Over at Alex on Film I’ve finished posting my notes on Tom Six’s three Human Centipede movies: First Sequence, Full Sequence, and Final Sequence. These movies are notorious for being among the most tasteless and disgusting ever made, though that’s a distinction we can expect will fade with time. I thought it was interesting that Six did at least try to make three very different movies, not just in terms of subject matter but also in tone, linked in a meta-cinema way. Unfortunately, I also thought the series went downhill (or, to mix metaphors, off the rails entirely), and that the third instalment deserves its reputation as one of the worst movies of the decade. It will be interesting to see what future audiences think.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve added my notes on Cat People (1942) and Curse of the Cat People (1944), a pair of very different horror movies produced by Val Lewton. Though you might question whether Curse of the Cat People is really a horror movie, or a sequel. I really wanted to include notes on Paul Schrader’s 1982 remake, starring Nastassja Kinski, but you’ll have to wait for that. I haven’t seen it in years!
Over at Alex on Film I’ve added my notes on the 1974 classic The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and its 2003 remake. I still find Tobe Hooper’s movie disturbing and effective. The remake, like all the twenty-first century horror franchise resets, is just something to be endured. There’s a more general point to be made here about horror movies in our time that I hope to address in an essay soon.
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching movies that deal, however loosely, with people (or monsters) hunting people. This is a pretty basic theme, and has been expressed in a variety of different ways. In the first place there are all the adaptations of the famous Richard Connell story “The Most Dangerous Game. ” Then there’s the Predator franchise. And then there are movies where people just go off into the woods and discover that the woods are no longer a safe place to be. Here’s the line-up:
The Most Dangerous Game (1932)
A Game of Death (1945)
Run for the Sun (1956)
Predator 2 (1990)
Hard Target (1993)
Eden Lake (2008)
Beyond the Reach (2014)
The Purge: Election Year (2016)
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been revisiting the Amityville Horror franchise, a series of terrible movies whose success is made all the more depressing by the fact that they were based on a tragic true story — by which I mean the DeFeo family murders, not the subsequent “haunting.”
The Amityville Horror (1979) is crap, but has some camp value today thanks mainly to James Brolin’s performance. Amityville II: The Possession (1982) is better made but is still crap, though it’s enlivened by a bizarre incest subplot. Amityville 3-D (1983) is in 3-D. The Amityville Horror (2005) is a fairly typical twenty-first century franchise reset. Casting Ryan Reynolds as George might have given things a boost, but it’s a gamble that doesn’t work. He just seems out of place.
2017 marks the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. For many, this remains a divisive historical event. Following some of the commentary about it online one can, surprisingly, still find those who defend it. Most of these take the position that (1) it overthrew a despotic political system, (2) it gave birth to a communist state that was able to beat Hitler, and (3) it provided an alternative to global capitalism. True enough, but the tsarist system was dying anyway and wasn’t nearly as despotic as what came after, Hitler’s Russian campaign was probably doomed from the start, if we’re playing historical counterfactuals, and as for being an alternative to capitalism, look at Russia today. Or China.
In any event, over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some movies on the subject. First up is La révolution en Russie (1906), a short Pathé Frères docudrama that deals with the same events as Eisentstein’s Battleship Potemkin (1925). It makes for an interesting comparison, though more for what it says about the evolution in film during this period than for its status as a historical document. Next up is October: Ten Days That Shook the World (1928), Eisenstein’s film loosely based on John Reed’s account of the October Revolution and the events leading up to it. And finally we have Reds (1981), Warren Beatty’s biopic of Reed, covering a lot of the same ground. All of these films, even the 1906 short, are sympathetic, if not propagandistic, about the Revolution. Would we make the same movies today, after the collapse of the Soviet Union? How much, politically and ideologically, has our world changed?
Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the first three Paranormal Activity movies — unimaginatively titled Paranormal Activity (2007), Paranormal Activity 2 (2010), and Paranormal Activity 3 (2011). They went on to make more, but I just wanted to look at the original trilogy because I think they work well as a self-contained series. And overall, I have to say they’re pretty good movies.