muffed in the inept hands of Mick Garris?

Well, whatever the case may be:  Hard Candy is compelling cinema.

Yes, charge me with the crime of our age.

The worship of youth.

Ephebophilia is hammered into our heads by the nonstop spectacle.

It is chronophilia from 15-19.  Age range.

You’re attracted to young people.

So many nuances.

There’s hebephilia.  11-14.

Perhaps it is this which is most germane to our film.

Ellen Page is a star.

Sure, it’s a bit trendy…after Monster in 2003.

But I’ve seen that one…and Hard Candy is more compelling.

Ellen Page is more compelling.

Page plays a 14-year-old named Hayley.

Such a quintessential name.  Like Caitlyn (and its derivative spellings).

Top hit?  [Sponsored content?]  Hayley Williams of the band Paramore.

Youth.

Hayley Williams.  27.  Looks plenty young.

The worship of youth.

Red hair.  Porcelain skin.  Not a wrinkle in sight.

Hayley [sic].  Peak U.S. popularity in 1990s.

Et voila!  Hayley Williams born 1988.  That’s about right.

How about Haley?  Also peaked in the 1990s.  And about three times more common than the Hayley spelling.

[This is the honors-student logic of Hayley Stark in our film.  Really a genius detail.]

Let’s try Hailey.  Oooh!  Most popular yet!  And peaked in 2005 🙂

There’s also Haylee (trailer-trash rare…peak 2009), Hayleigh (a recent trend peaking in 2011…almost with a Cajun ring to it),  and the ultra-rare Haylie (a dainty spelling which peaked in 2007).

These are the keys to the safe.

Yes, it’s a very bad day for Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson).

Hell of a performance.

To wake up with your balls in your mouth.

Not just a figurative Quantum of Solace reference.

Sure, it’s a bit like Misery with Kathy Bates.

So, see:  the Norma Bates wisecrack wasn’t so off in another way.

Let me clarify.

Hard Candy is not a great film, but it’s pretty damned good.

The direction is good.

Patrick Wilson is good.

The scenario/script is good.

Ellen Page is great.

She’s not perfect.

There’s a few moments when the tension is so ridiculous that she almost breaks character.

Not a relaxing movie.

My first “horror” review.

I love Psycho.  It’s artful.

But chasing Hitchcock down that path can be a very treacherous exercise for auteurs.

David Slade does a fine job.

This film most certainly does not suck.

But again, Hulu:  I just wanted to watch a fucking comedy.

And your dramas still blow.

Ended up in horror.

God damn, you people suck at your jobs.

 

-PD