Thursday, May 19, 2016

"The Future's So Bright" Available to Screen Online for One Week Only

"The Future's So Bright" (a new speculative short film directed by myself and Robyn Nielsen) which had its premiere last week as part of Video Mass' X Fest, will be available to watch online (along with the rest of the X Fest slate) for one week only here!


 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Music Review: ALICE COOPER LIVE IN CONCERT (2016, Port Chester, NY)

It was my pleasure last Thursday to see Alice Cooper live at The Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York.  Longtime readers of this site will know of my intense Alice Cooper fandom, which ranges from his major albums to his lesser-known masterpieces, his brilliant music video/soundtrack tie-ins for FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI and CLASS OF 1984, his bizarre cameos in films like SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND, WAYNE'S WORLD, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 6: FREDDY'S DEAD, ROADIE, and John Carpenter's PRINCE OF DARKNESS, and his lead role in the insane Italian werewolf flick MONSTER DOG, directed by TROLL 2's Claudio Fragasso.

The entire evening was quite a theatrical experience, with the sixty-eight year old Cooper still the consummate showman, and in rare form. He began the proceedings with "Black Widow," dressed in a black-and-white striped Edward Gorey/BEETLEJUICE-style suit and with his energy at full blast (I might even say, at "eleven") and he never let up the entire evening. Had I not known the reality of Alice's age, I would have guessed I was watching a thirty or forty year old performer––and he even meta-theatrically referenced this phenomenon in "No More Mr. Nice Guy" when he reached the line "I'd open doors for little old ladies..." and adopted the physical bearing of a geriatric pushing her walker.

The stage props from the classic 1970s shows were re-imagined and used in marvelous abundance––they rolled out the guillotine to decapitate him, dropped oversized Smiley Face balloons on the crowd during "No More Mr. Nice Guy," wrapped him up in the strait-jacket for "The Ballad of Dwight Fry," and wheeled out the electric slab for "Feed My Frankenstein," which met its conclusion with a twelve-foot tall FrankenAlice puppet chasing the musicians around the stage. He brought out a live snake for "Is It My Body," swung around a saber (stacked high with fake dollar-bills) for "Billion Dollar Babies," and directed his band with a riding crop like it was a conductor's baton. It was magnificent.

By and large, he stuck to the aforementioned 70s classics and others like "Under My Wheels," "Only Women Bleed," and "Halo of Flies," but there was some material from his mid-career reinvention such as "Poison" (and "Feed My Frankenstein"), and even some latter-day works like "Woman of Mass Distraction."

His band contained a great deal of talent––Ryan Roxie, Tommy Henriksen, and "Hurricane" Nita Strauss on guitar, Chuck Garric on bass, and Glen Sobel on drums.  Sobel had the chance to rock an extended, incredibly impressive drum solo on "Halo of Flies," but the true scene-stealer was Strauss (apparently an actual relative of classical master Johann Strauss and member of the Iron Maidens, a all-female Maiden tribute band!) who roamed the stage with manic, hotshot energy, whipping around her blonde hair and wowing us with extensive and virtuosic guitar solos (to cover Alice's costume changes)!

As the concert neared its finale, Alice delivered a heartfelt tribute to some fallen friends with the songs "Pinball Wizard" for Keith Moon, "Fire" for Jimi Hendrix (which he had previously covered on his compilation album CLASSICKS), and "Suffragette City" for David Bowie.  He closed out with the life-affirming one-two punch of "I'm Eighteen" and "School's Out," the latter of which was transformed into Alice's interpretation of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall."  But that's not all––there was, naturally, an encore: a balls-out delivery of "Elected," with nearly as many red, white, and blue streamers as at a political convention, and the timely new rallying cry of "Make America Sick Again."

I also must give special compliments to the Capitol Theater itself (a historic three-story structure dating back to the Vaudeville era) and the authentic small-town rocker crowd that it brought.  There was indeed some grand people-watching in store, with plenty of Alice aficionados in their 50s and 60s dressing like it was 1986 again. Glorious!

