Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... PROPHECY

Only now does it occur to me...  that PROPHECY constructs a perfect visual metaphor for itself in its opening scene.

To first put this in perspective, PROPHECY is a clumsy (but lovably nutty) 1970s eco-horror mutant-monster movie directed by A-list Hollywood legend John Frankenheimer (THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, 52 PICK-UP, RONIN). The kicker: Frankenheimer supposedly directed the film while suffering through a lengthy blackout drunk.

Back to our opening metaphor: points of light tremble in the darkness, disoriented.

They are flashlights, frantically waved by a group of men sprinting through the forest. The men are led by a hound who's caught the scent (of what, we do not yet know). They blindly careen down a forest path:

suddenly (and with unintentional comic flourish), the dog plummets off of a cliff to its death:

Yep, that about sums up PROPHECY, all right.

PROPHECY is a film about the dangers of pollution. It is a film with its heart in the right place. At one point, Native American rights, abortion rights, and urban blight are addressed within the span of fifteen seconds. This is handled with all the finesse of a master director who happens to have chugged a couple fifths of Thunderbird and forgotten to hydrate.

Talia Shire (ROCKY, THE GODFATHER) and Robert Foxworth (AIRPORT '77, DAMIEN: THE OMEN II) play an urbane couple who find themselves deep in the forests of Maine. In ordinary life, Shire's character is a concert cellist.
She's had more time to practice after she stopped working at the pet store.

Foxworth works for the EPA, and he's in Maine investigating a creepy paper mill that may be accidentally be creating mutated monsters.
Representing the creepy paper mill is Richard Dysart (on the left), who you may recognize as "Dr. Copper" from THE THING.

Also present is a group of Native Americans protesting the paper mill. The bow-and-arrow toting leader of the Natives is played by Italian-Irish-American actor Armand Assante. At one point he fights off a chainsaw-wielding logger with an axe, which, to be fair, is a pretty good use of his screentime.

Eventually, we meet the mutant monster.

The Natives call it a "Katahdin" and Dysart describes it as "sort of a bigfoot, I guess, only uglier." Neither of these assessments are accurate. It is in fact a Grizzly bear cosplaying as Freddy Krueger.

Along the way, there is a baby Krueger Bear, who is cared for in a similar fashion as the mutant infant in ERASERHEAD, which I appreciate.

There's some pretty solid cinematography by Harry Stradling, Jr., who also shot LITTLE BIG MAN, THE WAY WE WERE, and DIRTY DINGUS MAGEE.

Also solid is this scene depicting a surprise raccoon attack, whereupon Robert Foxworth scoops up said adorable raccoon with a rowboat paddle
and flings it directly into a blazing fireplace. God damn! 

As you can see from the above photo, the front door was already open. He easily could have flung it outside. He's just a dick!

The ultimate showdown with the Krueger Bear plays out exactly like the end of a FRIDAY THE 13TH movie, which is all the more impressive because FRIDAY THE 13TH wouldn't come out for another year (PROPHECY was made in '79, the first FRIDAY in '80).

It hits every FRIDAY beat, from the Crystal Lake-lookin' exteriors to the moment where they think the monster drowns, to the successive moment when it jumps out of the water, the moment when they think they've finally killed it, the moment when it pops back up when-they-least-expect-it, and the moment when it dies for real this time (or does it?).

All of this booze-addled nonsense is really just prelude and postscript to a random scene that appears halfway through the film. A nameless camper is snoozing in a fetish-y sleeping bag when he is awakened by the Krueger Bear.

He musters all of his strength and pulls himself upright. He attempts, ungracefully, to hop away.
The Krueger Bear takes a wild swing and connects his claw with the sleeping bag, launching the unfortunate man across the screen:

where he collides with a rock and explodes in an orgasmic eruption of feathers.

That's worth the price of admission right there, ladies and gentlemen. In the end, I'll say this: it's better than THE PROPHECY (1995), which I'll be reviewing shortly.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Welcome to "Prophecy" Week!

Dear Readers, we'll be getting into the Halloween spirit this week by watching two horror films with "Prophecy" in the title.  Namely John Frankenheimer's PROPHECY (1978) and Gregory Widen's THE PROPHECY (1995). Spoiler alert: they're both pretty bad. But there's still some fun to be had. Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE

Only now does it occur to me... that HELLRAISER IV: BLOODLINE wants to have its cake and eat it, too.  Particularly, it wants to have its "Let them eat cake"-cake, with extended 18th Century flashbacks that kinda feel like the ones in ANGEL, questionable accents and all:

Yes, that is PARKS & RECREATION's Adam Scott on the left.

