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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

A Carpenter Kind of Hushedness: SOLE SURVIVOR, IT FOLLOWS

I love the ominousness of October, the ever-earlier darkness catching me off guard, as if God was wiping the world away with a black eraser, saving me for last. Hurrying inside like a napping sunbather awakened suddenly by said sun's absence; my grateful sweater weather skin cold with the relentless tick-tock approach of Halloween, as if the entire month was rolled up into a cone, draining the hours towards that hallowed eve. Neighbors in the distance take on a sinister shadowy shimmer in the dimming day and the black decorative window shutters of suburban houses seem like cartoon eyebrows fronting a devil's skull. House interiors become extra dark as twilight tricks us out of turning on the table lamps earlier and earlier; pumpkins and wood panelling; orange shag rug and black witch hats; talking low and quiet to as not wake the sleeping behemoth, or irate parents--these are a few of my favorite things. I love when eerie horror movies capture that eerie uncanny chill, can find the ambiguity in autumn leaves swirling around under gnarled bare trunks. So few movies get that feeling right, that mood of giddy doom, the inexorable tick-tockality of looming daylight savings.

Halloween (watching The Thing)
It Follows (watching Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women)
Note: black and white TV atop dead floor console -like we had in the early 80s
Carpenter's original Halloween (1978) most assuredly captured it, maybe even defined it, its uncanny suburban home familiarity of being creeped out alone in the house with just a distracted babysitter who tries but can't keep the nervous trill out of her voice when you all hear a strange noise upstairs. The kids watching old horror movies on TV; the pale glow of the screen like a fading camp fire keeping the wolves at bay; Forbidden Planet and the 1951 Thing like a charm against the real threat, like the caged lovebirds in The Birds, or a flu shot..

To this mix Carpenter invented a whole new cool kind of synthesizer score, avoiding the overbearing orchestras of John Williams or Howard Shore, the steady ominous notes that entraining a kind of rapid heartbeat and slow footsteps and capture the unnerving but delightful feeling of ominous October, the darkness coming earlier and earlier, the chill immediate...

Luckily, other filmmakers got that vibe right too... sometimes they've been hard to find, but lately, I saw two!

(1983) Dir. Thom Eberhardt

In the annals of the modern horror/sci fi genre auteurs there are recognizable names (Argento, Craven, Carpenter), up and comers (West, Fessenden, Wingard) and then... well... no one. But with DVD making it impossible for them to disappear, we horror fans find here and there, ready to be exhumed and dusted, also-ran auteurs of no small class and quality no matter how few horror films they've made, like Herk Harvey who brought fly-over state of unconscious poetics (Carnival of Souls) Michael Almereyda, who brings coolness to reflexive homage (The Eternal, Nadja), and Thom Eberhardt, who made two 80s sleepers that have stood the test of time: 1984's Night of the Comet, and a 1983 bit of crafty low budget bit of Final Destination-prefiguring ominousness called Sole Survivor.  

After a schismatic opening with some psychic crank (Caren Larkey, who also co-produced) on the phone and doing automatic writing we have the heroine Denise or "Dee Dee" (Anita Skinner) sitting in her seat (in the upright position) amidst the best looking plane wreckage a low budget film allows. The sole survivor of a terrible plane crash; she's lucky to be alive but something's not right and beginning with her release from the hospital the recently dead seem to be following her around, or maybe it's that she's mixing alcohol with her discontinued antidepressants.

ask not for whom, kitty-kitty
But the coolest stuff is in the clever masterful use of Carpenter-esque tick-tock momentum and the sense of being alone in a world slowly disappearing around you as night falls, conveyed by weird shots of Denise's empty kitchen, living room, stairs; tracking through the very 70s faux exposed brick and panelling and deep red walls (all the better to offset her red hair). And we care because there's some nice warm romantic exposition with her cute doctor, Brian (Kurt Johnson) who worries she's suffering from 'survivor's syndrome', or at least that's his excuse to call her up. In a cool little scene we see their back and forth phone conversation, the way she moves to the bedroom phone to lie down and focus in on her seductive phone stratagem. He's kind of nervous and using his doctorly concern to 'get in there' as the saying goes, and alternating shots of her in bed and he at his kitchen making sauce or something are very well done, and then the camera becomes like that friend who, once they sense their pal has it in the bag, as it were, gives them a quiet congratulatory smile and heads downstairs to get a drink or something but the thing is there's nobody there, and the stillness is broken only by the roving eyes of the pink cat clock.

It Follows (my clock radio at middle right)

There's also the exact 70s clock radio I had as a kid (from which I listened to The Shadow and Suspense reruns every night on local PBS radio) and which is also in It Follows. There's a dripping faucet, an almost Twin Peaks empty road stop light at night ominous as the action shuffles back and forth between Denise's house and the house next door where she presumably babysat when they were both a lot younger; the relationship has left them somewhere between surrogate authority figure and partner in crime. Both houses are great relics of the 70s style, with all the exposed faux stone and dark wood panelling, the deep reds and dark oranges shag carpets and walls offsetting Denise's red hair and blue vein pale skin look. I can relate to hanging out with younger people; going over and drinking Cristy's parents' booze and falling asleep on their couch while she sneaks off to a party? Another uniquely real relationship in this quietly amazing film.

The romance is fascinating- Dr. Brian's a catch, handsome a bit shy, a doctor... and he can cook. And Dee-Dee's a TV producer with the redhead gene making the purple of her facial blood vessels almost visible, pale makeup covering blemishes (not too many) all go with her powder blue bows and sweaters to make her the color of blue blood - which make her busting the first move cool and all very Howard Hawks right down to two lines of dialogue lifted wholesale (along with her hip beret) from To Have and Have Not: "it's even better when you help" and later Cristy's "what are you trying to do, guess her weight?" at a strip poker game--indicating the two may have seen the film together one night earlier.

"read the label - maybe you'll believe me then"
Dee-Dee and Brian's budding pair bonding and the cool Cristy relationship are both very well etched in a very short time, and with all that evocative 70s dusky decor as far as I'm concerned the film doesn't even need to go further. There might be Xmas trees lurking in the corners of rooms but hey-it's California so it doesn't matter--there's an autumnal vibe that makes each formed or renewed bond, each drink and playful touch feel precious with fading warmth, fires all the warmer and brighter for the encroaching darkness. Their first kiss is scored to park sounds--the noise of background cheering over some goal coinciding with their first big kiss in a way that works, while the blur of the kids running back and forth between the camera and the couple great at seeming like all the people around them disappear into the background. But then... some wordless still thing is watching...