And finally, for those of you who were not lucky enough to see Alice in concert (though he is touring through the rest of the year), I will leave you with a consolation prize: a picture of a balloon-toting Alice hanging out with Jean Stapleton ("Edith Bunker" from ALL IN THE FAMILY) at Studio 54:

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Reprise screenings of "The Future's So Bright" at X Fest 2016

After last night's sold out premiere at Williamsburg Cinemas, THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT (a new speculative short film directed by myself and Robyn Nielsen) will have two reprise screenings along with the rest of the Video Mass X Fest slate on:

Saturday, May 14 at 9:30 PM at Videology (308 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn)––Tickets are $5 and available here,

and

Sunday, May 15 at 6:30 PM at Syndicated (40 Bogart St. in Brooklyn)––Tickets are $8 and available here.


 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Film Review: MILLIONS (1991, Carlo Vanzina)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 105 minutes.
Tag-line: "Some people have it all... but they still want more."
Notable Cast or Crew: Billy Zane (THE PHANTOM, TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT, TWIN PEAKS), Lauren Hutton (fashion model, AMERICAN GIGOLO, ONCE BITTEN), John Stockwell (MY SCIENCE PROJECT, CHRISTINE, TOP GUN), Carol Alt (fashion model, BEYOND JUSTICE), Jean Sorel (BELLE DU JOUR, THE DAY OF THE JACKAL), Alexandra Paul (CHRISTINE, 8 MILLION WAYS TO DIE), and Donald Pleasence (THE GREAT ESCAPE, HALLOWEEN, PRINCE OF DARKNESS, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK).
Best One-liner:  "You don't grasp the seriousness of the situation, Maurizio!"

The film is called MILLIONS.  It stars Billy Zane, an "Ama-Zane-ing" and much beloved actor on this site (particularly for his performance as "The Phantom" in SLAM EVIL).  It is a film largely about villas, yachts, comas, backstabbing, sports cars, and visible ass-crack; the typical preoccupations of low-rent Italo-Trash. It has perhaps the greatest quantity of "sleazy saxophone solos" ever to be confined to a 105 minute span.  Not to mention it's produced in part by corrupt, former Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi. These are just the facts, ma'am.

Yet I'm still not sure what I just experienced.  It feels like a made-for-TV movie, or maybe a few episodes of a soap opera strung together, but seems to have had a theatrical release.  It's written and directed by Italians with an all-Italian crew, but with a mostly British and American cast, many of whom are culled from John Carpenter (!) movies. So I suppose it's a "Spaghetti Soap" if we need to categorize, and an often unbearable one at that.  (Still, it's a helluva lot better than Danny Boyle's MILLIONS.)

Now allow me to take you on the experience, nay, the journey that is the "DVD of MILLIONS."  It begins with the disc art itself, which is obviously magnificent:

Pretty sure Zane doesn't wear that sweater in the movie.  Pretty sure I don't care.

Then we have the menu, which lets us know right off the bat that this movie is 95% sleazy saxophone solos and lesser-than-VHS-quality picture.


Once inside the film proper, the saxophone only intensifies, as does the "lifestyles of the rich and yuppie" imagery:






SEE!  Billy Zane acting in a variety of scenarios where his scene partner is a bottle of champagne!



BEHOLD!  The "Billy Zane Slow Simmer" turn into the "Billy Zane Full-On Smolder" as he cruises his cousin on the dancefloor while listening to knockoff Madonna and ersatz C+C Music Factory!



GAZE UPON!  Lauren Hutton, tricked into believing this is a Real Movie that requires Real Acting!


CONTEMPLATE! The mysteries of the ages––for instance, what's the most obnoxious yuppified item in this tableau: the pretentious modern art, the designer trench, or the oversized mobile phone?

Trick question––it's the unused gym-grade exercise equipment!

BEAR WITNESS! As Billy Zane's eyebrows steal the movie, like they did in TITANIC:


OBSERVE! A possibly kidnapped (or at least under duress) Donald Pleasence as he appears in a random scene.  Does John Carpenter know about this? 


You know, I'd hate to see the THEY LIVE sunglasses used on this movie:

AIEEE!  Figures it'd be something like this!

Whew.  And though the film is over, the journey continues.  On to the cast bios!