It wants to have its James Cameron cake, too, with a frame story taking place in 2127 on a space-station shaped like a deconstructed Lament Configuration:

In case we didn't get the Cameron vibe completely, there are Space Marines:

T-800-lookin' robots:

and twin security guards, just like in TERMINATOR 2 (albeit under different circumstances):

HELLRAISER IV versus....


It wants to have its Brian de Palma cake:

Again, that's Adam Scott on the right-hand side of this De Palma shot, only now he's been transformed into a 90s yuppie.

Its "corporate thriller" cake":

Yes, that is a catered dinner in the lobby of a skyscraper that's been decorated to look like an enormous Lament Configuration.

Not to mention its John Carpenter cake:

(I can't believe they profaned Carpenter's favorite (Albertus) font with the Alan Smithee name!)

A lot of this schizophrenia probably has to do with the fact that Clive Barker's concept was gutted by studio budget cuts, and horror maestro Stuart Gordon dropped out. He was replaced by TALES FROM THE CRYPT's Kevin Yagher, who presided over what was supposedly a clusterfuck of a shoot, and then HALLOWEEN 666's Joe Chapelle was brought in to do studio ordered, Pinhead-centric reshoots after Yagher refused. (All of which ended with Yagher choosing to be credited as the infamous "Alan Smithee.")

In all, this is not a great movie––and it doesn't even have a song by Motörhead or a CD Cenobite, like in HELLRAISER III. Though I do appreciate the "in space!" aspect, also seen in JASON X, CRITTERS 4: THEY'RE INVADING YOUR SPACE, or LEPRECHAUN 4: IN SPACE.
 Doug Bradley, who'd rather be doing RICHARD III.

Christine Harnos, who you may remember from DAZED AND CONFUSED and as "Mark Greene's first wife" from ER.

Bruce Ramsay, who kinda looks like Jean-Claude Van Damme. But remember: there can only be one Jean-Claude Faux Damme!

Additionally, this was the last HELLRAISER film to be released theatrically, and I feel as if I've made an accurate assessment of its quality. Note: there are five more after this. And another one supposedly coming out next year. Whew!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... BLUE THUNDER

 Only now does it occur to me...  that I waited way too long to watch BLUE THUNDER.

Directed by John Badham (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, WARGAMES), and written by Dan O'Bannon (ALIEN, THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, John Carpenter's DARK STAR) and Don Jakoby (DEATH WISH 3, ARACHNOPHOBIA, John Carpenter's VAMPIRES), it's a thriller about the militarization of our police forces and the obliteration of personal privacy. It's about brave whistleblowers and bitchin', fully rad helicopters; possibly the median point between SNOWDEN and AIRWOLF.

The inimitable Roy Scheider stars as an LAPD helicopter pilot (battling PTSD from Vietnam) who's paired with a nerdy rookie (Daniel Stern),

and bossed around by a crusty but lovable Warren Oates

who is given an ample platform to growl "goddammit" and "you bright-eyed sons of bitches" with impunity, and chide the newbie Stern with monologues like: "You're supposed to be stupid, son, don't abuse the privilege.... for Chrissakes, I had 20 years in this outfit when your idea of a big time was sittin in front of the TV tube, watchin' Bugs Bunny and gnawin' on your Fudgesicle!"

Candy Clark appears in a brilliant supporting role as Roy Scheider's ex-wife; at the beginning, at least, it feels like outtakes from the most depressing domestic scenes in ALL THAT JAZZ.

"Goddamn your Black Irish heart, Frank Murphy!"

Malcolm McDowell plays the villain of the piece, obviously, named Colonel Cochran (and I'm going to continue with my conspiracy theories about HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH being an inspiration to filmmakers everywhere), a nefarious Brit who was essentially a prep-school bully to Roy Scheider back in 'Nam (there are flashbacks).

He wears turtlenecks and uses "Catch you later!" as his evil catchphrase, which is fine, I guess.  It's okay, I think he's having fun.

"Catch you later!"

In all, it's a genuinely exciting conspiracy thriller with high stakes, despite sorta feeling like a big-budget episode of (the aforementioned) AIRWOLF, or even MACGUYVER. Prefiguring TOP GUN by three years, when its politics begin to show, it presents itself as anto-jingoist, opposing in every way the values of post-TOP GUN, Michael Bay school of filmmaking. In BLUE THUNDER, military technology is to be feared, not fetishized; and it depicts the new generation of Reagan-era jet fighter jockeys and their masters as schlubs propped-up by propaganda, accidentally firing heat-seeking missiles into a BBQ joint (because of misinterpreted thermal imaging) and into an office building (whose windows are reflecting the rays of the sun).

Also: Roy Schneider flies a helicopter upside down while screaming "Come on, you tub of shit!" which is without a doubt the "Smile, you sonofabitch!" moment of this movie.

If that's not enough of an endorsement, I don't know what is.

P.S.––Coming soon: horror films for Halloween.