Tag Archives: nightmare

Wild at Heart – Review

25 Apr

I’m a huge fan of David Lynch and could realistically talk about him for an entire week straight without getting bored. When I first saw his short film The Alphabet, I didn’t really know how crazy film makers could get. Ever since then it’s been a wild ride in my attempts to find some of the most insane movies to ever have been created. This all ties back into David Lynch because he’s never let me down when it comes to mind boggling weirdness. Even The Elephant Man has some pretty strange moments, but Wild at Heart shows the same type of odd characters and situations that were present in his previous film Blue Velvet and his short lived television show Twin Peaks.

936full-wild-at-heart-poster

Lula (Laura Dern) and Sailor (Nicolas Cage) are two young people in love who are torn apart when Sailor kills a man trying to protect himself and Lula. This entire attack was organized by Lula’s psychotic and overly protective mother, Marietta Fortune (Diane Ladd), who forbids Lula from seeing Sailor when he gets out of prison. Of course, Lula disobeys her mother and runs off with Sailor as soon as he gets out with dreams of moving to California. As the two lovers spend their time making love and speeding down the highways, Marietta hires her private detective boyfriend Johnnie Farragut (Harry Dean Stanton) to track them down, but she also hires her other boyfriend, a gangster named Marcellus Santos (J.E. Freeman) to kill Sailor when he is found. Lula and Sailor have other problems, however, as they follow their version of the Yellow Brick Road into a small Texas town that makes hell seem comfortable. Problems that threaten to tear their beautiful relationship apart.

Wild at Heart shows a cool transition between the older style of David Lynch with films like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet and his later works like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. It has the same dirty characters and brutal violence seen in the early films and the trippy sequences and the more oddball characters of his later movie. While this movie does act as a bridge between the older and the newer David Lynch, it doesn’t quite have the intensity and mystery of his other films. As many strange characters and scenes there are in this movie, it doesn’t have the most fun aspect of David Lynch movies: figuring out what it all means.

WildAtHeart_PUB05

Wild at Heart is certainly a romance, except seen through the twisted eyes of David Lynch, much like how Danny Boyle’s  A Life Less Ordinary had a more frenetic view on romance. The style of this movie is very effective, and really is the coolest part of the movie. The jazz music mixed with the heavy metal music Sailor and Lula listen to combined with the rockabilly attitude of Sailor is just ludicrous in a way that only David Lynch could pull off. The supporting cast that I didn’t mention in my synopsis really contribute to that insane “Lynchian” factor. Crispin Glover’s small role is memorable, even though he has three lines of dialogue at best. Returning players who’ve worked with Lynch before include Sheryl Lee in a small part as the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz, Jack Nance as a crazy rocket scientist, and Isabella Rossellini as a criminal who has a shady past with Sailor. The scene stealer in this movie is Willem DaFoe as an off the wall hit man/bank robber named Bobby Peru. Everything from his outfit to the way he talks is completely ridiculous, creepy, and hilarious in the darkest sort of way.

Out of all of David Lynch’s movies that I’ve seen, Wild at Heart is one of my least favorites. I do love the style and the crazy romance, but it doesn’t have elements that made other films in Lynch’s filmography as memorable as they are. The plot seemed to be on the straight and narrow the entire way through, with only scenes that broke up the predictability of it all. The word “predictable” is a weird way to describe a movie of this film maker, but the plot seemed to follow a pretty straight line. There were small moments that shocked me and made me laugh, but as a whole it moved in a pretty normal way which I don’t want to see when I put on a movie made by David Lynch.

The video above shows the awesome first scene of Wild at Heart, and the insanity really doesn’t slow down at all. Lynch even made the slower parts of the movie feel really weird and nightmarish. Unfortunately, the plot wasn’t as interesting as the smaller scenes that were in the movie. The soundtrack and the performances were great and David Lynch’s entire style make this movie still really, really cool. Looking at it in terms of Lynch’s entire filmography, it doesn’t quite hold up to Lynch’s masterpieces like EraserheadBlue Velvet, and Mulholland Drive. Still, if you’re a fan of David Lynch or movies that make you feel very weird, Wild at Heart is still a hellish road trip worth taking.