This is clearly one of the best DVD bios in the history of the genre.  Birth Date?  Under control.  Birth Place?  Got it.  Where he randomly attended high school for one out of his four years?  Check.  Er... what?  For those of you who can't read the small print, the full Zane biography is as follows:
"Billy Zane attended the American School in Switzerland for his sophomore year of high school.  Was originally cast as Johnny Castle in "DIRTY DANCING" (1987) but lost the role due to his lack of dancing skills."
There's no page two... that's it!  A high school attendance factoid that no one would care to know (unless you were unsuccessfully trying to guess Billy Zane's email password and were on the "security questions" page), and an anecdote about one time Billy Zane was not hired for something because he wasn't talented enough.  Thanks, DVD!

Finally, we come to the coup de grâce: the "Photo Gallery."

Set to music I would describe as "similar to the ALF or perhaps the FAMILY TIES closing credits," we are treated to a series of wholly unspectacular freeze frames in a slideshow format, projected upon the pixelated image of a hundred dollar bill.  It's the entire movie, without dialogue, condensed to a minute and a half of rockin' sax/house music, and bookended by images of Billy Zane in Full-On Smolder mode.  Needless to say, I approve.

You know what, I'm feeling generous: two stars.

–Sean Gill

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"The Future's So Bright" at X Fest 2016

THE FUTURE'S SO BRIGHT, a new speculative short film directed by myself and Robyn Nielsen, will be premiering on Wednesday, May 11th as a part of Video Mass' X Fest at Williamsburg Cinemas (217 Grand Street) in Brooklyn.  Tickets are $11 and are available here!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Film Review: MATINEE (1993, Joe Dante)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 99 minutes.
Tag-line: "Lawrence Woolsey presents the end of civilization as we know it. Make that... Proudly Presents!"
Notable Cast or Crew: John Goodman (C.H.U.D., THE BIG LEBOWSKI), Cathy Moriarty (RAGING BULL, COP LAND), Simon Fenton (THE POWER OF ONE, A KNIGHT IN CAMELOT), Omri Katz (EERIE INDIANA, HOCUS POCUS), Lisa Jakub (INDEPENDENCE DAY, MRS. DOUBTFIRE), Kellie Martin (TROOP BEVERLY HILLS, ER), Robert Picardo (TOTAL RECALL, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH), Dick Miller (GREMLINS, THE TERMINATOR, A BUCKET OF BLOOD, CORVETTE SUMMER), John Sayles (novelist and director, LONE STAR, THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET), Kevin McCarthy (INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE), William Schallert (THE PATTY DUKE SHOW, THE TWILIGHT ZONE), Naomi Watts (MULHOLLAND DR., KING KONG '05).  Music by Jerry Goldsmith (ALIEN, POLTERGEIST, GREMLINS).  Makeup effects by Rick Baker & Co. (VIDEODROME, THE HOWLING, STAR WARS, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON).  Written by Jerico Stone (MY STEPMOTHER IS AN ALIEN) and Charles S. Haas (OVER THE EDGE, GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH,
Best One-liner: "Young lady, human/insect mutation is far from an exact science!"

Ah, MATINEE...  I saw this film for the first time back when it came out in '93, and despite having no idea at the time who William Castle was, I was immediately drawn to the film's layered nostalgia and infectious sense of harmless fun; it's a paean to dedicated showmanship in a scary world.  Probably not before or since has a movie so thoroughly and tenderly explored the life-affirming thrill and ultimate social value of horror cinema––it's about taking yourself (and perhaps a date) to the Lovecraftian brink and back again in a safe, controlled environment; to forget, even for eighty minutes, the considerably less exhilarating, quotidian terrors that linger beyond the limits of the screen.

Equal parts fan service and a sincere coming-of-age, MATINEE is for every lonely kid who grew up on B-movies, late-night TV spook shows, and monster magazines; the socially awkward ones who imagined that Vincent Price, King Kong, and Dracula were sort of their friends.  It'd make a fine double feature with FRIGHT NIGHT, I must say.

Castle's career lived primarily in the shadow––or is that silhouette?––of Hitchcock.  Castle believed they were equals; personally, I tend to wonder if Hitchcock even knew who he was.

Set in Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis, MATINEE follows movie producer/director Lawrence Woolsey (John Goodman, playing a not-even-thinly-disguised version of the manic, cigar-chomping, creature-feature ringmaster and gimmick-king William Castle) as he brings his new film "MANT" to Key West, forever changing the lives of a few teenagers who are making the transition to adulthood beneath the (anticipatory) shadow of a mushroom cloud.

