Movies for a dark
and stormy night
The Howling (Joe Dante, 1981).
Despite the fact that it opened nearly eight months earlier,
Dante's tongue-in-cheek riff on wolves in human clothing was forced
to live in the shadow of that other post-modern werewolf film,
An American Werewolf In London. Regardless, The Howling
remains a worthwhile entry in the canon, thanks largely to a reference-rich
script (John Sayles and Terence H. Winkless) and some nifty effects
by a young Rob Bottin (with help from American Werewolf's own
Invasion Of The Body
Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978).
an anomaly by many, Kaufman's late 70's remake is considered by many
others (myself included) to be one of those rarest of birds--a remake
that actually improves on the original. Rather than slavishly copy Don
Siegel's 1956 classic, Kaufman and screenwriter W.D. Richter (who would
go on to pen one of my favorites--Big Trouble In Little China)
capture the essence of the original without being afraid to update it.
Though some elements of the film have dated badly (check out the tweed
jacket behind Mr. Nimoy!), the film itself has not.
(Clive Barker, 1990).
Clive Barker's follow-up to the moderately successful
Hellraiser features a deliciously twisted performance by fellow
Canadian David Cronenberg and a wonderful score by Danny Elfman before
he began bordering on cliché. Though a bit disjointed, much of
Barker's direction and script (based on his own short work "Cabal")
manage to keep things flowing while still playing thematic games with
the distinction between man and monster.
(Michael Powell, 1960).
Another film that got lost in the shuffle (anybody seen
Psycho?), Powell's intelligent psychological thriller (which
effectively ended one of Britain's greatest cinematic careers) has finally
gained some well-deserved respect. Aside from being one of film's most
piercing meditations on the nature of cinema itself, Peeping Tom
is also a fine thriller, one definitely not to be overlooked.
(Robert Harmon, 1986).
Speaking of The Hitcher, Roger Ebert said, "this
movie is diseased and corrupt...it is reprehensible." High praise
indeed. The Hitcher hits the ground running and never looks
back (though it does occasionally slow). Rutger Hauer dominates even
the scenes he's not in with a malevolent yet tortured performance as
the personification of C. Thomas Howell's worst nightmare. No matter
how over-the-top the material may get (and it does go way over
the top at times), Hauer consistently anchors it, turning your attention
away from the script's holes even as he drives his truck straight through
(Kathryn Bigelow, 1987).
Bigelow's vampire western, co-written by Hitcher
scribe Eric Red, follows a young farmer sucked in to a family of undead
and makes for an ultimately engaging, if occasionally uneven, hybrid.
The film's central setpiece, a showdown in a honky-tonk bar, is near
legendary in some circles.
The Lady In White (Frank LaLoggia,
supernatural thriller is, first and foremost, a well-told ghost story.
But LaLoggia injects a bittersweet nostalgia into the proceedings that
calls to mind the pains and pleasures of adolescence even as the main
narrative unfolds, giving the film a quiet beauty. Though some of the
film's elements are a bit dated, its charm remains unfaded.
Dead Alive (Peter Jackson, 1992)
Ten years before Jackson would strike box office gold
bringing Tolkien's epic Ring trilogy to the screen, he showcased a wicked
sense of humor and a lot of body parts in Dead Alive (aka Braindead).
Many will find it hard to sit through, but those that make it will certainly
be rewarded with one of the most offbeat and clever horror films of
the past decade. Definitely not for the weak of stomach.
©2002 Ed Owens