Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND

Only now does it occur to me... that as we prepare for the long holiday weekend, the question we must ask ourselves is, "Shall we make this weekend an OSTERMAN WEEKEND?"  The answer is, indubitably, that we should and shall not

Technically Sam Peckinpah's swansong (based on a Robert Ludlum novel), THE OSTERMAN WEEKEND is a spy thriller with one of the greatest casts ever assembled:  

Burt Lancaster (BRUTE FORCE, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, SWEET SMELL OF SUCCESS, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY) playing as close an approximation to Alexander Haig as possible without being litigious:
Rutger Hauer (BLADE RUNNER, FLESH + BLOOD, BLIND FURY) in his first role as an "American," playing a television talking-head who's plunged into cloak n' dagger intrigue:
Meg Foster (she of the famous ice-blue eyes in THEY LIVE, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, and BLIND FURY) as a bow-hunting aficionado
who is married to Rutger (so BLIND FURY was really just an OSTERMAN WEEKEND reunion?):
John Hurt (he of the velvet voice from I, CLAUDIUS; ALIEN, WATERSHIP DOWN, THE ELEPHANT MAN, and MIDNIGHT EXPRESS) as a manipulated CIA lackey
who appears from time to time inside your microwave oven:
(I know it's not really a microwave, but still)

Dennis Hopper (BLUE VELVET, EASY RIDER, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE)  as a creepy businessman with an RV (what else would he be?):
Craig T. Nelson (COACH, ACTION JACKSON) as a beefy, mustachioed man
who at one point enthusiastically strangles Rutger Hauer with a ball bat:
and Chris Sarandon (FRIGHT NIGHT, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, DOG DAY AFTERNOON) as a hot-tub frequenting, morally dubious crony.
It's no ninja hot tub, nor is it a Calamity Jane hot tub

Unfortunately, neither Peckinpah nor the amazing cast can save OSTERMAN from being the blandest of bland Cold War thrillers––it's a generic, exhausting mess that doesn't deliver in the suspense, coherence, or action departments.  The lack of compelling action is especially notable given that Peckinpah has never skimped when given the opportunity (he once said that BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA was the only film of his that didn't involve destructive studio interference).
Perhaps Peckinpah's original cut is worth our time (he was fired during post-production) but frankly, even if I could get my hands on it, I don't think I could get it up for anything OSTERMAN WEEKEND-related for a long while.
John Hurt will voice his disapproval with the most mellifluous voice in cinema.

If you're in the mood for some 80s spy action, allow me to recommend instead CLOAK & DAGGER, GOTCHA, THE FALCON AND THE SNOWMAN, or Grace Jones in A VIEW TO A KILL instead.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... NIGHTBREED

Only now does it occur to me... that in a dark, phantasmagorical carnival filled with wall-to-wall imaginative demons,


and nightmarish concepts...

that David Cronenberg would come out of left field to steal the show!

Lookin' creepy, Mr. C!

NIGHTBREED is a deeply atmospheric Clive Barker film (based on his novel CABAL) that he imagined would be the "STAR WARS" of horror movies: a multi-part epic with creature effects, a sweeping soundtrack (by Danny Elfman), heroic prophecies, beautiful matte paintings, and explosive action setpieces.

Unfortunately, it failed to recoup its budget and didn't gain much traction with critics, although over the years it has accumulated a devoted cult following. The newly remastered Director's Cut (while not incredibly different from the theatrical cut), is a generally stronger piece and, when it's over, you're left wishing there had been at least a trilogy of these movies.

Anyway––back to my enthusiastic salute to David Cronenberg's acting abilities! (Who knew?)

As psychotic psychotherapist Dr. Philip K. Decker (an homage to sci-fi author and Cronenberg hero Philip K. Dick), Cronenberg plays a near-pastiche of your typical Cronenberg villains––brilliant, perverse, detached, and clinical. Being a "closeted" outsider himself (Barker, as usual, peppers his horror with apt LGBT commentary), Dr. Decker loathes unconventional society and wishes to (literally) carve the "new flesh" off of the world.  In short, he's a soft-spoken creeper who moonlights as a terrifying, hooded slasher,

almost a proto-version of Cillian Murphy's "Scarecrow" from BATMAN BEGINS.