Advertisements

Inland Empire – Review

11 Aug

Recreating nightmares and mental decay is not an easy task, but David Lynch has always stepped up to the challenge. EraserheadLost Highway, and Mulholland Drive all have the same nightmarish feeling, as if you might fall asleep later that night and have a dream that plays out exactly like these movies. Of all of Lynch’s films, I feel like Inland Empire encompasses his career perfectly and really makes you feel like you are part of a nightmare. That being said, this isn’t his best film, but it certainly can be said that this might be the strangest movie I have ever seen.

Inpos

Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an actor whose time in the spotlight has ended, so when she lands a roll that might restart her career, she is ecstatic. The film is called On High in Blue Tomorrows and is being directed by Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) and her costar is Devon Burke (Justin Theroux), a man with quite a conspicuous sex life. As she gets deeper and deeper into her character, and her relationship with her costar seems to be getting closer, Nikki starts losing track of what is happening first, now, and later. Soon she can’t even begin to tell her life from the character’s leading to a complete psychological breakdown.

I’ve been putting off this review for a little while because the thought of reviewing a David Lynch movie and really giving it justice is a little intimidating. Much like his other movies, Inland Empire has many different interpretations and themes to explore, and everyone’s view of the whole can be very different. The first time through, it may seem like this movie makes absolutely no sense, but in the days to come and you think about it more, or even watch it again, things in the movie start to piece together and an idea will begin to form. Like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, I found Inland Empire to be quite frustrating.

una-scena-di-inland-empire-45944

 

All interpretation aside, I have to say that I have a newfound respect for Laura Dern as an actor. Her performance demands a lot, from screaming and crying to manic laughing and then to calmness, maybe all in one scene. I can imagine that David Lynch is not the easiest director to work with, being in his own head and all, and even Dern has said that she isn’t entirely sure what the movie is about. Justin Theroux has said the same thing. Imagine acting on a movie where you really don’t know what it is about. That’s a tricky thing to do but they both pull it off very well and pull you into the “story,” despite how difficult it is.

This is where the review might get a little spoiler-ish because I want to talk about things in the film. You have been warned. Ok. In my opinion, Inland Empire is the story of a woman who is struggling to find a character that she is unable to tap into. Much like in Black Swan, she gets so obsessed with finding the character, that she sees herself becoming the character. At first it starts with scenes where we don’t know it’s the movie within a movie until the end of the scene to the point where nothing is really decipherable. This leads to the nightmarish world of Nikki’s mind. There’s still a lot that I’m not sure about, like the woman watching the television and the rabbit sit-com that we keep seeing. This just means the I’m going to have to watch it again.

500full

 

I can’t really say if Inland Empire is good or bad. It’s sort of one of those movies that redefines your definition of a good or bad movie. I will say that Inland Empire is art, through and through, but saying it’s entertaining wouldn’t be doing it justice. This is a terribly uncomfortable experience that you can’t help but staying focused on it, no matter how difficult it is. Fans of David Lynch will love his deepest, darkest trip into the fractured human mind, but anyone looking for a narrative that makes perfect sense will find no happiness with Inland Empire.

Gozu – Review

17 Feb

There are movies that exist that make me thankful to live in the world that I do. A good portion of these films fall into the sub genre of surrealism. Gozu, directed by horror icon Takashi Miike, is an example of a movie that pushes this genre to its limits and creates a blurred line between comedy and nightmarish terror. Is it the best this style has to offer, probably not, but it certainly has its fair share of memorable moments and insanity to keep your attention.

Gozu_Poster

Minami (Yûta Sone) is given a very difficult order by his yakuza boss to kill his mentor and best friend, Ozaki (Shô Aikawa), after it’s become clear that he’s gone off the deep end. After accidentally completing his task, all that is left is to dispose the body at the yakuza dump. All is going fine until Minami discovers that Ozaki’s body is missing from the car. In his odyssey through a Japanese suburban hell to find the body gets stranger and stranger, Minami begins to question his morals, his relationships, and his own sanity.