(2015) Dir. David Robert Mitchell

I used to wonder why filmmakers didn't do more adapting from the golden book of universal childhood nightmares -- the ones we all remember but usually move past once we learn the 'turn and face your fear rather than trying to run' trick; terrible powerless terrors of trying to escape relentlessly approaching figures only we could see, the adults around us ignoring our pleas for help, like they could see neither us nor our pursuer, the pursuer coming very slowly but faster than we, stuck in a slow motion drag trying to run away. For me it was an old woman, evil eyes, hunched over and staring right at me and smiling laughing but making no sound and extending her hands towards me as she tottered closer, not unlike a clothed version of the crone in The Shining's room 237.

Such an image, that slowly pursuing creature, is we realize now at the core of horror and very seldom used to the full uncanny shiver extent we find in It Follows. There have been surprisingly few such things, considering all of horror. In the Universal days--the Mummy--not the Karloff original, but the Chaney sequels where he stayed in his bandages and lumbered slowly but relentlessly forward; the slower, the quieter, the simpler, the more it tapped into the dread of this primordial figure, the being only sleeping children and the dead who don't know they're dead can see, The 'Shape' as Myers was billed in Carpenter's Halloween, was its ultimate expression... until now. Myers is outgunned for raw uncanny primordial dread in It Follows. I might go on a limb and say It Follows is the greatest horror movie ever made, for it is beautiful to look at, eloquent, sweet, and true even as it floats deep into a reverie that fully captures the mortal dread that sexual awakening brings with it like an inescapable shadow, of adulthood's chemical jolts revealing the evil sickening core of life, the eternal footman's snicker like a 'test positive for STD' report; the drowning caused by singing mermaids. I'll forgive Mitchell's film any dream logic inconsistency... for here is a movie that distills the purity of October, of teenage angst, the side effects of seasonal change, of the inevitability of not just old age and death, but bum trips, crushing loneliness even in a crowd.  Along amongst all horror filmmakers (Kubrick, Polanski aside), Mitchell realizes the shocking power not only of old people in hospital gowns that no one else can see, but nudity.

“I am Lazarus, come from the dead..."
The most insidious aspect is the unspoken question hovering over these incarnations many forms, all implying some kind of past victim, a catalog of the curse's sexual history, like the drowned obscene often naked forms the thing adopts, moms with breasts exposed, sopping wet girls peeing themselves,  old men on roofs, all exposing an Eric Fischl-style suburban surrealist obscene exposed flesh abundance (below), the idea that just a slight tweak can render a simple everyday Americana scene instantaneously perverse, hostile, uncanny. There's some maybe nods to modern J-Horror or something with darkened eyes and hissing and people getting yanked off their feet, but it's secondary to the disturbing scenes of sexual display, the sick flash of what Todd McGowan might call the traumatic real, or at any rate, the signifier of the gaze:

Blue Velvet (naked figure middle left background) / compare w/below from It Follows
"[Dorothy in Blue Velvet] seems to appear out of thin air, appearing at first as indecipherable blot that no one--including the spectator--initially notices. When the other characters do notice, they become completely disoriented. Her intrusion into the fantasmatic realm rips apart the fantasy structure.... Her body has no place in the fantasmatic public world, and the fantasy screen breaks down... She doesn't fit in the picture, which is why we become so uncomfortable watching her naked body in the middle of a suburban neighborhood" (McGowan, The Impossible David Lynch, p. 106-7)
It Follows

Eric Fischl - Birth of Love (2nd Version)
But the ingenious threat of It Follows is just one element of its greatness: The acting is uniformly great, the kids seeming to choke slightly when they talk, as if shy but sweet, confident but still coltish with their adult voices. I relate hugely. It's the sweet side of teenagerdom, the  not the strident grating character played by PJ Soles (not that she's not great and perfect for the film) but the magic that happens when a cute girl is also nice to her kid sister and her friends, such as Jay (Maika Monroe) is to sister Kelly (Lili Serpe), bookish Annie (Bailey Spry) and Paul (Kier Gilchrist), who does his best to hide his crush on Jay. It's that sweetness that makes it understandable they all want to champion her, for when pretty girls who are nice to their little sister and her friends and the other kids in the neighborhood, the result is electric. It's natural then that they'd all take care of her, the boys all natural to endanger themselves in service of her even if only for a half hour's passion or that even though they may question the cause they don't deny the effect, and act to help without abandoning her to the fates. Or the way parents are but side players accorded nary a thought nor beseeched for aid; the only adult with any kind of real speaking part is a teacher and all she does is intone Alfred J. Prufrock. In a weird way the relationship between Jay and Kelly and her friends mirrors the one between Dee-Dee and Cristy in Sole Survivor (or Curtis and her babysitting charges in Halloween; Curtis and Tom Atkins in The Fog; or Mike and older brother Jody and pal Reggie in Phantasm).

This relationship seems to underwrite the potency of the 'hushed' horror film, perhaps because the older sibling figure is a transition between actual adults who are worthless in a pinch because of their calcified dogma to known (there's no bogeyman therefore the kids are all liars). Those of us who were kids in the 70s certainly remember staying up all night watching old black and white films on local TV (I recognized the two films Paul has on: Killers from Space and Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) and it's the familiarity of the set-up (so few horror movies center the action around the TV showing old horror movies, yet it's the modern era's campfire).

Lastly there is Mike Gioulakis' beautiful cinematography, each shot bathed in some kind of amniotic color, swimming pool light turquoise and pinks, and Disasterpiece's great retro synth score - illustrating once and again how vital and important pulsing amniotic electronic music is to horror - how a bad soundtrack can drag it down, just as Keith Emerson dragged down Goblin's Suspiria follow-up Inferno. It's like if someone said everything's great about Halloween  except the score, why not swap it out with some Michael Bolton? Or Kubrick got rid of Wendy Carlos' Shining score and replaced it with some micro-managerial John Williams orchestral pomp and telegraphed circumstance. Like It Follows itself, Richard Vreeland AKA Disasterpiece's electronic score both evokes its dream era (70s) and looks forward and into the moment to become true myth. 