And God bless William Castle––John Waters has said he'd rather have sat on his lap than Santa Claus' when he was a child––and damned if Castle isn't essentially the halfway point between Santa and P.T. Barnum. Here was a man who playfully threatened to kill audience members in his promotional materials, pioneered the Illusion-O Ghost-Viewer and Ghost-Remover, shoehorned contest winners into bit parts, handed out plastic coins in an attempt to energize cinema-goers, let the audience vote on killing off a character via a "Punishment Poll"marketed a film (sucessfully) to children about kids who must murder their uncle before he murders them, stuck vibrators on seat-backs and called it "Percepto," used fake life insurance policies to hype in-movie scares, and handed out cardboard axes for a movie where a fifty-nine year old Joan Crawford plays a twenty-year-old (in a flashback).

What Castle called "barnstorming" (following your film cross-country to promote it in person, maximizing the asses in seats like a carnival barker) is Woolsey's bread and butter, and he'll employ every trick in the book to make sure his audience has a once-in-a-lifetime film experience, combining all the joys of live theater, the haunted house, and a boardwalk magic show.

This is all handled expertly by Joe Dante, who infuses the proceedings with equal doses of nostalgia, silliness, and a genuine humanity (that feels as well-earned as anything from masters like Renoir or Altman).  It's pretty damned great.

Without further ado, I'd like to delve into my eight favorite elements of MATINEE:

#8.  The authenticity in storytelling and art direction.  Not being a child of the 50s, I may be way off base, but there's a definite eye for detail in Steven Legler's production design,

and I appreciate little details, like burgeoning teens listening to a Lenny Bruce record

and hurriedly shutting it off when Mom pulls in the driveway.

#7.  And whaddya know––Omri Katz!  The kid in the striped shirt in the above screencap is none other than the star of Dante's EERIE, INDIANA, one of my favorite (albeit short-lived) TV shows as a child.  He's effortlessly likable, and it's a shame he hasn't done much acting since the early 90s.

#6. The in-jokes.  There are more obvious nods, like references to Castle's "rivalry" with Hitchcock; but there are deeper cuts, too––posters for everything from CONFESSIONS OF AN OPIUM EATER to THE DEADLY MANTIS appear frequently in the background, and a fictionalized version of Samuel Z. Arkoff (of American International Pictures) even shows up to the MANT screening!

#5. Cathy Moriarty as the washed-up starlet turned horror vixen; basically she's Joan Crawford in STRAIGHT-JACKET or Barbara Stanwyck in THE NIGHT WALKER.  She gives fewer shits than Bob Mitchum and has her most fantastic bit as the lobby "Nurse" in a nod to MACABRE's mock insurance policies.

She very nearly steals this movie away from John Goodman and a giant "Mant" prosthetic, which is, at the end of the day, quite an achievement.

#4. Dante crony and "that guy!" legend Dick Miller and novelist/director John Sayles as Woolsey's shills:

out-of-work actors pretending to protest MANT in order to amplify the word of mouth (any press is good press, eh?).  It's a classic technique, and one that I imagine the real Bill Castle must have employed at one time or another.  In between the whimsy, however, Dante manages to sneak in a sobering aside about the Hollywood Blacklist.

#3. Robert Picardo as the scaredy cat/wet blanket theater manager, who happens to have a personal fallout shelter in the basement.

Picardo's twitchy demeanor and knack for physical comedy make the character especially vivid, but even as you laugh at his panicked clowning, Dante never lets you fully forget that the man has some valid concerns (it's October '62, after all!) about nuclear annihilation.  (It's the same humanism that allows Dante to give real pathos to character deaths in something like GREMLINS, even though the methods of murder are borrowed straight from the Looney Tunes.)

#2.  The film-within-a-film, Lawrence Woolsey's MANT.

Tonally, it's spot-on––a hilarious mashup of THE TINGLER, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO!, THEM, and THE FLY with perfectly stylized imagery and dialogue.  It certainly helps that he's packed it with B-movie actors from the era, including INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS' Kevin McCarthy

and THE TWILIGHT ZONE's William Schallert (both of whom also appeared in Dante's segment of THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE).

