Mini-Review: Silent Night (2012)

This year, as I did both last year and in 2012, I am engaging in something I like to call the Year-End Dash. Basically, its the scramble to get as many eligible titles viewed as possible before the end of the year for the forthcoming BAM Awards.

The extemporaneous reactions to late viewing will be short, but they will be logged. So I thought it would also be a good idea to re-post in standalone form some of the more memorable films I’ve seen in the first few jaunts.

Silent Night

I have not seen the film upon which this is based, but knowing that it spawned a low-budget franchise of its own makes it a candidate for examination next time 61 Days of Halloween rolls around. There aren’t nearly enough evil Santa tales, while this one doesn’t go to a “real Santa” like Santa’s Slay, this is definitely my favorite so far: good twists and mistaken identity, great turns from Malcolm McDowell with hilarious “movie cop” dialogue, and Donal Logue and excellent kills.

8/10

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It’s An Honor Just To Be Nominated

Elizabeth Taylor and Roddy McDowall in Cleopatra (20th Century Fox)

“It’s a an honor just to be nominated” is a phrase that’s such a truism that it rings empty and hollow. In fact, you hardly hear it anymore, however, I do believe actors when they do say it. The fact is there are only so many Oscar nominations to go around such that many very, very talented people never even get so much as nominated. While some have one standout performance that grabs everyone’s attention. Below you will find a list that could be longer of some notable actors who never even were nominated for supporting or leading actor/actress prizes.

Pictured above is one of the more unfortunate cases: critics at the time and film historians agree that Roddy McDowall was a virtual lock for Best Supporting Actor in Cleopatra. However, a clerical error submitted him as a lead. Fox tried to rectify the mistake but the Academy wouldn’t allow it thus McDowall was not even nominated. An ad taken out by Fox apologizing for the oversight and commending McDowall’s performance was a poor consolation prize at best.

Best Non-Oscar Nominees

1. Christopher Lee
2. Bela Lugosi
3. Boris Karloff
4. Vincent Price
5. Edward G. Robinson
6. Mae West
7. Michael Keaton
8. Peter Lorre
9. Mel Gibson
10. Sonia Braga
11. Alan Rickman
12. Fernanda Torres
13. Roddy McDowall
14. John Barrymore
15. Joseph Cotten
16. Errol Flynn
17. Bob Hope
18. Lloyd Bridges
19. W.C. Fields
20. Lon Chaney, Jr.
21. Victor Mature
22. Conrad Veidt
23. Peter Cushing
24. Donald Sutherland
25. Eli Wallach
26. Robert Blake
27. Malcolm McDowell
28. Kurt Russell
29. Martin Sheen
30. Christopher Lloyd
31. Jeff Goldblum
32. Steve Buscemi
33. Kevin Bacon
34. Vincent D’Onofrio
35. Marilyn Monroe
36. Jean Harlow
37. Rita Hayworth
38. Myrna Loy
39. Hedy Lamarr
40. Tallulah Bankhead
41. Maureen O’ Sullivan
42. Betty Grable
43. Jane Russell
44. Jeanne Moreau
45. Barbara Steele
46. Mia Farrow
47. Margot Kidder
48. Jamie Lee Curtis
49. Meg Ryan
50. Ellen Barkin
51. Isabelle Huppert
52. Shelley Duvall
53. Madeline Stowe

61 Days of Halloween- Halloween (2007)

Most holidays worth their while encompass entire seasons, such as Christmas, for example. However, as you may have noticed there is a corporate push every year for us to think about the next holiday even sooner. While this has many negative side effects I figure I may as well embrace it.

Since Labor Day is really only good for college football and movie marathons cinematically it is as significant as Arbor Day, which means the next big day on the calendar is Halloween and we can start looking toward it starting now.

Daily I will be viewing films in the horror genre between now and then and sharing the wealth. Many, as is usually the case, will not be worth it so for every disappointment so I will try and suggest something worth while as well.

Halloween (2007)

Daeg Faerch in Halloween (Dimension)

Rob Zombie’s Halloween is one of the most confoundingly schizophrenic horror films in the history for the genre. Rarely, if ever do you see unabashed greatness and miscalculation fight so mightily with each other for screen time.

