Daily notes 2014-Q4
Currently watching: Grave Encounters
Was highly reluctant to dip my toe into this one. Now 12 minutes into the film, and in fact am quite pleased to note how nice it was to dive straight into the haunted building (at 3 minutes), after which we directly engage with a number of characters who provide customarily spooky exposition. Incredible how common it is for films to start slow.
Found myself very pleased by two more things! All of this has to do with quantification, but I really think it’s hugely important: we get to witness the cameraman setting up most of the camera feeds, and as soon as the show begins (11:30pm) we can rest comfortably knowing their situation cannot go on for more than 6.5 hours when the caretaker arrives to unlock the building. These just put the viewer at ease and ensure that the filmmakers aren’t afraid to show us their hand ahead of time.
Well… my favorite part is one of the film’s last minutes, when Lance discovers all this occulty nonsense. It’s well-presented, this is an eminently serviceable altar – it’s just such a pity there isn’t any context for it. At all 😦
I thought this little bit of set design was really spot on, particularly in the production of that tiny ancient book with those alien characters you don’t quite get time to place (in case you’re wondering they’re Old Norse runes, which potentially dates the book at anywhere between 100-700 AD, I believe – which is excellent).
Film’s now over. And oh did they play with those 6.5 hours!
In seeking films I consider to be mistakenly called “Lovecraftian” I came to Ghostbusters (by far the most mainstream selection yet), and it provided more material than I could’ve suspected. Here’s my entry for it:
A much cleverer film when viewed on paper: repulsed at the atrocities of WWI, mad scientist turns apocalyptic cultist and manages to manipulate construction of major Manhattan skyscraper (a feat unto itself), turning the building into history’s largest, most powerful astrological instrument which, surrounded by millions of naïve souls, is at this very moment stretching its spectral arm into deep, deep space to summon some unthinkably ancient, malevolent god known as Gozer, who will be preceded by Its harbingers, the key and the lock, Vinz Clortho and Zuul (Bebop and Rocksteady).
(beat) “Gozer was very big in Sumeria.”
Architect successfully performs numerous rituals with accursed brethren in the enormous temple secretly constructed on the roof, and dies confident that in fifty years the world will end with the coming of Gozer the Destroyer (dunno about you, but I would kill to see his reaction were he to witness the form of this “Destructor:” a mere two-hundred foot, extraordinarily vulnerable biped that is dispatched in about ten minutes. I suppose it must’ve had some powers we never witnessed).
Now… who doesn’t think that sounds bloody exciting? Sadly it has almost nothing to do with the events of Ghostbusters, the “Ramis/Reitman Boys’ Club” – Gozer is a groovy cameo appearance with a literary shadow in the shape of Mr. Lovecraft or perhaps Mr. Crowley (whose presence I’m attributing to the kookiest person involved, being of course Mr. Aykroyd), but you will find no depth to this sketched silhouette.
A few more thoughts:
..with implications like these the film’s irreverent tone is duly appreciated and a major reason the film developed a cult following, the bulk of credit clearly going to the smartest man on set, Bill Murray, and his motherfucking class act co-star Siggy.
…I must admit that if Gozer is somehow connected to ghosts, there is the implication that behind every ghostly apparition on Earth is, in fact, the unseen hand of some malign entity from another dimension – perhaps taking on cartoonish, comic form at the behest of the auteur Reitman, or taking on the guise of our loved ones to lull us into the rocks. I’m loving this idea.
I also wish more focus had been given to the increasing rapidity of supernatural incidents and some superstitious notion that it’s in service of something nigh at hand, too dark to imagine, creating that horrible (and wonderful) anticipation of doom in the viewer’s gut; that the increased supernatural activity was occurring specifically in wailing anticipation of the coming of Gozer, and that the Ghostbusters are formed out of practical necessity more than anything else – noting that they were simply the only ones aware of (and interested in) handling this forebodingly evil upswing. I think that sounds like a dynamite origin story, or I’ve just written a super reboot. Oh, wait… now it’s Melissa McCarthy and her ilk… Class, put your textbooks away, today we’re “having class outside.”
Just finished: The Valdemar Legacy
I should’ve done a whole thing on this film. It’s a 13 million Euro, Universal Pictures released major studio affair taking place exclusively in the Lovecraft universe – how I missed this one is a total mystery. The film sort of treads water, maintains itself just above the mark that would get you angry at it; just barely watchable. The image seen below is actually a “post-credits sneak peek” at clips from the second part, seemingly shot immediately following this film (this film’s ending doesn’t even attempt to satisfy, clearly marking itself at a mere chapter break until Volume Two. That’s fine on occasion). So there you have it: Cthulhu. There’s another shot of Cthulhu – in all his digital glory – shown after this image, but I prefer this teaser.
Currently watching: [REC] 2
Yes, I said I wouldn’t watch the sequel, and I am doing it only because I noted that Dimitris Springer gave it 4/5 stars.
Avoiding these films until now makes their content feel derivative, which only illustrates how influential they’ve been. 30 minutes into this and I’m quite surprised at just how much it feels like a video game (reversing that statement of course reveals the truth). But this is a video game, it is exactly, precisely what I’ve been seeing in games for the past five years since this film came out along with all its sensationalist siblings. And now that I’ve experienced both, I can say with confidence that you’re better off playing the video games. You’re not going to get writing which is measurably better and most importantly, the immersion will be more intense, more visceral – and it’s the visceral, immersive experience which is the sole purpose of found footage films. Additionally the story is just so “conveniently” wrapped in violence, and action, and running and completing tasks, and gunplay.