I consider myself an individual who loves surrealism, being a fan of film makers like David Lynch and Luis Buñuel. Gozu is certainly surrealism to its core, and for that I was pleased. The film still seems a bit off in a bad way. There were times where things got really weird and were supposed to be “interesting,” but I found myself checking the time or playing with my cat. This mostly happened in the scenes involving the motel employees, as strange as they were. Strange doesn’t always mean interesting though. It’s all about the execution and the overall atmosphere of the scene.

Gozu01

 

There are still really great scenes of nightmarish surrealism. One of my favorite, and I think hysterical, scenes is when Minami goes into a diner and there’s a man talking on the phone saying the same thing about the weather over and over again. It’s not the most bizarre thing to happen, but it had me laughing and scratching my head at the same time. The goat head’s scene should really be recognized as an excellent piece of horror, if you can call it that. Finally, and I think most importantly, there is the most unconventional birth scene I have ever seen. Forget The Fly. This is the hardcore shit.

A thought that I had after Gozu was over was that there is no way that it would pass here in America. Sure, there are people who’ll get it on DVD and enjoy it, but if it was ever released in main stream theaters, people would be running home to their mommies and daddies. This might sound condescending, but I don’t mean it that way. What I’m trying to say is that America has become so strict with its censorship and its apparent laziness when it comes to certain summer blockbusters. There’s rehash after rehash of old shows or remakes of classic films when there’s films like Gozu that may never see the light of day.

043919H3

 

Like most of Takashi Miike’s work, Gozu is not a very easy film to get through both because of its form and context. It looks very cheaply made when it comes to image quality, even though the special effects look really cool. This certainly isn’t my favorite of Miike’s work and isn’t my favorite surrealist film. It sometimes relished too much in its own bizarre nature, when it was actually starting to get a little boring. Luckily there were excellent scenes in-between that made up for its uneven pacing. If you’re new to Takashi Miike, start with something else like Audition. If you enjoy movies that transport you to a world that you’re more than ready to leave when the film is over, and you can appreciate Miike’s low budget filming style, than you should check out Gozu. Good, but not great.

Vampyr – Review

12 Jan

An unusual feeling washes over me during each viewing of Vampyr. It’s a feeling I get after waking up from a bad dream and I start piecing together everything that happened, even though it doesn’t make too much sense. Like my bad dream, this film follows a different sort of logic. It’s a type of logic that only exists to disorient and confuse. Vampyr may not have the best plot or characters, but that’s not really what the movie is about. It’s about a superstition brought to life or it’s about a man experiencing a real life nightmare. Whatever it is, it can not be forgotten.

Vampyr1932

Allan Grey (Julian West), a man very interested in the paranormal, arrives in the village of Courtempierre and finds a lot more than he thought he would ever come across. Dancing shadows lead Allan to a mansion where the master of the house (Maurice Schutz) is shot and his daughter is afflicted by a mysterious ailment. Grey begins reading a book left by the deceased master in which he learns of the vampire, a evil being who survive on the blood of the living. Matters are made worse when the village doctor (Jan Hieronimko) arrives and corrupts the young woman even more. Allan is forced to face the terror to save the girl and her family from the curse of the vampire.

From the very beginning of the movie, the viewer is bombarded with strange imagery and creepy figures who serve a purpose unknown, and will never be figured out. Like the purposes of these mysterious figures, the whole universe of the movie is hard to figure out. The story starts almost immediately, and we along with Allan have to slowly try to piece together everything that is happening. Too bad it’s like trying to piece together a nightmare that you had when you were sick with a 102 degree fever.

vampyr2

 

I find the special effects in this movie much more interesting than the big blockbuster films of today. For 1932, these effects are out of this world. The most impressive scene is a party of dancing shadows that seem to fill an entire wall. To this day, I can not figure out Dreyer pulled this off so well. The other effects are also brilliantly executed, including one character having an out of body experience that was shocking the first time I saw it. I don’t know if I would call this a “special effect”, but to create the otherworldly atmosphere, a thin layer of gauze was put over the lens. That would be easy to fix in post production nowadays, but back then I can certainly recognize the ingenuity.

