Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Brothers Bloom

Title: The Brothers Bloom
Director: Rian Johnson
Released: 2008
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Adrien Brody, Rachel Weisz, Rinko Kikuchi, Robbie Coltrane, Maximillian Schell, Ricky Jay

Plot: Stephen (Ruffalo) and Bloom (Brody) are brothers and career con artists who travel the world with their largely mute sidekick Bang Bang (Kikuchi) working every more intricate schemes to swindle millionares. Having tired of the life Bloom decides he wants out only to be drawn into one final scheme to swindle the eccentric New Jersey heiress Penelope (Weisz), who he soon finds himself unexpectedly falling for.

Review: Thanks to some pretty horrible distribution this film unsurprisingly slipped under the radar for most people, as despite being the follow up to director Johnson’s critically acclaimed neo-noir debut “Brick” here in the UK it seemed to constantly be subjected to continual delays in its theatre release before eventually shuffling onto DVD with zero fanfare. Despite this Johnson continued to direct other projects mainly in TV most notably for “Breaking Bad” before the release of his hi-concept time travel thriller “Looper”.

Once again bringing a modern twist to a classic setting, here Johnson shoots the film with retro styling while throwing in the occasional modern element to remind us that the events are actually happening in modern times than the 1940’s styling would have you believe it’s set in, with Johnson unsurprisingly admitting to find inspiration for the film from the likes of “Paper Moon” and “The Sting”. At the same time he once again proves himself in procession of an eye for interesting characters as he once again gives us a cast of colourful and interesting characters.

At the centre of the story the two brothers are great characters thanks to Brody and Ruffalo alongside Weisz and Kikuchi embodying their roles, with the chemistry being Brody and Ruffalo being especially believable as the brothers who skills have kept them isolated from the outside world, to the point where Bloom feels that he doesn’t know who he is anymore from the years he’s spent playing various roles in the schemes concocted by his older brother. Together they fill in for the others shortcomings to form a strong team with their sidekick Bang Bang handling the more specialised aspects of their schemes or precisely blowing things up. Bang Bang of course is classic creation and one which could easily have stolen the film from the leads, as barely says a word throughout the film communicating via simple gestures which never fail to express what she is feeling at any given moment, even at time carrying on whole conversations as seen by when she questions Blooms sexual activities from the previous night. Still Kikuchi with her interesting outfit choices and real talent for visual comedy truly owns this role and left me truly wanting to see more of this character.

Rounding out the foursome is Penelope another colourful character thanks to her habit of collecting hobbies ranging from playing the harp and photography to the more random such as kung-fu and juggling chainsaws to help her cope with her self-imposed isolation. Of course this makes her the perfect mark for the brothers latest scheme which sees them posing as antique smugglers attempting a steal a rare book in Prague which Penelope is more than participate in. Weisz brings a great energy to the role even spending time learning to look like she knew how to do the assorted hobbies Penelope has amassed including playing the banjo, violin, guitar, piano, aswell as juggling, break dancing, skateboarding and giraffe unicycling. Help with the skateboarding and rap skills would surprisingly come from Brody who is surprisingly proficient in both skills. Sadly I was unable to find any footage of any of these training sessions as personally I never knew the guy had such skills, but then I didn’t know that Owen Wilson could skateboard either until her showed up in the Spike Jonze directed skateboard movie “Yeah Right”.

Always a fan of twist here, this proves to be the undoing for Johnson who seemingly got caught up with the colourful characters who appear throughout that the plotting became kind of secondary. The main issue being with the actual plot that Stephen devises that ultimately becomes so overly complex that it becomes far too confusing at times to follow and understand the roles which everyone plays or what the actual objective really is. This confusion is only added to by what is essentially an extended cameo by Robbie Coltrane whose star power makes his character ultimately seem far more significant than he really is and really the kind of role which should have been given to perhaps an actor of lower status, not that it isn’t of course nice as always to see Coltrane as always.

