Sunday, December 13, 2009

Television Review: THE V WORD (2006, Ernest R. Dickerson)

Stars: 2.9 of 5.
Running Time: 59 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Ironside. Written by Mick Garris. Co-starring Arjay Smith, Branden Nadon, and Jodelle Ferland (the little girl in the DEAD LIKE ME pilot and TIDELAND).
Tag-line: "From the director of TALES FROM THE CRYPT- DEMON KNIGHT."
Best one-liner: Ehh, not so much.

Well, I'm beginning Ironside week with an unlikely choice- a work that I don't particularly like outside of its Ironside performance- a Masters of Horror episode called THE V WORD. However, in a way, it's indicative of larger trends in Ironside's oeuvre: just because Ironside is in a movie does not mean that the movie will be good; but when a movie has got Ironside, IRONSIDE will be good. He'll be better than good- he'll be fucking fantastic. Award-worthy. And that's why he's got an entire week devoted to him and his work. Anyway, without further ado- THE V WORD:

Maybe the title is a reference to Michael Ironside's work on V? Otherwise, even knowing that "the V word" is "vampire," it still conjures a sort of 'VAGINA MONOLOGUES meets THE HUNGER on set of THE L WORD' vibe, when, in fact, it's a sort of poor man's Showtime retread of MY BEST FRIEND IS A VAMPIRE. There aren't even any central female characters. In short, this is an generic, 'through the motions' bloodsucker that gets a shot in the arm (or the eye!) from an inspired, terrifying turn by Michael Ironside.

The writing is extraordinarily ham-fisted: within the first five minutes, there's blockheaded commentary on violent video games, race, AND the American family unit. Just as I wondered aloud "What greenhorn douche cake wrote this?!," Mick Garris' teleplay credit appeared on screen. Well, hoo boy, that explains a lot. Ernest R. Dickerson's (SURVIVING THE GAME, JUICE) direction is taut and workmanlike, but the script is so dumb, you kind of wonder, what's the point?

But then, up pops Ironside, literally, looking so fucking scary I dove beneath the couch.

One could posit that Ironside is the meaner, steelier Jack Nicholson; and, if that's true, then this is Ironside's 'other side of the mirror' Joker moment. Greg Nicotero's makeup has Ironside festering and ashen-faced (like he's dunked his head in spoiled milk), punctuated with a blood-soaked smile. Some character actors phone in their performances, but Ironside merely makes his labors seem effortless. He shambles around with a perverse, fearsome grin and a feral, frenzied leer.

And Ironside's vampire doesn't bite necks– he RIPS them apart with his bare hands and then drinks from the gaping wound.


Ironside is having a goddamned blast.

I wonder if he bit anybody for real.

And he manages to be this freaky while chasing around a couple of CW network-style numbnuts. And it's not really much of a *spoiler* to say that he gets a pretty nasty send-off.

Though it IS courtesy of said numbnuts. I'm reminded of the Eastwood vs. Bronson episode of RAWHIDE which ends with Bronson gunned down by some random milksop as Eastwood stands idly by.

Bravo, Mr. Ironside. You rose above your collaborators' mediocrity and made this a piece worth remembering.

(Also of note is the vampire POV “Blood-vision,” which is decidedly not as good as, say, PREDATOR-vision.)

Blood-vision in action.

Nearly three iron-sided stars.

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

I saw this awhile ago and would certainly echo your sentiments. The rest of the cast is just swimming in Ironside's wake! Lots of flaws in this one but Ironside held my attention throughout, as he always does.

Sean Gill said...

And unfortunately, having a compelling central performance amidst flawed storytelling is a lot more than can be said for many a Masters of Horror episode.

Tempest said...

It's true, the title made me think of vaginas.