Monday, October 31, 2016

"Dreams of the Clockmaker" Radio Drama in Cleaver Magazine

Some longtime readers may remember my spooky play "Dreams of the Clockmaker," which starred Jillaine Gill and ran in New York City (first at The Duplex, then at The Wild Project) in 2010 and 2011. Time Out New York described it as a "dystopian metatheatrical fantasia," and The Huffington Post said of it, "...there is something primitively human in listening and watching as a story unfolds, and if you are lucky enough to be in the presence of someone who is truly talented in this regard, allow yourself to imaginatively engage and enjoy the experience."

Five years later, playwright Grace Connolly has abridged, adapted, and realized the play as a full-on radio drama (starring Kelly Chick) for Cleaver Magazine. You can listen to it here (it runs about eighteen minutes), and read an interview (with yours truly) about the play here.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Only now does it occur to me... THE PROPHECY

Only now does it occur to me... how in the hell did they succeed in making THE PROPHECY so boring?

Let's begin at the beginning: this is an apocalyptic, supernatural horror movie (from the writer of HIGHLANDER, no less), apparently popular enough to spawn four sequels, starring Christopher Walken as the Archangel Gabriel,

a character with bizarrely 'wig-like' slicked-back hair, who is defined mostly by his propensity for perching on things



and his profound, nearly Trumpian sniffing:


who is probably based on the "Angel of Death" character from a Madonna music video.


In "Bad Girl" (1993), Walken's just sniffin'

and perchin' all over the place.


Did I mention we also also have Eric Stolz (as the Archangel "Simon") looking all Jesus-y and

also perching on lots of things, like the best of them.

We have Elias Koteas lending serious pathos as a priest-turned-detective:


SEINFELD's "Kenny Bania" (Steve Hytner) in an oddly serious role:


Adam Goldberg dealing with some serious limbo/substance abuse:


Virginia Madsen looking seriously sad all the time:


and Amanda Plummer doing some serious gurgling in a hospital bed:

Wait a minute, why is this all so serious?!  This is a movie about creepy-wacky Archangels that sniff and perch on things, it should be kind of fun, right?

When we're given visions of a battle in heaven, I was reminded of ARMY OF DARKNESS

and immediately wished that I was watching ARMY OF DARKNESS instead.  Or at least TALES FROM THE CRYPT: DEMON KNIGHT.

By the time Viggo Mortensen shows up as Satan

Two of Cronenberg's faves sharing a tender, sniffin' moment––Viggo (A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, EASTERN PROMISES) and Elias (CRASH).

(also perching on things, come to think of it)
we should be having peak fun––it's so patently ridiculous, that no amount of overwrought, inspirational voiceover; no amount of clumsily-delivered Biblical exposition should be able to ruin our fun. And yet. And yet.

Allow me to quote a line from THE PROPHECY:

"And in the end, I think it must be about faith, and if faith is a choice, then it can be lost––for a man, an angel, or the devil himself. And if faith means never completely understanding God's plan, then maybe understanding just a part of it ––our part––is what it is to have a soul. And maybe in the end, that's what being human is, after all." 

Dear lord, I believe I've stumbled upon the problem. I wanted this to feel like PRINCE OF DARKNESS or HELLRAISER or DEMON KNIGHT––hell, I would have even taken END OF DAYS... but instead, watching this movie feels like going to church. THE PROPHECY is not a horror movie. It's a sanctimonious Hallmark Channel drama masquerading as a horror movie. THE PROPHECY tricks you into thinking you're buying tickets to a Black Sabbath concert, but really it's a 'hip' Christian rock festival called Whack Sabbath. THE PROPHECY approaches you at the mall, and you think, wow, you're getting a coupon for a free Orange Julius, but really you're being handed a pamphlet that asks, "Are you saved?" THE PROPHECY is a breaking news alert about "War!" and after you scramble to click the link, you see they mean the War on Christmas. PROPHECY is a better movie, and PROPHECY is a movie about mutant bears directed by a blacked-out drunk John Frankenheimer. I could go on. But I won't. Um, Amen.


[Also worth mentioning: there are a number of elements (including the Weinsteins) that this movie shares in common with Kevin Smith's DOGMA, and while the flavors couldn't be more different, I feel pretty confident that THE PROPHECY served as at least a partial inspiration.]

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....

TERMINATOR 2.

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!