Maximillian Schell in what would ultimately be his final role adds a touch of villainy to the proceedings as their former mentor Diamond Dog, though thanks to his sporadic appearances and lack of any real development comes off weaker than I would have liked especially when he is supposed to be the films big evil, though ends up coming off as a morality comparison, to make the brothers schemes seem less evil by comparison.

While the film is full of Johnson's usual visual flair especially when it comes to his eye for the smaller details which frequently add to scenes throughout the film, its just a shame especially when he I giving us such fun characters that the plot is frequently so confused that it stops me from recommending this film more, but as a flawed watch you can do worse.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Jingle All The Way 2

Title: Jingle All The Way 2
Director: Alex Zamm
Released: 2014
Starring: Larry the Cable Guy, Brian Stepanek, Santino Marella, Kennedi Clements, Kristen Robek, Rachel Hayward, Matty Finochio, Eric Breker, Brenda Crichlow, Alex Zamm

Plot: Divorced dad Larry (Larry the Cable Guy) is on the hunt for a Harrison Bear the must have toy for his daughter Noel (Clements), only to soon find himself in direct competition with her wealthy stepfather Victor (Stepanek).

Review: This sequel has certainly been a long time in the works coming 18 years after the original film, which saw Arnie showcasing his usual action hero antics only within a family movie setting and while it might have been critically mauled on its release it has over years built a notable cult following making the fact that we now have this film none the less surprising.

Directed by Alex Zamm whose spent most of his career churning out direct to DVD sequels, the film is interestingly also a co-production with “WWE Studios” who have now moved from their original template of putting wrestlers into leading roles for their productions and now instead use their roster in supporting roles for the majority of their output bar a couple of exceptions such as “The Marine” series and the forthcoming “The Condemned 2 which have stuck to the original template. So with this film we get Santino Marella (minus his trademark Italian accent) playing the sidekick to bumbling redneck Larry.

Sadly Arnie choose not to come back for the sequel dashing any hopes we might have had in seeing a round two between him and Sinbad which in a perfect world would have been in giant furby costumes, but alas it was sadly not to be. So instead we have Larry playing….well Larry a character which is not too much of a stretch from his usual antics as he plays the fun loving and terminally laid back father, who shares a great relationship with his daughter, even with his questionable approach to parenting as seen with the film opening with his questionable approach to a healthy breakfast (Cheetos and twinkies). At the same time he has a great relationship with his ex-wife, let alone everyone he encounters, but still it is nice to see a more modern look on the divorced parent’s scenario, than the usual my ex-wife is a bitch. I do have to question how we are supposed to believe that these two were ever married especially considering how polar opposite they are yet alone the fact that she would ever except going to sizzler on her honeymoon as Larry proudly proclaims.

Plot wise the film is none to different from the first with Larry dashing about trying to find a Harrison bear, which seemingly is a furrier version of the “Good Guy Doll” from “Child’s Play” as it interacts with the child and learns their name etc, only with none of the downsides of being possessed by the spirit of a serial killer. However unlike the first film here the toy is in plentiful supply which would have made this a much shorter film, had it not been for Noel’s wealthy stepfather who uses his fortune made from cardbox boxes which it would seem are surprisingly lucrative, seeing how he is able to buy up every Harrison bear in town as part of his “Operation: Who’s The Daddy” scheme which I’m not sure if it means the same stateside, but here in the UK certainly has a more raunchy meaning. Stepanek while for the most part in the role is pretty much seems to be going through the motions of your typical direct to DVD villain only minus any kind of real threat and at the same time lacking in the smugness that Phil Heartman brought to fill this void that the lack of threat brings, even though his surprisingly more threatening head of security does a pretty good job.