He has a wonderful yuppie lair where he lays out all of his knives like a Dario Argento murderer,

and he generally hypnotizes the viewer with his self-loathing and low-key menace.  It's an incredibly subtle performance, and I was left wishing that Cronenberg would use his acting abilities more often.

Interested parties may see Mr. Cronenberg ply this underrated talent in JASON X (as a doctor), ALIAS (also as a doctor), THE STUPIDS (as a postal worker), and TO DIE FOR (as a mafioso hitman!).


Monday, November 9, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... CHILD'S PLAY 3

Only now does it occur to me... that just when I thought I couldn't talk about HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH any more than I already do, it rears its beautiful head once more and they reference it in CHILD'S PLAY 3!

CHILD'S PLAY 3 flashes forward eight years past the second installment, with series hero Andy Barclay now a teenaged cadet at a military academy––but, naturally, Chucky the Good Guy Doll is not too far behind.  Anyway, one of the senior officers at the military academy is named "Colonel Cochrane,"

which is a clear nod to HALLOWEEN 3, where Dan O'Herlihy's evil Irish mask factory owner is called "Conal Cochran."  You can imagine my delight at this relatively obscure reference.  I'm starting to think that HALLOWEEN 3 really is a cultural touchstone.

On the whole, CHILD'S PLAY 3 is definitely one of the weaker entries in the franchise, though I have to applaud the continuity and the attention to detail (creator Don Mancini has written every script in the series). For example, a minor toy company exec from part 2 (Peter Haskell) returns in part 3 to meet a gruesome fate,

Dourif gets a "human" cameo during a slideshow briefing,

and we even see what happened to the Good Guy factory after the showdown at the end of part 2.

Elsewhere, Andy Robinson (of DIRTY HARRY, CHARLEY VARRICK, and HELLRAISER fame) has a nice, fun bit as a sadistic military barber,

and the martial setting lends itself to parodies of FULL METAL JACKET, RAMBO, and the like.

And Brad Dourif, as usual, just kills it:


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... ANGEL, "THE RING" (1x16)

Only now does it occur to me... that ANGEL, spin-off of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, once had an episode (entitled "The Ring") which depicted a Demon Kumite.  Fans of BLOODSPORT rejoice–––this is the kind of thing that comes along only once in a million years!  While I have already reviewed ARENA, a Sci-Fi/BLOODSPORT crossover which pits rubbery monsters against each other in space, I never imagined I'd have the chance to see the fusion of Horror Film and BLOODSPORT sensibilities.

And you'll note from the clientele that this isn't your garden variety back alley demon kumite––it's a yuppie demon kumite, similar to what was depicted in the JCVD masterpiece LIONHEART.

Nicely done, ANGEL. Nicely done.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Sean Gill's "Lunchboxing" in the Old Northwest Review

My latest short story "Lunchboxing" may be found in Volume II of the Old Northwest Review, a literary journal dedicated to the aesthetics and and culture of the greater Midwest. It is available for purchase in print here.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Only now does it occur to me... BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, "HALLOWEEN" (2x06)

Only now does it occur to me... that the second season BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER episode "Halloween" is essentially an hour-long homage to underrated horror classic HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH

Malevolent sorcerer and costume shop owner Ethan Rayne (Robin Sachs)

 casts a spell that turns the children of Sunnydale into their Halloween costumes

whereupon children wearing ghoul masks become actual ghouls

and attack kindly old ladies.

This is remarkably similar to Conal Cochran's (Dan O'Herlihy) plan in HALLOWEEN III to turn children into piles of killer snakes and spiders via his Stonehenge-powered mask factory.

In BUFFY, this also means that Xander (Nicholas Brendon) becomes a soldier,
Willow (Alyson Hannigan) becomes a ghost,

and Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) becomes a helpless duchess from the 1700s.

This is all pretty absurd, but no more absurd than the glory that is HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH.  Happy Halloween, everybody!