Speaking of ingenuity, let’s talk about the camera work. The panning and tracking shots are so precise and interesting, especially compared to the quicker editing style of the 20s and 30s. Instead, Dreyer prefers the long shot method and instead of cutting he simply pans to or tilts. It certainly fits better with the slow pace of the movie and is easy to love. This is also a very early sound film, and this is both good and bad. It’s bad because the audio when someone (rarely) talks sounds pretty terrible. I will say that it does kind of add an unintended creepiness to the entire movie.

vampyr460

 

I would put Vampyr in my top 5 favorite movies for a number of different reasons. It’s creepy atmosphere has held up great for the entire 81 years it has been around, and the audio/visual advancements that this movie displays are beautiful. If you aren’t a fan of silent films or films that have a pretty loose plot, than Vampyr probably isn’t for you. If you can enjoy these kinds of movies, than Vampyr is one of the best of its kind.

 

 

Eraserhead – Review

13 Jul

David Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time and a huge influence for me. He is the writer/director of films such as Mulholland DriveLost Highway, and Blue Velvet to name a few. He is also the creator of the cult classic television show, Twin Peaks. Every great director has their start somewhere, and David Lynch’s was with his 1977 surrealist film, Eraserhead.

Henry Spencer (Jack Nance) is a quiet man who is trying to survive in an industrial wasteland where even a walk home from the grocery store is dangerous. Life for Henry gets even more complicated when his girlfriend, Mary X (Charlotte Stewart) gives birth to his mutant child, born with a small head, a pencil-like neck, and no arms or legs. Night after night, Henry is forced to listen to this baby cry nonstop, with only the Woman in the Radiator (Laurel Near) to give him comfort through song and the Beautiful Girl Across the Hall (Judith Ann Roberts) to satisfy his sexual fantasies.

I knew that this was going to be a strange movie because of my past experience with the twisted stories of David Lynch. Everything I’ve seen by him so far is far from normal, but Eraserhead is so distanced from reality that I was left speechless. The best way I can describe this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it is that it is the equivalent of a live action nightmare. Things happen that aren’t explained, but are horrifying. Images are warped to the point of being terrifying. And, of course, darkness hides our fears leaving the worst to our imaginations.

An interesting about the filming of Eraserhead was that it was done periodically over the course of five years due to funding and technical issues. There is one scene that I need to look for next time I watch it where Jack Nance opens the door and you can actually see how he aged when the door opens. I also read that Nance kept his hair the same for those 5 years. Not so easy with hair like that.

Back to the aesthetics of the movie, I’d like to talk about a major part of this movie: the lighting. A lot of the cinematography is done in the noir style, filling the screen with intense whites and blacks. The lighting is rarely soft, with hard light the accentuates what the audience should be looking at or to reveal every detail of a subject. This works well for the movie, as I said before, by hiding a lot of what is seemingly frightening. There is one scene in particular at the end where the lights are flickering on and off, and what we are trying to see in truly unbelievable.

Almost, if not equally, as important is the sound design. There isn’t a whole lot of talking in this film, so the sound has to be done right in order to keep the viewer interested. Luckily, Lynch has created a haunting ambient soundtrack that is guaranteed to send shivers down spines. It’s hard to comment on the acting since there isn’t much talking and the actions aren’t done in the silent era kind of way, but more downplayed. I can say that Nance is perfect for Henry, and plays him with both love and fear.

Surrealism isn’t for everyone which is totally understandable. Many people have given their interpretations, but David Lynch says he hasn’t heard a correct one yet. I, personally, view it as a growing fear against parenthood, especially when unexpected and unprepared, but there is so much more to this movie than that. That being said, this Eraserhead requires many, many viewings before (if) it can be understood. This is one of my new favorite movies and, to anyone brave enough, I recommend it.