I’ve not had a lot of experience with the work of Larry the Cable Guy and only recently found out while researching for this review that he is also the voice of Mater in “Cars” but here he certainly seems to be channelling the same fun energy that Jim Varney brought to his “Ernest” movies even if Larry does seem to embrace the same love of over the top disguises, with the closest to this being when he pretends to be homeless to get a bear at a toy drive, which while kind of questionable does at least see Larry question his actions. The majority of the film though is spent concocting increasingly more hair brained schemes, such as a failed attempt to put together his own festive lights display or even more randomly trying to bring snow down from the mountains. Its only made more random by the willingness for other people (mainly Claude) are to help him with them.

The humour throughout is largely slapstick with a spattering of forced humorous moments but compared to the live action of Disney its certainly miles ahead even if its lingering around the same comedy level of most frat comedies, making it not a bad way to waste away some time over the festive season. Ultimately though this does pale in comparison to the superior original whose inventiveness let alone star power helped raise it well above the level of your usual festive vehicle so it was always going to be a hard film to beat but compared to the current crop of festive movies this is certainly one of the better efforts and it certainly made me smile while equally making me hope that we see more film work by Santino Marella.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Nutcracker In 3D

Title: The Nutcracker In 3D
Director: Andrei Konchalovsky
Released: 2009
Starring: Elle Fanning, Charlie Rowe, John Turturro, Frances De La Tour, Aaron Michael Drozin, Nathan Lane, Richard E. Grant, Julie Vysotskaya
Plot: Set in 1920s Vienna where nine-year old Mary (Fanning) is given a Nutcracker doll by her uncle Albert (Lane) which is brought to life via her imagination. Together they travel to a magical dimension were toys are human and where the evil Rat King (Turturro) and his army threaten to overthrow humanity.

Review: A favourite of my good friend Emily, who it seems is on a one woman campaign to champion the hell out of this movie, not because it is any good but more because of how spectacularly awful it is, as she highlighted when she came on the podcast recently for the "Alt. Christmas Special" so really it was only a question of time before I gave in to temptation and watched it. One of the equally fascinating aspects of this film is that it was a pet project of Director Konchalovsky who is best known for “Runaway Train” and “Tango and Cash” and would spend over 20 years trying to get it developed though having seen the end results there is an overwhelming feeling that you kind of wished he hadn’t bothered.
One of the main problems with this film (and there are certainly more than a few) is that its tone is so confused it’s hard to tell if Konchalovsky had anyone else in mind other than himself when it came to his target audience, as here we have scenes of childlike fantasy slotted alongside holocaust and fascist imagery, which only becomes more confusing when the plotting is so sporadic and loosly strung together that your never quite sure what it is your watching, much less if the script actually existed to begin with or were the actors just being given notes on how to play things.
Of course things take a turn for the strange pretty early on, as the traditional setting is mixed up with the introduction of Uncle Albert who is none other than the world renown physicist Albert Einstein. Why him? Who knows as like so many aspects of this film it is never explained, but here he is and atleast played by Lane with some element of fun and perhaps a hint of Mary Poppins. Randomly breaking the fourth wall when the urge grabs him for no reason other than to seemingly highlight well nothing it would seem he is also the most interesting character in the film especially when bursting into a song about his theories of relativity… I mean who knew he was so musical?
Rivalling him though has to be the truly insane rat king portrayal by Turturro who equally seems to also be having the most fun here, whose fascist regime comes with some worrying comparisons to the Nazi’s especially as he commands his creates pyres of toys to burn in his factories to block out the sun as part of his great plans for world domination. At the same he emphases his evil nature by bursting into “Cabaret” inspired song and dance inspired routines, including one which climaxes in him electrocuting his own pet shark! Still not sure about the logic of this move whether it was to lose the Bond villain comparisons or generally just further emphasise his evil nature. As such it ends up yet another random plot point and one of the shopping list of things which is never explained so done with any kind of rational reasoning.
Still if this wasn’t bad enough his face also warps into a demonic rat head when he gets angry which was kind of shocking to myself so god knows what the kids made of those scenes, as after all this is supposed to be a family film. This is of course only topped by him random decapitating the Jamaican drummer boy before tossing the head around in a warped game of catch. Okay the Jamaican boy is supposed to be a toy brought to life like the rest of this world inhabitants, but seeing how they don’t resemble anything toy like, its hard to see this as anything other abit of gratuitous (yet blood free) violence.
The majority of the music is taken from Tchaikovsky’s original music for “The Nutcracker” which then have lyrics added by none other than Broadway legend Tim Rice. That’s right kids the same guy who is responsible for giving us the likes of Evita and The Lion King was also involved in this creative car crash. Clearly he never saw the “Star Wars Holiday Special” as he would have known have that adding words to popular classics never turns out well, I mean who could forget Carrie Fisher warbling about life day to the Star Wars theme?!? Still regardless of his song writing credentials the songs here vary between forgettable and annoying with some even managing to straddle the two.