For me I've seen it thrice already, I haven't watched a new film over and over since Silence of the Lambs and the best thing is to go out on my Brooklyn street to the store right after and everyone following me or walking towards me on the sidewalk seems like they're following me like a slow shambling silent killer; it's instant paranoia but of the delicious October kind, not the every man is an Illuminati-connected rapist and we're all living in hell kind of paranoia, but a distillation of pure urban legend horror, the ability to capture the resonant frequency of what being scared by whispered 'true' stories or watching  while at a slumber party as kid feels like in the memory of an adult. The rosy glow of nostalgia for remembering the way safety in a group allows for indulging in ominous hushed dread we might avoid, thinking about something else to distract us, were we alone. Thus like Hawks' To Have and Have Not figures in Sole Survivor, so too the esprit de corps of Hawks' The Thing plays out in It Follows. And so it is that America has finally produced a horror film it can be proud of, amidst the myriad worthless zombie sieges, found footage asylum investigations gone awry, and torture/abduction (even Carpenter's last film fits that bill to an extent) flicks made and dumped onto Amazon and youtube every livelong day, here at last is the real deal, a thing of real beauty and urban legend potency. So a quick prayer: Mr. Mitchell, please become our new Carpenter and stay in the genre rather than going the way of the Eberhardt (i.e. TV drama and PBS docs).  And forget about Ryan Murphy-crowned final girls and strident scream queens like the new Sarah Michelle Gellar Emma Roberts, Maika Monroe is the Empress of October Hush!

From top: It Follows, Halloween -- Note odd camera placement - neither in the street or on the sidewalk, the 'impossible' POV of someone standing near the curb, neither close enough to the actors that the POV becomes 'invisible' or friendly rather than the killer's, but neither hiding from a distance like other shots. It's the POV of eerie dissipation - as if it could cohere into a figure and rush onto the sidewalk and attack the person as they pass, but is, at the moment, disincarnate. 

See also: A Clockwork Darkness: Subjectivity, Hawks, and Halloween

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Quaff this kind Nepenthe: THE RAVEN, WEREWOLF OF LONDON

October is here so I may as well confess I recently got the Universal Horror Classics Blu-ray box (avail. for $40 if you know how to look): Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Bride of Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Phantom of the Opera- I admit it and I'm ashamedthey look great, brand new--they're like totally different movies, like seeing them all over again for the first time, as if one's quaffed the kind nepenthe Poe craves in The Raven so that he might forget his lost Lenore; which if you've seen most of these over and over so many damn times as an alienated monster enthusiast, over and over on tapes one made off local TV, you're most grateful to have this second chance, the nepenthe quaff memory wipe of uber-HD Blu-ray, cleaned and enhanced to the point of 3D. Now I can see the brush strokes in the painted rocks of Henry Frankenstein's crumbling phallic tower interior, the brush lines of make-up on Hull and Karloff; the reflection of black greasepaint under the eyes of Frye and the shimmer on Mae Clarke's wedding dress; Whale's camera stalking and puttering and winding staircase through a 3-D expressionistic vertical maze of black and grey. In Dracula, the clarity of HD Bela Lugosi--once in London--seems shorter, his hair oilier, his complexion steamed from the klieg lights, as if he needed the mirakle of celluloid grain, the early sound ether, even the UHF ghosting, in which to materialize his full unearthly measure of malevolence. In the earlier scenes in Transylvania there's a strange sense of Natural History Museum diorama interiority, as if all of the village where Renfield is told not to venture on to Borgo Pass is about five feet deep, the black and white of Freund's camera like an alien technology window into some human third eye fever dream dimension.

"whom d'angels name Lanorre"

Not all of the eight films belong in the set: Phantom of the Opera is just a lavish, well-made 40s musical-romance with a disappointing unmasking (more like a localized skin rash than a hideous countenance to glut one's senses). It and Creature from the Black Lagoon (great, but belonging to a whole different period/genre than the others, it would go well with It Came From Outer Space, Tarantula, Incredible Shrinking Man... etc.) seem included purely for their name recognition. The rest of the films hum with expressionistic atmosphere and delirious alchemy of light and shadow, such care should go to the lesser knows but just as delirious and alchemical.

No, friends. In order to truly be a cohesive, lovely package, the Universal horror Blu-ray set should include some of the other 30s Universal gems that fit the sound expressionist black magic of Whale, Freund, Browning.... The Raven, The Black Cat, Murders in the Rue Morgue and Werewolf of London and The Old Dark House. Rich in the kind of expressionist atmospherics that would really send a brother on a crisp Blu-ray. So consider this humble post my arc of triumphant piss against the wind of Universal big wig indifference. For the purposes of this post, though, I'll focus on two from 1935, The Raven, and Werewolf of London (which I prefer... heresy I know... to the Wolf Man).

In THE RAVEN (1935), 'Karloff' gets top billing even though Lugosi's really the whole show as a totally insane Poe devotee who's actually built, you know, some of the torture devices described in Poe's stories in his basement. Afforded a rare chance to be the whole show in a relative-for-him A List project, Bela does not waste a single syllable. He's a brain surgeon and contented genius, obsessed with the Divine Edgar but when coerced into saving modern dance artist Jean Thatcher (Irene Ware) she starts sending him mixed signals while he plays that eerie Toccata fugue by Bach (Karloff played the same tune in the previous year's The Black Cat) and suddenly Poe isn't enough for him.

He misreads her coyness, or rather he doesn't --she's being a tease. And well I know the weird obsessive shame and confusion when a girl pulls that nonsense. You know what I mean: moving from being flirty and coy to shocked when a brother closes in for the kill. After all she's engaged to young Jerry (Lester Matthews, a constant at Scotland Yard and legions of 30s-40s Universal horrors).

But unlike the bulk of the 'normal' rivals in Universal horrors, played by David Manners or John Boles, Jerry's a bit of all right. His response when learning Bela's sweet on his lady is, "Well, what of it?" We like him, and wonder what he has that Bela doesn't, youth aside, that makes her father think marrying Bela would be worse than death. He's rich and cultured and saved her life, so who cares if he's older? He's a catch, especially if you're into the macabre and want to dance for a 'living' rather than work. Damn it, Bela never gets the girl, except in Return of Chandu and Black Dragons... but those don't even count.

Maybe it's because Lugosi doesn't know how to be romantic, only tortured for the equivalent of the lost Lenore. It's all right if he had a wife.... but that was long ago... to have one now is... what, somehow not scary?

The previous year's big Karloff-Lugosi-Poe duel The Black Cat is more widely hailed by fans and critics do to the poetic hand of that other divine Edgar, G. Ulmer, but the two films are like mirrored bookends to each other, and of the two, Raven sends me into movie heaven while Black Cat is more enervating. But they need each other with their distorted reflections: in one Karloff plays a sympathetic prison escapee who redeems himself by killing Lugosi; in the other, Lugosi is a former POW who gets revenge and redeems himself by killing Karloff. Either way, they are well-matched and both die, the evil one subjected to a bizarre torture by the other after he makes his dark coded move against the girl, whose 'normie' husband is way-too over-civilized and young to not seem buffeted by the wind of superior malevolence. In each the woman is endangered in a sense only by the censor; because even if they're newlyweds the couple aren't allowed to sleep in the same room when staying over at these strange mansions. If they bucked convention and shacked up together, then these two devilish titans wouldn't be able to take such a free hand.