You have here such juxtaposition such that I’ve revisited the film several times. A great film is rarely as compelling and fascinating as one that squanders greatness somewhere along the way and this film does that perhaps in more spectacular fashion than almost any film.

The film follows Young Michael for 35 minutes. Most of those minutes are riveting, even when there are shortcomings it is still engaging because it is brand new material. The mistake in this film was to ever age Michael.

I am not arguing that Zombie needed to be beholden to the continuity of the original series. It would just have been a much more effective tale had you examined Michael further and left him right on the brink of what he was about to do on Halloween. There was a room for it. You could’ve witnessed the trial shown more of him being responsive to Loomis before he shuts down. He could create more havoc in the institution.

And conversely the sequel could be a condensed version of all that he and Laurie go through with a lot of the fat trimmed out. However, for what the film does decide to do there are still areas where execution could’ve been better.

The first 35 minutes of the film are the epitome of horror and here’s why it gets under your skin and makes you so terribly uncomfortable: A case in point would be Michael’s first kill. You sympathize completely with Michael due to the bullying Wesley subjects him to. However, when Michael gets his revenge his assault is so brutal it’s stomach-turning. So you’re left with this unease and ambivalence that is just jaw-droppingly horrific. The same can be said for his disposal of his family. It’s not necessarily that there is even sympathy for the victims so much that his killing is so brutally assured that it’s bone-chilling.

A lot of that is conveyed through the iconic performance by Daeg Faerch. Sadly, I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened this way but I am quite certain that if Faerch hadn’t been around, this film ought not to have been made at all. Much like is Spielberg hadn’t seen Haley Joel Osment he would’ve delayed A.I. indefinitely. It’s that kind of performance a coupling of character and actor that works so well it’s rare and truly a sight to see. Think of the great antagonist horror performances of the last 25 years and this one is on par with if not better than they are.

Look at it this way, Michael is being given a face and voice in this film after nearly 30 years of silence. That is a massive undertaking for an actor. A hard role to live up to and much less excel in.

Now for me to say the wheels come off simply because the original started being rehashed would be unfair, it is a remake after all. It is how the rehash is executed that makes it not work.

Laurie Strode and her friends need a different tone. They didn’t talk and act all that much different than the Myers family. Half of which Michael killed and we wanted him too. There needs to be some added virtues to Laurie that make us want to root for her.

This is the alternate universe of a horror film where our baser instincts come to the surface. Michael is who we are most familiar with. He is the star, he will not die. There has to something special about a character to make us really want them to escape his clutches. If you’re just a foul-mouthed skank no different than the sister he killed except that you never met him why should I care?

Look at Laurie Strode in the original, yes, her friends talked frankly about sex and drug usage and things of that ilk but Laurie was honestly embarrassed by some of the talk. She kind of went along with her friends but she was not the fornicating-when-she-should-be-baysitting type. That’s why we identify with her. Not only is she an innocent but we like her better than her friends and if we want the friends to live it’s only for Laurie’s sake.

So the type of characters Laurie and her friends are is a problem. Unfortunately, so are the actors playing the parts. There is such a wild inconsistency in the quality of performance in this film that it makes it nearly impossible for it to succeed. You run the gamut from Daeg Faerch and Malcolm McDowell to Sheri Moon Zombie and Scout Taylor-Compton.

You also get small and at times distracting appearances by many actors who have made a splash in the history of horror films. Had this been a completely original tale that may have been less of an issue. Dealing with an iconic character and story it’s unwelcome.

Poor acting is forgivable to an extent in a horror film if the situation remains scary and interesting enough but quite frankly the film gets long in the tooth. It’s not necessarily that in a series you can really get pre-conditioned to a running time but frankly the Halloween films typically clock in a just over 90 minutes for a reason: that’s all you need. Whether the theatrical cut (109 minutes) or unrated (121) it’s too long, for the given story. It really makes me wonder what the edited Brazilian cut (83) plays like.

Then of course you have the ending. The open ending that isn’t quite open and has about five too many screams in the mix. It may be the greatest anti-climax of an ending that any film in the series has. Even the follow up has a better, more coherent and effective capper than this despite the fact that its even worse. After nearly two hours a screaming close-up is really not the taste I want left in my mouth. It literally could’ve been almost anything else and it would’ve been better.

5/10