Too weird for mass consumption and too tedious for the most part for the open minded, this is the kind of movie that you watch with the intention of generally tearing it apart and making your own amusement from as to watch it in a more traditional sense is just sheer madness as this is one dream project which is just more of a nightmare while leaving you no doubt feeling that the twenty plus years he waited to make it weren’t nearly long enough!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Bad Santa

Title: Bad Santa
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Released: 2003
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Brett Kelly, Lauren Graham, Lauren Tom, Bernie Mac, John Ritter

Plot: Conman and safecracker Willie (Thornton) and his dwarf partner Marcus (Cox) seemingly have the perfect con. Posing as a shopping mall Santa the pair case each mall in preparation of Christmas Eve when they rob the stores within. However their plans threaten to come undone when Willie’s numerous vices look set to consume him.

Review: Probably the best known of Zwigoff’s back catalogue no doubt that’s to the controversy which is always surrounds painting Santa in anything but the traditional light and Thronton’s performance as the titular Bad Santa is certainly no exception. Here he gives us a truely morally devoid character who cheats, steals and spends most his time blind drunk, which really is kind of for starters as he constantly seems to find new lows to sink to.

Needless to say Zwigoff here is hardly giving us a film full of Christmas cheer or well much of any kind of cheer to be honest as this is a black comedy in only the darkest shades as here he unleashes a side which even the established fans weren’t expecting as was certainly the case for myself who was left kind of shell shocked by what I had just watched which honestly doesn’t seem to lessen even with repeated viewings, as Zwigoff positively refuses to lighten up the character of Willie and instead plunges him only into lower and often frequently more deprived depths.

Still things are not all doom and gloom as we do get the great scenes of Willie going through the
motions under his Santa guise, sarcastically responding to the lists wheeled off my the children who come to visit him completely unaware of his real intentions, much less his blatant lack of interest in anything they are saying and generally giving foul mouthed and sarcastic responses when he does. True the film could have worked without the hidden criminal intensions and instead just focused on Willie doing the job as bad as he does.

While his actions might question even the most hardened believer it seemingly doesn’t deter Thurman, an overweight kid aswell as hardly the shiniest pebble in the pile judging by his firm belief that Willie is in fact the real Santa. It’s a situation that of course Willie is more than happy to take advantage of as he sets up home in Thurman’s house where he’s lives with his senile grandmother who spends most of the film in a seemingly catatonic state. At the same time he also brings with him his girlfriend of sorts Sue (a highly underrated Lauren Graham) who has her own unique love of Santa. Of course the relationship between Thurman and Willie frequently provides many of the film’s most cringe worthy moments as Thurman makes constant offers of sandwiches while at the same time never showing the slightest hint of emotion to any of Willie’s foul outbursts he unleashes on him, while Thurman’s clear lack of any kind of contact or social interaction makes kind of sad to watch him being treated in such a way, especially when Willie is essentially supposed to be the guy we are supposed to be wanting to pull himself out of his self-destructive slump. However when faced with Willie stealing the chocolate from Thurman’s advent calendar after a particular heavy binge session it’s hard to not despair slightly, especially when it seems that Zwigoff is doing everything possible it seems to challenge the audiences love for this character.