With its weird Satanic morning chess game and policeman on bicycle next morning comedy, a weird deathly pall settles over Black Cat that The Raven (which never really reaches the next day) lacks; and with the incessant clanging endlessly cycling motifs in the score playing seemingly at random, it's more proof horror never works well in the morning. That's why Dracula goes to sleep at dawn (and in the summer, so do I).  Part of The Raven's appeal lies in that sense of the coming night, which I think I've always equated with very cool slumber parties I attended in the 70s, watching late night UHF horror movies while playing Ouija and 'stiff as a board' while our parents played bridge and wife-swapped below. Vollin's party with Dr. Thatcher as the sensible adult, trying to warn the lovers away, is very like those parties. There's even an electric pony race track! It's like air hockey or 'Pong.' Dr. Thatcher is 'the adult' and Vollin waits til he's asleep to begin the real party, the sneaking downstairs to explore forbidden basements.' In Cat, Peter Allison becomes the de facto adult - they wait until he's asleep to resume their struggles, a struggle neither is in such a hurry to accelerate.

I love them both, but what makes The Raven so much more enjoyable in a totally new and unusual way (especially for 1935 when the code was in effect) is that it isn't mired by any extraneous comic relief, or at least not any 'stand alone' bits ala the two bicycle riding local cops (Italian-esque for some reason) competing over praise for their hometowns: "gaiety if you want a gaiety!" Instead the comedy comes from the relish with which Lugosi lets loose. He's so over the top it's like he smashes the roof of the sky through the sheer oversize scenery chewing grandeur of his crazy Poe sadism. It's my favorite Lugosi performance ever, this oversize Poe-loving maniac is Lugosi's Oscar Jaffe in Twentieth Century. 

WEREWOLF OF LONDON (1935) follows the Frankenstein via Whale aesthetic and subtextual template with an added layer of drug addiction: The only cure for botanist Henry Hull's lycanthropy is to stick the stem of this special eastern "orchid" into his vein. It blooms only under a full moon and there's only one other guy in London with his special "problem," the guy who gave it to him, like Hep C from a dirty orchid stem or.... other. A very very telling detail as when the wife gives a tea party in his greenhouse, Hull and Oland share some conspiratorial alienation that's very what the gay subculture must have been like in those dim times when homosexuality was deep underground, probably with a whole array of secret meetings and code words not unlike the French resistance (and guys who work with flowers a secret gay signifier, as in the papa bear type florist whose little boytoy steals Delambre's recipe in The Return of the Fly). And the heroin addiction analogy works just as well With a whole flower needed per wolf per night of the full moon, there's just not enough to go around, so the two jones over each bud like fiends in the grip of a very hairy withdrawal.

As Hull's wife, Valerie Hobson (Mae Clarke's Brit replacement as the other Bride of Frankenstein the same year) sports blonde hair and bewildered concern; she never sees her husband except to hear his excuses and idle too-little-too-late promises. He's too busy tinkering with his pansies and bestiality to dote on her and pretend to be interested in flowers. Lester Matthews plays Paul (he has the same name and basic role as in The Raven), an 'old friend' of Valerie's, filling in for the ever-absent Hull, as sad-eyed dudes will when a hottie doesn't get her husband's affection). As with his role in Raven, Matthews rocks a genial mix of jolly esprit de corp and tall person clumsiness, a stout front struggling under heavy British fog inertia. And then there's a rival for Hull's other precious flower, moon botanist Warner Oland, touching Henry on the arm where he bit him while they were both in Tibet, as he exudes a very gay junkie vibe, begging for a hit from the precious white flower, and/or letting Hull know there's another guy with his 'problem' in London --who maybe knows where the gay bars are hidden.

But the real reason it all works so well is Henry Hull. The most believable of all the Universal scientists, Hull's buttoned-up angular Britishness --his clothes are too small; he seems uncomfortable in his gawky body. It's easy to imagine him boring you in a lecture while fumbling nervously through his texts, his sleeves ink-stained and frayed. His slavish devotion to science makes his obligations to conform to British upper class decorum a challenge he is just not up to. Hull seems like the real thing. And his face, all angles and eyebrows, looks half wolf all ready, and that's the genius of this particular wolf make-up here as opposed to the 1941 Wolf Man's, pouffy hair and doggie nose. The script for Wolf Man is all about whether Lon's imagining his affliction or not, and the subtext reflected America's anxiety about getting sucked back into another European conflict it doesn't quite understand. Werewolf of London on the other hand is about science and drug addiction, the pain (I can vouch for the latter) of watching powerless from deep within the prison of your madness as your beautiful, warm sweet wife settles for her consolation prize of a doting rebound male. I've been through it many, many times and it's seldom been done so well, except maybe in Corman's The Trip or Mike Nichols' Closer. The way the first person she hooks up with after you've gone is invariably everything you're not, as if she's trying to find ballast for her heaving ship, the way the drug's not a cure but a temporary relief, good only for a single night. Oh yeah, I know how that feels. Between the pills and powders, booze and spliffs, a single night's surcease of sorrow, the grand total of that nepenthe to quaff can crest the triple digits.

In case we need more clues, Hull gets quite irate when his wife shines a light in his eyes - another junkie thing - hanging out in his robe all day puttering around his collections and experiments, another junkie thing, and sleeping with (or in this case murdering) girls most like the one he truly loves. I identify with his wish to keep his wife and turn things around coupled to his clumsiness at it, and ultimately his obsession with his ailment taking precedence. He doesn't want to lose her but is powerless to change, and addiction is all about running from pain. What can you do when your drug just disappears from the market, when another mule is kicking in your stall, another scientist plucking your rare flower? Chaney's wolf man doesn't have a personality beyond unconscious random malice, big hairy pouffy fro and animal cunning and aggression wantonly killing anything in his path, mainly gravediggers burying the previous night's victims. Hull's werewolf isn't as hairy and is twice as scary for seeming so human at the same time, closer to Mr. Hyde vis a vis Frederic March. Substitute old films and booze addiction (and a stolen flower the same thing as being unable to score weed) and I totally relate.