It lives up to the (Castle-styled) hype and is one of the most memorable 'film-within-a-films' I can think of.

#1.  A second film-within-a-film, "THE SHOOK-UP SHOPPING CART" has a shorter, though no less memorable appearance.


Intended to be a spoof of eye-rolling, "safe" live-action children's fare of the era, like THE ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSOR, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG, or THE LOVE BUG, it features a sentient, crime-fighting shopping cart and a young Naomi Watts.  Even the film stock and color correction are spot-on––it's clear that every aspect of this production was a labor of love. 

Five stars.  Perhaps one day, some inspired filmmaker will tell a thinly-veiled story of the effect the consummate showman Joe Dante's films had on their childhood!

––Sean Gill

P.S. I also recommend you check out J.D. of Radiator Heaven's nuanced take on the film here!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... BUSINESS IS BUSINESS

Only now does it occur to me... that Paul Verhoeven invented a "SUSPIRIA fetish" six years before SUSPIRIA came out!  

Allow me to explain that barely coherent idea in further detail: BUSINESS IS BUSINESS is Verhoeven's 1971 feature-length debut, a film about the life and times of an Amsterdam prostitute.  Like most of his Dutch output, it's well made, thematically daring, and features crisp cinematography by Jan de Bont (who went on to direct SPEED, SPEED 2, and TWISTER).  It's very "slice of life" in its construction, and we follow our heroine as she encounters a number of bizarre fetishists, from "cluck like a chicken man" to "loves to do housework in a baby bonnet guy," and so on.  However, the fetishist who is the subject of this post prefers to cower beneath the bedcovers while bathed in green and red light 
 
as our heroine, dressed in a rubber witch mask, menaces him accordingly.
Between the lighting and content, the whole thing easily looks like it could be an outtake from SUSPIRIA (or its sequel, INFERNO, which actually uses rubber masks of this caliber).  Therefore, I think I'm within my rights to call it "a preemptive SUSPIRIA fetish."


Being as SUSPIRIA had not yet been released, however, it's more likely Verhoeven's inspirations were either the films of Mario Bava or the color sequences from Eisenstein's IVAN THE TERRIBLE.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Film Review: DEAD MAN (1995, Jim Jarmusch)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 121 minutes.
Tag-line: "No one can survive becoming a legend."
Notable Cast or Crew: Johnny Depp (CRY-BABY, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS), Gary Farmer (ADAPATION, GHOST DOG), Crispin Glover (BACK TO THE FUTURE, WILD AT HEART), Lance Henriksen (NEAR DARK, ALIENS, PUMPKINHEAD), Michael Wincott (THE CROW, ROMEO IS BLEEDING), Eugene Byrd (SLEEPERS, THE SUBSTITUTE 2: SCHOOL'S OUT), John Hurt (ALIEN, I CLAUDIUS), Robert Mitchum (CAPE FEAR, OUT OF THE PAST), Iggy Pop (TANK GIRL, ROCK AND RULE), Gabriel Byrne (THE USUAL SUSPECTS, MILLER'S CROSSING), Jared Harris (NATURAL BORN KILLERS, THE WARD), Billy Bob Thornton (ARMAGEDDON, TOMBSTONE), Mili Avital (STARGATE, THE END OF VIOLENCE), Alfred Molina (RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, SPECIES).  Music by Neil Young.  Cinematography by Robby Müller (REPO MAN, DANCER IN THE DARK, BODY ROCK, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., and PARIS, TEXAS).
Best One-liner: "That weapon will replace your tongue. You will learn to speak through it. And your poetry will now be written with blood."

Welcome to DEAD MAN, the metaphysically brutal 90s art-acid-Western you didn't know you needed, and quite possibly the enduring masterpiece of indie auteur Jim Jarmusch.
 
You could call it 'the ERASERHEAD of Westerns,' or perhaps 'Franz Kafka-by-way-of John Ford,' or maybe 'an Ansel Adams horror movie.'  It shuns Western nostalgia and renounces Hollywood aesthetics. It's tangibly authentic and usually frightening.  A collage of dirty, vintage Americana set to squealing Neil Young soundscapes.  A movie of dark textures, of grease and grit and gristle, of cesspools and ink wells and open wounds, of smoke and gears and timber and bone.