My main, simple, old-as-time complaint? Every time some demonic human appears the camera begins shake so hard it’s a strain on the brain and impossible to follow (we all agree with this, nobody likes it) and seemingly every character present assumes his role in a conspiracy to create an incoherent cacophony. These men are soldiers, for christ’s sake.
Currently watching: Ghostwatch
The deception notwithstanding, I’m quite surprised they were able to air this on BBC 1 given that the poltergeist is allegedly a child molester: at one point we see him cloaked in the corner while the children sleep; multiple times we hear the children writhing and crying out “GET OFF ME!” when the ghost is present and active; [and yada yada I’m sure there’s something else].
Ghostwatch was so effective one pre-teen mentally handicapped viewer would incredibly take his own life a view days after the broadcast, convinced that noises created by the house’s heating system were signs of a malevolent poltergeist. At first glance I do not remotely blame the BBC for this incident… but I think the responsibility actually falls on the society which allows for the possibility that their programming may be viewed unwillingly.
Heh… did just notice that this character, played to be especially dense and obnoxious, is an American football fan 🙂And moments later he is told that “on this spot” the body of her dog was found, poltergeist victim, sliced open with its up-to-recently incubating fetuses strewn all over the place. Hide your children.
Currently watching: Witch Hunt
Every now and then a cinephile gains access to an extraordinarily rare film, and two possibilities emerge: lost treasure or soggy boot. Witch Hunt is comprised of muddy entrails in the shape of a boot. I am mere minutes into the film and there are very, very good reasons to anticipate its ignominious failure. And why should that have been..? It’s 1994. It’s Los Angeles, and there are a few strange men in Hollywood with an interest in the occult – Paul Schrader among them, god bless that man’s tainted soul. Shot by the late lamented Jean-Yves Escoffier (Boy Meets Girl, Mauvais Sang for which he was nominated for a 1987 César, and of course Les Amants du Pont-Neuf for which he won Best Cinematographer at the “European Film Awards” presented by the “European Film Academy,” whose awards look like this. I imagine I should be embarrassed for never having heard of them before, but mostly I’m just shocked).
Where was I? 1994. Los Angeles. Scoring by Badalamenti. Even Julian Sands (the 90s magician). MAGIC, the most vague and least intriguing path into the occult… and, of course, Mr. Lovecraft, and I’m not referring to the character played by Dennis Hopper (who at the time claimed this was the strangest film he’d made) in what can only be viewed as a failure of imagination by screenwriter Joseph Dougherty, a mostly television man who currently writes Pretty Little Liars. The first major error of logic was creating some world where “magic” seems to be accessible to civilians – far too broad to write in any remotely realistic way, much more suited to animation or simplified abstraction. Film is the wrong medium. The dynamic is similarly interesting (incidentally) to the internet’s birth in the late 90s and the sudden power given to all.
Troll 2, eat your heart out.
There are also zany antics like these. It’s a very silly film… and yet another terrifying example of how that positive irreverent impulse can go horribly wrong. I say terrifying because I’ve written similarly. It’s really a matter of “owning” your production; irreverent material is, perhaps, considerably more difficult than playing anything straight because you have the entire straight world you have to portray, and then an entirely separate (and intelligent) tier of irony above that.
That being said… I can sleep soundly knowing that I would never, on my worst day, if all my other senses were compromised, write the situations you observe in the surrounding pictures. It would simply never happen. So that’s comforting.
And here I haven’t even mentioned the myriad curious connections to another film about dark magic in Los Angeles, potentially shot at the same time as Witch Hunt, the incomparably superior (in relative terms) Lord of Illusions. The real mystery is why Dennis Hopper ever agreed to work on such a script. It must’ve been favor to somebody. I never thought I’d say this: Dennis Hopper is wholly incorrect casting… yes, wholly incorrect to play “Philip Lovecraft: Private Investigator,” which is so 1st draft even SyFy wouldn’t touch it.
Climax: an Eric Bogosian rant, very Talk Radio. There is no film like Witch Hunt. Did I mention that the black T-shirt Eric Bogosian just emerged from the torso of the suited senator played by the same actor?
Currently watching: The Making of Prometheus
I don’t think anybody realizes Ridley Scott is actually 76 years old – born in 1937. It’s madness. He has the looks, wit and energy of a man in his 40s – perhaps because he’s been unmarried since 1989; you don’t get men in their 70s often directing pictures as ambitious as his. It’s so easy to forget his age. To be perfectly candid, this is really just blowing me the fuck away. He also avidly draws and does all his own storyboards and lots of pre-conceptualization. The real pity of Prometheus is Giger’s (RIP 2014) lack of involvement, and O’Bannon’s (RIP 2006), though Ridley was able to produce interesting design work. Ridley, by himself, is considerably more sentimental/religious than O’Bannon, who would’ve turned out a much different story… different, yet even while Prometheus feels so much like At the Mountains of Madness to me…
Oh dear… I was just reminded Tony Scott died two years ago, by suicide.
Currently watching: Hemoglobin/Bleeders (1997)
Following the Dan O’Bannon trail. The film has been damned interesting to this viewer, who was not pleased to find that it had been hugely panned. I’m sure we’ve all, at one point or another, asked ourselves, “Would I eat an embalmed fetus to live?” Our protagonist did it – and this scene immediately follows. I just hope he brushed his teeth.Moments later… a lurid, uncut rut. A polarizing film.And with the exception of the sex, very Lovecraftian. Though it now occurs to me that for a film to be truly Lovecraftian, in the most fundamental way, it can only be experienced through one single character’s perspective. No ensembles, no fraternity, dog eat dog.