Adding to the Whale effect: some great comic relief with the tipsy aunt, who has a strange come-on moment with Oland at her party; the way she wafts around is so expert in a continual flowing monologue is so expert you need a full lifetime of viewing to come to appreciate it: a bumbling Brit cop lamenting his fallen arches; an imitation Una O'Connor delivering a great single breath sentence while leading him upstairs to a room for let in the shady side of town, after cold-cocking another old bat to get his business, and their constant drinking and hiding bottles from each other--Whale couldn't have done it any better. John Colton one of the screenwriters, wrote Shanghai Gesture! Maybe that explains the complicated women in the case, the attention to detail in the dialogue of women characters usually just tossed away as filler between murders.

Lastly - a great reason all these old gems need Blu-ray upgrades: they're hitherto available only jammed onto discs (Raven is jammed in with The Black Cat and Murders in the Rue Morgue on one side of a double Bela Lugosi Collection disc, though they all look great anyway- though they're all avail. separately as DVRs) and Werewolf of London is only on a double-sided disc on the old OOP Wolfman Legacy Collection (though I see it is on Amazon Instant Video in HD!). At any rate they deserve love and care, certainly more than old Phantom of the Opera does. Never did like Phantom of the Opera or understand why they pushed it on kids as part of the pantheon right down to having an Aurora monster model of it. (which I admit I got, mainly for the prisoner down in the sewer). I mean, kids HATE opera.  Whatever. Even my brother loved The Raven and Werewolf of London, back when we'd watch old weird movies I'd taped over and over after the parents went to sleep in the mid-80s. Times never change... for me anyway. I'm losing track of my point because I have an October cold, but oh yeah, get it together Universal, and make this collection:

Universal Horror Blu-Ray Collection Vol. II

1. Old Dark House (1932)
2. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
3. The Black Cat (1934)
4. The Raven (1935)
5. Werewolf of London (1935)
6. Son of Frankenstein (1936)
7. Dracula's Daughter (1935)
8. The Invisible Ray (1936)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Butterfly Moanin': DUKE OF BURGUNDY (2014), MOTHLIGHT

(2014) Dir. Peter Strickland
"The sovereign being is burdened with a servitude that crushes him, and the condition of free men is deliberate servility." - Georges Batailles 
"Duke Duke Duke-of-Duke Duke Duke-of" - Cypress Hill
A beautiful film on a beautiful new Shout Factory Blu-ray, Peter Strickland's Duke of Burgundy moves in a steady hypnotic rhythm through strange dom/sub head games played by a pair of lesbian lepidopterists living in a world without men, where it's always autumn, and the Gothic architecture is ornate and fecund with overgrowth. The beautiful dusky purples and oranges of the butterflies and the house interiors match the women as they move through the subs cloistered scripts in an endless repetition.

from Jess Franco's Succubus (1967)
The 70s 'Eurosleaze' genre so championed by Mondo Macabro's Pete Tombs (who originally commissioned the work) and embodied most clearly in the low budget films of Jess Franco and Jean Rollin, is the source material here, their dreamlike mood at once boring and fascinating, best seen while falling half asleep (which their slow pace is guaranteed to help with). For within that lulling, the lullaby of the same storybook over and over, the same song sung over your cradle by the giant mommy goddess, lurks the keys to all spirituality, carnality, and musicality: Chanting and ritual work not, as some think, to lull the conscious egoic mind into a trance but to annihilate it by boredom, the way a cigarette snuffs itself out once dropped in an empty bottle.  To deliberately court this annihilation is the core of masochism, at least in film. Warhol's films court this, all but proving that behind masochism is post-modern awakening and behind that, nirvana. Once the ego's been bored to death, the unconscious gets the wheel and one's third eye dream and the film screen combine into one organic reverie. Similarly the films of Josef Von Sternberg with their fetishistic veils and inert momentum, or the magical repetitive hypnotism of Kenneth Anger or, especially as its so clearly referenced in Strickland's film, the 1963 Stan Brakhage experimental minute-long Mothlight:

I'm a confirmed proponent of the masochistic gaze theory posited by Gaylyn Studlar and Steven Shaviro, I knew what to look for in Darionioni Nuovo tremolare Peter Strickland's Duke of Burgundy, the genesis of the story (according to his interview in the Blu-ray extra) being that Pete Tombs (of Mondo Macabro fame), commissioned the film, wanting a remake of Lorna the Exorcist (a very long awaited Jess Franco title, for those who wait for such things). Me, I've learned that like Rollin's work, the only way to enjoy Franco (for me at least) is while alone at dusk, falling asleep as the sun sets, waking up fitfully, lulled into a weird trance. In all other ways, certainly as narrative, or any kind of genuine erotica, they fail. Though I screened SUCCUBUS for a bunch of kids at a European horror film class, I hadn't realized just how sex drenched it was until they shifted uncomfortably at their desks --noting the genre offers little more than student film style sights of pretty girls in long white dresses walking up and down ancient castle staircases, and softcore soft focus sex. I explained my secret to enjoying these films (the secret to most art films) is to just presume the lead character has amnesia and doesn't want anyone to know. If a hot redhead naked under a fur comes over to my swinger apartment at four in the morning and gets into bed with me, I'm not going to say "who are you and what do you want?" though I probably should... At any rate in swinging 67 that would be rude, and as everyone is always drunk and high out of their minds, and don't speak the same language, it's only natural this modernist amnesia would be common. In the film theory aspect, this ties in with the post-war modernist frisson born of French-speaking critics watching liberated Hollywood films, undubbed, unsubtitled, so not understanding anything that was going on in the plot, but finding instead the freedom from language's structuring of the images and sounds, that allowed for the birth of the concept of mise-en-scène.

Anyway, once I said she had amnesia but was playing it cool, and played Succubus a second time, it all made sense---they got it, now they liked it. They got the modernist frisson.  In the end that's perhaps why Fritz Lang 'got' the art of Franco, as did Welles. Because Europe in the 1960s-70s is the Capital of Amnesia and the tower of Babalon Working when a producer, actor, and director may easily have no language in common. And drugs were ubiquitous. When you can't remember how you got there, you can make a big deal about it and get ejected from the in-crowd, or just roll along and let the mannequins assemble for the sacrifice, presuming that your unbridled arrogance will convince them that you're not the designated victim. The gathered wait and kill the first one who admits they don't understand what's going on.

In the Shout Factory extras, Strickland notes that after a screening he heard bourgeois critics talking about how Duke of Burgundy 'elevated the genre' and he got mad - I thought at first he was being snotty, that how dare we lump his masterwork in with Franco et al - but non, he was defending the genre, defending the films of Rollin, Franco, the slew of vampire lesbians from the 'vampire women era' of 1970-74 (begun with Hammer's Vampire Lovers and more or less over by 1974's VampyresDaughters of Darkness, Girl Slaves of Morgana La Fey --indignant that critics think they shouldn't be considered on the same high art level of other art films like Mr. Arkadin, Alphaville or Cries and Whispers. Hey, I get it.