It goes without saying that cinematographer Robby Müller (REPO MAN, TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A., BARFLY; PARIS, TEXAS) really outdoes himself here.  And for reference, let me remind you that the Academy Award for cinematography that year went to John Toll, for BRAVEHEART.

Our story follows the accountant William "no, not that William Blake" Blake (Johnny Depp) as he journeys from Cleveland to a job out west in the company town of Machine.
 
In a twist that would feel at home in THE TRIAL or THE CASTLE, there is no job––only an endless stream of bureaucratic contempt, paranoid behavior, and existential menace.

Said stream is initiated by an aggressively weird and soot-covered Crispin Glover:

continued by a surly, greasy John Hurt:

and brought to a crescendo by a latter-career Robert Mitchum who, naturally, continues to not give a damn.

My only question is: who got to keep that painting after the shoot wrapped? I'm only asking, cause there happens to be a Mitchum-painting-sized empty space on my living room wall.

Quite obviously, to anyone with even a vague conception of my interests, I think this is magnificent––and we're only about twenty minutes in.

After Blake is forced by circumstance to become a murderer (of Gabriel Byrne, no less!),

he goes on the lam

with a man named Nobody (Gary Farmer), a Native American who came of age after being kidnapped by a "savage circus" traveling show.
 
 Gary Farmer, pictured here doing a Slash impersonation.

The film at this point develops into an episodic, memento mori-style picaresque; an extended meditation on death and dying.  Jim Jarmusch thrives on textural juxtapositions and combinations of actors with different flavors (see also:  MYSTERY TRAIN, NIGHT ON EARTH, COFFEE AND CIGARETTES), and DEAD MAN treats us to several of these bizarre tableaux.  For instance, in one scene, Iggy Pop (wearing a LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE dress),

a molest-y Billy Bob Thornton,

and Jared (son of Richard) Harris share a campfire with Johnny Depp, in turns petting him and being generally terrifying.


Perhaps my favorite element of this scene is that Iggy Pop makes no attempt to conceal his conspicuous Detroit accent.

Elsewhere, we have Hurt, Mitchum, Michael Wincott (THE CROW, BORN ON THE FOURTH OF JULY), Eugene Byrd (SLEEPERS, THE SUBSTITUTE 2), and Lance Henriksen sharing the screen together,


an event that is clearly historic (and possibly on par with this Bill Murray/Robert Mitchum/John Glover shared scene).

I must give special mention to Lance Henriksen, whose résumé already boasts an entire rogue's gallery of frighteningly committed psychos.

He evolves into the film's major antagonist, death-angel of inevitability, a bounty-hunting cannibal of unimaginable cruelty who "fucked his parents," according to the gossip mill.

Perhaps needless to say, Henriksen is scary-good.  He has the look of a boogeyman who wandered beyond the confines of a cursed daguerreotype, and he fully embodies the role.  I'm reminded of the stories of from behind the scenes of NEAR DARK, when the method-acting Henriksen wandered the Southwest for real and picked up hitchhikers, all while in character as a Civil War-era, serial-killing vampire. Yikes! I really hope they had an SFX guy on set for the cannibal scenes...

Lance enjoys some takeout.

Perhaps betraying his Henriksen fandom, Jarmusch inserts a scene where a character says "God damn your soul to the fires of hell!" to which another replies, "He already has," which is a direct line from PUMPKINHEAD.

In connection with Henriksen, I also must make special mention of the film's unique visceral aspects. This isn't quite a gorefest, though there are some exceptionally vivid moments of violence that I remembered with terrible clarity.  That's especially surprising since this was only my second viewing, and my first must have been in 1996 or 1997, shortly after DEAD MAN hit the VHS rental shelves.
 
There is a brutal, dangerous beauty at play here, and the experience lays somewhere between "suffering from fever dreams" and "perusing a haunted taxidermy shop."  Depp, whom I've essentially neglected to mention thus far, brings it all together with a lyrical detachment worthy of his poetic namesake.  Five stars.


P.S.––Note the in-joke of two Johnny Depp-hunting marshals named "Lee" and "Marvin,"
 
a nod to Jarmusch's intense Lee Marvin fandom and notorious secret society, "The Sons of Lee Marvin."



–Sean Gill