Perhaps it’s only because the other characters in the film are as equally corrupt that we can view Willie as the lesser of the numerous evils on show here, with Marcus clearly only using Willie for his safecracking skills let alone the fact that he holds a certain amount of control over him being his only source of income despite his initial promises to go straight after the heist they pull at the start of the film, only for Willie as Marcus predicts to drink it away by the following Christmas leaving him back in the same position he was before. At the same time the duo now also have to deal with the attentions of security boss Gin (Mac) who despite initially following up on the suspicions of the prudish mall manager Bob (Ritter) soon sees an opportunity to get in on the score as he launches his campaign of blackmail against them.

Unquestionably this is Thornton’s movie who steals every scene he’s in which isn’t too hard when he’s either unleashing some foul mouth tirade (over 300 curse words to be exact while the director’s cut adds an additional 286!) or generally just fowling himself. How much of this was method though remains to be seen, especially when Thornton openly admits to spending most of filming actually drunk. Still considering Bill Murray and Jack Nicolson were also in the running for the role, only to drop out due to commitments to over roles, but now to imagine anyone else in the role. Frustratingly the rest of the cast are more hit and miss with John Ritter in what would sadly be his final performance coming off more awkward thanks to some horrible dialogue seemingly written to highlight his neurotic nature, only for it to frequently prove to be a source of irritation, while Bernie Mac is as funny as you generally find him as he wheels out his usual comedy style.

Honestly though even as a big fan of Zwigoff’s work I found this one hard going, mainly because of how dark a comedy it is and more so when Zwigoff is so unrelenting in how far he takes the film to such dark places that it would make even Todd Solondz question if he’d taken it too far. At the same time when this film works it really does and it’s a shame that the few outstanding moments are so drowned out by the darker ones. As such I would recommend watching it with at least something lighter on standby as chances are you’re going to need it by the end of this one.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Elwood's Essentials #9 - Gremlins

Title: Gremlins
Director: Joe Dante
Released: 1984
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Frances Lee McCain, Corey Feldman, Dick Miller, Jackie Joseph, Polly Holliday, Howie Mandel

Plot: When Billy’s father (Axton) gives him a mogwai for Christmas a fuzzy little creature called Gizmo (Mandel) with a simple set of rules. However when Billy (Galligan) accidently breaks these rules he unwittingly unleashes a horde of anarchy loving monsters.

Review: I think every critic has that one film which sparked their love of cinema and which inturn set them on their path of film criticism. For myself I would have to say it is would be this film, which I saw back in a time when your parents would take you to the video store and allow you to rent a film, which always used to come with that wonderful feeling of knowing that this tape was yours for the whole weekend and in turn would lead to you spending the weekend watching the same film over and over. It was of course through one of these weekends while staying at my grandparents, who remarked that I’d seen this film so many times I could no doubt write the script. This of course would prove to be all the inspiration I would need and over the course of the next few days I sat at my grandfather’s typewriter and churned out what I thought was the script but in all honestly could better be described as a junior novelisation of the film, which my grandfather would later illustrate the borders of with sketches of Gizmo and various gremlins. It would be from here that I would only continue my love of writing before eventually moving into film criticism when I started media studies, but there has always has been something about this film which has caused it to never lose its charm even after countless viewings.

It strange that a film which falls pretty firmly between horror and black comedy is so regularly viewed as family entertainment, no doubt due to the adorable presence of Gizmo and the Muppet like antics of his slimy evil offspring which meant that so many kids in my school saw it even if their parents were normally more conservative about what they let them watch. This tactic honestly made zero difference as these kids tended to just go and watch the movies their parents wouldn’t let them watch at the house of some kid whose parents weren’t so fazed by such things. This is only made the more confusing when consider that the fact the film features more than a few gooey moments of gore.
In many ways a throwback to the likes of “Abbott and Costello Meet The Wolfman” in which it perfectly balances horror and comedy, so that when it’s supposed to be scary it is actually scary, while the comedy elements it’s safe to say are probably what has helped it maintain such a legacy and part of why Dante choose to up the comedy for the sequel. Dante though likes to make broad strokes with the comedy elements as he combines simple slapstick moments frequently curtesy of Billy’s inventor father and his useless inventions which usually comes with messy outcomes. At the same time he also manages to pull off more subtle sight gags as seen in both the bar and cinema sequences, which only reward repeated viewing, especially with the cinema sequence which has so many fun details scattered throughout, while the sight of hundreds of gremlins taking a break from the chaos to sing –a-long to “Hi-Ho” from “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs” still brings a goofy grin to my face even now.   