I have been called onto to do the sadistic part for others, both just as verbal descriptions of bizarre maid humiliation fantasies and actual 'belt-play' or whatever the ladies at Toys in Babeland call it. But the act never works as well as the threat, the speaking of it. It's about the submission, the show, the whispered declarations of power vs. humiliation rather than the practice; which again all ascribes now to the Gaylyn Studlar masochistic film theory vs. the Laura Mulvey sadistic proprietary male gaze theory:
"Studlar uses Deleuze’s treatise of masochism as a starting point for her article. Where Mulvey views the female as having no power, in a masochist reading, the woman is powerful due to possessing what the male lacks, so pleasure is not gained by “mastery of the female but submission to her” (1985:782). This is in direct contrast to Mulvey’s view, which centres on voyeurism and fetishistic scopophilia being a defense mechanism to castration anxiety. For Studlar, there is not always a connection between looking and control and therefore the process of looking, or obtaining pleasure from looking, is not always about objectification. If the viewer is getting pleasure through identification, then there is equality between the spectator and the subject being looked-upon." (Z- Mediated Musings)

Strickland understands these confusions of gaze; his film delves inwards to where the segmentation of a pupae abdomen circles into a set of winding fecund autumnal purple steps, bringing as do his post-giallo fellows, the modernist shiver of experimentalism back into narrative, letting them derail each other and making something new--neither formal/classical narrative nor avant garde/experimental, but a hybrid both invigorating and stultifying. It could easily be the story of Mulvey and Studlar forever locked in a death/love staring contest; it shakes every pair bond to the core not through any particular eroticism but for the sterile august beauty of it, the ultimate triumphs and problems with any love affair, this hermetic universe of overgrown forest-a world where men don't exist, and power and dominance and submission reins, so the lepidoptery lectures the couple attends and speaks at in this butterfly library in some alternate reality--another decade, another country--anywhere but here and now. In that sense of course it mirrors the fragmented masochistic obsessiveness of the films of Josef Von Sternberg (all those long slow meditative takes as Marlene walks around rooms, playing with this doll or that and shooting coy looks over her shoulder--as if stalling perpetually for time)--or even Bergman films like Persona (with the young boy in the experimental opening, trapped in the morgue as if reborn and tracing the blurry projection of Liv Ullman's Vertigo opening credits close-up jaw. And from there of course, I come in waving films like The Ring and The Birds and my theory about Mecha-Medusa and the Otherless Child, i.e. the merging of the screen and the eye, the speakers and the ear, in the warped reflective mirror of the dialogue between one's unconscious and conscious minds (See Taming the Tittering Tourists).

From Top:  Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay (Gantillon, 71)/ Cries and Whispers (Bergman, 72);
I don't see a fear of castration at all - but a longing for same, which underwrites my own theory that explains heterosexual male's fascination with an all female or matriarchal world (ala Persona, The Girl Slaves of Morgana Le Fay) that does not somehow 'include' the male figures in the film or allow a projection of oneself into the narrative (trapped outside looking in perhaps, like that boy with the glasses in Persona) or as a mute, manipulatable servant (Girl Slaves..., Don't Deliver Us from Evil). If they somehow get a toe hold, it's only as an outmaneuvered future blood sacrifice ala Daughters of Darkness, the Blood-Spattered Bride, The Velvet Vampire, Girly and Vampyres. It is quite the opposite of pornography as far erotica ---for the male fantasy doesn't last beyond the point of le petit mort (99% of men instantly stop watching an XXX movie the moment they've 'finished' and prefer to completely forget about it). The lesbian erotic scene goes on and on, stopping time in its fairy tale tracks, the fairie bower's chthonic overgrowth ensnaring all chances for narrative phallic linearity; it's something men just don't get to see, so are fascinated by -- what are girls like when we're not around? It's something we'll just never know, except through keyholes, screens (projections, paintings, pictures) dreams, and rebirth.

Elsie Wright -w/ Cottingley Fairies

Rose Bower (Burne-Jones)
The lesbian fantasias of Franco and Rollin [as opposed to aren’t really meant for the chthonic dead end of fairy bower lesbian stasis] more a reverie that perhaps draws on some chthonic morass torpor the way Antonioni draws on Monica Vitti’s beauty, or Fellini on circus pageantry or Welles on Welles – as a thing fulfilling in and of itself that precludes egoic attachment. The sexuality of Fellini is, as in his best work-8 ½ and La Dolce Vita-exposed as infantile narcissism even while indulging it; Antonioni’s beauty is like Horatio’s worry Hamlet’s father’s ghost is one of those tricksters leading men to dangerous ledges; and Welles’ balloon of titanic ego is inevitably punctured. These are not the orgasm moments, the money shots, but reminders that epiphanies like male orgrams are short and cheap and then life grinds on, oblivious. The trick with a reverie cinema like the best late 60s-early 70s Franco or Rollin is that this egoic puncturing never happens nor needs to - if a male character shows up who fancies himself the rescuer of the scene (one of Rollin’s endless string of jewel robbers) he’s peripheral - we’re invited to scorn him even as he tries to organize or tame the matriarchal nonlinear experimentalism of the hermetic female fairy bower, break the enchantments spell, the fantasy of our total reunion with the mother, the being so young you’re a baby, surrounded by gigantic adoring women, hearing their conversations as strange enigmatic words you do not understand, learning only the ebb and flow of one’s needs and mom’s availability. The men who try this fail, even if the vampire or dominating trickster women die in the end what of it? The movie’s over anyway.

At this pre-egoic stage you don’t identify yourself as separate from mother and therefore are ‘female’ regardless of gender - the need to differentiate and establish oneself as male and separate from mom is traumatizing initiation these films undo. Their drawback is just this lack of dramatic ark of initiation and journey –the butterfly motif in the film is an ultimate irony - the caterpillar becomes a butterfly and flies off and dies, but the ones here on the board, etherized on the fairy bower table are, row after row, preserved at whatever state they are most beautiful– the life cycle interrupted at its peak moment from the safety of an eternally warm cocoon, or one just hatched from.

My favorite game to play with babysitters in the 70s

I remember this because as a child and being never very coordinated or confident on the kickball field (and hence always picked last for teams, a daily humiliation). When my parents' friends go together and brought all us kids together, I longed more than anything to just be a fly on the wall in the girls' areas, to hang out and do Colorforms or whatever while the boys played outside. When some mom didn't approve, those moms tended to have the more terrible children, wild obnoxious dirty foul-mouthed boys that aggravated my delicate nerves, and therefore because their boys where vile monsters all boys were vile monsters! (whoa, I hit a pocket of anger remembering that) while girls were pretty and sweet, and I was enthralled. I adored all my female babysitters, like they were giant idols; there were these three cool female cousins who coddled me all through my infancy, and then --boom, they weren't around anymore. And that affected me totally. I longed for those giant cute girls (relative to my size) and I didn't feel it again until stumbling on the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park (see my first film Erich Kuersten: A Poet's Journey)

Just the right size
In this amniotic state I didn't need to exist, or get affection, or conquer or any other phallic arc of 'girls circle penetration.' - Of course this came back to haunt me later as I was often paralyzed when it came to busting the first move, afraid the girls I fancied would flutter away with some spiel about how 'I thought we were just friends.' Duke of Burgundy in a way operates on the same principle. The one hot sex scene is merely spoken, everyone all under the sheets, with the mistress struggling to keep her partner supplied with her custom-tailored erotic dom-sub fantasia. But again there's no ego formed, which is why the film is so boring but that's part of the masochistic current, the Warholian love of boredom which is the result of undoing the need for ego and therefore yang energy and therefore a narrative arc--that's the Batailles freedom that comes with servility, the love of repetition and ritual (as in the repetitive alchemical rites in Anger's films). The oceanic experience that masochistic gaze in cinema duplicates, and which the practice of masochism admits from the beginning is hopelessly unattainable so has to start from scratch and work backwards to obtain as distinct a dream recollection as possible.

The ending is the same either way. Death is just the exiting the cinema the same way birth is coming in, all that matters is when your etherized, frozen and pinned, and either way, the cinema is the same, the movie playing never changes, whatever the time its shows. And its that element of inert sameness works to make Duke of Burgundy both boring and artsy and maybe proves that calling something boring and artsy is redundant; and maybe it even proves that calling a film the realization of cinema's insatiable appetite for repetition is to damn it with high praise, something only fellow post-giallo filmmakers like Helena and Bruno understand (as in the endless variations of the same scene in The Strange Color of your Body's Tears). It is this inert eroticism that fuses Studlar's masochistic gaze to the kind of Jungian ego annihilation that allows for complete freedom, exorcism of the libidinal desires that formulate the structure of the differentiated self.

I repeat, therefore I was.
It is the only way to be sure,
and the only way to undo all sureness.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Ten Reasons THE LEGACY (1978)

In interviews Sam Elliott called the weird 30s old dark house 70s devil movie hybrid "fifteen years behind it's time." Well, as so often happens, 30 years later and we're all the way around again to where it shines like the gleam in Sam Elliott's timeless cowboy eye. Either way, trailing Satanist glory as it descends the stair, THE LEGACY (1978) demands the best and gets it via a gorgeous remastering for Blu-ray from Scream Factory. Like Elliott's sturdy mustache, it's gorgeous, right painterly. The kind of film Sam would probably be proud to hang behind his gun rack in the den.

I'd never seen this film, never heard anything but bad reviews. Baby, I been misled. At any rate, glad I waited til now, while its perfect, for who knows when its fifteen years will be up once more?

I remember seeing the spots for this a lot on TV --the white cat, the pool, the mustache -- all burned into my eleven year-old memory though I then never saw it on video because people said it sucked. Those people were wrong! I love most everything about this great terrible movie. 

There's a minimum of the usually ubiquitous thriller scenes of the heroine in a nightgown padding around the darkened mansion investigating strange noises, and even fewer soft focus dream sequences, what we have instead is a kind of tumble down horror litany - the guests are dropping off and the host-- instead of just being a wheelchair bound codger with a will being read at midnight--is a mysterious dying monster behind a white curtain (like the old witch in SUSPIRIA) announcing only one of the assembled six will wield the ring of ultimate black magic power. Katharine Ross it seems is the designated one, and 'the power' isn't just the vast and unfathomable wealth of his sprawling estate, if you get my meaning. And it all makes perfect sense --these are the sorts of people we only saw with their masks on in EYES WIDE SHUT... a roster of British and German eccentrics, libertines, war criminals, and rock stars--and they start dropping like flies in various OMEN-like ways almost as soon as Ross and Elliott are shown their room. Far from the dreary 10 LITTLE INDIANS x OMEN English drawing room + gore slog it's been painted as, this turns out to be a treat for anyone who loves James Whale's OLD DARK HOUSE, Hammer's THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (Charles Gray), and ROSEMARY'S BABY, in that order. 

1. Katharine Ross

Never more beautiful or assured, with that great long straight chestnut hair and autumnal wardrobe her she/s like the 70s own called-forth Cleopatra Babalon Marjorie Cameron Isis Scarlet Woman. And unlike so many of the 70s iconic beauties, she could act when the situation demanded it, not that it does here so much. But she looks great but she also looks mature (she was 38?) and intelligent, swept along in this weird tide with her man. There's no whining about wanting a baby or not having one or getting too much sex or not enough. She's equal partners with her man, for the most part, and when she inherits her legacy her whole face seems to change shape, expanding into an uncanny extra dimension of glacial stillness which shows why she was so effective in THE STEPFORD WIVES.

2. Sam Elliott

This is the era of some real strides in depicting assertive hot women who can believably order men around and sleep with them without emasculating them. If their mustache was on straight, and they'd smoked enough to get a nice deep live-in voice, they could even forge a new path. So here's Elliott, singlehandedly bringing his character back from the brink of British black magic feminism's total wash-out of the straight American white cowboy male. I mean, he winds up having a pretty rough time, a foreigner at a strange party he can never leave where his presence is superfluous and his stock is falling lower all the time. His crankiness seems to indicate he's destined for death or irrelevance. Smashing through windows and wrecking equipment he almost becomes the monstrous bad guy for a spell.

Well, I should have given more credit to old Sam. A warrior from the Iron Age of cowboys and the Kris Kristofferson / Jon Voight school of guys so cool and badass they blazed a whole new trail of how to be macho while helping or at any rate not hindering the breakout of women's lib, which was erupting all around them like a myriad black hole tentacle whirling of tossed Mary Tyler Moore hats. These dudes might feel left out and sidelined as whole swaths of their power changed hands but, instead of staying sulky, they throw down and smash their way back to parity. Hopefully some day old Sam will even finally untuck his jeans from his ridin' boots.