No doubt another reason the film continues to last is the sheer likability of the characters, starting with the strong family unit who are truly believable as a family something seemingly lost in films after the 80’s. Billy also makes for the right combination of wholesome charm and common man bravado so that he is a believable hero, even if he finds himself frequently being bettered by the creatures, as none more clearly seen in his shopping mall showdown with the head Gremlin Spike where he spends most of it being assaulted by the vicious little sod. The other reason unquestionably is the overwhelming cuteness of the good Mogwai Gizmo, voiced by a pre “America’s Got Talent” judge Howie Mandel, who despite not speaking only a couple of words in English outside of his frenzied babble never fails to express himself, even if we never know why he such a stickler for following the rules which stop him turning into a gremlin aswell.

Interesting through the original script would have made for a much darker movie than the final film, as it saw not only Billy’s mother being killed, but also his dog being eaten by the gremlins and more shockingly Gizmo turning into a gremlin and turning into the stripe. A large number of these changes came at the request of executive producer Steven Spielberg while director Dante clearly knew which battles to pick as he fought to keep the darker view of the holiday season which Kate (Cates) has as she not only references holiday related suicides but also the dark tale of her father’s death as the result of trying to climb down the chimney while dressed as Santa which Dante stubbornly refused to remove as he argued that it represented the film as a whole. True her darker moments went over the heads of kids who watched the film who if they were anything like myself were too distracted with the fun gremlin antics, but rewatching the film now it adds a subtle dark edge to Kate’s character and rising her above the usual damsel in distress style character.

While the sequel would ultimately be more focused on upping the comedy elements, while Dante at the same time ensured that he broke the franchise in such a way that he wouldn’t be forced to produce another sequel, which currently seems to have worked despite the frequent threats of reboots which continue to float around. Dante though it would seem is still not ready to return to the series especially considering how long it took to shoot the gremlin sequences, which still stand up even now, while providing yet another great argument for the advantage of practical effects over CGI.

No matter how many times I’ve seen this film it still holds the same charm it did when I first watched it, thanks to some great performances let alone the fact it stars the always wonderful Dick Miller as the patriotic Murray Futterman who makes for such a fun double act with Jackie Joseph its little surprise that Dante brought them back for the sequel. However while this film might not be as madcap as the sequel it more than stands on its own merits with a perfect blend of horror and comedy which only begs the question as to why Joe Dante never seems to get the recognition he rightfully deserves especially here when he is clearly working at the height of his powers to craft something truly special which rises well above being another monster movie.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Title: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Director: John McNaughton
Released: 1986
Starring: Michael Rooker, Tom Towles, Tracy Arnold, Mary Demas, Kristin Finger, Anne Bartoletti, Ray Atherton, Kurt Naebig

Plot: Henry (Rooker) a nomadic serial killer embarks on a killing spree with his roommate Otis (Towles), while at the same time trying to keep up appearances when Otis’s sister Becky (Arnold) comes to stay with them.  

Review: Despite not being a part of the video nasties list produced by the ruling of the “1984 Video Recordings Act” this film none the less still managed to generate more than its fair share of controversy, were it ran afoul of the James Ferman era of the BBFC and saw the film being trimmed of 113 seconds. In fact it would take until 2003 before we saw a fully uncut version here in the UK. Thankfully now that the uncut version is readily available the film can be enjoyed in its full grimy glory, with the previous edits through the year and how detrimental they were certainly becoming obvious when you watch the film in the form it was intended to be seen even if it is frequently uncomfortable viewing to say the least.