3. The dusky beautiful cinematography 
brought to vivid 3-D clarity via the Shout Blu-ray

The 3D clarity and glistening deep colors are perfect for the setting, a big weird English mansion called Ravenhurst, with a very bizarre pool room which I remembered clearly all this time from the TV spots (when I was 12) along with the white cat. There's a few moments when the couple's wearing white on white in the white room, when you think perhaps we're in heaven, or a halfway house, ala CARNIVAL OF SOULS. And sometimes the waxiness glistens too much, but overall the dusky great Allan Hume / Dick Bush photography is given full resonant expression, with a lot of magic hour deep blacks and the extreme angles, vertical and diagonal POVs inside the mansion are hypnotizing, lots of looking down from ornate stairs, the creepy nurse's face bleeding into the myriad portraits. I usually hate the way rural England looks in daytime shots--the stone white sky, the landscape all washed out and dreary and depressingly still (taking the tube to Heathrow from London--which turns into an above ground train once outside London--is like traveling across the land of the time-frozen dead) but in THE LEGACY it looks plenty ominous, sexy, and cool. I'm so happy to finally make my peace with British exterior shots, you don't even know how I suffered. And that Bentley is hypnotizing in the pristine HD cleanliness.

That said, don't judge by the pics here which I scrounged around the web, for you!

Guts, glory... Ram
4.  Michael J. Lewis' Score
Orchestral and at times predictable but has great synths too, and it doesn't get too up into the helicoptering Korngold-Williams style. It percolates and oozes with sly menace in the Carpenter carpet style and sometimes browses around a giallo vibe with echoing female vocalizing and twangy guitar octaves. In other words, Lewis keeps it simple and cool rather than showing off your symphonic training every five seconds and boring everyone but the longhairs. And there's even a great tacky 70s theme song sung by someone named Kiki Dee.

This is from DEVIL RIDES OUT, but you get the picture
5. Charles Gray
He's the guy so good as the high priest Mocata in THE DEVIL RIDES OUT and as Blofeldt in Bond films and in everything - those steely blue eyes, that face like a disguise he's about to tear off, the rolling highbrow sophisto but immanently down for a fight voice. He's grand here as a man 'decorated three times by the Nazis" - and when he's shooting his crossbow with fellow unholy ringbearer Lee Montague while noting Eliot's arrival as 'the uninvited guest' you'll be reminded of Lugosi and Karloff playing chess while David Manners sulks around trying all the usual means of departure in THE BLACK CAT.

 6. Old Dark House Ambience, Scheming 
Heirs, and Giallo-esque Deaths
There's a minimum of the usually ubiquitous thriller scenes of the heroine in a nightgown padding around the darkened mansion investigating strange noises, and no soft focus dream sequences, what we have instead is a kind of tumble down horror litany - the guests are dropping off and the host-- instead of just being a wheelchair bound codger with a will being read at midnight--is a mysterious dying monster behind a white curtain (like the old witch in SUSPIRIA --which came out the same year of THE LEGACY and has more than a few similarities) announcing only one of the assembled six will wield the ring of ultimate black magic power. Katharine Ross it seems is the designated one, and 'Satan's power' isn't just the vast and unfathomable wealth of his sprawling estate, if you get my meaning. And it all makes perfect sense --these are the sorts of people we only saw with their maskies in EYES WIDE SHUT... and boom, they're popping off like firecrackers. Their contract is up, if you get the expression, and without the need for horns and hooves.

7.  Hauntological British Occult conspiracy and Telekinesis
Reincarnation, witchy past, unholy ghost power for remote viewing, and a refreshing lack of viable Christian options or outright clarifications of just what sort of black magic is at work (no hail Satan chants and goat horns); it's left to the imagination without being too concerned with subtlety either - a rare combination to get right: bombast and class. Even the weird white nurse cat thing is done without obviousness and Margaret Tyzack brings just the right mood of calm professional Britishness.

And to cement the British Hammer link, Jimmy Sangster co-wrote the screenplay!

8.  Roger Daltrey chokes to Death
And then there's the weird elfin gnome-ishness of Daltrey, this strange being with the tiny body and huge head and wild mane of hair. And he's playing a rock icon much like himself, who's links to this weird ghostly mansion estate indicates black magic got him where he is today. Clutch. And leave it to a nouveau riche plebe to give us most of the exposition on how rich and powerful everyone there is. THe LEGACY is actually second film from the 70s I've seen where some dies from choking to death and no one gives him the Heimlich maneuver. My own grandmother knew to give me the Heimlich maneuver when I was just a child; she saved my life with it, before this movie was even made! So it was not unknown, at least in Sweden, though according to CNN
"In August 1974, editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association contacted the doctor who had developed a new method to save someone from choking -- then a major cause of death in the United States. His new technique was saving lives across the country, and they wanted to tell him they were publishing a story about it, and were going to name the procedure after him" (CNN)"
Either way, watching him choke to death at the buffet table is twice as agonizing as everyone just stands around freaking out. Is that really what they did back then?

9. Town and country weapons and adventure
There's some solidly imagined escape attempt sequences with the estate vividly depicted from the towers down to the stables. All the rustic one lane roads lead back to the mansion; they try to escape via horses, saddled on the sly which Sam does with a relaxed quick assurance of the real cowboy, and their mad ride to freedom manages to be 70s rustic lovely while scary; the near mauling by the hunting dogs, the crossbow vs. shotgun duel--all very town and country (where double barrel shotgun and crossbow must be continually reloaded as they would be in real life, a truth which seldom engages less imaginative screenwriters) going with the on location mansion setting very nicely and creating a much tighter unified whole than EYE OF THE DEVIL which loped along a similar track but--the Sharon Tate scenes aside, was a snooze.

10. Great Ending
 I can't spoil the ending but let's just say that no one fucks with the kid, whatever that means. I really liked all the directions it was going, I didn't know whether to cheer Sam's bloody death or root for him, the last thing I wanted was to see him instill some last minute bad faith better my girlfriend be dead than a Satanist edict, or convince her to return unto old patriarchal hierarchies. Maybe it's because THE LEGACY's based on a bestseller which apparently was heavily promoted to reach the the list in an elaborate bid to get some EXORCIST-ROSEMARY'S BABY association vibe.

It makes sense that Elliott and Ross met on the shoot, married, had a kid and went on to a groovy life, and are still going strong. I'm not sayin' it takes occult magic to keep a Hollywood couple together for so long but to use one of his LEGACY lines back at him, whatever Sam's doin'.... he's doin' it right.