Shot in a month on a shoestring budget of $110,000 and given the brief of making a horror film with plenty of blood, Director McNaughton found his inspiration after watching an episode of “20/20” about serial killer Henry Lee Lucas. This however is not a straightforward biopic as McNaughton instead bases the film on Lucas’ fantasies and confessions rather than the actual crimes he was convicted for, while many other similar details between the lives of the two Henry’s being altered to make them less shocking such an Otis’s sister being made older than her real life counterpart, while here Henry and Otis are noted as having met in prison rather than in a soup kitchen. Interestingly though McNaughton decides to keep Henrys’ childhood traumas almost identical to the ones described by Lucas.

Despite the link to a notorious serial killer, the film more than stands on its own even without the comparisons to real life events thanks to an incredible debut by Michael Rooker, who was an actor I’d become more accustomed to seeing playing more straightforward psychos and trashy redneck style characters than anything resembling a leading role, but here he embodies the character of Henry as he effortlessly shifts between the shy and awkward face he presents to those around him and the sadistic and quick to violence dark side. It is easy to understand while his performance was so quickly acclaimed, let alone the amount of further jobs he was offered as result of tapes being passed around while the film was being put through the censorship shears, especially when Rooker reportedly spent most of filming in character which no doubt wasn't particular fun for costume designer Patricia Hart who would carpool with Rooker to the set each day. At the same time he plays well off Towles’ unquestionably sleazy Otis who largely serves to provide a dark style of buffoonery when not trying to hit on his own sister as he takes an almost apprentice style role, while equally highlighting the limits which Henry has set for himself, even when it frequently doesn’t seem to have any.

While the violence within the film is a source of much controversy this is not a splatter happy slasher, especially when we witness only the aftermath of Henrys’ murders for the first half of the film and even then the film does with perhaps the exception of the murder of a TV salesman, McNaughton remains surprisingly restrained for these scenes, instead proving that he can shock with simply shot yet surprisingly effective imagery as more than clearly emphasised with the home invasion sequence which would suffer the most cuts over the course of its journey to its current uncut status and unquestionably it is not the easiest sequence to watch, especially when its aftermath lingers on longer than you would like after the violence has passed, while as the film switches to Henry and Otis rewatching their handiwork on video unfazed by their actions and certainly in the case of Otis who demands a rewatch a mixture of pride and amusement which carries over from the tape.

Perhaps also due to the lack of budget McNaughton was forced to restrain the gore here, which in a strange twist of fate plays in the films favour like so many of the aspects of the film which came out of pure coincident. Examples including the fact that the limited budget meant that the cast wore their own clothes, with Rooker who at the time was still working as a high school janitor taking his jacket off during the murder scenes so that he wouldn’t get blood on them, which at the same adds a sense of process to the murders he commits. Elsewhere not being able to afford extras McNaughton just used the pedestrians who happened to be on the streets when he was shooting, while the two guys arguing as Becky walks up from the subway were in fact just two guys having an argument.

Unquestionably though it is a sense of ill ease which McNaughton shoots the film with as he never allows the audience to feel at any point comfortable around these characters, with Rooker frequently coming across like he might snap at any moment into one of his violent rages, while at the same time forgoing the inclusion of any representative for the forces of right as like the title states here he is aiming solely to provide a portrait of this character and while Henry’s world starts to crumble around him at the films climax, McNaughton allows us something of a slight reprieve as he hints of salvation for Henry through the character of Becky, only to slam the door close with an ending which is nothing short of chilling.

A grimly fascinating film, which while far from an enjoyable experience is none the less an engaging one, while in many ways paving the way for the likes of “Man Bites Dog” and “Behind the Mask: The Rise of LeslieVernon” while Rookers performance remains ingrained long after the credits have rolled, with this classic example of low budget film making.
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